Updated: Nov 30, 2021
A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self
This will be the 1st of many parts for A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self.
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It’s June 2013. You aced your 2010 A levels and bathed in the glory that came with it. You served your 2 years of NS, completing many mean feats along the way and finally, you’re ready to return to civilian life.
You stand tall.
You stand proud.
You are ecstatic.
You have an idea of what University was going to be like for you from movies, dramas and tv in general. New environment, flexible timetable and potentially a lot of new "friends".
You were so excited you dumped your then girlfriend 1 month prior to the Science Orientation Week (SOW) camp because you were concerned with the new amount of "friends" you’re going to make in the coming years ahead.
(God, I was such a dick.)
In this 4 year journey, you will learn more than you ever did in the prior 21 years of your life. Each of those 4 years that you are going to spend is going to teach you something about life. One day, you will look back and share those stories to the young and the reckless, in hopes that they will listen to you and potentially share a laugh.
Your freshmen year will be the year that you actually grow up.
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You will expand your social circle
Science Orientation Week. The first time you actually step foot on campus as an enrolled student of NUS. You sat down with your barang barang next to A, whom will eventually be someone you spill some of your secrets to. (A & MH also eventually became your wingwoman) Your eyes wonder and immediately one person catches your eye. Yup, your first eye candy.
Yup, she's in there.
In the 4 years spent at NUS, you will meet a variety of people. You will find that the all elusive top tier JC students are not different from you. They are not snobbish, neither are they significantly better than you. Nobody actually cares which JC/Poly you were from beyond the ice-breaker games. All of us are just ordinary freshmen.
Your orientation group mates will also be your first clique of friends you make. The 5 days of SOW will certainly be fun and fortunately, you guys stay together throughout the first year of University when everyone is on more or less similar timetable.
You have always wanted to do this
You have many resolutions. In JC, you were fat and it was the most convenient pretext for you to join an indoor air-conditioned environment CCA, debates. Now that you’ve lost significant amount of weight, you’re ready to blow shit up. Hence, one of your many resolutions was to become more active in non-academia activities (CCA).
And what do you first join? Pilates.
Why? Because your eye candy joined. (Fuck you.)
Yup, you joined skating too because your "wingwomen" told you it was the perfect opportunity to bond with your eye candy, only for them to laugh their ass off at you
In Pilates, you experience all sort of embarrassing moments such as toe cramping in front of your eye candy and other many memorable moments. However, the most memorable moment came when you decided to pick the mat that was right at the back of the class. Yup, that image will be etched into your head for the rest of your life.
Fortunately, you balanced all that shit housery with joining a CCA your heart actually desired even though nobody around you wanted to. Dance.
I regret doing this article already
It will be the best learning experience for you. You’re going to be embarrassed, more so than for pilates, because you actually care about what’s in front of you and putting in 1001% into it. You look incredibly awkward, but your tenacity that saw you through the many obstacles prior to your life spurred you forward. You look terrible, you know your friends will laugh at you when they see you (yes, they will during that intense rehearsal period for CAC+US performance) and yet you get your head down and continue because that's just who you are. Stubborn and headstrong.
Your first real lesson in University
The first semester is going to be as amazing as it can be for you. You make new friends, you were in a “cool” CCA and you start to realize you’re the envy of your friends. However, you seem to forget the most important part of University. Your degree.
Especially when you pass through FASS
A part of you will still hold on to your past glory and with your new weight loss, your ego will inflate 20000 folds. You still do your assignments, attend lectures and tutorials diligently. However, you only truly study during the 7 day study break. It’s your first semester and you decide to mess around. (Wait, that sounds incredibly familiar). Truth be told, a subconscious part of you simply do not value the degree highly.
You lay and roll around in bed and revise your Inorganic Chemistry by placing the file against the wall. You go to the library early in the morning with a laptop to do revision but end up slaughtering noobs on DotA2 with your ever infamous Bloodseeker. (We'll get to that one day). In addition to all that shit housery, CCA and your pursuit of happiness, you were distracted in other ways. (You needed to be "there")
The rude awakening comes on the day when you got your results for the first semester. "Disastrous" would be as close as it comes to describing your core modules of Physical Chemistry 1 and Inorganic Chemistry 1. Unfortunately, the implementation of a grade-less first semester will only come into effect when you turn year 2.
In your 21 years of living, you have never experienced such failure that stings and actually leave a mark. (Yes, it’s recorded in your transcript after you graduate.) Unlike your preceding shit-housery throughout your Pri-Sec-JC journey, this result actually mattered. You feel disorientated and fall off the axis. It will definitely affect your confidence. Till present day when people ask you what's that one major failure you had in life, you still quote your Semester 1 academic results.
People around you, who were in a similar plight, complained about the paper, they whined and cried. One even went to take a bus from interchange to the other terminal, just looking at the scenery thinking about life, as if she was in a Hong Kong drama. Some genuinely contemplated and actively pursued a switch in majors and/or faculties at the first sight of failure.
But you, you refuse to let the grades define you. You understand mistakes were made and instead of blaming everybody and everything else, you took it on the chin. You refused to run, you evaluated the circumstances at hand and came to terms. You choose to take responsibility for your own actions.
Take responsibility for your failure
Learning is never easy. You put your ego at risk because mistakes are usually laughed upon. However, the 29 year old Yao Le will tell you mistakes are arguably the rite of passage. For you to achieve success, failure is inevitable. It’s through mistakes and failures that you remember that precise moment of folly.
Furthermore, when mistakes are visible, it will be easier to rectify and thereby improve. Unfortunately, mistakes and failures prevents true learning, not necessarily because of the dire tangible consequences. But rather, it is the fear of failure and judgement that prevents that leap of faith and eventually achievement of success.
As much as you love your work in the future, some times life will feel like that.
The first taste of major failure will suck. You are forced to swallow your slice of humble pie. You finally realize you are not infallible. However, unlike your peers who fell into the pit of despair and active pursue of pretext to justify their failure, you will land in a place of teachability where you learn to be more flexible and receptive towards new perspectives.
The sting will fade and you will find yourself liberated.
Liberated from the fear of failure.
One day, you will become an educator.
One day, you will pass on all this life lessons to the humble and the open-minded.
One day, you will encourage your students through your stories.
"I’ve lived through the same failure you have. And so will you."
"The best teachers are those who have failed."
To be continued...