What Would You Do

Here’s a video I’ve watched at least 4 times, and still cry each time.

Today is the start of World Autism Awareness Week, and I found out because my friends from Community Advocates had changed their profile pictures on Facebook. After changing mine to support the movement for awareness and reading a page “10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew” (http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/100-day-kit/ten-things-every-child-autism-wishes-you-knew) I’ve been watching documentaries and reading pages about autism. And right now, I’m feeling sad.

I’m sad about the kind of connotations that ‘autism’ come with and about the treatment that so many of these children on the autism spectrum receive all over the world every day. Autism, from a state of being ‘very different, but still human just like us’, has become a mix of ‘mentally retarded’, ‘socially inept’, ‘unacceptable’, ‘useless’ and ‘slow’.

You know, just because we are part of the majority doesn’t make us ‘normal’, and ‘normal’ isn’t necessarily a good thing like how ‘abnormal’ isn’t a bad thing just because we say so. If ‘normal’ was such a brilliant thing that gives us the right to be so proud of ourselves and discriminate those who are different- what noble deed did we ever commit to deserve to be ‘normal’ in the first place?

Autistic children aren’t born in the spectrum by choice, and the people who think they’re superior to them and make fun of them are saying so much more about themselves than they are about these autistic children. Discrimination is disgusting.

Aware of the People

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Tomorrow a new term begins- more often than not, we begin determined and excited (I think) ready for the world but within two weeks of school, it feels like we need the holidays back again to ‘tie up loose ends’, ‘catch our breaths’. Why is it that we can start with so much energy but that energy never lasts for more than two weeks, fourteen days? Yeah, maybe it’s because school is way too tiring or that the work begins to pile up after a bit. Or yes, maybe it’s because we end school late, get home late and get our homework done late, then the vicious cycle that messes with our body clock begins. 

But I’d like to challenge you to a secret formula that could make this a little better, and it’s called being aware of the people. Everyday you meet so many people, from friends you know, to strangers you don’t, but how aware are we of anything beyond their names and faces? Do you even realise they’re there? How much do you know about what they’re experiencing at home- is it the same stress you are? Or do we have a clue about what they love to do or how they cope with stress? We rarely care enough to find out, and we always make too many assumptions about the people we come to interact with everyday. We assume they’re the same as everyone else you’ve met. It’s a pity. 

A pity because if we found out that maybe a lot more people are facing the same tiring schedule you are, you could be there for each other and make this better for yourself and the people around you. A pity because all our assumptions make us build a barrier between ourselves and these people we are around every single day. Before you know it, you separate and you only know their names. And it’s a pity because your closest friend could be going through the hardest of times and you mayn’t even know, because caring about him/her beyond the assumptions that you make never got your friendship anywhere. 

I hope I’m making sense because when I first got thinking about this a week ago at house comme camp, it was truly at wake-up call and something I really wanted to share. 

And I suppose if we were all a little kinder and a little more thoughtful to each other, strangers or not, our energy would keep recharging, it could last us till the June Holidays. Good luck!

People & Places

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I started my holidays with a day out with my godsister hanging out at Group Therapy Cafe and later catching a Romeo and Juliet ballet. We checked in for the night at King Albert Park Macdonalds’ and for those who know, it closed down on the midnight of the Sunday that just passed. It’s the house to many people’s memories and the place itself has it’s own history of 23 years since 1991. I personally enjoyed training as a Macdonalds’ crew and hang outs with friends in this place. That night, so many people had gathered there, some standing because there weren’t enough seats, enjoying their last meal, making last memories and reminiscing all the good times spent in this place as a manager hosted the countdown to the closing of this outlet. 

The attachment to the place that I witnessed and myself experienced is hard to describe but I have never understood the power of a place till this day. (I suppose it’s true we only realise the value of things as we’re about to lose them). Quoting a macdonalds’ manager speaking to the crowd that night, “As KAP macs closes down; we are saying goodbye to the physical place, but not the memories”. The power of a place is that every day people walk through its doors or gates and create memories, foster friendships, strengthen relationships and share experiences there– all these intangible recollections all congregated within the walls of a single physical place. Where you enjoy a memory, the closest you can get to reliving it is seeing the place you experienced it or being there again with the same people, though it’ll never be exactly the same. But with the physical place there, it is a symbol and it is also a reminder. 

I guess that’s what made letting go of the place so difficult. 

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This experience of a loss of place has reminded me to enjoy the moments I share with every person in every place so much more, here’s me checking in from Littered with Books along Duxton Road. And below which, is a bunch of people that remind me that sometimes place doesn’t matter, because the people and connections still remain wherever we are and whatever we do. 

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The Privileged Gamechangers

As the rain patters against the windows outside, I hug my bolster, sip on some good coffee prepared by my sister, feeling all warm and snug on the couch, I am feeling nothing less than privileged this Sunday afternoon. 

