The Power of Quotes in Directing Our Lives

Very recently, I chanced upon the term, minimalist, while chatting with a friend. I kind of skimmed through this and it says “minimalism can assist us in finding freedom” as we “live in the moment”. Minimalism is one of the many (possibly infinite) ways on how we can choose to live our lives. My friend, who is aiming to be a minimalist, is trying to live up as a minimalist by starting with her bedroom. The word “minimalism” was constantly on her mind as she tried to restructure her room to fit the theme.

At that point of time, I thought it was really inspiring (and cool) to have one’s life centered around a defined way of living. Most importantly, it gives one’s life a purpose, something to hold on to while we live in a postmodernist world with multiple truths. I went back home and flipped through the organiser that I have been using since 3 years ago. There were multiple inspiring quotes written, especially during periods when the examinations were approaching. I reckoned that I wrote them to keep myself going, to persevere through the dreaded exams. The thought of having a main life quote, or theme to revolve around my decisions and thoughts came to me.

I spent a few days, looking through those quotes that I had written, trying to find something that greatly resonates in me. Roman philosopher, Seneca‘s “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” was the one that I eventually settled with. I thought about the quote, and decided to improvise it further.

Luck is what happens when consistency in working hard meets courage in seizing opportunities.”

I decided that I wanted my life (at least for now) to be centered around this goal or dream. I thought it is a realistic quote that really suits me well and is something that seems possible for me to achieve. I am an average person who lacks sufficient academic abilities/ intelligence to do well so I need to work hard almost all the time to maintain being on average in a country obsessed with paper chase. It took me a bit to interpret what Seneca meant by “opportunity” and why opportunity instead of anything else.  It is essential to be an opportunist, to know how to cherish opportunities to help ourselves progress further. We need to take the initiative, the courage to actively look for, and to take up opportunities so that we would not fall behind. Preparation or hard work alone and gambling on chances of success are insufficient. We can only depend on random occurrences at success (or luck) if we only have either preparation or opportunity. Based on this quote that I resonate with, I think it is pretty obvious that I am a pragmatist afraid of risks and failure and I was socialised in such an environment.

I am not very certain if I would be able to follow through the quote that I improvised. Who knows what directs my way of thinking may change in a few years, or even in a few days. Who knows I may just find an all new, different quote soon. I am not sure if my friend would follow through minimalism as well. But at the very least, having something that can positively direct your way of thinking or your life is something extremely meaningful. It shows the effort that you are making to give your life a purpose.



Active Ageing

I had a talk with one of my colleagues (she’s in her early 60s) at work yesterday. She shared that while her children are working adults who give her allowances monthly, she still chooses to work as a part-timer to earn extra allowances. She uses the money earned from work and spends it on outings with her friends. She thought it was important that the elderly should interact and have more friends rather than just staying at home. Through the interactions, she and her friends gained shared experiences as well. I really agreed with what she feels and I call this to be part of active ageing (that my country is actively encouraging right now given an ageing population).

What she said made me think about my grandparents who almost have no contact with their friends at all and spend their days caring for their grandchildren while their children are at work. I wonder if my grandparents are actually happy about this arrangement or will they feel being happier by making friends and hanging out with them. Do they feel lonely having no friends but appear to be contented and happy about taking care of their grandchildren?

A month ago, my mum called my grandparents to inform them that my sister and I would be staying with them for a few days (my sister and I usually stay at my grandparents house for a few days annually during our school holidays) and my mum told me that my grandmother sounded really ecstatic that my sister and I are going over. During the stay, my grandmother commented that she was happy that my sister and I came to stay because we can chat with her and grandfather whereas their house is usually a lot more quiet after evening.

I felt really guilty when I heard what my colleague shared about the elderly needs to have friends as well, just like teenagers and adults. Should I be guilty that I robbed my grandparents of a happy and fulfilling ageing process? I suppose they probably enjoyed themselves and had fun when they took care of me when I was young back then for around 3years. But I feel that the component of “going out with their friends” was being taken away from them.


Impressions and Personalities

Do first impressions make lasting impressions? Do these impressions define one’s personality and character?

I remember learning in a Sociology module that dramaturgy (creating and sustaining impressions) can be very crucial in forming what others think of an individual. I do not believe in first impressions – okay, at least I try not to. I prefer giving others a few more chances before deciding for myself what I think about their characters. Are first impressions really that important? What if that first impression that we formed of that particular individual is a misconception? What if we fail to understand what that individual is really trying to convey? Instead of being narrow minded and putting all that emphasis into the first impression, perhaps it is better for us to take a step back, give that individual a few more objective chances before forming our impressions and start being subjective to that person.

