Why Singapore? This is How We Grow
This is the third, and final in a series of posts looking at the major reasons why I’m moving my family to Singapore and have taken a teaching job at the Singapore American School. If you’re interested, here are links to the first and second pieces in the series. This final entry considers the effect of a move like this on the project of trying to be a continually improving human being.
What does it mean to be an adult? I won’t pretend to offer a comprehensive answer, but when I think back on my life, I can see some pretty clear trends. The number of horribly embarrassing things that I’ve done have decreased in frequency pretty precipitously as I’ve become more and more of an adult. The real cringe-inducing moments (of which I’d like to think I keep a pretty comprehensive mental encyclopedia) don’t really happen anymore. I think that this is exactly what should happen as we get older. But I also wonder if it means that the pace of my development as a human being has slowed down. It certainly hasn’t stopped. I can point to new things that I’ve done over the last year, or 5, or 10 as evidence that my interests continue to change and I continue to develop as a human. But comparing that to similar progressions earlier in my life suggests that things are slowing down.
Which is fine, and expected. The longer you live, the more you experience, the less novelty there is in life. This is particularly true as you become more ensconced in your career and your personal life. You can see it in the language we use to describe middle-aged existence. People are “tied down”, or “established”. We get mortgages, or have to pay for college, or need to sock away some amount of money to be able to retire successfully. All of these factors seem to lead to a diminishing ability to have new experiences, and try new things. Which slows down the pace of our development. The nudges that pushed us to learn and try new things go away.
When I told my father that we were considering moving to Singapore, he took a while to gather his thoughts and then he told me that while he was quite proud of who I am and what I have done with my life, the thing that he felt I lacked more than almost anything else was time away from the culture that I had grown up in. He is correct. I’ve never lived more than 50 miles away from where I was born. I’ve never lived more than 25 miles away from at least one of my parents. I’ve always been among the most privileged members of the majority group in my culture (a culture that enjoys one of the highest standards of living among all cultures on the planet). I have tried my best to be conscious of what all of this means for me, for my perspectives about the world and my place in it, and for how I approach my life, but I’d be fooling myself if I pretended that no matter how conscious I tried to be about the effect that this lens has on who I am, that it still didn’t color my existence in fundamental ways.
In many ways, Singapore fixes this.
Immersing myself in a new culture will bring me a large number of new experiences in a very short time. It will make me understand what it’s like to be a minority (though still a very well-off, privileged one) in a place that looks and works quite differently from the one that I’m used to. I guess I could refuse to take the lessons that will be offered to me, but I can’t see why I would have accepted this change if that was the plan. I’m not sure that an experience like this one could do anything other than force me to grow in my way of seeing and being in the world. I’m sure that this is not an equally attractive proposition to everyone, but for me it’s incredibly exciting. Even if it doesn't work out exactly as I would like it to (and realistically, how could it?) I will be better for what is coming my way; a better educator, a better partner, and father. A better, more complete person.
How could it not?
How was this piece for you? How was the series? Drop me a line or leave a comment if you have something to say.
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