Happy 17th, Rachel Koh!

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Today is Rachel Koh’s birthday and here’s us from three days ago on mine, celebrating with the team. Tonight with this post I’d like to reminisce all that we’ve been through and thank her for a couple of things so enjoy the photos and the paragraphs, all in reverse-chronological order. Koh is the most special Rachel that I know because of this friendship that we share and as I look back at my turbulent four years in RGS, she has been my only constant in the four years. For that, I am extremely grateful. And even as I look at the past half a year since we’ve stepped into RI, this scary unfamiliar, (ok not scary, just unfamiliar) new environment, we’ve continued to support one another in our endeavours and occasionally met up to catch up since I barely see the HP kids around school ever.

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Here’s us at ED’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession this year! 

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Here’s us at the Runway show together! 

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This is us at BW Dramafeste, possibly performing on stage together for the last time! (Or hopefully not)

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Here’s us at orientation doing forfeits!

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When it comes to talking about the proudest things I’ve done in RGS and the most embarrassing, most tedious, most tiring, most exhilarating, exhausting, saddening, depressing, happy things— they mostly come from OM and Koh has seen me through most, if not all of them. One of which I’m most thankful for, is leading this beautiful team with me in our last year of OM. Never have a led a bunch like this that I could connect with so well and be proud of while being confident that we could always count on each other. 

And through the process, I was only reminded of all the reasons I loved koh— she’s one of the only few people I can ever imagine being such close friends and working with all at the same time, she’s the best team player and team leader. For years I’ve had to convince others around her (juniors especially), that she isn’t as scary as her vibe because she has a swag aura that makes everyone fangirl her; but really deep inside she has the same capacity to love that she claims I have. And she gets only the respect she deserves because of her strength, charisma, capabilities and talent. 

Following this are times we’ve supported one another within the team and been there. I’m glad it’s still part of the practice now. 

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This time last year, we were partying ourselves off in koh’s apartment and having the time of our lives. This year, CTs have messed with that, but I’m having a little celebration for you in my heart and I’d like to take this time to thank you for growing up in the most radical 4 years of my life with me, constantly loving me all over again while I change and for seeing me through the hardest of times. I’m glad we are able to stay close without meeting each other all the time and we can enjoy silences together and be there for each other without having to ask one another. 

I think this is hard to come by, so we’ll definitely celebrate after CTs. Till then, just do what you do. I love you! 

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May Our Hearts be Full

This has been my jam for a while, looks like I’m turning back to cheap pop for a while, but do enjoy. This song and catching The Fault In Our Stars today made me think about how we all want to be remembered in one way or another after we leave the Earth. We hope to leave a significant enough impact that will last for a time longer than ourselves, and hope to passionately and intensely feel before we can’t anymore.

We say these things often and we think about it occasionally- about our place here and what we are here to be doing and how to most ‘purposefully’ and ‘meaningfully’ lead this one life of ours. But I’m not sure how many of us act on this desire.

Maybe with this in mind, Term 3 could be the start of a new attitude that treats the pursuit of grades and academics as just one aspect of our hope to provide more opportunities for ourselves, to be where we want to be in years down the road. But it’s only one aspect, and let’s make the rest count as well, from friendships to family to interests and hobbies, to try to be spontaneous and learn new things, to be purpose-driven in even the little things and maybe.

Maybe something else that could possibly define our journeys as students and learners will come out of it, besides the grade.

The Real Present

The Real Present

Birthday after birthday, my perception of what exactly I’m celebrating somewhat changes, and it has evolved into something I don’t quite want to make a big deal out of because the more you expect, the more you’ll be disappointed. From the time I can remember, my birthdays have been extravagantly celebrated by the ones who love me the most- my parents. My mom would cook up an entire lie (a new one every year) to convince me we aren’t going to do something big, but end up inviting all my closest friends and putting on a party, each time it’s perfect. Every year without fail, my family would remind all my closest friends around me about my birthday and make sure that it’s the best day of my life. And every year without fail, there’d be this cake we gather around, sing the song, blow the candles and celebrate. There’s also always a family dinner.

And I am the luckiest girl in the world to have parents and family members who’d do all these for me.

But this year and the last were different– no cake, no expensive presents, no elaborate parties nor surprises.

Last year, I took it in my hands to bring the people in the OM family I cared about and loved most together, to have an afternoon out together and played board games while eating and laughing and talking. And this year, I also only celebrated with the people closest to heart (my ex-OM team, my godmother and of course, the family). It seems I’m trying to take things more minimalistic and bring more depth than breadth to this special day. It’s not that I think extravagant are bad or evil or narcissistic or anything negative of that sort, I just feel like I’d like for them to be optional. After having these planned out for you for years, it subconsciously becomes a necessity, when it really isn’t. And you forget to appreciate the more intangible and precious things that are reflected on this day– the appreciation, admiration, respect, gratitude and love all expressed because on this one day, people think and express how they feel about you.

