In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Tradition" and "modernisation".

This is, I think, a conflict that has been at the very centre of myself since I started doing what I enjoy doing. And while it was rather dampened when I was still in school/in Singapore, increasingly I get to the point where I might have to make decisions that would affect not just myself, but those around me.

As I think more about what I want to do after graduation and what I have to do now, this issue is constantly on the back of my head. Perhaps in some ways, it's not a conflict, just what I make it out to be. You could title it whatever you want, but to me, it's a tug-of-war between the traditional family focus and the "more modern" individual emphasis. Yeah, I know individualism is not necessarily progress or modernisation, but it is a shift away from the standard (in Asia anyway) and for the lack of better words, let me just call that "modernisation".

I am interested in history, in heritage, in the past, in traditions – especially in recent years. Raffles, Cambridge, even my religion (the Roman Catholic Church), these are all institutions full of traditions and history (to varying time scales) and I'm proud of them. I feel incredibly honoured and humbled to be part of institutions with an amazing history behind them, and to be able to count myself as part of them.

I love my family and the "traditions": meeting up with extended family every week for a meal, and when we were younger, going out for outings and trips. All the important calendar dates (Chinese New Year, Christmas, birthdays, Father's Day/Mother's Day etc) when we just gather to eat a lot. Family is everything, and you can always rely on your family if anything goes wrong (or you should be able to anyway). Blood is thicker than water, or so the saying goes, and our social policy in Singapore revolves around that central tenet, that you first turn to your family before the state. (Which is why people who have no family to turn to often end up marginalised in society and don't get enough help and support etc but that's another issue altogether)

It seems quite different from here, or perhaps much of the Western world. Not that family isn't important to them – it still is, and you can sometimes see how tight-knit their families are. But I think there is more of an emphasis on the individual, that the family is more like a nursery habitat to bring the kids up, and once they're fully fledged, off they go. Perhaps once in a while they come back, but that's about it. Whereas back home, it's more like an ant colony. You grow up, you head off and venture out into the world, but at the end of the day, you still head back to where you were born, to where your family is. Maybe this is not the best analogy in trying to bring across what I was trying to say, but I hope you get my point.

It's not that what I enjoy doing is incompatible with my family or anything of that sort. My family is incredibly supportive of my pursuits and I love them very much, in particular my parents who let us do what we like doing instead of forcing us to do more "profitable" pursuits, perhaps.

But I want to travel, I want to go on adventures, I want to go out an explore. On my own if I have to. I want to go on field trips, to go to wild places, to do things that the average city-dweller doesn't. I don't know what I want to do exactly once I graduate, but I know I don't want to be desk-bound. Not so soon anyway.

And traditionally, family life is as such: wake up, make breakfast, go to work, come home, have dinner with family, do some family things (like watch TV/chat), sleep. Of course it gets more complicated than I described, but I believe that's the essence of it. At least that was what my life was kind of like, I'm sure there are exceptions. But where does that leave me with what I would like to do?

I'm incredibly blessed and fortunate, to be in a situation where I can feel that the world is my oyster. That I am free to explore, to be fully mobile, that I would have a shot at making my mark anywhere if I would like to, especially in this globalised world. To have been afforded this opportunity by society, in some ways by being born where I was born when I was born. Yet is that what I really want, to be miles away from home? I want to give back, I want help others, I want to do something worth leaving behind.

Right now, at this point in life, I still don't have that major decisions to make yet. I just have to decide between a sandwich or a soup; to go for a talk on this or another event on that; to write my essay now or write it later. Trivial things that don't matter in the bigger scheme of life. I am still a student, and my money still comes from (my scholarship provider and) my parents. 

Once I graduate though, I don't know where life will lead me, what kinds of decisions I will make, how things will pan out.

This reminds me in some ways, of Bound Feet and Western Dress. A book I read ages ago, when I was in primary school. I don't remember the details now (I really should re-read it), and perhaps comparing what I'm feeling with the conflict Chang Yu-I had is a bit too presumptuous on my part. Of course her struggles were greater and more pertinent to the conflicts of being a woman born in her time and I have it a lot easier. Still though, in spite of the progress made in all these intervening decades, I feel like I am still expected to behave in a certain manner.

In essence, I guess I'm just feeling a conflict between the East and the West, a result perhaps of being in Singapore which is a rather Westernised (on the outside) Eastern country, of being brought up in a Chinese family and now being on my own in an 'angmoh' country. And mainly because I don't want to lead a typical (office/urban) life. I feel like I made an awful lot of sweeping generalisations and overarching assumptions in this post, but this is genuinely how I feel. And it wasn't an easy post to write either; this has been in my drafts folder for more than a week.

Where to from here?
(Photo taken at Seven Sisters Country Park, Brighton)

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