By Triston Francis | 14 Oct 2020
Despite being 15,000 kilometres from where I grew up in New York City, I feel more at ease in Singapore than I ever have elsewhere. This comfort is driven largely by an appreciation for the quality of life I can have here that I believe exceeds what I have experienced in any city where I have previously lived or visited.
After graduating from Harvard Business School in May 2019, I moved from Boston to Singapore. My mother was thinking about relocating to Southeast Asia so that she could spend her retirement enjoying the region’s natural beauty and I wanted to be nearby to support her transition.
While growing up, I observed my mom working tirelessly. She worked multiple jobs to make sure that my two older brothers and I always had what we needed. She instilled in me many values that have shaped who I am today.
In addition to my mom’s interest in Southeast Asia, I had also wanted to experience life abroad. After graduating from business school, the timing felt right and I eagerly moved to the other side of the planet. I was excited to start this next chapter of my life.
Having never stepped foot in Singapore prior to landing with my suitcases, I was eager to see what this leap of faith had in store for me. Among the many things that I have come to appreciate about life in Singapore, I am most grateful for the safety and diversity of people. Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and races. This blend has created an environment where I feel embraced.
Throughout childhood, I was forced to grapple with race and identity. My father is a black man from Jamaica and my mother a white woman from Cleveland with Russian and Czech heritage. Regardless of which parent picked me up from school, my classmates would stare. I could feel them thinking that I was too dark and my hair too curly for me to be my mom’s son and my skin was not nearly dark enough to be my father’s child.
At the age of 11, I went to a boarding school in Deerfield, Massachusetts. My older brother and I would joke that we made up roughly 30% of the black population on campus. Once again, race and identity made its way to the forefront of my mind.
As I continued to improve my life, I simultaneously moved further and further away from the world’s expectations of a black man. My early successes eventually started piling up high enough for others to put me on a pedestal as someone who broke through adversity and clawed their way to a better life. I regularly found myself as a poster child for institutions that were eager to put me on display, my presence being used to present an example of how underrepresented minorities not only belonged at their organization but could also thrive.
This led to an immense amount of pressure for me to always “bring my ‘A’ game.” Not only was my performance a reflection of me, but also it felt as though my successes and failures would be generalized towards the broader black community. Grateful to have received opportunities that I never could have fathomed as a child, I wanted to keep those doors open for people who looked like me and came from communities like mine.
Although there is no part of the world where race relations are perfect, I feel far more comfortable as a black person in Singapore than I did in the United States. I no longer feel as though my race is a focal point as I navigate my life in Singapore. With the spotlight off, I am more free to live my own life.
When I began to envision my ideal home after business school, I wanted to move to a city where I could see myself being comfortable permanently. Born and raised in New York City, I have also lived in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. As exciting as it was to move around and experience these unique places, I felt an increasing desire to finally find a place to call home for a longer period of time.
When I consider what staying in Singapore long-term might look like, I am drawn to its safety, infrastructure, and weather. I cannot think of a better place to live, not only as I navigate these early stages of my career, but also for when I decide to start a family. I am excited by the prospect of having Singapore as a home base from which I can be comfortable and focus on my life priorities, all while having access to great personal and professional opportunities both within Singapore as well as the many places that I’m able to explore via a short flight within the region.
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About Triston Francis
When not working as management consultant, Triston regularly hosts professional development events for college students and young professionals. He has done programming with the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Polytechnic, Harvard, and Wharton as well as many other academic institutions globally. He organizes weekly professional speaker series events which are free and open to the public. Feel free to tune in to hear more about Triston’s story. His upcoming events can always be found here.