Go with a smile!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Annus Mirabilis

There are a few good omens for me, and probably a few bad omens. Somebody told me that for Fengshui purposes, I should be living in the northwest part of a city. Well my uni is in the northwest part of a city. Maybe when I go back to Singapore, I might end up living in Woodlands, and why not because my parents would have moved to JB by then.

The other thing is that the zip code of this place contains a year that I consider to have been one of the most wonderful years in my life, even though that year followed what was one of the shittiest years of my life. Since then, I’ve had 2 or 3 years that were as good as that year, and yes, most of those years were in the US. But that year, when I looked at what I managed to pull off, was quite wonderful.

1. I won an invention competition early in that year. I think that was part of the reason why I felt that I was going to be an engineer of some sort.
2. 10K run to East Coast.
3. I discovered a lot of new music. It’s staggering how much of that music that I found is still stuff I consider my favourites. One of my big discoveries that year was REM, who had just broken up recently.
4. I won an essay competition.
5. Friendship with CEO. We used to talk on the phone for hours. He was a very fascinating person, and he told me all kinds of crazy stories. We hardly talk anymore, but he really shaped a lot of my life, and what I thought.
6. I became very good friends with my sister
7. I had Job week as a scout. Actually this was the second scout week I was involved with, but
8. My Chinese teacher
9. There was a scout camp at the end of the year. I won’t forget that it was a crazy one. So many stories, but I became a patrol leader after my patrol leader conveniently injured himself before the scout camp, and the deputy fell out because of the heat exhaustion.
10. I went to the UK in the June holidays. One of my biggest regrets was that I lost the itinery of that tour, and I’m no longer able to locate many of the places that we had gone to.
11. I went to New Zealand in the December holidays.
12. I watched a play that totally blew me away – it was written by a senior in my school. The craziest thing was that I endeavoured to write a play 1 year later and I actually succeeded in having it staged at a later edition of the same event.
13. I went to a camp in the June holidays. It was an outreach program to nurture people into writers.

There were disappointments during that year, but they were noble failures:
1. I tried, but failed to pass my Grade 8. In fact I had already passed it the previous year (undeservedly, in retrospect) but I tried to get a better grade the second time around, and I failed it. Eventually, I dropped out of piano lessons, so it wasn’t a bad thing at all for me.
2. I screwed up a music project. We had to hand in a project every year, and I tried to do an anthology of all popular music. I overreached, and produced a piece of junk. But when I started, I was so starry-eyed that I thought I was going to do something I always dreamt of doing.
3. I failed to get selected for my school maths team. Frankly speaking, I don’t think I would have been able to cope with both the mathematics and everything else I had discovered.
4. At the end of the June camp, people would submit their work and be assigned a mentor to work with. I didn't get that mentorship but 1 year later they would realise it was a mistake.
5. I made absolutely no headway with my romantic life.

I think that was the year that a lot of doors were opened. I was in my teens. I had despaired about growing up the previous year. But now I faced the future with confidence. I knew that I had around 3 great talents, in writing, in mathematics and in music. And I was going to make the most of them.

I had become an artist that year. When you are an artist, you have to know what it feels like to be totally swept away by an experience. I experienced that for the first time that year. I knew that what I felt that year was totally special. If I had to tell somebody that I lived a good and full life, that year will be 1 argument that I will always be able to make.

I’ve never again had a year where it was the beginning of so many different possibilities. But that’s OK. I had opened up enough possibilities for half a lifetime. The rest of my life could be a relatively drudgery compared to that one year, but that’s OK, because making good on the promise of youth was always going to be a relatively drudgery compared to that first heady flush of “oh my god, all this is possible!”

Well back to my present life. I have to tell myself that I’m probably living a dream now. Yes, in many ways this is what I’ve always wanted. I spent 1-2 years waiting to do this. This is something more akin to what I should have been doing.

In a way, I could have been doing this even earlier. If I had done this right out of university, I would have been thinking of doing a PhD. I might even have started a PhD 4 years ago. Now, it’s too late. If only I had packed all my reading of books into 4 years instead.

Now, I think about what I could have done in my undergraduate days at Snowy Hill if I knew back then what I know now. I think what I did in 4 years could have been done in 3 or even 2. And now, I realize with a bit of sadness that I will never relive those days again, regardless of the fact that I’m now back in the USA. I am not young anymore, I no longer have the luxury of taking academic courses just for fun, and if I did what I did in my undergrad days, I would get sick and tired of it. But I can do something different, and build up some solid achievement brick by brick, and do some things I should have done in my younger days but didn’t. And there’s no shortage of that.

When I read biographies of great people, I sometimes wonder about their lives. For people who are creative, and I mean people who are remembered for creating things, or ideas, or works of art, it is usually the case that most of what they are remembered for last for less than 10 years. The Beatles were recording for less than 10 years. Brian Wilson wrote most of his great works within 10 years. David Bowie's period of greatness was between 1970 and 1980. Albert Einstein is celebrated for his 4 papers of 1905. There are people who do groundbreaking work for longer than that, like Shakespeare, or Miles Davis. And that is why they are considered extraordinary.

I would need a few more years like the one I just talked about in order to have a good an meaningful life.


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