Man, I have not written anything here for quite a while, mainly because I’ve been drowning under notes and academic stress. The year thus far has definitely been an eye-opener for me, as at the start of the year I told myself, “How bad can Junior College be?”. To say that I underestimated the academic rigour and stress levels here would be a severe understatement. But enough about me and on with the post.
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We all like things to be under our control, like pieces on a chessboard, where each piece moves in accordance to our will and everything is going as planned. We strive to have everything in the palm of our hands and in that, we find peace. However in life, few things go according to plan and even fewer are under our complete control. The past year has taught me plenty about having control (and the lack of it) as well as the right mindset to adopt when faced with uncertainties.
The Things We Can ControlThis section is pretty easy: the things we can control, we ought to make the most out of them. For me, it would be: how much revision I clock in every week, my discipline when it comes to exercise, how early I sleep, choice of food and beverages etc. For you, it could be anything that’s relevant in your life right now. Perhaps starting on a project early, doing it well or choosing not to drink and smoke too often (or not at all) with the knowledge that they do your body no good. Whatever the case, the choice is ours and so too are the repercussions of the choices we make. Choose wisely.
The Things We Can’t ControlIt starts getting harder here. The anxiety we feel as we await results, be it academic or otherwise. The constant nagging in our heads that say “You’re not good enough”, “You’re not going to make it”. How we would like others to view us, and much more. The saying ‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ cliché as it is, is applicable here. The preparation is done in the section above and the hoping comes in many forms. From a Christian point of view, I’d say trusting God is never easy, but the assurance that His ways are higher than mine and the fact that some things really just aren’t under our control leads me to go to Him.
From a secular viewpoint, this saying isn’t pessimistic at all, because there is nothing wrong with wanting to steel ourselves for a potentially bad outcome / preparing ourselves in the best way possible to minimise the damage in a potentially bad outcome (in other words, covering our asses – John’s PW Teacher). This section is closely related to the next.
Facing UncertaintiesNot knowing what to expect, what to do and how to feel here are common. I believe that by doing the best we can in the things we can control, we snuff out all room for regret and feeling disconsolate. That just narrows it down to what to expect and how to feel, as what can be done has already been done. The mindset that I believe is optimal for facing uncertainty would be boldness. The fear of failure and of uncertainty often impedes rationale thinking and throws us into a state of panic and disarray. Why fear something that is not in our control?
Having a hope helps immensely too, be it trusting God or believing that things will work out. ‘Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.’ No use worrying as it does not make the situation any better. This battle of taming the mind and the heart to be emboldened in such situations is no simple task, but it definitely can be done.
I dedicate this post a close friend whom I’ve known for a very long time, and whose surname is the first word of this post. One night as we were walking to grab some food and I was venting my frustrations on things that can’t be changed, he casually remarked: “Why complain about the things you can’t change? Maybe you should start working on the things you can.”
Thanks JJ (:
Junior College life isn’t exactly a walk in the park, as I’ve experienced it myself first-hand for the past two months (and things are only going downhill from here). It feels as if I had been thrown into rough seas, and I am barely keeping my head above the waters. Sincere apologies for not updating this site. Less of me, more on the topic.
Heard of the proverb “blood is thicker than water“? Relatively common phrase, used as a reminder that family bonds supersede friendships. The term “blood” here refers to blood relations, those in our immediate family.
What then, does “water” refer to? Can’t think of anything, can you? This proverb is originally derived from an earlier one: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” And we’ve been getting it wrong all along, “blood is thicker than water” is a twist of its original proverb, which refers to relationships forged by choice holding a greater meaning than biological relations. The context of this is blood vows made by soldiers of centuries past, and the blood shed on the battlefield by fellow soldiers forging bonds far greater than those between family.
And this is what I’ll be writing about: the empowerment of an individual by this wonderful thing called friendship.
I am truly thankful for friends I can call blood brothers. Friends that look out for you, edify you, pushes you to the limits of your capabilities and then more, bringing out the best in you and nothing less. Friends you are not afraid of showing your every side, even that darkest, shadiest one. Friends you can count on to poke fun at you or possibly insult you, yet you brush it off light-heartedly. Friends who can recognise your voice, notice you in a crowd and have the courage to call out your name, loudly, dismissing annoyed stares of the people around him and go up to you to give you to warmest hug you’ve had in a long time. Friends whom if you’ve not met for a day, leave a vacant sign at the door of your heart, the feeling that something’s off, something is missing, something you long for.