Birthdays are just one of the many ‘special’ days or periods that we go through annually, and when we repeatedly celebrate or commemorate them in the same way, we tend to forget the significance or meaning of what we’re celebrating on this day, bringing the focus to how different or alike this day could be from the previous or how much better or worse it could possibly get.

Don’t get me wrong, this birthday was still celebrated, still spent basking in the happiness and feeling blessed admist the wishes and heartfelt messages of appreciate and love. The only difference, I suppose, is that I feel all these a few times deeper when I take the material expressions of these feelings out of the picture.

My Take on the CTs

ImageThis week, I’m slowly adjusting back to school life– catching up with those close to heart in this frenzy of a school while comfortably studying in the favourite places in the campus. One part of me thinks this week and the next could just be OK. 

I firmly believe that tests and exams are simply a tool for assessment of how much you know, and how much you don’t know. And where results are concerned, we are constantly a process (since we never stop learning and improving). We get the results that we deserve based on hardwork, circumstance and talent. 

In light of the upcoming common tests next week, walking into the school campus would bring you sights of countless of your peers and seniors studying from day to night, night to day. Doing undone tutorials, completing lectures you’ve missed, rereading notes that have been uploaded online and the list goes on. Most of the time, the hardwork that I witness, I truly respect and I admire each and every purpose-driven and motivated Rafflesian that have constantly encouraged me to continue keeping up my revision. 

But on the other hand, there are people who studied all holiday but towards the end they claim to have not studied ‘enough’ or promised themselves to revise and catch up this holiday but ended up spending the holidays on addictions long desired, then feeling guilty afterwards. For the former, I think we have to learn to give ourselves credit for the effort put in and the time spent. The thing is, it is important to understand the rationale behind academic assessments: it’s difficult, but reminding ourselves that this isn’t an assessment of us as a person nor as a learner, but only as a someone trying to grasp concepts and skills related to one discipline could help take away the distress that the tests can cause us. For the latter, maybe it’s about control and planning ahead. Too often, we see the revision for tests as something daunting, or a burden, but in many ways, it’s just part of the process of being a learner and nothing more. It doesn’t define us as a learner (what defines that is our attitudes, consistent hard work or values displayed in the process of learning). But it’s just part of this education journey we all have to tide through. 

Lastly, maybe remembering that many have trodded before us to accomplish this unknown called “Common Tests” and emerged survivors and accomplished today would show us how possible it actually is to do OK, or at least to be OK no matter how you do; so we will all learn to take this as a milestone check in our academic JC and nothing to tie our self esteem and excess pressure to. 

Good luck!

Unplug

Recently I have been contemplating on the importance of ‘unplugging’, the idea of loneliness in society and how we are all subjecting ourselves to it by succumbing to the attractive mobile devices in our hands. In numerous ways, technology has become our new best friend. No need for physical best friends anymore, no need for people with thoughts and ideas, no need for quality time and speech: because a single device grants you that.

I see the attraction of technology, I really do. Plugging in keeps me awake, interested and occupied. It’s productivity. You see, if you have a device in your possession, in a way, choosing not to use it is like making the choice to be lazy. I don’t want to be lazy, I want to get things done. And then there’s emotional engagement, the games and applications and chats and social networking sites, a single unlocking of the phone could bring you on a roller coaster of emotions– that’s human and it keeps me alive compared to staring blankly into space avoiding eye contact.

What I feel we fail to realise, or choose to ignore, is that by plugging in and by being fixated, we build invisible walls of defense around us in public and allow for no spontaneous interactions, and simultaneously, good bye social awareness and a physically connected society. At times I practise ‘unplugging’, I try to keep the device away because someone once told me that where you keep your senses open and listen or observe while in public, you learn more. You really do and you find space for yourself (metaphorically) because the device in reality, is a distraction. We just hope to think otherwise and convince ourselves it’s the opposite.

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Meet Stand Up Stacey, SMRT and SBS Transit’s initiative imaginary figure to remind us to be thoughtful, considerate and aware of each other in public. With respect to these two companies, our attitude to them more often than not is one of underappreciation, and a lack of understanding; the exchange of remarks towards them is always about passing judgement about efficiency. But when initiatives like this come along (recall the one where they had posters saying ‘99% of people say they would move to the back of a bus, would you?’; how many of us really responded and appreciated their efforts of creating a more gracious society.

