To me, resilience is inextricably linked to friendship. A strong support system is the most important thing for anyone to bounce back from difficulties. A resilient Singapore is therefore one with strong social connections. In this spirit, I would like to share a story about one particular group of my friends.
The friendship among this group was forged by the pain of National Service. After a surprisingly smooth trek up Indonesia's Mount Rinjani post-NS, we were convinced that this was the only group that we would ever want to climb with. Thanks to our training, we were perfectly in sync when it came to how much rest we wanted, how fast we wanted to go, how we organized our belongings, etc.
A few trips later, we decided to take on a mountain in Ladakh, India. The town and the vista of the surrounding mountains were stunning. The catch the town itself was at an elevation of 3500 metres above sea level, and we had to catch our breath after each short walk. We wanted to begin the climb on the fourth day, but after two acclimatisation walks, we decided we felt comfortable enough to bring the itinerary forward so we could squeeze another day trip at the end.
We realised that we were badly acclimated when we reached the first camp. Our heads were throbbing in pain and we barely slept the whole night, but we decided to press on to the base camp. We would spend one entire day at the base camp trying to acclimatise, but the altitude sickness eventually meant that on the morning of the fourth day, only two of us, me included, were well enough to attempt the summit push. I wish I could say we reached the summit. But we did not, and only made it to the about 90% of the way. My water froze, and I was blacking out. My friend was okay, but I knew going on would be dangerous not only for me but for him and the guide.
We slowly made our way down the mountain while I kept falling down due to fatigue. Each time I fell into the snow, I tried to rely on my ice-axe to stop me from slipping further. But the main reason I felt safe was because throughout the entire descent, I was tethered to my friend and the guide by a rope. Sometimes, my friend fell with me, but it was because I was tethered to them that I mostly kept my balance. We eventually regrouped at the base camp with the rest and descended together.
This story is perhaps a perfect metaphor for resilience after all, I literally could get back on my feet only because of my friend. But away from the mountains, this group of friends have offered some of the best emotional support for each other in our darker days. And this is what resilience should look like for Singaporeans.