I extol these friendships, simply because it builds one as a person, greater self awareness. Not simply understanding what it means to put others before yourself, instead, doing it, not out of duty but out of love. Perhaps these friendships will mean differently to you than it is to me. Perhaps you question the existence of this brotherhood I preach.
But I say: Perhaps you could give me a chance, and read what I have to say before shooting it down.Perhaps you could give it a try, to seek out these friendships that are worth more than any earthly possession.
And perhaps, in the process, you get hurt. To open up to friends is to make yourself vulnerable. To stand stark naked in their faces, to be the person who you truly are; No masks, no façades, no nothing.
‘Why should I do it, then?’ you ask. Humans are created as social beings, we are not meant to function self sustainably as an individual unit. Who was your spouse to you before you got married? Your best friend! (Your spouse should still be your best friend after marriage, by the way.) What are some of the best memories you hold dear to you? Certainly some of them include friends! Do I need to explain myself any further, by now isn’t it self-evident?
I am blessed to have friends I can call blood brothers. If home is where the heart is, then I am home whenever I’m with them, wherever we may be. Treasure your friends, the hell you have been through together, the times of sweet success, the simple pleasure of being in their presence, everything! Sometimes you’ll never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.– William Blake
So much has happened over the past two months: A major examination, the death of a loved one, work experience, an amazing holiday to Japan, back-to-back camps, and much more. Seems like forever since I had the time to recollect and pen down my thoughts.
Tourist. What comes to mind when we hear that word? A holiday? Times have changed, and so too has the definition of aforementioned word.
We travel the world, taking in the sights and sounds, pacing busily up and down the streets shopping for goods, marvelling at the beauty of a scenic location. Advances in technology has added an extra “To-do” while being a tourist: Attempting to capture the moment.
We whip out smartphones and cameras, become so engrossed in taking photographs. We crave Wi-Fi, there is this unexplained restlessness in desiring to share “the captured moment”, on various social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, to name a few. We inadvertently treat our holiday as an exhibition, for the world to see.
Some ask why,and others would reply:That’s what everyone’s doing, so shall I.
I too, am guilty of this. I look back, wondering why I tried so hard to “capture the moment”, coming to an understanding that the entirety of that moment cannot be simply portrayed in a photograph. When they say ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’, it does not mean that it alone can perfectly describe how an individual felt, what an individual saw and experienced with his other senses at that particular instant. Perhaps we ought to be a little more self conscious, put distractions like our cameras aside and to immerse oneself into one’s surroundings: the sights, the smell, everything. And once we are able to do so, maybe then can we truly experience the wonders of this world.
Ironic, isn’t it, the fact that I’m sharing these photographs with you. Do not get me wrong, I do encourage the taking of photographs. However my point I am trying to make is that “capturing the moment” should not be our main focus. We should, instead, focus on allowing our immediate environment to awe and amaze us.
Imperial Palace, Tokyo
Another highlight of my recent Japan trip was the company. As a bunch of sixteen year old boys travelling around Tokyo mostly by ourselves, some might call us daredevils. On the contrary, I felt that part and parcel of what made this trip so memorable was the fact that we were on our own, left to figure out how to move around, making the decisions on where to go and how to do so.
I’ve known them for the past ten years and yet despite being considered “close friends”, I can say for sure that through this trip the bonds of our friendship strengthened tremendously. Marvellous learning experience, coupled with good company and youthful energy, what I’d give to have another trip like this one!
I am no doubt extremely thankful for all who made this trip possible; God, my parents, my family who gave me their blessings, my friends’ parents and of course, my friends themselves. I urge all youth who have an opportunity akin to mine: Go forth boldly, do not waste it! Who knows when you’ll be able to go on an adventure with good company while you are still brimming with enthusiasm and energy.
The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. The past ten years with them were full of ups and downs, mountains and valleys, moments of joy and times of sorrow. We’ve been through quite a bit together, and I treasure these friendships dearly, more than words could ever say. Being a tourist, exploring the world is amazing on its own. Doing so with fantastic company? Invaluable.
How my sport changed my life.
