Written by Zheng Chengzhi
Edited by Chloe Yung
In the finale episode of The Office, there’s a distinctly poignant scene I’ll always remember. Andy Bernard becomes visibly moved after reuniting with his former colleagues of many years, who’ve gone on to other things since then. Choking up a little, he says, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” It’s a fresh and bittersweet sentiment to me as I leave Cinnamon residence behind after two years. No doubt it’s a mutual feeling for many others as well, handing in their keys for the last time.
It’s weird how the humdrum of everyday life becomes sprinkled with retrospective magic at the close of a chapter. Looking back, we might think a little sadly that, if we could have known how fondly we’d remember our times in Cinna, perhaps we would have done things differently — lived a little more vividly in the moment, and cherished those seemingly mundane days with a little more reverence.
Either way, the good old days have left their indelible mark on us. With that in mind, Chloe and I have assembled a collection of reflections from seniors leaving Cinna including our own — each reminiscent about a time shared in a 21-storey building with white walls and quaint rooms and close company; a time of celebrations and grief and dining and supper and familiars; a time made no less intimate by social distancing. No matter where you are now, we invite you to revisit these moments and hold them close.
What’s something you’ll miss about living in Cinnamon?
Personally, what I miss most is the sheer spontaneity of Cinna life. With friends living so close, good times were never far away. I recall when my friend Tiffany and I were going around knocking on friends’ doors because we were bored (before you hate us, this was after finals). (We also have very tolerant friends.) It was Rui Zhong who finally responded to our rapturous wood-rapping. On a spur, we decided to do an art jam and jio’ed others (Harz and Tzen Yi) to join in. What followed was a night of increasing hilarity as we challenged the limits of our limited artistic prowess, peaking with our impressionist renderings of Jia Yeong who had walked out to inspect the ruckus.
In that moment as we posed for the photo, brandishing our masterful impressions of Jia Yeong with smiles shining through our masks, I had that flash of meta-realisation Andy Bernard had wished for. I recognised that the times were good, that this was a moment to cherish dearly. Yet as time goes by, I’ve been grappling with a sense of sorrow all the same. Barely a month has passed, and that magical moment of us smiling and laughing is still alive in my mind, but I must realise it belongs to an irretrievable past. I know how awfully melodramatic this sounds. It’s not like I’m wasting away from tuberculosis on my 18th century sickbed, and of course I can still meet my friends in the future, and we’ll continue to have fun, and laugh, and draw, yadda yadda — but it’s not the same, you know. Staying in Cinna was a rare time for us to all be together, and that sure promise of unplanned joy was truly something special.
— Chengzhi, Class of 2023
In spite of the ever evolving nature of every semester in USP, there was one thing that remained constant throughout my 4 years here: The Dining Hall (DH). More specifically, the few tables found outside the servery.
It started out as a casual study group with some of my batchmates in early 2018 (since there were charging ports there), but gradually became a space for shared experiences transcending beyond the boundaries of senior/junior batches and cliques — meeting new people, making new friends, holding random gossip sessions, celebrating little milestones…the list goes on. It was a space that had brought people together.
People familiar with the sight of a group congregating there until late night might fondly call us “The DH Gang”. Instinctively, it might be hard to pin down exactly who belongs to this group since people have come and gone, but it’s the collective memories founded within this space that matter most.
As COVID-19 forced the DH to reduce its capacity in 2020, some of us migrated to the nearby Chatterbox, though it hasn’t really been quite the same. There’s less hubbub here, and something about the closed nature of the place makes it seem less inviting. But we make do. It’s a pity I didn’t manage to capture a photo of this memory before it all changed, but I suppose we don’t realise how precious such moments are until they come to an end.
