Ethos' Favourite Picks Of 2022 (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this year's Ethos Favourites! 

In this week's letter, we have put together the second half of favourite picks that hold fond memories, encourage self-growth and reflect on exploring nature.

We hope that 2022 has been a year filled with precious moments and encouragements for the new year. 😊

Si Hui 

🌳 Ariane's Pick 🌳
Explore: The Natural World

How I spent most of my holiday: holding my phone to the sky, using BirdNET to identify a bird I couldn’t see/was all black against the sun by its calls. I am almost certain that here, I was looking at a European Starling. Did you know they can make R2D2 sounds?!?
I’ve always felt more at home in nature than in the city, and in the past few years the desire to abandon this life to work on a small homestead somewhere and raise rescue alpacas and emus has grown exponentially. In the past year I’ve been trying to actively get more in touch with nature by finally learning to identify animals and, after reading The Wall of Birds, I became a bird lover overnight.
Whenever I had the time to explore our nature trails, I began taking pictures of birds, or voice-recording their calls to try and match and identify them later. After finally reading Braiding Sweetgrass (which was my other Favourites pick, I couldn’t decide), that drive to learn more intimately the natural world around me extended to plants, and so I started taking pictures of the forest plants to identify, too (thank you Google Images reverse-search). The change in the way I observed and reacted to the natural world was instant: cool insects would land on my arm and I wouldn’t freak out: just take a good look, then gently set it on a leaf nearby. My walks to the office started to be filled with old and new friends (crows, my favourite, and the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, respectively).
I’m still horribly amateur at the whole thing, but it’s brought a certain lightness to my anxious days 😊 Next year, I hope to be able to report that my favourite thing is a new crow friend; I am determined to bribe one to recognise me and exchange shiny things with me for food.


🎧 Arin's Pick 🎧
Listen: Crybaby

If there’s any cultural content that has made me feel less lonely this year, it is the Crybaby podcast hosted by Natacia Lim and Ruby Thiagarajan. Crybaby was launched late last year as a platform that talks about mental health, pop cultural criticism, dating, and the particularities of living life as a ~millennial~ and inhabiting the fullness of your emotions. They currently only have five 1-hr long episodes, but every episode that I’ve let play in the background as I lie in bed drained from the tedium of performing as a functional human being has been such a balm. They’ve talked about the hits and misses of Netflix’s The Chair, breakup songs, navigating relationships, their experiences with borderline personality disorder, and my personal favourite episode—the struggles of “adulting”, growing up as a millennial and having the life you thought you wanted (very much shaped by meritocratic ideals of “success” and compulsory heterosexuality) become inaccessible.
In this episode called “Grow Up!!!”, they discuss the harsh linearity of “life milestones”—going to school, getting a job which allows you to buy a BTO and settle down with a partner before your 30s—and how alienating or disorienting it feels when this life dissipates once you choose a non-conventional job or when you fall outside the state’s heteronormative family policies. The episode hits a lot of things that I’ve been talking about with my own friends, and I’m so glad that they’ve managed to navigate the conversation out of this sad place, into a more liberating way of looking at growing up. They explore the merits of unlearning the scripts and expectations of compulsory heterosexuality, accepting that a successful or meaningful life doesn’t have to look like what others are modelling it to be, and that we have the freedom to create space for more expansive ways of being. Instead of thinking about life in terms of a trajectory, Ruby thinks about it more in phases, she says, I’m in this one now and it feels in between and liminal but I’m going to fully inhabit it and live my happiest life in this phase… my dreams feel smaller, but they also feel more real. And Natacia says, yes this is the phase where I live my most expansive and varied life. I like that I can always change my mind.
As we go into the new year, I’m hoping for more expansion, radical self-acceptance, and the freedom to change my mind, to fully inhabit my life.


🛤️ Si Hui's Pick 🛤️
Moments: Gyeongui Railway Forest

Behind this picture was filled with loads of random nonsense, laughter and discoveries. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to snap a picture of us testing our balancing skills on the railway track at the railway forest, so I had to settle for this picture of us comparing our gloved hand sizes (one of our many nonsensical endeavours). 

