Thursday, February 27, 2014

'I know those paving stones well...'

Title was quoted from a comment on a friend's photo on facebook, which inspires me to write the following post...

Lately I have been bombarded with messages that warn undergraduates to make the most out of the undergraduate years and go after your dream, live a life, instead of being in the rat race of rankings in Medicine and Veterinary Science Tripos and playing it too safe. For instance, there's this article from the Tab about Cambridge finalists lamenting about their regrets as they are about to face the real world. Being an easily influenced person, I can't help but feeling a bit worried too. Am I living the life I want? I caught myself repeating this question over and over again in my head. But again, what is the life I want? Is it the 'life' other people said it should be? Taking risks, going after big dreams, skip lectures, jumping off bridges into the River Cam etc. is that the 'LIFE' they are talking about when people talk about 'get a life, kid.' From the content circulating around recently, it really seems so. Then I should be very ''dead', thoroughly and long ago. Perhaps, never alive.

It's true that I have been deliberately opting out from elections of societies, Jailbreak, RAG charity fundraise events and those sort. Maybe there is a tinge of cowardice element that made me decided to do so, but to be honest, at this point of time (maybe I will think in a completely different perspective in the future), I am really content with how my life is like. Content, not complacent. I do realize there are heaps of room for improvement (personal development, interpersonal skills, knowledge, life wisdom) but I do try my very best to make decisions that will not myself regret, at least not in the next few months. I am content that every morning, I have someone I love waking me up, have a nutritious breakfast with selection of white coffee from home or thick black coffee to get me started, going to lectures and supervisions to learn from the experts who are highest in the academic hierarchy, chat with friends who are terribly bright in between lectures, ridiculously huge resources to depend on to do my essays and revisions, have random chats with my corridor-mates, go for grocery shopping, chat with my family on Whatsapp and ending the day with a nice long conversation again with my love before sending he starts his day on the other side of the planet. There are days when I go to church to meet my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for service and bible study, to make the days of the week slightly different. There are times when I am dead exhausted (especially after 3 supervisions in a row) so I go for a late night jog around this small town with my favourite songs playing on the phone, which by God's grace, I was able to buy it on my own means. Then there are times when I wonder 'why am I spending so much? I need to save!' (still working on it)...
Honestly, I am quite content.

A lovely note I received from Tiffany in between lectures 
Of course, things are not always smooth. I was so stressed jut few weeks ago due to some issues that I was so afraid I am going to be depressed; I was rejected from one of the summer programs I have applied too; my rice cooker just got confiscated yesterday (serves me right for leaving it in the kitchen the whole night). There are times when I was just so tired and wondered if this is all worth it? am I doing the right thing? am I living a life? Am I as capable as my peers who are managing the whole club/society (but I can't even manage my own life!)? But then again, is there a script that I should follow but somehow I have been unaware of all these while?

I am learning to be grateful for the people around me that helped and supported me through the hard times, to accept me as I am, to take the mistakes as a lesson to learn from. For example, yesterday I told my mom I lost the rice cooker (it's relatively new) and the porters who confiscated it were kind enough to leave my pot of chicken soup behind. Instead of blaming me, she laughed at the fact that my soup was still there. Oh, my mom is such an optimistic and strong person, sometimes, when days are bad, you just need to talk to her to feel better. This, is one of the lessons I should learn from her.

I can't be absolutely sure if I am really living a life (as everyone calls it), but I do know exactly what is not having a life. It's when you are completely blind to the good things that are happening around you, and be physically and mentally consumed by work/studies all your waking hours. I do not mean to criticise those who work hard, because I do too (just ask anyone who knows me) and I know working on things you love and mean so much to you with all the passion you have is indeed a very enjoyable and fulfilling process. However working so hard that you lose your health, your mind, your faith, working so hard that it affects the relationship with your family and friends, and working so hard that you just feel like...this is all life is about, really isn't my idea of living. I spent a year doing that and just that. Being completely oblivion to my surrounding, I didn't even feel like I am in Cambridge, UK, as envied by my friends back at home because I was hiding in my room, studying away all the time! Trust me, it was awful.

My friend from another college asked if it's better to work madly like last year or to keep to a relaxing work pace like now? If you wanna look back and have memories of the youth, perhaps it's better to be like this; if you wanna go for grades, this is definitely not going bring you to the "Rank #1 in the Year' many covet. But does it matter? This year, I try to strike a balance between working hard and to have time to appreciate people around, to love myself and to enjoy simple pleasures in life more. Beautiful friendships blossom each day. Also, I find it's much easier to get through things (esp hard times) and many times, it much more productive and efficient to work this way. The 18 hours study regime can wait till next term. :P

Not that I do not have ambitions and dreams. I do, I too am delighted with achievements and while I am working towards my dream, I constantly ask myself, 'is this what I want? or am I just following the crowd? Perhaps next time, when you ask a person to get a life, do remember there isn't a fixed script that everyone must align themselves to, to have a life. A note to self (and whoever's reading this) who is always busy with work/studies remember to stop to enjoy your surrounding once in a while, always care for the people around and remind yourself that there are more important things in life and in this world than whatever that's overwhelming you right now. It's easy to miss that when all in sight is the PROBLEM, but keep calm, change your perspective and carry on.

Photo taken and edited by Allen Ng
Rose Crescent, Cambridge.
I want to be able to leave this place one day proudly claiming, 'I had a great time learning in this place and I know those paving stones well too.'


  1. paving stones
    At Gaiastone we are working to reduce the effect we have on the environment by executing carbon emission reduction initiatives. Furthermore, a percentage of our annual profit is being actively donated to create sustainable livelihoods in third world countries. We will update this section once a year sharing the results that this project has.