Major General

*beware. this is a long, rambly post that will give you a long, rambly view into the inside of my long, rambly brain.

If only there was such a major. That’d be mine, alright.

Fall term of my sophomore year is coming to an end, which means it’s just one more term and a couple of weeks before I have to declare my major. Knowing me, this is very much subject to change as well, but I’ve at least found a concentration I really like (so I say at this point). I’m taking Intro to Education Studies this term and it’s changing my life. Well, not quite, but it’s getting pretty close. I love that it forces you to reflect on things. That’s what I need in a class. But unfortunately, I can’t major in a concentration. Ha.

I’ve known since I was like 14 that science was not my thing. I feel like I haven’t gotten much further in the process of elimination. I have pockets of interest in a bunch of fields, but not enough in any field to want to pursue a major in it. As summer came to a close and I began fall term, I had this random idea to do History. I think I was undergoing some kind of a transitioning crisis. I’m probably not gonna do History. It’s interesting, yeah, but, I don’t know. I don’t think I could handle all that reading. Don’t think I’m that interested.

I need something that I can apply very directly to my life. My whole life (up to this point), I’ve done pretty well in school. My brilliant, wonderful, supportive family has repeatedly held me up as an example to my other cousins. No pressure. The issue of stress aside, though, I wonder about the subconscious messages that has sent to me. Of course, many many many other factors come into play as well, like the values of society, the education system and etc.

I think one of the effects of my ‘good’ academic record and the perhaps more subtle notion that one should do what one excels in (because how else can you hope to reach the top?) has left me, well, with no opinions nor inclinations. I am far from the highest-performing of my friends – closer to the lowest, really – and I have no intentions of bragging here (1, there is nothing to brag about and 2, I’m trying to sort my conflicted mind out – have some mercy), but doing reasonably well in every subject hasn’t exactly given me any indications as to what my natural inclinations are. That’s just grades, though, of course.

The other thing, which may seem contradictory, but really isn’t, is the (Chinese) belief that hard work can get you anywhere. And then there’s the endless call to ‘be practical’. I guess that’s one place this hard work belief comes in: Even if you aren’t naturally good at something the world values, yOU CAN DO IT IF YOU JUST TRY.

Maybe, but should we?


Okay so as usual, my thoughts are running all over the place again, but I had been trying, vaguely, to get to the point that I have been made to wonder if I’m “made for school” or not. Countless times, I’ve felt great frustration at being in school and having to slog through pages and pages of readings, write essays that seem irrelevant to my life and to the world at present, and it hasn’t always been about simply wanting to escape. Right now in Ed Studies we’re challenging the idea that education is good for you, “good” meaning helpful and not a waste of time. That’s still vague, I know, but I guess that’s kind of the point. If every person has his or her own unique goals, can schools really contribute to every single one in a significant way? Does school really benefit every single person? Should it?

I’m not asking these questions to be rebellious. I think they’re very real and valid questions. Firstly, if education is THE way, what about all those who are unable to receive schooling? Why isn’t more being done for them? But even in general, even amongst those of us privileged to attend school, are we all suited for school? Is school suited for us all?

(By the way, when I say “school” I mean like…academia. Not technical/vocational schools, though I’ll probably mention those in a bit.)

I definitely believe that school is great for certain people. I look at my dad, who holds a pHd and loves studying the Bible and pursuing scholarly things. Professors who are obviously very interested in their subject. Researchers of any kind.

At least for me, I think I grew up believing that that was the point of school. With so much emphasis placed on ‘education’ (schooling) and the grades you receive on examinations of that subject matter, the message sent was that we were meant to be good at that and subsequently, to pursue it (funny, the order of that, eh?). Studying, books, knowledge, facts, etc. were always held up as the highest goals, the highest achievements. It’s like we’re supposed to strive for that, and only if we find that we aren’t inclined towards it (determined by your grades, of course) that we should look to other options. I remember wanting to go to Poly after Sec School and receiving lots of looks and remarks that told me I was crazy.

With my rockstar (haha) dreams and all, I’d obviously toyed with the idea of going to some kind of a music school or just not going to college at all, dropping out and trying to take that route, but very few people would take me seriously (and the fact that they took it as a joke did nothing to encourage me, of course). The truly sad thing, though, was that I’m not sure if I ever took it seriously.

Like I said, I grew up with the mentality that I was meant to be in school and to excel in school and to find my interests in school. The fact that I hadn’t found anything that really interested me in school meant that I simply hadn’t been in it long enough or wasn’t putting my mind to it. So ingrained that thought was in me that I policed myself and didn’t even dare to believe that the idea that school was not for me was even a possibility. Many people would still say that it isn’t. I’m starting to believe that it is. And it’s the most liberating thing ever.

The funny thing is, rather than turning me away from school, it’s making it more bearable, and even more relevant. Of course, it also helps that I’ve finally found a subject (sort of) that grabs me by the neck and doesn’t let go (in a good way). But yeah, I’ve asked myself countless times if I was meant to be an academic sort of person. I’ve been told that my grades say yes. Now I see that my grades don’t say yes, they simply say that I can be.

