As February draws to a close, a new countdown begins – five days to the release of ‘A’ Level Results. I’ve had mixed feelings about this moment to come ever since I stepped into RI: in the very beginning, it was excitement (as in, “I can’t wait for that day to come”) because this moment represented the conclusion drawn to the ordeal of 2 years in Junior College. It would symbolize a chapter closed, a mission accomplished, a task fulfilled, box checked off the to-do list. Now five days away from d-day, it is merely apprehension. This one is in light of the release of results (I guess this is what you would call a prep talk):
Letting go of expectations
The apprehension is derived from an accumulation of expectations, some perceived and others self-imposed. In a piece for PostScript Stories in the beginning of this year, I wrote about the “tyranny of expectations”. It illustrated the gargantuan psychological burden we create for ourselves in being obsessed about expectations we perceive for ourselves or create in our minds. More often than not, the expectations translate into anxiety and fear rather than leading to meaningful goals to work toward. Somewhere in the rollercoaster ride of Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, our coach watched the team crack under the pressure we placed upon ourselves the night before our final performance. It was then that she had said, “Girls, no matter what happens tomorrow, the people who love you will not love you any less.” They wouldn’t. So first, as best as we can, let’s let go of those expectations.
Intentions vs. Goals
A discussion over the dinner table recently with a good friend of mine from JC was centered about our “narrative-based” versus “episode-based” idea of our life events. A “narrative-based” framework would acknowledge the continuity between seemingly separate events and understand how many happenings may piggyback over each other to slowly but surely cultivate a certain trait in us. Conversely, an “episodic” framework asserts that our life events are discrete. The irony lies in that the former sounds more logical and yet the latter is subconsciously preferred. Then, five days from now, the tangible outcome to this episode will be almost conclusive of the past 2 years. After all, “doing well for A’s” was the common goal.
Goal; not intention. The goal to do well had been reiterated over and over – reflected in the informal gatherings to study into the night that became formal, the “optional homework” that became “done-on-my-own-initiative assignments” and the mandatory lessons that transformed into arranged consults. We had a common goal to do well. The goal is tangible but the intentions are not, that is the one key difference that makes one no less important than the other. We all came with different intentions: before entering JC, I remember telling myself that “In the next two years, I want to stay true to my convictions and invest in experiences so I might learn more than just what is on the syllabus.” Let’s value the intentions, still, even as we assess how close we’ve came to our goals – we deserve credit for our everyday investment into those intentions.
Learning to Learn
One of my favourite parts about the past two years was being surrounded by a community of learners; I loved sitting in the classroom and discussing solutions with neighbouring desk mates, staying on after lessons to clarify doubts and attending numerous consults every week. I guess all these amounted to learning how to learn (resilience, resourcefulness, the list goes on). And the best part is that we learned in order to learn for a big part of the two years – attending extra-curricular programs from Organic Synthesis modules to Southeast Asian History lectures. We learned to learn and not merely for a silly paper chase.
And so, life goes on
With butterflies in our stomachs, cold feet (and hands too), thumping heart; as we proceed to retrieve our result slips this Friday afternoon, may we fight the urge to define the two years of ups and downs with the one column of grades. May we remember the many ups and downs – the emotional whirlwinds caused by things besides grades in our two years that represent memories of other things we cared dearly about. They were the schoolmates, the peers or seniors or juniors, our CCAs, solving that one chemistry question and completing that last 2.4km round the school track amongst friends. There were these other small moments that made us arrive at school anyway: our incredibly tired selves standing at assembly after a night “chionging” Project Work or rushing to leave the Marymount Gate before getting caught by the security guard at 10PM because we had stayed on to finish something we cared about.
Good luck, and more importantly, good job.