— Kathy, Class of 2021
Some of the fondest memories I have in Cinnamon would have to be the ‘surprise’ birthday celebrations we have for friends at the stroke of midnight. Staying together meant that it was always easy to gather and have close friends nearby to celebrate birthdays with or just have fun together. I recall fondly how one of my birthday celebrations in Cinna saw me coming down to the Dining Hall where there supposedly was some KFC chicken up for grabs. I was met with a birthday setup of balloons and cake and a host of friends embarrassingly singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and disturbing everyone else in the DH. So I think what I’ll miss most is the convenience of having close friends literally close to me. I’ll miss the impromptu jios and spontaneous conversations and celebrations. I liked that everyday could be a day where I enjoyed myself or had a meaningful conversation with someone simply because proximity allowed me to.
— Zaki, Class of 2022
I think the most precious part of Cinna life is the space itself, and how it provides a unique blend of personal space and vibrant living. There’s always someone awake – morning run at 6am? Dance practice till 1am? Writing essays dead into the night with kind souls who offer you coffee? All check. The building is always bustling and ready to offer you new experiences, while also giving you a quiet place of rest in the comfort of your own room which is an experience that’s hard to get off campus. As a choreographer for Vibe!, I fondly recall how we used to have late night practices in CTPH, and how members would drop by at midnight just to support even in the midst of WCT season! Moving out for good this time, I will definitely miss the genuine interactions, the accessibility and the late night support systems that fuel my last minute essay clutches . Thank you for all the good memories!
— Charmaine, Class of 2022
One part of Cinnamon life I’ll miss is the community we had on the eighteenth floor where I stayed in my second year. A montage of moments resurfaces in my memory: a handful of us huddling around at midnight to chalk each others’ doors; T-posing and wildly gesturing across the corridor; being caught red-handed pasting up larger-than-life portraits of our mortals’ faces on the lounge window; finding a small congregation gathered along the corridor, giggling and energetic in the prime of freshie youth.
Ordinary days were made less ordinary. When I sought refuge in the floor lounge to pull myself through work, I had company — friends who were there to rush assignments too (major chiong-ing energy) or who’d pop by to chit-chat. Past midnight, on days when we knew none of us were going to sleep any time soon, one of us would cave in and tempt the rest with calls of “Supper?” On another day after finals, some of us pulled chairs in front of the lifts to sing and play the guitar. As these moments slipped by so easily, we knew we would miss days like these.
As this montage replays in my mind, I’m struck by a feeling of relief. The pockets of friendly faces I had in Cinnamon defined my experience — the eighteenth lounge and corridors, the twentieth and the ninth suite — without which I would have felt adrift the moment I stepped out of my door. If home is what you’ve built with others, then my home in Cinnamon was built from these precious memories of warmth.
— Chloe, Class of 2023
My fondest memory of living in Cinnamon is not necessarily an instant, but a collection of feelings and trivial details that add up to define an overall goodness. What you feel when you step into a familiar place — the familiar lobby, the familiar walkway, even the familiar sunset — and realise that while they resemble how you left them, they are simultaneously altered ever so slightly. A constant reminder that as you evolve and make your way through your life, these spaces, too, evolve with you. Gradually, as you grow with these spaces, you can’t help but grow attached to them too. My fondest memory living in Cinnamon is not necessarily an instant, but being able to call it a home.
— Amanda, Class of 2023
Time in university almost comes to a standstill and every day is routine — meals at fixed times, waiting for sunsets, endless laughter in between. But it never stops for you. The Earth still spins and suddenly the semester has ended. You say your goodbyes and close the door to this chapter of your life. Bid adieu to the whirlwind of school. Take a deep breath and stand in partial shock at how long it felt. And it’s like the ground you’re standing on has been snatched from you. You’re always falling, but now your hands interlocked with your friends and you all dive deeper into the unknown. Everyone is afraid. But whatever grief or sadness, whatever weight it holds, we are obliged to carry it.
— Gordon, Class of 2021
Author’s Note: I’d like to sincerely thank Chloe, Kathy, Gordon, Zaki, Amanda, Charmaine, Tiffany, and Ruizhong for their kind contributions that made this article possible.
About the Author
Chengzhi is a Y2 Sociology major, currently enjoying a break that feels well-deserved-but-somehow-illegal.