The School Life (Cont.)

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This is a continuation of posts where I appreciate my school life, beginning here.

The first week as a Year 2 is vastly different from what my first week was like as Year 1; but I’m thrilled for the year to come all the same. Returning to the company of classmates that I’ve become familiar with– the humour that tickles me (or not), the soft murmurs throughout physics tutorials and the awkward ‘hellos’ which avoid eye contact persist even after our year together. It’s not perfect, but I’ll miss it when we graduate. The canteen is increasingly less disliked, though it’s still far from my favourite place in school: a hodgepodge of people with immense energy, too much, and the hangouts that never end keep the place filled with conversation till the evening. Chill@RI remains one of the best places because of its people and Tonkatsu is still my favourite stall for the couple and young man with whom I have become friends. Assembly is becoming less dreadful, I think I might miss being in a community of students who’d sit down to listen to assembly talks and gather weekly without fail. I’ll miss having “Head of Years”, these arbitrary adults meant to give us prep talks about who to be and what to do every once in a while (Thanks Ms. Hor you’re adorable).

Counting down to the days when the new batch of Year 1s will be welcomed to the January Induction Programme is synonymous to counting down the days of this unique surreality of the campus that we have experienced in this past week– now I understand what the mild displeasure I sensed from our seniors when we just entered the campus was all about. And I’m beginning to see how Year 1 was a complete honeymoon. You know, you don’t realise these things until you look back to it on hindsight. And now when I think about it, I wish someone had told me to take chances. 

One of my greatest fears before entering JC was that of being overcommitted, having too many things on my plate and misjudging my ability to manage my time. I was afraid I would crumble into a million pieces thanks to my silly commitments and soon enough land myself in the awful position of doing terribly in my academics. But in that time, I wish someone had told me early, “Do your tutorials, listen in class; and take chances. You’ll be okay” because two CCAs, Dramafeste, Weekly external volunteer work, leading initiatives and my advocacy team worked out for me. I wish someone had told me not to worry unnecessarily and not to wildly imagine JC to be so much more different than school life before. That way, I would’ve appreciated the beauty of this college earlier, and more deeply. The beauty in the opportunities offered, the facilities available, the people I would meet in time and share memories with in this space.

With the year I have left in this school, I think that’s what I’d like to be mindful of in my everyday.

(Our Last) First Day

firstdayIt’s a strange feeling to be back in school– the familiar compound and the perpetual muffled noise as you pass by the canteen from along the corridor at 7AM. The chalkboard says “Welcome Home” in a font that I wish I could draw in, and the canteen vendors smile, radiant, as if they were thrilled to finally be serving in a canteen filled with people once more. The teachers are smiling, their eye circles seem to have faded a little. Our discipline master got a hair cut: I suppose setting a good example for the “boys who have inappropriate hair lengths”, as my Civics Tutor attempts to put it.

This morning our principal puts together an analogy that compares the year ahead of us, Year 6s, to handphones and the important things that must be on our minds constantly, as handphone applications. “The GPS,” he says, “to give direction”. He has pregnant pauses occasionally, but finishes his analogy leaving me sitting with pins and needles in my legs. I am thankful to have a principal who tries this hard to put his concern and love for us into words and delivers every address on stage, trying to reach to not our minds, but our souls and hearts with his words. This is followed by a long string of announcements by the respectable Ms Chen– the one who miraculously puts together our administration with her team and tries her best to accommodates the thousands of requests and nitpicking of subject combinations so often. She leaves and the DM takes over, oh great. His kind eyes are smiling as he reminds us to keep to the rules and be prepared for attire check next week. I enjoy his lectures. 

The rest is a frenzy until I arrive back in my homeroom, and lessons begin.

I think I would want to remember this day for a really long time: my last first day in school. You can read this piece I wrote about Learning to Love School that I recently wrote for what has become my favourite blog for youths! Hope the many more days to come (that will make up our year) will be superb!

SG50: First Things First

To Be A Good SingaporeanI was thinking about what would make an appropriate first post of the year (somewhat making this whole thing about ‘firsts’ way too special than it deserves to be) and I skimmed through the list of things I had wanted to write about before the end of 2014. From which, I have chosen the title I had bolded and underlined and been thinking about for a long while now– ‘To Be A Good Singaporean’. You see, there are many shoes I have consciously been trying to fill from the times I can remember: that of being a ‘good daughter’, ‘good student’, ‘good girl’, ‘good friend’ and a ‘good leader’. But it was only recently that I have decided, that as a Singaporean who has lived, breathed and embraced this tiny island as home for the past 17 years of my life, it might be time I add ‘good Singaporean’ into the list. So this one’s dedicated to the country I’ve called home all my life and my hopes for us as we turn 50 in 2015.

There have been remarks circulating about how much we point fingers at our government in times of crisis (or sometimes, in times of non-crisis). But little does it occur to us, that there are a billion things that us, the majority, could be doing from the ground up to change the things we are dissatisfied about. Here are a few:

1 Echoing the numerous local journalists who have mentioned these hopes we may pursue together before: one of the woes I’d like to actively work against is the fact that we are a cleaned city instead of a clean city, when it very well should be the latter. Bending down to pick up flyers strewn on the ground or clearing up our trays at the hawker centre– are they not the little things we could be doing that would slowly change this?

2 I read somewhere that Singaporeans should also be learning how to laugh at each other. According to the 2011 Gallup Poll, Singapore (in)famously ranked as experiencing the fewest positive emotions in the world, which is a pity because we have over 2,000 not-for-profit organisations and many more voluntary welfare organisations championing acceptance and love towards the marginalised, hoping to effect positive change in society. It appears that we have positive intentions but little being translated into positive emotions. That, can be worked toward: starting with laughter. Let’s passionately play out the amiable people we want to be.

3 And on the Straits Times a month back, a journalist had written about the importance of ‘living the pledge’, this meant having our deeds match our words. Like when we recite in the pledge to be united “regardless of race, language or religion”, the migrant worker bias is only proof of our hypocrisy. It should be an aim to practice what we preach.

When it comes to being a good Singaporean, the overarching idea I would think, is to be mindful that we are all working toward ‘a better Singapore’. Whether we are in the private sector or the public, in school or in offices, whether we are permanent residents or citizens, the tangible objective should be common: that is, to make this place we live in better so that we, ourselves, may lead better lives or lives closer to what we’d imagine as ‘ideal’. Whilst the criterion for ‘better’ could differ from person to person, let’s be open about our hopes for the country and have healthy debates about what could be done (or should be). Only when we learn to carry out productive discussions about our personal hopes with this common goal in mind, can we expect that these hopes will one day, indeed, be realised. 

At the same time, it is important that we consciously steer clear of the distractions of hyperconsumerism, for example, which (in Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica’s words) “makes us forget about fundamental things and waste human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness”. After all, “the tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck”. This 2015, may our choices reflect our hopes, not our fears.