history is not useless

history is a fascinating thing. saying the word conjures up images of dusty books and musty people, of resistance to change and a desire to fall back and sink into the past, things which are anathema to the world of the Now. of youtube and whatsapp and instant gratification – cliched but true.

but history is alive and full of fascinating things to learn and discover. i like history. i like seeing how the big picture fits together. i like history enough that i study it despite having to work my ass off in order to achieve a decent grade. this is most unlike me.

so they say that history is full of lessons to learn from. well, from my own personal history, i learnt that if you don’t dedicate yourself to focused and intense studying at appropriate times you don’t do as well in exams and on paper as you should. 4 years in that most excellent of institutions left me with a paltry and miserable GPA of 2.8 out of a maximum of 4, while my compatriots were averaging 3.6s and 3.7s, etc etc. the statistics say that i should be at least hitting a 3.4, even if not a 3.6. but that is the past. go to jc and ta-da! there i am again with ungradeds and subpasses… only last minute fiercing down in the library and a suitable amount of peer pressure gets me to take the a levels seriously enough to do… decently. in the grand scheme of things i know my 3 H2 As is pretty darn good, but once again compared to my peers i cannot help but feel a sense of dissatisfaction.

the current structure that the education system has tells each person to be the best. there is a distinct difference between doing your best and being the best. sadly, this line is not always drawn clearly. it has reached the point by which it is assumed if you ‘do your best’, your results will be ‘the best’, i.e. A upon A upon A. and while this constant frantic rush towards academic success has pervaded the singaporean education system (a well documented fact), it has no doubt created a successful system in turn. GDP don’t lie

however recently i have begun to question my own desire to really be the best. let us be very honest here. i will admit that when i came into university i went in with a guns a-blazin’ mentality, determined to squash the competition and lay the rhetorical smack down upon my peers. i came in determined to prove my academic worth, to prove that i belong amongst the cream of the crop, the figurative creme de la creme, the other top-of-the-soup metaphors and whatnot.

but recently i have found that this desire to acquire the elusive first class honours is fading. i don’t know if this is permanent or its just a phase, but i have come to the… mental ponder-ations (i refrain from using ‘realization’) that maybe its just not worth it after all. slogging my guts out over academics is something i have never done. i’ve done it now and then but never in sustained stretches. maybe its just me, maybe i’m being lazy, and i’ll be the first to tell you that yes, it is an excuse of sorts. but there’s something that tells me in the long run, people aren’t going to look at whether you achieved first class honours or not, and when i’m 35 or something like that, how i judge myself isn’t going to be based on the paper that i got. maybe its army that got to me, that made me realize that being the best and the brightest doesn’t make you any better than anyone else. so what if i was a big-shot cadet? doesn’t make me a better officer. what made me a better officer (later on, much later on) was that i realized that what matters is the men around you. the letter of the law can go fly kite if you don’t care about your men first. i grew brains and more importantly grew a heart in a compressed amount of time in the army to the realities of life. that is a grammatically imperfect sentence which may pose comprehension problems but i don’t care.

and so i think history is going to repeat itself. here i am in uni, and i am going to end up with a 2nd upper (i hope), while getting myself involved into bigger things that i think (i think) will be bigger and more beneficial. i am going to go forth into the world. not that i am going to go do many different things, but i am going to devote myself to a few things, to devote my energies to things which are everlasting and eternal. i don’t know if this will work out (this line of though i mean) but in my youthful and slightly foolish naivety, i am going to walk the path that i espy before me, even if i don’t see it very clearly.


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