help me transcend

I always feel overwhelmed with tenderness when i talk to my younger cousin about studies. she’s thirteen and in her first year of secondary school. we were just talking about her chinese oral yesterday, then the new exam modifications and her school mid-autumn festival celebration, but it seems that it always comes back to her subject choices. she’s doing a special art program that she enjoys but that she worries about because later on she can’t do biology or literature and has to elect between only history or geography. it’s not that i can see her making the same mistakes that i did- we’re pretty different people- but it kind of comes from the same root of like, ‘i should do what i’m good at’; and deciding too early that ‘i’m bad at that so i should avoid it’. in some ways having a strong self-conception may be a bad thing at that age (or indeed at any age): it makes you too fixed in what you expect of yourself, what you can see yourself doing (ie, not failure). but i said tenderness because i come not at all from high ground where i can say that i am above all these troubles: i still struggle with them, every day. with not closing myself off to things because i feel like i’m bad at them. with embracing failure as a necessary but incidental part of life, as an inevitable stopover on the way to reaching something greater. i’m drawing upon what el said on monday now- ‘if you cannot fail at something it’s not worth doing!’

when she said ‘i like art but what am i going to do with it later on? my friends want to become illustrators but I don’t,’ I said ‘it doesn’t have to open up a future career path to be worth doing; do i have to want to be a historian in order to want to take history?’ i wonder how we get such a utilitarian bent when in the larger scheme of things what we learn in secondary school is so useless.

in other news but also relatedly, in the sense that it’s all about trying to figure out how to make a life- things are coalescing in school, and so the shadow of panic is stooping over me again. yesterday was a relatively disciplined day, but it’s hard to keep your feet when you survey the time left and wonder if you are making the most productive use of it. i have to write 2.5k on what? especially when you have to do something grinding that always seems like it can be put off till later. but i will not resent making time for chores, for trying to eat right, for spending time with people i love. i won’t withdraw into my assignments and away from life. i want to make giant glittery posters for farisha on sunday and wave our huge obnoxious love for her in everyone’s faces so she knows she’s supported. i want to cook for my family, because my mom went to the trouble of getting so many ingredients for me to do it and it’s relaxing and we always eat more vegetables at home. i want to talk to my cousin and show her that she has my entire attention even when it’s against my study plan because it’s important that she knows that i’ll listen to her and that what she says is important. i’ll write this post even though i was supposed to start work again at 9 because it’s how i process and remember.

when i’ve read too long my eyes feel unfocused so i have to remember this for when i can’t see clearly for myself: there is never only one thing that matters in life. especially when it’s academic.

when ms wong said on saturday that SJLS isn’t supposed to take away from your life but to teach you to enhance your capacity, that struck me a little. i’m trying! i’ll challenge that this year, i think.


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