20 Answers

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Considering 1st June as the official start-date, we’ve made it to almost two months. What a “learning journey” it has been for us, as we learn how to balance the “public and private spheres and find out where they intersect”, as we learn to “manage [but not lower] expectations” and meet one anothers’ needs (Ong, 2009).

Here’s the list you’ve been waiting for – 20 answers to that one question, “What do you love about me?”

  1. The creativity and inventiveness of your wardrobe, how you ingeniously mix and match clothes, accessories & shoes, how you manage to turn something ordinary into something stunning and unpredictable.
  2. The confidence you exude when we go shopping together, especially when shopping for skin care products (e.g. asking salesgirls about ‘physical blockers’ for sunblock, knowing how to get samples for various skin products)
  3. Your undeniable intelligence exemplified through:
    a) Your sharp wit in conversations
    b) Your ability to identify the key issues or important questions to ask when we have issues to deal with
    c) Your ability to come up with the most innovative ideas for lessons without even much effort
  4. Your artistic talent and your willingness to use that talent to bless others, especially myself and my sister
  5. Your love for your family, how proud you are of your family members and the amount of fun you have, even going shopping with your grandmother.
  6. Your love for the girls in your cell group – your passion and desire to see them grow is evident through the way you talk about them.
  7. Your quiet confidence in your own abilities and capabilities
  8. Your tender heart that is so sensitive
  9. Your simplicity in not hiding your emotions
  10. The way you always punctuate your conversations with “wey” or “hor”, such that MSN and SMS messages still sound so uniquely “you”.
  11. The way you enjoy alternating praise with insults, such that every conversation with you is always delightful, exciting (and occasionally irritating. Oops! – this should go on another list!)
  12. How you always gently let me lead and take control
  13. How you appreciate acts of chivalry and find them relevant and important, even in this day and age
  14. Your willingness to try all ways and means to help me de-stress whenever I face extremely tense situations.
  15. Your willingness to support me thru prayer and acts of service. 
  16. The great amount of thought that you put behind your gifts, such that every aspect of the gift down to the box or carrier bag has a function and purpose
  17. How you and your mum always feed me well with soups, pizzas, cakes, etc.
  18. Your soulful voice and how you always seem to harmonize effortlessly
  19. Your lovely, radiant smile that always cheers me up and of course, last, but not least…
  20. Your undeniable, irresistible beauty 🙂

Thank you so much dear for an eventful and meaningful 2 months together. 🙂

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Do you have a plan?

It’s been a while since I’ve read something that really made me think about my own life, until I read this article by my JC teacher a few days ago.  In it, she speaks about her own experiences as a  government scholar and compares it with the kind of life she lives now.

These were the paragraphs that really made me pause and think. It’s a rather long passage that I’ve quoted, but I would encourage all my readers to read it, because it speaks with our (or at least, strongly to my) obsession with certainty, tidiness and order in Singapore:

Students in Singapore spend a lot of time knowing. They know that after six years of primary school comes four years of secondary school, followed by two years of junior college. They know the national examinations that act as wayposts along that path. They know that university is something of a jumbled mess but still, it’s a predictable three- or four-year programme, at the end of which they get a shiny sheet of paper certifying their successful completion of that stage of life.

After that, they don’t know. Will they get a job? Will it be a good job? What is a ‘good’ job? Will they earn enough money for the rest of their lives, to marry and own a flat, a house or a car? Will there be enough for everything? […]

Anecdotally, scholarship-holders seem much more confident that there is a career plan for them, that the government wouldn’t let the half-a-million dollar investment per person go to waste. I don’t get the impression that scholarship-holders have very much say in that plan, however.

Meanwhile, the world lurches from one eventuality to another, sending the best-laid plans along into a rough-and-tumble spin. In such times, I think it’s common to have one of two reactions: flee headlong into cocooned safety, or hurtle forward into the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. (A psychologist might put it more pithily, in reverse order: ‘fight or flight’.)

