Giving a chance to the unknown
End of term class photo!
This past year for me has been defined by trying new things. I’ve always preferred to stick to what I know and shape my identity around that—I prided myself on loving reading and knowing how to spell a thing or two in kindergarten (qualities I now use in my editorial work…). But I’ve found some breathing space to discover other activities: for one, I started studying French, amongst a class of Singaporeans delighting at the sonic similarity between “Bordeaux” and “bodoh”. Being a complete beginner puts you in a position of both humbling vulnerability and exciting possibility.
Venturing beyond my usual comforts, I’ve realised the joy in giving a chance to the unknown. I started learning improvisational theatre after coming across a random Instagram ad, initially deciding to ignore it before thinking “eh, why not?”. In improv, performers build fictional scenes on the spot after being given a single prompt, and sometimes none at all. While I previously associated it with skits and slapstick humour, I realised it’s actually more about how to construct a story while surrendering control of the full narrative.
Through weeks of learning how to form convincing characters, relationships, settings and then cohesive plotlines within a few lines of dialogue that would stretch into several minutes, I learned to get over the discomfort of beginning a scene with absolutely no idea where it would go. I was rewarded by the exhilarating feeling of having created something new with my partners by trusting the first thoughts that popped into our heads and letting them materialise, shaping incoherence into something with an emotional core which would get across to an audience. The goal isn't always to be funny, but we often end up laughing uncontrollably at the end result anyway.
Eventually, I began to release some of my desire for control more generally, and relax my expectations for things to go a certain way; the need to structure every action in advance of the next. I learned to embrace other people’s ideas more often and lean into combining this and that instead of choosing between them.
We all know that planning ahead is important. But I encourage you to also make room for what you can’t orchestrate; the happy accidents that give you new momentum; the last-minute changes you’d usually groan at; the random encounters that bring someone from the past back into your life (something that happens often, given the size of this island).
We are often thrust into situations where we have no choice but to make things up as we go along; we may as well have fun with these unscripted moments. Hold onto your narratives only gently, and let them be changed with time; the rest will flow into place.