Tuesday, January 2, 2007

2006: 365.25 days in a post

I’m at a lost as to where to start.

How time flies. It would be almost impossible to accurately and sufficiently encapsulate the full meaning of this very amazing year. Well, at least not when you are typing at 12-midnight feeling a little bit dopey, yet you can’t rest in peace knowing that there is this tedious Chinese homework beside you which you have to complete by Tuesday.

So I shall not attempt to.

But before I can continue, it would only be responsible of me to warn you that this post is going to be a lengthy one, so get a hot cup of coffee on your table before proceeding. Oh, make sure that it doesn’t spill over your machine. That would be horrendous.

I do apologize if this first post of 2007 may seem void of pictures, but it is meant to be a short reflection (in words) of 2006.

I still vividly remember that at the end of 2005 I told my mum that 2006 would be a challenging year, with the uncertainty of the VIP. But as I look back at the year now, this was quite an incorrect prediction.

For this year, to sum it up in a word, is a year of growth.

Growth in many and various aspects. This year is just a totally unbelievable year, it is simply a magnificent and great year. But do notice that when I say great, it does not necessarily translate to good, successful and smooth sailing. For as much as I had successes, I had my downs too, and these downs are distinctively the most down downs I have ever experienced. But nevertheless, it is great because I actually have learnt to find joy in pain, happiness in sorrow. Sounds absolutely contradictory, but I will explain it later on. It’s a startling concept.

I will commence with my personal life. Frankly speaking, I had very, very little time for my passions and myself. However, I have found time to do up two new PowerPoint shows this year, set up my PowerPoint website, burn my animations onto a DVD for all to share on TV, and during those free after-school hours, did some drawings (of computers and planes) that even amazed myself.

Photography was something that got my interest lately, partly because of the healthy influence from Samuel and Mu Yao. I started off with my first theme on shooting macro shots of nature, particularly flowers around my neighbourhood and Sengkang. This has heightened my awareness of my surroundings, and somehow has mysteriously helped me forge a closer bond between my physical local and me. Flickr, consequently, became the place on cyberspace to socialize, both with pros and amateurs like me.

Also, computers have fascinated me this year, and unknowingly, I began to cultivate this fondness for Macintoshes and PCs, eager to learn more about OS, software, and even hardware. Ask me last year if I liked computers, I would say no. But before I could even seem to comprehend, I was already talking about the politics of Microsoft and Apple, and of course commonly urging those around me to switch to the Mac.

It did not hit me until today when I told Samuel about RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) hard disks and their use in servers today. Miao then remarked that I’m beginning to memorise acronyms. Am I’m getting more IT savvy? I hope so, for I have developed an affinity for technology.

So that’s for my personal life: I started to see clearly where my true interests lie, and also tried meddling with new stuff, like website designing, but all the while remaining faithful to what I have liked ever since P6: PowerPoint. A bit of self discovery went on this year, plus a little diversification of my hobbies.

Next will be family life. I have to confess that as a son, as an older brother, as a member of the family, I have not fulfilled my role and responsibility. Hence I feel a tinge of guilt when my dad wrote about me saying that I am mature. No mature person would have the courage to neglect his family and loved ones.

I have not spent enough time with my two younger sisters, and I tend to get impatient and angry easily with them, especially when they mess up the home computer. At times I feel detached from their lives, not knowing even which class they are in, or who is their form teacher. As the eldest, I should have related more with them.

I don’t really sit down and talk to my family about things nowadays. My innermost thoughts, emotions and feelings are let out during my quiet time instead. Due to time constraints, we seldom sit together to talk. I feel a lack of family bonding and intimacy, although the mutual love and care for each other is still present.

I look back at my actions, and I always consistently tell myself: Ian, love your sisters more, spend more time with them. But I rarely put those thoughts into actions.

Thirdly, my academic performance as a first year student in the Integrated Programme. This will take some time, because I have this conviction that I need to say this something inside me which has been troubling me ever since.

I’m unsure if you know, for the first half of the year, that I did astonishing, remarkably and incredibly well. And I can never bring myself to accept this fact, because that was never the norm. For the first time in my entire life, I got a first in class, second in standard. It shocked me, so unbelievable were my overall grades that I took a while to register it.

No, I’m not bragging. I’m not being cocky here. I have an important point to make.

As you may know that I did well, what not many may know was that I gave the first half of the year my best – in terms of effort, time, quality of work…almost everything academic, I gave it my all.

In more informal, daily conversational terms, I chionged. So that was one reason for the success, but it was also the reason for my subsequent and gradual lost of motivation, drive and confidence.

My mum ever warned me about reaching a state of ‘burn-out’, where I get exhausted of studying, a remark she casually makes when she sees me studying till late at night.

And that was what happened to me after I gave my studies my best. I burned out. Think of it as a lighted candle. It initially consumes all the available oxygen, then when the supply is low, the flame extinguishes. I hate to think of my life for the other half of 2006 this way. It is a miserable, melancholic and depressing thought that prevents me from giving as much as I gave before.

Ever since, as I studied, the joy and enthusiasm of studying is slightly missing. It becomes more like a chore, a routinely act which everyone does in preparations for the exams. Sometimes I can stare at worksheets, comprehensions or notes at home in my room for a few minutes, and nothing goes into my mind. Blank. It’s utterly worrying.

