Friday, May 30, 2014

More Than Words

I can barely believe that IB's over. I always thought that once it ended, I'd write a nice long post about how much I appreciate everyone - but sitting in front of my computer now, I'm finding that... I can't. There are just no words for this extraordinary group of people.

I talked to Phoebs yesterday, and we agreed that it's so hard to part ways because we're not just leaving friends - we're leaving family. I'm leaving a family which has been such an integral part of my life for the past two years. I've seen them in the hallways, in classes, skipping classes, at Tray, destroying the zen at Samsara, at Puncak, in President Jingyi's car, lying down like LCCT hobos in our Taylor's hangout area when our tables were taken away. And now, although we no longer go to college for classes, I still see them: in my grad polaroids, in Freddy's deformed mouth, in the cards and notes I've received over the months, in old textbook doodles, in the Angela-shaped garbage bin we came across in a public walkway. These people have been so incredibly kind, selfless, hilarious, annoying (Ray lol), brilliant, loving, encouraging, quirky, inclusive, honest, open, and a thousand other adjectives. I've no idea - truly - as to what I'll do without them.

I think I still want to write my long farewell-IB post. But maybe another day. For now, I still have no words.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Huns Are Coming!

It was the last official day of classes yesterday, and we spent it belting out Mulan songs, solving math problems while oxygen-deprived, and watching Dr Brice striking ghetto poses.

I love this bunch of people so ridiculously much. They're some of the smartest, kindest, quirkiest, most hilarious and least selfish people I know, and they've been such an integral part of my life over the past couple of years. They've made Mondays less bad, IAs/EE/TOK more tolerable, and lunches the best part of my many days in college... so it's going to be very hard to say goodbye to them in a month's time.

IB class of '14, you've set a really, really high bar for university life :P

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Class of '18!

So application decisions are out, the agonizing wait has ended, and I finally have time to reflect on the past half-a-year and gather my thoughts. I initially didn't intend to write this post, but Jessie has been relentlessly pestering me to do so for the past week - so here we go! (P/S: Jessie I actually still love you.)

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November reminds me of old dreams.

Back when Common App first opened to applicants, practically everyone I knew who was applying early had a 'dream school' of some sort. There was Harvard for Chewy, Yale for KY (which eventually changed to Williams), and so on and so forth. And then there were lots of well-meaning people - seniors, peers, acquaintances - who also propagated the whole 'go for your dream school!' philosophy.

Unfortunately, I was made of less decisive stuff than these people, so I had no dream school for the longest time. But it was hard for me to keep floating around, knowing that everyone knew exactly where they wanted to be - so (this will sound trite) I forced myself to pick a dream school. Initially it was Princeton, but then I read about eating clubs and thus abandoned the plan. So I went early action (EA) for Yale instead. For the next few weeks, it was nothing but Yale-this, Yale-that, bulldog-this, bulldog-that, bow wow wow.

And this is where I think that applying EA didn't work out for me as well as I'd hoped. Statistically, going for EA is all well and good - it hikes up your chances of getting accepted by a significant percentage. But psychologically, if you're anything like me, it interferes with your ability to apply to other schools during the period prior to EA admission decisions. I spent over a month working on my Yale app... and none on the others (bad idea, seriously don't do this haha). I can't bring myself to love any other school, or so I told myself during one of my less-bright moments, so I won't start writing until I know the outcome of the EA round.  

So when EA decisions finally came around, surprise, surprise (being sarcastic here!) - I was deferred by my bulldoggy dream college. And I had to scramble to finish my apps to eleven colleges in the span of a week. Yet in the midst of all the incredible stress, I remember experiencing the inexpressibly warm touch of human kindness. Mirela, a then-acquaintance by way of my fat brother, adopted me and, and from then on became my self-proclaimed academic mom. Up till today, I don't understand why anyone would've spent an entire week of winter break proofreading awful essays written by an almost-stranger - but she did. Even on Christmas and New Year's Day. Even when she'd had a little too much to drink. I'll never forget that.

But anyway, beyond giving me technical help with my essays, I'd like to think that Mirela extended wonderful emotional support to me as well. This was crucial, seeing that I was the only deferred kid amongst my super high-flying, amazing, accepted-to-college friends (they're fantastic people by the way!). I remember messaging Mirela one night, when I was horrendously stressed and on the brink of giving up on my Columbia app:


P/S: 'Facebook User' is obviously Mirela

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After a long wait, March finally tottered along. And unlike old November, March brought about new dreams - perhaps not the sort I'd initially envisioned, but pleasant and fresh in a somewhat unexpected way.

To cut the story short, some wonderful colleges opened their doors to me - not the bulldog one - but places like Wesleyan (which has friendliest alums/current students ever!), Mt Holyoke, UVa, Yale-NUS, Penn, Dartmouth... and Columbia, the one I'd so very nearly given up on.


Arranged in alphabetical order because I don't play favorites. Also Penn and UVa are tardy in sending out acceptance packages! And yes, those really are a pair of sunglasses that I got in the mail. 