As the year-end approaches, the usual yearly reflection begins. And so, I asked myself, "What were some favourites of my 2022?" Of course, if I were to list everything, it would take too long. As such, I narrowed it down to one of my favourite moments in 2022stumbling upon Gyeongui Railway Forest.
With the ease of travel restrictions, I could finally travel. My first destination in two years was Korea (a country I've wanted to visit for a long time)! So I travelled with my partner and his parents to the heart of Korea, Seoul. And how my partner and I stumbled upon the Gyeongui Railway Forest was purely by accident.
On the last day of our trip, we were walking back from breakfast with our tummies filled; we decided to walk and explore the park near our lodging area. Funnily enough, throughout our trip, we never once explored the park near our Air BnB and simply walked past it, until the last day. By then, the temperature had already dropped to as close to 3
°C! So, we began exploring the park with our hoodies, sweatpants and gloved hands.
Why was this my favourite memory of 2022?
Well, something about the cold wind gently greeting us together with the crunch of leaves as our laughter filled the quiet morning air unlocked a core memory of mine. A memory that I hope to remember forever. Perhaps the bittersweet feeling of leaving contributed to it, but at that moment, as we tried balancing on the railway track and simply making a fool of ourselves, it left me with a sense of tranquility. Looking back at that memory always leaves me feeling fuzzy and assured that I wouldn't be walking in it alone, no matter what lies ahead in the upcoming year.
As such, dear 
Reader, you too, won't be stepping into the new year alone. Know that you too, are surrounded by people who love you for you. And as 2022 slowly ends, the memories, experiences, love, hurt and pain are proof that you are alive and will surely make it through 2023, just as you always have.
I hope 2023 will be as kind as 2022 has been for you!


🌕 Kah Gay's Pick 🌕
Moments: Karachi Friendships

KG, Alecia, Aisar, Tarnaish and Aswad. October 2022.

Under a night sky, seated on a rug with friends in Karachi, wrapping flat bread over chicken and lamb karahi. And a conversation that went to as many places as our lives traversed.
Aisar, our map to Karachi, whose voice runs with the spirit of the mountains and rivers of Skardu. Aswad, whose energy is matched by composure beyond his years, told of family from places such as Faisalabad (formerly Lyallpur) and Larkana. Tarnaish, with her deep love for animals, shared her life with her eight dogs.
I had accompanied Alecia to support her setup of Power to the People, her artwork that was chosen for the Karachi Biennale. On one of the starless nights, this moment of friendship with beautiful souls happened for both Alecia and me, transforming us into travellers.
Reader, I wish for you moments of friendship with people who matter. People who truly matter, not because of what they can do for you, but for who they are.
Zabardast in our friends’ language means fantastic.


🎪 Nic's Pick 🎪
Event: Singapore Writer's Festival

It was a whirlwind three weeks, but I enjoyed every moment of the Singapore Writers Festival.
I am still in disbelief that I managed to cram in over 15 events including Ethos' panels, the launch of the anthology Brown is Redacted, a tea session, as well as the "Not the Singapore Festival of Writers" (NSFW) panels run by Ng Yi-Sheng at the Singlit Station.
As a new entrant to the publishing industry, I saw SWF 2022 as an opportunity to plug into the culture and literary scene. I remember someone describing the event as "like being in university all over again". But it was so much more than that.
What I found most enjoyable were the new connections. I encountered a kindred spirit, M, with whom I've shared many refreshing and deep conversations. In moments like this, one can't help but feel that one has stumbled upon a long-lost friend. It left me thinking: "What took you so long?"
The literary scene is new to me, but also strangely familiar—storytelling was already central to my previous roles in journalism and marketing. While my work is primarily focused on the production of commercial titles and commissions, there have been many intersections.
I trust that the universe is unfolding as it should. The best is yet to come!


🏫 Mr Fong's Pick 🏫
Place: Upper Thompson Secondary School

In early November this year, I took this picture of the neighbourhood school (Upper Thomson Secondary School) which I attended in the 1960s. The school no longer exists in name, having been merged twice over with other schools, the first occasion being in the 80s.

As far back in the early 2010s, I thought that even the building was doomed as it was boarded up and I could see some kind of wrecking equipment within the grounds, with the ubiquitous signboard that threatened prosecution for trespassers.

This neighbourhood school, and indeed the entire area within a radius of 5 kilometres where it stands, holds precious growing up memories for me. In my retirement years, I went on many walks with a fellow classmate from those early years, tracing the paths where friends had generated laughter and garnered the wisdom of our streets. We explored the corners where we hid our sorrows and never forgotten tears.

So it came as a relief when a June 6th report in The Straits Times announced that the building would be preserved as part of a conservation plan for the area.

The visual sight of a building that meant so much to me in my teens will always keep the emotional memories fresh. This is part of what being human is all about.

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