This brings me to my second point. What about forming impressions of others based on our acquaintances’ impressions of others? Are these impressions reliable? Just because we trust these acquaintances/friends, can we believe what they feel about others? I honestly have no answer for this. I feel as if being crafted and made to think by how others think. For instance, if my friend believes this person is irritating, do I have to feel that he/she is irritating? Could it be that my acquaintances’ understanding be hindered and affected in any way during the process that resulted in a horrible impression formation? What sort of measurements can one then use to evaluate who is right and who is wrong about someone’s personality?

These thoughts were rapidly intensified when I realised someone whom I know just really likes to talk bad about others. Yet, she still acts nice to them on the front. It made me reflect if my impression management has been successful. What if any unintentional action that I did not realise that I did it became my weak spot? What if others do not like me/choose not to get along well with me simply because of that unintentional action that I myself had not noticed?

I wonder if I am even aware which specific individuals do not like me.


The Purpose of Education

After getting into a uni, I started wondering what am I going to do after graduating from university. Of course I am to look for a job and start gaining financial stability. I have a dream, a dream to be able to use my knowledge to change the world for a better place, to help as many people as I can. I begin to wonder if I can really do so.

While studying in secondary school, I thought education was necessary. Graduating from a university is imperative in increasing my chances and opportunities to fulfill that dream of mine. During my time in junior college, I started to take on another perspective of education. Education can be a powerful weapon as well. Through the provision of education to the uneducated, their mindsets and perceptions can be tweaked according to how the educators, an essentially, the government wanted (both in good or bad ways). Now in university, I begin to wonder the purpose of education. So what if I have a degree in the future? So what if I am able to write academic papers and reports? Sure, I can use my knowledge to inform others, to offer them new perspectives, but can I essentially influence them to change their mindsets? Can I eventually bring about a better change? What restrictions am I going to face?

What is the purpose of education? A leverage to securing a job of higher pay? To improve standards of living? To change the world? Or the definite step to be reduced to mere robots and puppets?


Chronicles of Me – 1st Month in University

University started in August and my recess week is finally here! Six weeks of school is honestly no joke, but it is probably because I had been rotting for 8 months. Lessons are less compared to lessons in JC, but I am always feeling more tired. Not to mention travelling to and fro, squeezing into packed MRT and shuttle buses was suffocating and tiring as well.

I think many people around me have already made friends, while I am still here, left behind, alone. Attending lectures and tutorials by myself seem really scary. I thought it was hard to make friends – everybody goes their separate ways after tutorials ended, but yet everyone seem to have made friends already. There are many projects and graded assignments and group discussions for interaction opportunities but it is still challenging for me to make friends with them. I hope I will be able to at least make some friends from my CCA, especially when they seem like nice people. Haha.

Oh yes, and the food here. The canteen in my faculty doesn’t really sell healthy food here, which is a little distressing. And I think I have been eating fish n chips from the western stall weekly. It is difficult to find seats in the canteen since it is always so crowded. And I am gradually getting used to eating by myself – how sad.

Moreover, just as when recess week is starting, I am down with a high fever. That really sucks. It started on Wednesday night. Thinking it was nothing, I went for lessons as usual on Thursday with a mild cough. On Thursday night, I was hit with a severe headache and sore throat but I was firm about going to school on Friday. I had to submit my group project proposal and attend the tutorial, at the very least. Lecture isn’t very important for me here, since that particular module uploads webcasts of their lectures.

Life in university isn’t as rosy as I thought it would be. I expected it to be like those in the dramas – carefree, time for romance, making tons of friends, engaging in fun sports. Am I being too optimistic? Or maybe its because I belong to the reclusive group that doesn’t have much opportunities to interact, since I don’t live on campus. Life in university is just attending lessons, eating, and camping in the school library for me. I am swamped with readings and tutorial questions and the constant need to compete against time.


Freedom in Education

When I was in primary school, I remember having almost no freedom in choosing what I want to do in terms of subjects. We were asked to take the GEP test (which I obviously failed terribly given my standards) during primary 3 and given a choice of whether to enrol into that program (if you pass the test). At the end of primary 4, we were given another choice – to choose to study higher mother tongue (HMT) or not. Since I was so much stronger in Chinese relative to English (my English is still horrible now), I took up that subject for that few extra PSLE points that I did not even get to utilise. What a waste.