And the question I think, is- do we want to be a society that values efficiency over the most basic value of respect towards one another? Whatever our answer may be, it looks like we aren’t really trying to work to either; and just falling back and allowing developments to take over.

The Cambodia trip reminded me that while the developing countries have less, they constantly dream and aspire to think about what they want and how they want to contribute to society, whereas we in the developed countries are the ones thinking less or striving less, though we are in a much better position to be pushing our society beyond all talk and no action.

When I unplug these days, I feel lonely, so I put the earpieces back on. 

I’m not sure if I’m the only one who feels this way, but just in case I’m not, I think I’m going to consistently unplug whenever I feel I’m up for it. We’ve got to start somewhere. 

 

 

The River of Life

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We’ve come into the last week of the June holidays and just in a flash, our one month (that’s 31 days) of non-school days are coming to an end. It’s apt, I suppose, to be at my desk as I am, putting aside my revision materials for a bit, to be writing about the highlights of my month. In a nutshell, this has been a month of lessons for me.

The highlights of the month has been the International Understanding Trip to Cambodia followed by the Youth Corps Induction Programme and bit by bit, I hope to be writing about the countless lessons I have taken away as I start to internalise them finally and share with you these precious lessons that have allowed my outlook now, to evolve into a kind of surreal that I hope stays with me for a longer time.

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In a way, all these have been a reminder of how every get-together of strangers is a magical union of people, a gathering of new experiences, life stories, perspectives. I have seen how people grow to talk in their certain way, think about things in their own way and express themselves very differently from others. And just as how I believe we can never get to understand people completely without an infinite amount of time, this two exhilarating weeks of interaction with such good-hearted and passionate people has re-enforced my idea that you only lead one life, and the way to know more than what your life has taught you, is to learn from the lives of others.

During the youth corps induction camp, we had a (somewhat) emotional experience in the “River of life” activity where we had some alone time at peaceful corners of the OBS compound drawing our River of Life that depicted the milestones that we’ve been through and can remember from birth till present. This was followed by a sharing amongst three people who took turns to literally walk their rivers of life, telling the story to the two other people with them walking on either sides of him/her and listening intently. Taking turns to hear entire life stories littered with emotions and derived beliefs, we achieved relationships of a very different level. And the next time I watched the actions or speech of the two other people I shared this moment with, I experienced a very special level of understanding. Every decision had a reason, that could only be explained with their stories from their past.

Even as the International Understanding Team questioned continuously our purpose and effect from being in the orphanage, we learned this power of influence that we possessed just from the genuine interaction that we engaged in.

So a lesson I have learned, is as we enter one another’s River of Life adding that extra ripple or taking away that one drop of water, we change the course of water and bring it in a very different direction from what it would have been without your entrance. Now who says we can’t change people and the world.

The Influence of a Superstar

This morning as I sip from my warm cup of coffee and browse through the news and pages I follow on the web, I chance upon this video and I’ve decided that I truly respect Angelina Jolie.

Once in a while I think to myself about the career I would wish to pursue in the future and what kind of life I want to lead, what kind of impact I want to make. Then, I often also think about the position in the society that would allow me to create this positive change I want to leave behind in this world as my legacy. Back in Cambodia, in the midst of feeling terribly helpless at the sight of families living in the undesirable dumpsite and feeling the wrath of the disparity they experience right to my very bones, I also recall the day these politicians came by to visit the kids at the orphanage. The politicians were very friendly and amiable, two of whom were celebrities, even. And the sight of these politician cum superstars immediately brought all the kids to a level of ecstasy that cannot be rationalised. It was effortless. The superstars were basically being there, and merely existing in their presence brought such overwhelming happiness to the kids.

Connecting the dots, it once crossed my mind that the profession that could allow one to most effortlessly evoke positive change and have the greatest power of influence today, could just be being a superstar.

Celebrities today are highly regarded with their position of influence, considering the 21st century sees technology surge to a new popularity, what a celebrity says, does or advocates easily influences all their fans across the globe. Yet there are disappointing (hopefully anomalys) like Justin Bieber or Demi Lovato, Lindsay Lohan, and Miley Cyrus those who grew up with us and actually had that much power of influence over us but messed it all up by being terrible role models. I was disappointed by the abuse of influence for a bit. But now I realise that, on the flipside, there are also those who actively makes good use of their influence to bring the human race of our time towards a direction like never before– Ellen Degeneres, Oprah Winfrey and now, Angelina Jolie.

With the power of influence that they possess, these celebrities have constantly advocated and passed off as good examples of what the human race should be about- hope, love and kindness. And they talk about issues that we were never ready to discuss before and evoke thoughts and inspire us. I wish all celebrities used their influence in this way.