I Can’t Ignore This War

At the end of it all,
Who am I living for?

(Translation: I am born → Kindergarten years → Primary school years → Obtain 7As in UPSR → Get into Cluster School SMKSA → Study hard and obtain 8As in PMR → Study harder and obtain 14A1 in SPM → Further studies in Melbourne or London → Take up English Literature course → Publish my first book → Start a book series (think the Harry Potter franchise) → Win a “Bestsellers Award” (unfortunately for 14-year-old me, it doesn’t exist) → Find someone to settle down with → Give birth to kids who in turn give birth to more grandkids → Live happily ever after.)

I was randomly going through old school stuff when I stumbled upon my Sivik workbook in Form 2 in which I found this flowchart of my planned future written by a 14-year-old self three years ago. Besides the incredulity and hilarity, I also felt kind of sad. Number one: because I realised the high hopes we had when we were young are just that, hopes. To think that I once wanted to take up 14 subjects and get all straight A pluses! Of course, I’m not saying that I don’t want that now, but I still think getting more As doesn’t make you cleverer than everyone else. Contrary to what was pointed out during an SPM seminar I attended in school last Saturday, I still think a student who gets 13As isn’t stupider than a student who gets 14As, and vice versa. It’s sad how everyone judges everyone by the number of As one gets. If anything, the additional subjects you take up might not even be related to your future career so really, what is the point?

Being 14 years old must really be a bliss. No real worrying about the future yet; actually thinking that I am able to pursue language as a major course; no one to stop me from dreaming big, and when I say big, I really mean big.

Number two: the future I had planned for my life sounded dead. Acing all the exams, taking up my favourite courses, winning all the awards, start a great family and live happily ever after.

It’s always up, up, up, win, win, win.

Your whole life is only about achievements and nothing else. Dead achievements.

And to be honest, that’s how my real life is turning into now. I’m turning into a robot programmed to take this exam, take that exam, and get As or distinctions in all of them. There’s nothing else that matters more than doing good in these things because that’s only the right thing to do.

How I wish I’d inserted “start a pet shelter” or “travel around Europe with my parents” somewhere in that flowchart. That would’ve been nicer. Made it sound like I wasn’t defining my life through my exam results and topnotch career.

I can already see it you know, being that “topnotch” doctor or whatnot, living in a huge mansion, coming home from work everyday to a husband who works just as hard as I do, and also all the medals and trophies that declare my greatness.

I don’t want that life.

I’m being shameless when I say I’m most parents’ and teachers’ favourite because I do well in exams. I get top in class almost every year since I started school. It’s not an easy feat but I did it.

But do I take pride in it? It’s often a “no” for an answer.

When you start going up, there is no going down, because once you drop even a teeny bit, no one forgives you. And as you continue with the effort, you realise that you’re not doing all these for yourself, you’re doing these for others. You’re not living your life to please yourself, you’re living your life to please others. There is no point in anything else anymore because that’s what everyone expects of you. People look up to you and admire you — and they want you to stay there. There is no breathing space, no stop-and-rest station along the way. You want to be a writer? Hah, no way! Take up science and be a doctor instead!

Who doesn’t want to constantly get good grades? Who doesn’t want to get a good job and live a good life? It’s all very fine and dandy that one wants it –I want it, but I want it for myself. I can’t live a future that is constantly controlled by people other than myself. I can’t have people telling me I should be so-and-so when I grow up and making decisions for everything in my life. I am aware that I make wrong choices, but I’m seventeen, I’m old enough to make the most basic of decisions. And even if I do make the wrong decisions, that’s what falling and picking yourself up is all about, right?

Not doing good in school is a pain; doing really good in school is also a pain and they will always be pains when other people interfere. All I wish is for people to stop being too judgmental and controlling.

This was supposed to be an introspective post but now it’s turned into a ranting one. I apologise.

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Author: Michelle Teoh

21-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

3 thoughts on “I Can’t Ignore This War”

  1. support! shouldn’t judge someone by his/her result! hate it!
    and mi, I know sometimes you’re stress, but do remember, we’re still there, welcoming you to complain something to us^^ just like what we did in form 3, MCA 🙂

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