Bye Bye Miss American Pie

I left the United States of America for home on August 25. That’s exactly 5 years and 5 days since I arrived in JFK in on 20/8/2000, when the world was still struggling to understand what this new century means in the midst of the dot com bubble. I left, trying not to think, feel, understand what I’m doing, since I’ve made this decision way too long ago to be remembered (2003?) The best part, of course, is the forward looking statements by friends and family, e.g. an increase in female selection pool, stable / close to home job, better food, more friends (and foes?). The worst part is unknown – salary cut, lower standard of living, squandered talents? None of them make sense if you don’t give it a second thought.

I was in Boston (and New York) for 10 days before I left USA. I thought I can use that as a reason for comtemplation. A place away from work, that has consumed me like never before; a place where I can find solitude and friends; a place where I get to relive what used to be very important to me – band competition (dci finals), classical music (tanglewood) – before I leave the country for good. (btw, thanks Shien Jin and Swee Chong for hosting me :))

And I failed to even finish wrapping up my life (credit cards still open, electricity still being auto charged eventhough i returned the apt to the landlord…), not to mention reflect and reestablish priorities in life. It’s not hard, but the heart has been left empty, the soul has been robbed. I tried to give my life some meaning in this transition, gave myself two projects (,; one launched, while the other will have to be put on hold. Impianku launched pertty smoothly, albeit a colder response from the public than we expected. Still, they didn’t help in reminding me who I am, what I’m here for, why, and I, leaving USA for Singapore.

It’s a stupid question right? Serve bond, indentured servant, new life, and many others, have been told to me straight in the face, some jokingly, others demeaningly (got such word?). Some told me to start a DVD rental business in S’pore to fill in my weekends, or building map software for PJ/KL, while I thought maybe practising piano might be just the thing that I’m missing (maybe start composing / arranging music again). There’s no way to tell. When you’re empty, you’re empty.

And I don’t even remember my CS stuff from school! That’s worrying. I’ve been doing Perl/Mason for the longest time in Amazon, due to the nature of my team’s responsibilties of handling frontend work. I ask rudimentary questions to interviewees without knowing the answers myself anymore. I was reduced from a one-man-show implementing a database, to uploading an image when told, correcting a 2px line to 1px. How am I supposed to pick up my life again, in a company that has invested in my capabilities, a company whose CEO wants to meet me in a few weeks? What’s that partial template specialization in C++ again?


I left USA, full of nothingness. And yet I’m not as cool as that Xu Zhimo who left Cambridge saying 我挥一挥衣袖 不带走一片云彩 that’s so different! That’s saying that he is content leaving without even a wisp of cloud – but I’m leaving with no sign of contentness, no sign of being able to bring anything fruitfull back – all that’s left is the same luggage and my trombone that counts for nothing, that went to US with me 5 years ago and came back the same.

Why can’t this transition be like the transition from Chen Moh to CHS, full of anticipation of all things great in music? Or from CHS to HCJC, full of adventure away from home at last? Or from HCJC to CMU, finally a chance to be a global citizen and conquer the world? Or from CMU to Stanford, full of hopes for better food and weather? Or like the transistion from Stanford to Amazon, full of anticipation of a great working environment with smart people that you’re supposed to make history with?

Why is this transition so empty? With nothing, almost nothing to look forward to?

For the whole morning, the only explanation I can come up with lies in the fact that I’m walking the path towards getting a Singapore citizenship. From the point I chose to return, I have chose to continue the relationship with a company that I promised my youth to 5 year ago, of which part of the relationship requires me to relinquish something that I’ve only treasured more and more as time past, an identity that I’ve fought to forge more and more as I move out globally.

Do you know how many weird faces I have to go through when I said I come from Malaysia and yet I have to work for a Singaporean company for 6 years? Do you know how many shock faces I have to elaborate to when I said a study scholarship has consequences of giving up one’s citizenship? Do you know how many angry faces I need to appease when they heard the story or read the contract?

Can this simple matter drain me like a dementors? It’s hardly believable when I think of it in ths past. Now I can’t think so I can’t verify this thought again. Maybe it’s too late to think now. But then it’s going to be very sad if I were to take up something that I have no passion, derive no happiness, see no reason. I’m very much the same emotional being that I was since 3 years old. I cry, I get agitated, I beat people up. And it’s as if I’m doing that to myself.

Perhaps it’s this irrationality that has beaten me into pieces. I create systems, in fact I’m master of creating systems that works. But I also know how it feels to be part of a system. It’s a hopeless wander with rules to follow. It’s a manisfestation of beauty at the expense of freedom to be irrational. Everything is a pair of cause and effect, reason and consequence. Every vector is a story that has a beginning and an ending; every state is a logical moment of the big picture. Now that I’ve written this down, I wish that some wind can just blow this whole thing away.

I need my patronus, really quick now.

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6 Responses

  1. Hang on to what you believe in. They can take your name, they can take your identity, and they can take your life.

    But, try as they may, they can never take your heart away. Continue to live out what you believe in, regardless of what the people around you think.




    Another Suitcase in Another Hall

    I don’t expect my love affairs to last for long
    Never fool myself that my dreams will come true
    Being used to trouble I anticipate it
    But all the same I hate it, wouldn’t you?

    So what happens now?
    Another suitcase in another hall
    So what happens now?
    Take your picture off another wall
    Where am I going to?
    You’ll get by, you always have before
    Where am I going to?

    Time and time again I’ve said that I don’t care
    That I’m immune to gloom, that I’m hard through and through
    But every time it matters all my words desert me
    So anyone can hurt me, and they do

    Call in three months time and I’ll be fine, I know
    Well maybe not that fine, but I’ll survive anyhow
    I won’t recall the names and places of each sad occasion
    But that’s no consolation here and now.

    Don’t ask anymore.

  2. JiinJoo… Hmm… as an engineer, I’m supposed to provide solutions. But, here… without any solution to your problem, I can only give you a big hug and support. ^_^ Jia you~

  3. maybe you might have found that ‘missing link’ in this transition.. maybe you’re too busy with work to think about it right now…

    just hang in there… life is like a box of never know what you’ll get 😉

    see you next June!

    -wai ping-

  4. Wah! Wai Ping you coming back next June!? So soon?

    Well it has since been a month, there’s not much improvement but at least I’m pretty settle into doing idle work that will stop me from thinking. I don’t know how long this panadol style remedy will last before it wears out. I still need to seek more interesting and challenging work.

    Moreover, I’m beginning to understand why there’s no challenging work here – the lack of congregation of what US companies like to call “smart people”. There’s only that much one developer can do. It takes at least a dozen of them to build something “cool”, and another dozen dozen of them scale it up and add sufficient features / polish it to become something “good” in the industry. Of course all these “smart people” cost money. With all of them in the states, there’s clearly a huge problem, not in the industry, but in my career prospect should I insist to be an engineer in a semi-gov-firm.

    I shall elaborate another time. Hope you’re having a great time 🙂

    Hai Ying – thanks for your support too!

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