Fleeing is understandable. In Singapore we like things to be neat and tidy: our roads and our trees, our careers and our choices. Families are nuclear, salaries come with CPF (which we can cash out at the appointed retirement age) and the government always, always has a plan.

Hurtling is un-Singaporean. Hurtling implies a loss of control. Who knows where you might end up?

When my scholarship bond ended and after I’d completed the work I felt responsible for, I fled, hurtled, hurled myself out of there. I didn’t have a job or a plan. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want. I had only myself to go on.

It was a precious, precious feeling.

My experience with the scholarship thus far has been different from what my teacher describes. However, what she says about an obsession with things being ‘neat and tidy’ and how hurtling is un-Singaporean really rings true to me.

How many times in my life have I really made a decision where ‘I had only myself to go on’?

To date, I can only recall one – going to Romania during the Summer Break of my 2nd year. That was almost an impulsive idea, venturing into a place where I had nobody’s good testimonies to fall back on, going with no-one that I knew, to a place which was completely foreign. Yet I would not have given up that experience, because that feeling of groping around, of being utterly lost and uncertain, and slowly finding your ground again was something which I believe, brought me to where I am today.

I know that I have the next 6 years well-planned out for me, yet I know that my dreams and ambitions too lie within the field that I’ve chosen right now.

While reading this, what came to my mind was not how I could ‘free’ myself from the scholarship, but whether it was possible too to experience that hurtling sensation, that sense of only having yourself to rely on without anything to fall back on, while still pursuing your dreams in a route that is considered ‘safe’ and ‘promised’ and perhaps even, so called ‘conventional’. And for now, the question shall remain unanswered, until I see where life takes me, or where I ‘take’ life in the next 6 years of my life.

Child-like Faith

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

In this time of transition, my focus has always been planning ahead and maintaining a ‘juggling’ act – trying to balance everything that I want to do, planning my time so that there’s sufficient ‘buffer time’ in between everything, attempting to go above and beyond what needs to be done.

In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced frustration, fatigue, uncertainty, pressure and confusion.

This word from Oswald Chambers today was comforting and a great reminder to me that in the midst of dealing with all that we are faced with in life, there is one thing in our life that must continually get simpler – and that is our relationship with God. God never aims to confuse us because He is who He is.

The rest of the devotional goes on to say:

There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

The cliche of the modern world is that the only thing constant in this world is change.

The so-called ‘cliche’ or our Christian life is that the one thing constant in our world is God, and that’s why that kind of simple faith in God becomes increasingly rare, but ultimately important as the ‘cloud’ cover in our lives get thicker.

God, help me grow my faith, so that it can remain child-like in the midst of the challenges that adulthood and working life brings.

Those Who Can’t, Teach.

After being on the job for just about a month, the true reality of what it entails to be a teacher is just starting to set in. The idealism, positivity and optimism about what teaching entails can be so insidiously eaten away when you least realise it and at points, the sense of helplessness overwhelms you. I am thankful this week for great reminders from various articles which really inspired me to and reminded me of what’s important.

Janadas Devan’s Great Teachers are a Class of Their Own was one such article It’s accessible only if you subscribe to ST Online, but I’ll just quote some portions that really reminded me of how essential the teacher himself is in the whole experience of learning.

The truth of the matter is that teaching entails as much ‘doing’ as any other profession; indeed, it probably demands more from a person than most other jobs.

Consider how few exceptional teachers most of us have had in the course of our educational careers. Most of us would have had at least 12 years of schooling and some would have had an additional four years of university. In the course of those years, each of us would have been lectured, tutored or supervised by at least 100, if not more, teachers. Many, if not most, of them would have been competent; some would have been good. But how many would have been truly exceptional?

You cannot convey a love for a subject by insisting mechanically on its attributes. An exceptional teacher communicates through the sincerity of his interests, the genuineness of his enthusiasms, the disinterestedness of his scholarship – like the late Prof McMillan.

Bad teachers insist; good teachers show; exceptional teachers are. The reason the last are rare is that the most important things in any subject, as in life, cannot be taught explicitly. They can only be embodied as examples – in the teachers themselves.