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By MICHELLE CHONG SUIT YIN
Take my hand and allow me to unravel my tale as I attempt to guide you along this brief transition in your life. I present to you my story – unflattering to yours truly perhaps, but certainly unvarnished.
I was a bright student in elementary school. Due to various circumstances, I did not receive adequate education during my high school years, and my grades suffered drastically as a result. My parents had high hopes for me, and they suggested that I become a pharmacist. It was then that I had to choose between the two paths laid down for aspiring youngsters by the educational system.
My science and mathematical abilities were pathetic squiggles in my brain. On the other hand, I enjoyed languages, linguistics, and everything sugar, spice, I chose the science route eventually, simply because it My parents assured me that as I was a bright girl in primary school, I would definitely be able to catch up if I put more effort into my work.
Therefore, although I was actually indifferent towards science, I entered A-levels Science with my heart set on becoming a pharmacist. You would think that was the end of it and I became a successful Pharmacist. But life is not as simple as the fantasy world of indulgence, and trains do not always run along your ideal tracks. In a nutshell, I soon realised that I was out of my depth. The internal struggle within me was simply unbearable.
As a hawker’s daughter, I had hoped to forge a better life for my beloved family and myself by taking the well-worn and seemingly more ‘beneficial’ path of science. My parents never forced me into it, of course; they were merely in favour of it, as it would have meant a ‘better life’ for me.
After much deliberation, I eventually concluded that I would have been better off in the Arts stream. I hesitantly walked back to the original crossroad where I had once stood upon a year and a half ago, tears of frustration and fear flowing down my face. I went the other way this time; A-levels, Arts. I wish I could say that from that day onwards, I never looked back. But truth be told, I have cast a couple of longing glances in the other direction.
Quite successfully, if I say so myself, despite having been in the science stream at high school without any foundation in Arts and a delay of almost two years after SPM. I am currently hoping to pursue a degree in English Language/English Literature. My brief venture into the science route has not been wasted, and I have learnt many valuable lessons during my struggle to decide between both paths.
I realised that in trying to make everyone happy, I had neglected my own happiness. Consequently, I have adopted an attitude of semi-indifference, where I rarely do things merely for the sake of gaining the general public’s approval. They are of no relation to me, so why should I be afraid to admit my mistakes for fear of embarrassing myself? People worth your attention will respect a forthright attitude, and if they do not respect you for the person you are, chances are their opinion does not really matter.
I now pose this question to you, reader – what do you want in life? During my indecision whereupon I stood at the crossroads for a second time, I became conscious of the fact that I will be satisfied with a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and three square meals a day – something that a teaching career would be able to give me.
Success in life is what you make it out to be, and happiness is to gain satisfaction from the simple things. He who is never satisfied will suffer more self-induced anguish even if he holds the world in the palm of his hand, in comparison to the simple peasant who wears a happy smile induced by simple pleasures like warm sheets.
Admittedly, I do sometimes feel that I was ultimately destined to be a Science person, rather than an Arts one. There is a fine line between both paths, and it is merely necessity that separates the entanglement of knowledge between Science and Arts. The science path is one that I may return to at a later time for the fun of it, if I am so inclined. But for now, languages and linguistics are my life’s calling, and I made the choice by following my heart.
Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker? – Garth Nix
Michelle Chong Suit Yin, 19, is a scholar of Advance Tertiary College, and she will be graduating from A-levels, Arts in June after a delay of almost two years. A person of varied interests, including adding new languages to her arsenal, she used to teach English/Literature part-time to ease financial constraints.
Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.
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