But I have a choice.

If this somehow gets back to my parents and you’re reading this right now, Mum and Dad, do not fear. I don’t plan on quitting Carleton. I have toyed with the idea, though. Heehee. But no. It’s a privilege to be able to go to school here, and I’m already almost halfway through. I might as well make the most of it.

Which brings me back to the genesis of this post. My major. I came in thinking that if all else failed, I would do Psychology. Nice, safe choice. I’m in my first Psych class right now, and I’m not hating it, but I’m not sure I’m loving it. Some of the things we’re studying, I find really interesting, and it tickles me pink (haha!) to apply them to everyday situations. But as an academic subject, I don’t think I’d enjoy it. I’ll keep asking questions, but I don’t need to know the answers. Not in full. I can get the basic, big-picture concepts from Psych friends of mine. But even then, I don’t need to know the answers. Somethings are better left unsaid (and unknown). I like the questions. They keep the world magical. Keep me in awe. (Though I know that for many, the answers inspire awe as well, which is GREAT, and the way it should be. Both ways should inspire awe.)

I’m having difficulty crossing that completely off the list, though. It’s difficult to shake off beliefs and expectations you’ve grown up having. But hey, I’m in college. This is the time to be reckless, right? Haha. Kidding. Slightly.

Music, I crossed out last year, concluding that I wasn’t naturally interested in the bulk of the required classes, and the classes I really want to take don’t count towards the major, so I might as well not major and just take those classes. It’s recently come back to me as an option, though. But I worked out what it would take, and my entire Junior year would basically be spent taking music classes. I don’t think I could handle that. Mapping it out, I felt myself grow weary, so that’s not a good sign. Which brings me back to where I had always been – not wanting to study music out of anything but interest and passion.

Another thing I’m kinda throwing out there: English. This one’s got me confused. I was so in love with Lit in MG, but it could’ve just been Ms Bong’s passion. It was contagious. Lit classes were the best. Relaxing, and yet fulfilling. But then I went to AC and it went downhill from there, redeemed slightly at the last moment by Ferd. But the damage had been done. Again, though, the draw of Lit for me was really extracting the ‘life lessons’ and ‘views of the world’ from the texts we were reading, but I know there’s a lotta stuff out there that is really just devoid of that. Or, well, you know, the kind that I like. I’m very biased, I know. I’m also not very good at seeing a text in relation to the historical and cultural setting of the author at the time. It’s interesting sometimes, I admit. Fascinating, even. But most of the time, I just don’t like thinking about that. A lot of times, lit analyses feel very contrived… Squeezing meaning out of something already beautiful. The thing that really attracts me about English is writing. But it’s mainly Lit, so maybe like with Psych I’ll just take the writing classes.

So all that’s off the plate. What now, Major General? What’s the command? I hesitate to say this, because once I do, it’s out there and I can’t take it back. I think I’m scared to admit it to myself, even, much less to the whole of cyberspace (okay, in reality, very very very few of you who actually visit this tiny space).

When I was thinking about which universities to apply to and what I might want to do, the better advice-givers told me to think about what I liked to do. I’m not very good with that question, which is really a very sad thing. (I want to blame it on my culture and upbringing, and I’m sure that plays a part, but it’s just about becoming aware now). But anyway, one of the things I remember thinking quite a lot about was making videos. I’ve always loved making silly videos, but never did very many. Why? Well…I don’t know that my friends were that into it. I’ve always wanted to be one of those kids who carries around a handycam or I guess a flipcorder thing now and films anything and everything along with a silly narrative. I read about kids who do that despite their friends’ repeated waving off of the camera and feel jealous, though what I really should be feeling is implicated. I’ve never had the self-confidence to do that sort of thing – just in general, be my own person regardless of anything. I learned to suppress these ‘weird’ parts of me and be ‘normal’. Be who everyone thought I was (and, I thought, wanted me to be). Gradually, I stopped noticing the suppression. It became automatic. Normal. Like I’d lost that other part of me. Left her in the dust.

That makes me sad. I think she’s still out there – I hope she is. Maybe I can call her back. Maybe it’s just been like hibernation. It’s time to wake up now. The Great Awakening. Hm. This is the reason I knew I would have to be thankful for coming overseas to study. Singapore isn’t bad, and it definitely isn’t bad to study there. But I felt(, feel, know) that I needed this space to figure things out. To find myself, if you will. I’m just finding the first clues, but this is a search I’m not about to give up. It’s more like a scavenger hunt than a treasure hunt, I think. Finding bits along the way, and at the end – I guess you get treasure at the end. Putting the parts together. But like the Gestalt Psychologists, I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Okay, getting sleepy – mind’s babbling.

So… Dare I try it? Dare I not? CAMS? Grow a thicker skin, haha. But more importantly, learn to believe that I do have something to express, that I do have the right to express it, and that, maybe, I even have an obligation to express it. Get out of the box I so willingly walked into, at everyone’s urging. Stop trying to be like other people. Stop trying to see if other people are like me. Be my own person. Not the one for public display in a museum. The one you can’t pin down, can’t pigeon-hole, can’t fully contain.




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