Sometimes when it’s been a while since you’ve seen someone, it’s easier to notice how he or she is different from before. But I never thought that returning to a familiar place after 9 months would help me notice how much I have changed since I left.

I had been ready to leave Toronto last May, but I hadn’t been ready to make Singapore my home. It took me a while to adjust to living with family again… the sudden loss of personal space and unencumbered freedom was the greatest culture shock for me. But somewhere in the past few months, I’ve become contented and happy. It helps that I am now married to my best friend who is a constant source of joy, laughter and comfort. I also adore my new neighbourhood… it’s snug and little but so self-sufficient. After 9 years away, I’m also back in the same city as my childhood friends, and that made a difference even when we don’t meet often. I can honestly say that I am happy.

So what is different about me in Toronto? One thing I noticed is that I feel more confident and self-assured than before. I feel less tentative, less uncertain about how I feel about things or what I want. I am even more daring in saying what I think and asking for what I want. And to my surprised amusement, this self-assuredness has also led to me becoming more thick-skinned! In the past I was happy to know if someone missed me, but I’d never dare to presume that I was missed. Ironically, now that I don’t wish as much that I am missed, I dare to actually conclude that I am missed.

The most significant difference I detect in myself this time around in Toronto is a sense of serenity. I don’t feel as if there’s any place I must visit, any event I must attend or even any favourite food I must eat before I leave again. When I’m with my friends, I notice how they have changed and I don’t feel slighted or excluded when I find out how much has happened in their lives which they hadn’t updated me.

I have never been this serene or happy in Toronto before. Ever. Serenity is not about being carefree. For me, this serenity is a state of mind that I have earned. I hadn’t run when I was thrown into the furnace and I had struggled to accept my cup of sorrow at every turn. This is my reward.

Toronto is still Toronto. I am still me. But somehow and somewhere I’ve crossed a threshold and the same world now feels completely different. Bigger. Brighter. More beautiful – both Toronto and me.

Ann, cherish this moment but don’t you get complacent. Don’t stop… keep putting one foot ahead of the other. Keep praying, keep laughing, keep loving… don’t ever stop!

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