In the first 2 years of secondary school, there was barely freedom as well. We were exposed to many different subjects and at the end of year 2, we could choose what subjects do we want to take at the O Levels. I was clueless about what subjects to take up and ended up following my friend – taking pure biology, pure chemistry, full history and elective geography. This was my first time having freedom in being able to choose what I want to do academically. At that point of time, I was interested in studying psychology in Poly.

Somehow, I got to JC instead and that was really when I had to start deciding on my own what I really wanted to study because some university courses require some JC subjects as prerequisites. I took up H2 chemistry, mathematics, economics and H1 history so as to broaden the courses that I can study in university.

Now that I am finally in university, I have decided on what I want to major in – sociology. Never had I ever thought that I had the freedom to choose what modules I want to take up. Not only that, I am also given the freedom to choose the lecture and tutorial slots that I wish. While this could be really ‘cool’ and screams adulthood and freedom all over, I am still as indecisive as ever. I chose the modules for the first semester but I had no clue on how to select and organise the lecture and tutorial slots. The sudden change in the freedom granted to us students, was in a sense, scary to me. As a person who is really poor at being adaptable, I really hated the vast change in how I was treated as a student.

Or just perhaps, I am still largely immature and a sheltered kid.


Reflection on A Level Results

Its been almost 2 months since the release of A Level results on 4 Mar 2016. My results were pretty average (as compared to the average rank points of the students from my JC). When I mean ‘average’, its really average (or perhaps even below average) and most certainly not the type that did very well. My subject combi was H2 Chem, Math, Econs with H1 Hist and GP. By the way, please be kind with my horrible language. Haha

I was pleasantly surprised for my Math since I had been doing horribly for Math ever since the first topical test in my first year. My efforts certainly paid off and I was secretly proud of it. My math tutor was surprised at my Math grade too! Chem was pretty much expected though I did pray that I’d get a better grade. At least I got a decent grade that my Chem tutor had expected me to. I’m not very certain if I should credit my decent grade to my Chem tutor (she was pretty harsh to us when she started teaching my class in the second year) but one thing that I cannot deny is that her consistent efforts in making herself available for consults as much as possible.

One would say my Econs grade was horrible. Yeah, it certainly was. But it was a really huge jump from my constant Us in tests and examinations in JC, so I’d say I was happy with the grade given. I kind of felt guilty towards my Econs tutor to the core though. She had been really, really nice and patient towards my class but I still didn’t manage to do well. As for GP, I did also get a grade that slightly exceeded my expectations. I expected myself to do horribly for this subject after I did the paper. One, my examples were extremely limited since I fell into the biggest pitfall of the essay I was doing for paper one. Two, I had no examples and could not finish AQ for paper two. I was depressed right after the paper but at least my grade was still okay.

Anyone who knows me probably knows that History has been my favourite subject since secondary school. I think I have been doing rather well for Hist in JC in terms of cohort percentile rather than my actual awful grades so I was really, really shocked beyond words when I saw my grade for Hist. To be honest, I did expect that grade since I did not study for the paper. Shocking, isn’t it? When the first paper of the A Levels commenced, I had totally forgot that I was even taking Hist as an examinable subject until 2 days before the paper. That was when to my utter horror realisation that I had completely neglected Hist. What made it worse was that I was going to have my Hist paper in the morning and another Chem paper in the afternoon on the same day. I rushed and skipped through most of the content and the essay questions that came up had nothing related to the content I studied. I was in the state of shock during the 3 hour paper and tried to crap as much as I could. The moment the paper ended, I hung my head low and simply wanted to get out of the examination hall asap but there was still reflection survey that we had to do so that the school knows what essays we attempted. When I received the results, half of me expected that grade while the other half was in shock. Ironic. Hist has been a JC subject that I had put most effort in but yet my end point was ruined by myself.

Perhaps this national examination is supposed to be a serious and final wake-up call for me. To remind me that I should not get conceited. I did well for Hist during prelims and got really, really arrogant (in secret, though) and I ended up falling from a great height during the A levels. If I’m ever to give an advice to students taking the A levels, I would say its to really, study very hard AND smart but not at the last minute. There is always time, time for you to start studying and revising but not at the last minute.

End of rants. Haha


The world through my eyes