I was 13 when I had my first Track & Field training session. It was the start of many more to come (a minimum of three times a week, almost every week for three and a half years, to be precise). Over the course of three years I have come to love it and have learnt a great deal. Sportsmanship; In the face of amazingly talented teammates and fierce competitors from other schools. “No pain no gain”; Through vigorous trainings, shedding blood, sweat, and tears, reaping their rewards: progress. The importance of companionship; going through all those trainings together, mutual pain and understanding results in the strengthening of bonds of friendship between teammates, and it is this strength and mutual encouragement that pushes one to endure the pain.
Unfortunately, towards the end of 2012 (when I was 14) and up till the first half of this year, I have been plagued with various injuries. First my lower back, then my right hamstring. Being in this sport, it wasn’t hard to see that even minor injuries set the athlete back by a mile. Unable to train, and only capable of watching my teammates do so, was heart-rending for me. I desired to train hard to represent my school in the sport I love, and at the same time aimed to get into Top 8 on the national level. Injuries were the barrier preventing me from doing so. What made it worse was that 2014 would be my last chance I could represent my school, and I had to forgo that opportunity, because of an injury. Dissatisfied.
But there was one more thing I’ve learnt throughout my years in Track: Dissatisfaction was both a blessing and a curse.
Dissatisfaction of the body’s physical limits. Dissatisfaction of my current level of fitness. Dissatisfaction of my PBs (personal bests) (Context: I am a triple and long jumper. PBs in this case would mostly refer to the distances I jumped in these two events). Discontentment is a blessing, simply because it drove me to train even harder. It became my motivation to put in more effort and reap the rewards. “The harder you train, the harder you celebrate” – Usain Bolt.
Yet at the same time it was a curse, as it renders the athlete unable to be content. Winning in a competition isn’t necessarily contentment; Instead it is happiness, joy that the effort you had put in paid off. On a personal level, there will always be this desire to achieve more, to soar to greater heights, to outdo yourself. This, I believe, is one of the greatest ironies in sports.
And I believe that adopting the mentally that dissatisfaction is both a blessing and a curse, will bring an athlete far in his sport. Dissatisfaction fuels his desire to undergo pain to achieve his goals; And at the same time, keeps him humble, knowing that there is always room for improvement.
I am proud to say that I am part of Track & Field: the purest form of sport; The original sport or ‘Alpha’. Before man created the world of athletic games, he ran. He jumped. He threw objects. All these eventually evolved into Track & Field, or simply known as ‘Athletics’. No complex rules: cross the finish line first, jump the highest or farthest, throw an object the longest distance, and you win. Simple. I have always believed that there was beauty in simplicity, and Track & Field is no exception. Proof of this is the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for “Stronger, Higher, Faster”.
Always ask yourself this question: “Can I give more?”. You will find out that the answer is usually a “Yes”.
I’ll leave you with these two quotes, from the greats of Track & Field:
“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggle is within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at” – Jesse Owens
“To be number one, you have to train like you’re number two” – Maurice Greene
I intend to continue the sport I love in the next phase of my education. I was, and still am, dissatisfied.
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too;If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
If— Rudyard Kipling
Specially dedicated to all those taking O’s and A’s this year.
I first read this poem when I was 11, and I’m certain that I was not able to grasp the totality and depth of it then. Reading it again, now , made me realise how substantial and applicable Kipling’s words are: essential life advice and encouragement coalesced into a beautiful string of words.
My hopes in sharing this poem is that it’ll serve as an inspiration to all you readers.
Our lives are filled with plenty of ‘If only’s. If only you would let go of past regrets and live a life mirroring Kipling’s words, I am sure you will find joy in everything you do.
“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”— Muhammad Ali
An extra sixty minutes, that’s three thousand six hundred seconds. Would that make a significant difference in the lives we lead?
In this precious hour, I would do nothing else than to dawdle in the company of those whom I love. Perhaps you’d wonder why I chose to use the word ‘dawdle’, because it means wasting time; Idling, something that would seem inexplicable to do when given an extra hour. I beg to differ.
To laze around and simply enjoy one another’s presence, is no longer a thing of the present. Life in the Twenty-First Century is fast-paced; We ourselves are up and about, scurrying from place to place, going through the daily routine. We constantly miss out on the still, quiet moments when we repose and take in what this life has to offer: relationships.
Relationships with family and friends are something I treasure immensely in this life on Earth. To give up everything I’d normally take delight in doing, just to spend a little more time with them, is something I would do, undoubtedly. “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Have you today expressed your love to the ones you love? This life on Earth is temporal; A fleeting shadow. I exhort you, dear reader, to take the time to convey your love to those who matter the most. How else would they be affirmed of your love for them?