I sleep earlier, I change my daily filing of notes to a weekly one, I leave my books and papers scattered all over my bed and then run to the living room to sleep at night, for almost every day for 3 months. I dose off in class, I do not ask as much questions, I sleep in the bus till I overshot the stop at Hougang to arrive confused in Ang Mo Kio, I don’t frequently pack my room anymore, and sleeping is my way of escaping from the fear of work. In fact, it was so bad that I ever harbored the thought of sleeping and never waking up for school.

The drive was dead. Chionging has its many devastating ramifications which you won’t want to experience at all. That was the worst down I had this year. Totally terrible. Makes you feel all crummy and rotten after that. Even quiet time came to a halt.

My point is: take it easy, pace yourself. Not everyone is superman, we can’t last a marathon running at the speed of a 100m sprint.

But thankfully, there’s always God whom I can always turn to to seek spiritual comfort and assurance. Yesterday I felt that sense of emptiness again, after a wrongly timed conversation with Samuel that filled me with pessimism and anguish, that rotten, dejected, unmotivated state set in, and I couldn’t continue doing my homework. I had to stop.

Flipped to Jeremiah 29:11-13, and the words were so sweet and beautiful, I read it over and over again. They were like popping out from the pages.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ”

If my Saviour can move the mountains, as the lyrics of Mighty To Save reads, then surely, this person who created the heavens and the earths, will be able to deliver me from this torturous state I’m frequently in. That was what went through my mind.

Ok I know I’m currently in the emo mood now, but I have always wanted to tell you (whoever is reading) this very crucial point: do not go on a mad sprint for anything, be it your CCA, studies or hobbies, because suffering from a burn out is possible, and it is ugly.

That was a period of pain and of troubles. But they have served an unexpected purpose in strengthening my relationship with God, because, as I have said to Samuel and Mu Yao at Starbucks today (or rather yesterday since it’s 2 plus at night now), we grow most spiritually in times of darkness, for it is in need that we turn to Him to seek solace, and yes He will answer.

I take great comfort in the knowing that when the ultimate plan is fulfilled, everything would turn out perfectly fine. These pains are just minor obstacles we have to overcome to reach a glorious end-point. So in a certain atypical way, I have also found joy in pain.

God above all the world in motion
God above all my hopes and fears
And I don't care what the world throws at me now
I'm gonna be alright
Hear the sound of the generations
Making loud our freedom song
All in all that the world would know Your name
It's gonna be alright

It will indeed be alright, as I constantly console myself with this song.

But life in 2006 was not just all so gloom and dull as you would have thought it was. It was also an enjoyable year, with a few certain memorable events etched deep into my memory. Things like my church camp, Infocomm retreat, Hong Kong holiday with my family, Tokyo trip with the college, class chalet, YDSP competition, orientation, piano concert…these will be treasured forever and will have a special place in my heart.

Perhaps a little illustration would aid you in understanding how the stress or depression levels fluctuated violently during the course of the year. I have roughly drawn a graph showing how stressed I was, against time (or as the months passed in 2006). Obviously, when you see sudden peaks, it can only signify the exam stress, coupled with the terrible workload, and the sudden drop at the end of the graph represents the much welcomed holidays. The peak is the end-of-year exams.

Oh and in case you're wondering, I seldom get so statistical.

I also managed to widen my circle of friends this year, getting to know people from more places. I got to know this guy, Jeremy, who is a mass communications student in Ngee Ann polytechnic, and I appreciate him as a friend who is very caring and warm. We can also relate to each other with considerable interest because of a common love for all things Mac (although he seems to have many complains about the MacBook Pro). I also got to know Andrew, Bob and Zeng An from VS, who usually accompany me on MSN. In church, I got to know many more people, but I don’t think there is a need to write them all down here.

However, we must not forget old acquaintances too. After a few years of losing contact, I finally met up with some old primary school classmates who are scattered in different secondary schools. They have not changed much, and are still the person that they used to be.

Since I’m in a JC, and I’m one of the youngest students, it would also be natural that I mingle around with older people in school, but I’m glad that the age gap does not hinder me relating to them. I am thankful for these wonderful companions and lovely company.

I think the most significant difference between this year and any other year in my life is that I have started a consistent and deeper relationship with God. In other words, my spiritual walk improved. So yes, PM’s claims about Singaporeans being more religious could be true!

Everyday in my room during my daily devotion, I see my Lord unfolding and revealing a little bit of himself to me, such that, after a year, these little bits and pieces join up to form a complete portrait of Him, and I have seen this magnificent artwork of His work in my life being a strikingly beautiful and almost incomprehensible one. Yet, this work is far from finished. It leaves me in a sense of awe and amazement to see how small, seemingly unrelated events in the year actually can from together like a jigsaw puzzle to unveil the most astonishingly marvelous picture that only you can experience when you believe.

So, after writing for eternity, I shall summarise the entire 2006 by saying that it is the most fruitful, enriching and meaningful year of my life, ever. Yet, in certain ways, it is also the worst year ever.

And as I enter 2007, I expect even more to come, as I dedicate 2007 as a year of obedience and faith. It will not be easy, I know.

The biggest lesson learnt in 2006: pace oneself.
My 2007 resolution: to pace myself.

Oh, and by the way, is that cup of coffee finished by now?

No comments: