What I Now Know

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Three weeks back in Singapore and three weeks left to Sydney, we are at the midpoint. This morning is characterized by warm sunlight, slow traffic and glistening waters of the Singapore River; the aftertaste of an early coffee fix and comfort of my go-to outfit on days where self-care tops my priorities spell joy. Five-stars. What a privilege it is to have had mornings like this, where I stop doing and just be. The intentions for the month was to tie up the loose ends in this beautiful place I call ‘home’ – to bid temporary goodbyes to sights and sounds, place a comma on the stories of friendships and bask in the company of those who love me as dearly as I love them. This piece, inspired by the recent bedtime read What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey and ventures into the learning space of students younger than myself, is written with the benefit of hindsight.

Days ago, I had the opportunity to stand before the January Induction Programme (JIP) ladies in Raffles Institution. JIP invites Rafflesians from the secondary counterparts, together with the Direct School Admission (DSA) students, to enroll into Junior College weeks earlier than the remaining one-third of their batch. Majority of whom from the alma mater close to my heart, this sharing was one that reminded me of the incredible growth I have experienced in the past years with the blessing of some inspiring educators and my family. I vividly recall the confusion with which we brought ourselves through the school gates every morning of JIP, asking in our heads why must we start school earlier than the others? What I now know is that JIP is largely a relief to the administrative weight of enrolling hundreds of students at once, and importantly, a subtle touch of sensitivity to the transition of expectations.

On the way, I asked myself what do I now know that I wish to share with them. “Shame was once at least a two-person game – it took one to shame the other. As we grow up though, we’ve learned to do it all by ourselves. We learn to, on our own, transform ‘I failed Mathematics’ into just ‘I failed’ and ‘I made a mistake’ into ‘I am a mistake’.” The Lecture Theatre fell silent. What I now know is that no one is ever a mistake or a failure, including ourselves, and it takes compassion to slowly forgive ourselves and one another. Those who will stay in our lives and embrace us for our authentic selves, will stay; you tell that with time. What I now know is that boy who dismissed my convictions or the girl who made fun of my hair, were not going to stay anyway.

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, refer to these people who earn the rights to our greatest vulnerabilities and truest selves as Dutch Uncles. What I now know is that they are plenty and the key to finding them is to first be true to who we are. It takes courage.

Last night, the first Strong Mind Fit Body Student Champion Development Programme (SCDP) team gathered for our first session proper together. SCDP is designed to benefit students aged 15-17 in self-development capabilities while equipping them with project management skills necessary for serving community needs with greater effectiveness. The first session together saw self-discovery exercises based on Bozyati’s Theory of Self-Directed Learning – the honesty to self, critical; bravery in sharing, commendable. What I now know is that in finding the courage to share one’s thoughts and one’s being with authenticity, we get better at being whoever we want to be (instead of who we think others want us to be). May we be bravely ourselves and find the ones who truly love us.

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