I am… Thinking

image.jpgThis noon has been dedicated to what I’d like to call “thinking about my future”. Considering the countless possibilities of where I’d like to purposefully bring myself from here is exciting, and extremely frightening. All at the same time- uncertainty never fails to present an astonishing mix of emotions. Seated at a humble cafe quietly tucked in Haji Lane, the ceiling fan spins efficiently overhead and I’m full from a yummy dish of fish and chips. The name of the cafe is apt: “I am…” This is exactly what my thoughts this afternoon has been about.

I am trying to make sense of what experiences to today has meant for me because they are the most vivid references from which I can possibly draw clearer ideas of what makes up the essence of me: the values I stand for, the beliefs close to heart and the hopes I have for the future that lies ahead. In my recent read titled “Emotional Chaos to Clarity”, Moffitt warns against believing that the stories we make of our experiences as the complete representation of our essence. According to Moffitt, it is not our story that defines who we are, but the intentions and values that had shaped how the story panned out that decides who we truly are. That is to say that if you had argued with someone for example, it is not the story of how you had retaliated angrily that defines you, but the underlying reason for your retaliation- your worry for that friend, perhaps, is then the intention that defines you as it shows you’re a friend who cares about others dearly. I am one who has often attributed my responses to stimuli to the stories I have once lived through- the emotions so real and memories so vivid, they become reasons for my defensive mechanisms in similar events. Today I am trying to dig deeper beneath these stories for my essence and perhaps then, my hopes for the future will be less fuzzy.

I am also considering where the line between capacity and duty is to be drawn- if we were endowed with the capacity to achieve something, where lies the boundary that encloses what we are obligated to achieve with that capacity. I recall that back in our alma mater, the idea of noblesse oblige was one that was revisited over and over especially in our graduation year. The phrase simply put, means “privilege entails responsibility”. The quality education and resources invested is no more of a luxury than a magical mix of affinity- then, how much are we obligated to give back? And at the expense of what?

Filled with gratitude as I leave the cafe today, I am going to be thinking for a while. Afternoons like this, I’ve missed you.

New Normal

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Morning: being awoken by the sun rays peeking through my blinds as 7AM arrives, then sipping on my favourite brand of Hazelnut coffee while reading the newspapers. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’d share a conversation with my parents before our day begins. Following which, the agenda for the day that lies ahead depends entirely on “what I hope to do” and not “what I need to do”. I could definitely get used to this new normal of re-establishing my equilibrium, this time, in the absence of an everyday obligation to be academically productive.

This feeling is surreal. It is almost as if the “your time is up, put your pens down” moment for our last paper had invited serendipity to replace anxiety, and replaced the two year long lingering responsibility to keep up with academics with a newfound ‘permit’ to liberation. I have had my mandatory celebration immediately after that paper that I’ve imagined over the past month with excitement. I have packed my room, cupboards, table and shelves clear of any evidence of the month that has just come and gone. I have resumed the night-time bonding with family. And from yesterday with a visit to the Singapore National Gallery (I must say, a complete beauty inside and out) I have begun searching for the remnants of myself before A levels took over- the spontaneity, the mindfulness, the lifestyle shaped by intentions rather than goals and the adventures that would take my mind and soul places.

Here’s to an amazing month of reading, writing and going places.

cr: yupjujuphotography

Remember This

9 days, and counting down. I want this to be over.

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For years we have been counting up: one term has passed, then two, yet another and we’ve completed a year in school. We count up until the last days of Year 4, as Farewell Assembly approaches. Up, until we’re about to leave the school. I can still vividly remember counting up the months I’ve entered JC, savouring the firsts in this new environment—the new people, new campus and the endless experiences that came with it. Until quite recently, we were still counting up, “you’ve been Year 6s for 6 months already and still…” was a frequent opening ‘address’ before we began with lectures.

Now we’ve finally gotten to counting down: 9 days. Armed with 6 years of dy/dx and F=ma, November is a test of stamina as we perform the finale.

In the weeks following up to this and the days in between the papers, there has been frustration—frustration that came with learning to ace rather than learning to learn. To be better. (In my head, they’re not really the same thing, though I give Cambridge the credit for trying as best as they can to assess what we’ve accumulated in our years of learning with fair papers) There is frustration, also, that came with insomnia. The sleepless nights where countless thoughts stand between a night’s rest and me. The night is still, except for the sound of the cars entering the highway every once in a while. Then, when I close my eyes, the only sound I hear is the throbbing of my heartbeat, anxiously waiting for sleep to befall upon me. It is no less than counterproductive to think about sleep, but it is even more so to think about how to stop thinking about it.

There is also reminiscence. Tonight, I find myself missing the days in the classroom. The luxury of the Raffles Program has been the community of learners and the fortune of having passionate teachers who care about us as people. A visit back to RGS recently reminded me of the very culture of love and support we used to prize: we valued kindness, rewarded good character and gave meaning to one another’s experiences based on how much we cared for what we were working for. Counting down the days in the RI campus has also put things into perspective—the ‘safe haven’ of tables outside lecture theatres, Raja block, a combination of food choices from Manna, RI canteen (x2) and Chill (x2), the most beautiful libraries—in a month we wouldn’t have the freedom to come and go as we please. We so often take these for granted, but one day, the emptiness in realizing its absence will hit us hard, I’m almost certain.

I dread this month, but I also want to savour these memories and emotions that will one day be too fuzzy to recall. Friends I know who’ve been here and done this tell me it’s “the time of life they loved and made the best friends, but would never want to go back to again”. If that is it, then I’d better remember this.

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