Words cannot express how blessed I am to be able to spend my four years of secondary school education in Saint Joseph’s Institution. This school isn’t just a school, it is a close-knit community, an inseparable family, founded upon values so applicable in life that I, as a young boy back in 2011, failed to comprehend. Only in my later years here at SJI did I realise the significance of what SJI embodies: Ora et Labora; Faith, Service and Community; Men of Integrity and Men for Others; To learn how to learn and to learn how to live.
Perhaps my greatest regret is taking everyday school life for granted; “Everyday school life” doesn’t last forever, it ends in exactly one week. Caught up and lost in the busyness of school life, I have taken every passing day as it is, many a time watching the days, weeks fly by without treasuring and relishing every second. Let this not be a mistake any Josephian after me makes, I dare say the SJI experience stands alone, and I am certain that there is no other community like it.
What am I thankful for? Oh, there is so, so many, definitely too much to pen down. But I will classify them into three main categories:
Spirit – The SJI spirit has been so real and evident throughout my past four years, a strong bond between Josephians manifesting vivaciously in occasions when the school comes together as one, notable events being Orientation Camps and Founder’s Day. They say every school spirit is unique, and I can say for sure that the SJI spirit will be dearly missed after I leave these hallowed halls.
Values – Like I have mentioned earlier, the values SJI has instilled in Josephians is an essential part of the SJI community. Over the course of four years here, I am proud to say that I stand for the values this school stands for. This set of values means a lot to me and I hope it does to you Jospehians reading this as well. Hold them close to your heart, and may you carry it with you after you leave to wherever you go, for the rest of your lives.
People – Both students and teachers play a crucial role in the SJI community too, extremely thankful for all Josephians I have met, forging friendships and upholding one another. Teachers in this school have been instrumental in shaping my life as well, the warmth resonating from them and their passion to nurture us to be better persons as a whole. Big thank you to all those who have journeyed these past four years with me, fellow students and teachers alike. I will definitely miss all of you as we part ways in the near future.
Alas, life has brought the Class of 2014 to a point where we say our goodbyes. Take heart, brothers, that this is simply a phase in all of our lives, no point in living in the past. Go out there, embrace changes to environment and friends, but most importantly, do not forget your roots – SJI. Shed tears of joy and not sorrow, hold your head up high and live out the values inculcated in us by our Alma Mater, but at the same time remain humble and serve with a cheerful disposition. Never forget our friends, for they have become like family to us here. Never forget our teachers, for they have become like parents to us. Never forget the times together, they have become memories encapsulated in the depths of our hearts. Never forget the SJI spirit, how we encourage and uphold one another.
… So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; If one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it – 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
I believe the above verses give all a small glimpse of the SJI spirit. Class of 2014, I cannot express how amazing this journey has been for me, and I am sure for each one of you too. It has definitely been one hell of a ride.
“You can take a Josephian out of SJI, but you can’t take SJI out of a Josephian” – quoted from Aaron Chee, Head Prefect and Senior Josephian’s speech to the Class of 2014
Ora et Labora
Set off with no destination in mind
walked this lonely stretch of road
In the cool of the night
footsteps echoing faintly
Eerie silence permeates the entire being
The mind started to wander off
Projecting a monochrome image before me
eyes, lips, nose and hair
Didn’t know where I was
nor where I’m heading
not in need of map or compass
not lost in my surroundings
In truth, I’m lost in your eyes.
“I wish that I could be like the cool kids‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to fit in”-‘Cool Kids’, Echosmith
Apart from its catchy nature, the song encapsulates what people do way too often. It strikes a chord in many hearts not only because ‘the song is nice’, but also because of the words used; People can relate to them.
Humans are social beings, its in our nature to interact and the need for relationships, family, friends and soul mates, is a crucial part of our lives. As a result of this, we have a tendency to want to ‘fit in’. We change our habits, behaviour and even character to be able to be seen as acceptable in the eyes of our friends. The need for that sense of belonging leads to people covering their faces with masks; Masks that hide their true feelings and character. All this for the desire to be included, to not get left out.
And sometimes, people get so attached to those masks, they lose themselves in a sea of deceit. Self-deceit. That is, to me, the scariest form of denial. The fact that these people cannot convince themselves to accept and love themselves for who they truly are, what makes them think that someone else can? Just because your ‘friends’ think that it’s ‘uncool’ or ‘lame’ to do something (especially something you love), you should be asking yourself two questions:
1) Does that mean you have to stop doing whatever you love to do, just to maintain friendship(s)?