The week has been a frenzy- 

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Sunday was Project We Care Istana Garden Party for beneficiaries and volunteers from Community Centres all over Singapore to celebrate a day of fun, food, games and performances. I am one for festivals, visiting various art festivals or celebrations every weekend, so skimming through the photo booths and watching the gigs and performances was an enjoyable and familiar feeling. But the width of the smiles on the beneficiaries’ faces as well as the twinkle in the eyes of the children from low-income families was a sight to behold, I realised that this could be their once in a lifetime opportunity and I could only imagine how fortunate they were feeling, how much they were appreciating this experience. And there and then, I was overwhelmed, feeling privileged

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And RGS Room to Read Chapter held our first ever Speakers’ Session at RGS EN Hall this Wednesday- we had the Singapore Chapter chairperson, CEO of the Girls’ Education Programme and our lovely beneficiary come down to speak with us after a short film screening of very insightful youtube videos our page will share in time: http://www.facebook.com/rgsroomtoread. 20 odd RGS girls and alumnae took our steps towards awareness of the power of education through the stories of the girl above who’d do anything to pursue the education that would change her life and through the courage of those who fought alongside her to work for her education with her. The courage and strength of those in the hall that day was inspiring and it makes me ashamed of the times I dread going to school when it’s my privilege. 

I am reminded that there are many privileges that I receive because of my fortunate family background and the lifestyle that I lead is one that many less fortunate desire. The awareness comes with a tinge of sadness to recognise to cruel reality that ‘our world is unfair’ but in time, I have come to feel empowered because in this rigged game of society, we (the educated ‘elites’) are the very gamechangers. 

 

The Start of True Empathy

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This is me a blindfold lunch during Interact camp- you don’t truly know what you’re lucky to have until you have to do without it.

Forgive the double posting, today I’d like to tell you more about RGS Chapter: Room to Read’s first Speakers’ Session happening this Wednesday, 12 March. 

We have had the luxury of inviting two speakers’ involved in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Programme come down to RGS (which is, by the way, the only local school they’re visiting) to share a little about their experience and their story. We will also be screening Girl Rising, a film about girls rising from poverty through the access to education. Much will be shared about how you may get involved regardless of school or age, so come by RGS Hall @3-430PM this Wednesday to learn more! Indicate your attendance at tinyurl.com/rtrspeakerssession 

I have a theory about listening to people’s stories- in our lifetime we can only learn this much and with the time we have, there’s only so much we can do and experience. So the way to multiply what you know and learn, is by listening to the wisdom of others and learn from their stories. I think it’s a pity this experience that will necessarily incite understanding and empathy may not get as much response as it should and could, because of the little time we had to put it in place. So if you really don’t know where to start to try understanding something larger than yourself, this is a good place to start and we welcome everyone regardless of institution to come join us! 

I really could go on about the reasons this speakers’ session is one not to miss, but eventually you decide what meaning you’d like to give to that 1.5 hours this Wednesday, it’d be nice to see you there.

The School Life

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Two months into JC and I’ve had the luxury of meeting so many interesting people and sharing great memories with many– I think I could get used to this. (Except reality is academics will soon overthrow my current take-it-easy regime). The highlight of the month has been participating in Spirit Week games and being part of Dramafeste 2014. I think it’s these opportunities, coupled with the people they allow me to meet that makes me appreciate school life that much more. 

Today I’d like to talk about what makes me wake up to go to school everyday. There is a simple misconception, I think, that to be successful in school (or even life) is to pass all your exams with flying colours or get a 4.0 GPA which is virtually impossible for the majority of the student population. And so I’ve learned, that if I defined the value of my school life by that, I’d be studying everyday, crying at my grades, then repeating this cycle until I realise that I’ve done nothing more than pursue a meaningless set of numbers that in no way could define the whole me. 

Everyday in school I meet countless of talented people, some with ambitions that inspire me and others pursuing everything they love with each second. But then there are also a fair share of just as talented people, who are too caught up in that idea that they kill every bit of creativity and freedom they have left for themselves by believing that they’re successful if they sacrifice every other part of their identity for a number to label themselves ‘smart’. Unless smart an adjective that will satisfy your whole self and your search for self-identity, spend more time doing everything else you love but study.

Of course, I’m not saying we should burn all our books and disregard education. I treasure education and I take my grades seriously. But I take the things I love just as seriously and they deserve my time just as much. And if you step backwards just a little and see more of the picture, maybe you’ll realise the things you love to do and studying (since we are students after all) are just side by side, and the simple way to let them comfortably coexist in a life you’ll more likely find fulfillment in, is this little treasure called time management. 

The education that we pursue should not just be about the A grade or the numbers separated by a slash, the true success would be the journey of self-discovery and pleasure, and only some can truly achieve that. I’m thankful our school offers opportunities to do just those things and I plan on maximising these platforms for the next two years, so that I wake up going to school or downing caffeine on mornings with a smile on my face. 

Now, meet the people I’ve worked with from dramafeste! 

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