As of today, I still haven't fully set my heart on one particular college; I'm still mentally drawing up pro-and-con lists for some of them. And I guess this is because I simply don't buy into the idea of a perfect college anymore. Which isn't a bad thing, really. Because, over the past five months, I've learnt this: it's not so important where I end up; but rather, what I do wherever I end up. I hope I remember that over the next four years.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

28

Obviously tomorrow's a potentially rough day, but I'm going to try my best to remember that there are bigger purposes that I may not necessarily perceive in the present.

It's such a weight to be always trying to meet high expectations, and knowing that not meeting them is bound to invite acidic comparison. Yet what doesn't meet others' (and my own) expectations may just be where God's expectations lie. And I guess that the latter is what matters.

Not too long ago, I received the loveliest text from a friend: '... accept the result with grace'. I'm going to try.

Edit: On a partially-related note, it's been so odd but pleasantly surprising to have had so much encouragement from the D-2-5 boys, of all people HAHA.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Too Easy

It's not hard to fall into the trap of thinking that people always want things easy. Easy money, easy grades, easy everything.

So we go all out to help make things easy for them. We give them crutches, wheelchairs, cars, get-rich-quick schemes, affirmative action policies, a secret leg up in exams - whatever it takes for them to complete the race of life - and expect them to perform exponentially better as a result. And the funny thing is that we think we're doing them a favor.

But perhaps what we've forgotten is the fact that there are rarely any successes without a struggle. We forget that a marathon only yields gratification after those 30-km breakdowns, after those moments of stopping and wheezing desperately by the pavement, after those times when the ambulance seems a far more tempting proposition than the finish line.

We forget that passengers in leisurely 42-km car rides don't really win marathons.

I'm inclined to think that while, on the surface, the prospect of an easy win is always tempting - we're innately engineered to embrace challenges. After all, this is the paradox: the easier something is for you, the easier it will be for you to be lulled into complacency - and the less likely you will be to work on the said task or competency, to slug it out day by day, to finetune it to mastery. Contrary to that, I'd like to believe that hurdles and difficulties motivate people to rise to the challenge.

If I've seemed to be rather frustrated in some of my more recent posts, it's because I am. Someone asked me today, "Is anything troubling you?" I said nothing out of politeness. But really, if I'd spoken my mind, I'd probably have said: please return my hurdles to me.

Monday, February 17, 2014

16:5

One of my favorite psalms ever since JS days. While I was taking a nap during a silent retreat, Sarah stuck an orange slip of paper into my journal - it had Psalm 16 scribbled on it - and inadvertently, it got stuck in my head as well. It applied to me then; it still applies to me now; and I'm guessing that it'll continue to apply to me many years into the future.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Voice

Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Speck in the Eye

I've surprised myself lately.

Throughout most of my teenage life, I'd always had the idea that large-scale, national-level corruption scandals were the sort of breach of integrity that pained me the most. And I suppose that this was nothing unusual. After all, reports of taxpayer dollars flowing into Birkin bags and cow-condominiums and submarines were spectacular allegations—enough to make any self-righteous citizen shake his or her head at the lack of integrity 'up there at the top'.

But recently, I've been discovering that something pains me even more than this: that is, the breach of integrity in ordinary, day-to-day life. It pains me when people complain about the siphoning off of public cash, and then slip into a cinema without paying for the ticket. It pains me when people post angry Facebook statuses about bribery, and then covertly hand crumpled fifty ringgit notes to their JPJ driving examiners. It pains me when people heckle leaders for corruption, and then go on to cheat in exams and assessments (because, you know, grades obviously trump character).

It pains me to realize that some of the same people who speak out for a cleaner government have been part of this same lack of integrity in ordinary, day-to-day life.

I sincerely hope that this post isn't coming off as judgmental or prissy and am truly sorry if this appears to be the case (I for one am acutely aware of my own past breaches of integrity—I'm certainly not excluding myself from what I write). But at the very heart of it, everything boils down to personal convictions and personal choice.

As for me, I know the choice that I've made—and I know that it's a pretty hard one (experience is a harsh teacher!). I just hope I'll be able to stick to it ugh.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Silver Chair: C.S. Lewis

"Once and for all," said the prisoner, "I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you—"

"Oh!" cried the three travellers as though they had been hurt.
"It's the sign," said Puddleglum.
"It was the words of the sign," said Scrubb more cautiously.
"Oh, what are we to do?" said Jill.

It was a dreadful question, What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren't going to obey them? Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone - even a lunatic - who asked it in his name? Could it be a mere accident? Or how if the Queen of the Underworld knew all about the signs and had made the Knight learn this name simply in order to entrap them? But then, supposing this was the real sign? They had muffed three already; they daren't muff the fourth.

"Oh, if only we knew!" said Jill.
"I think we do know," said Puddleglum.
"Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?" said Scrubb.
"I don't know about that," said Puddleglum. "You see, Aslan didn't tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of use once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Grace - Laura Story

Have I broken the replay button yet...


These lines get me every time - 

And you answer: "My child, I love you
And as long as you're seeking my face
You'll walk in the power of my daily sufficient grace."