2) Are these people truly your friends, accepting you for who you really are?
I urge you to not get attached to masks like these. Once you’ve put them on for a while, it gets addictive, akin to drugs: hard to break free. And if you have those masks? Have some faith in yourself! Commit yourself to tearing off every last one of them. True friends are those who are able to accept you for who you really are: your crazy side, your darkest secrets, the things you love doing and the values you stand for.
I leave you with the words someone close to me once said:“Be yourself, that’s the most important part. Do not let the environment, the people or the circumstances change who you are. Don’t strive so hard to fit in, because by being yourself friends will naturally flock to you.”
‘Cool kid’, trying to fit in or yourself. Which one are you?
As my GCE ‘O’ Levels approaches, I feel the urge to address this issue of attaining good results academically.
Education is an integral part of Singapore’s society. Students are under tons of pressure to study hard and obtain good grades, as grades determine their next phase in life: further education or looking for a job. Parents, teachers and even students themselves expect them to do well. Is education all about obtaining good grades?
No doubt the Singapore education system is a very successful one, proven by many international surveys, but is it at the expense of students like myself? I’m not just talking about the immense stress and pressure students have on their shoulders, I am referring to other aspects such as the lack of rest, and the lack of an all-encompassing education.
To me, there is so much more to education than just slogging long hours everyday to do well in an examination. Education should not teach students how to study to get desired grades, it should teach us how to live life. The following are some of the points I am trying to get across (to you, dear reader):
1. Moral values. Basic courtesy is essential for being a well-liked person; No one likes a rude fellow. Mutual respect is essential too, especially in the multi-racial and multi-religious society in Singapore. The lack thereof would then result in déjà vu, racial riots like those in the 1940’s. To maintain peace, Singaporeans ought to go beyond tolerating one another, to learning how to accept one another for who they are. It all comes back to having the right morals; Grades are not all that important once we view life as a big picture. Moral values last a lifetime, grades do not. To equip students with moral values, incorporating the teaching of these values in education and effectively instilling them into the next generation – that is what education ought to do.
2. Life skills. Subjects such as home economics serve to allow students to develop basic life skills like cooking. More often than not, to do well in an examination, one must not only study hard, he must study consistently as well. Consistency is a trait employers look out for, as it ensures that the employee does not slack on the job. Inconsistent work and laziness would get the employee fired, therefore it is important for students to be educated on life skills such as these. One more example is goal-setting. Goal-setting is often done in schools and students are asked to set targets for each subject. This translates into being able to set goals in life. Goals make an impossible climb tiny stepping stones, and in life, if we set out to achieve something of value to us and do not set goals for ourselves, (more often than not) we are bound to get frustrated and give up. Whereas when we set goals for ourselves, it encourages us one step at a time, allowing us to actively work towards the intended outcome.
3. Allowance for room for error. Mistakes are a best thing a student can make while he is schooling. Many times teachers say, “School is a safe place to make mistakes.” And I agree with that statement completely. Better to make mistakes now than later in life, when it can potentially cost a person his job or a relationship. Students have to overcome the fear of committing mistakes and more importantly, learn how to recover from them. A Japanese proverb states: Fall down seven times, stand up eight. It is an important reminder that everyone encounters setbacks and failures. If one cannot pick up the pieces and move on, they would be blinded by fears and give up easily. This is a growing problem in Singapore, where people are starting to treasure grades more than the process of learning itself, resulting in the fear of making mistakes. Education has to shift its focus from achieving good grades to allowing students to be comfortable with making mistakes, and teaching students to confidently move on afterwards.The way the education system is moving towards here in Singapore is the wrong direction. Competitiveness has increased immensely in the past few decades, and the desire to obtain good grades has consumed one too many. Good grades are definitely what one would aspire to attain after years of hard work. But it is crucial to understand that there is so much more to education than simply doing well in an examination.
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Students are trained to be robots, doing work repeatedly, non-stop, walking into the examination and spewing answers from memory. What the world needs are humans, not robots. Is there a point in putting one in a pressure cooker? No, it kills the joy of learning! Carl Lewis said, “It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.” Good grades is the ‘outcome’. The ‘journey’ would be what students do and learn in the process. It’s about time to shift the focus of education; Good grades are not everything.