Musings / Pearson / Updates

a curious circumspection

It is the last night of winter break, the day before the beginning of my last term at Pearson, and I feel curiously indifferent. Not wistful, not regretful, though I know this winter break has been a little carelessly and profitlessly spent. I know I left with only four concrete goals (read Foucault, study French, study German, finish my History IA), and I have fulfilled none of them, really, but I say that only with a shrug. I think the ten days I spent with my family broke the rhythm of my break, because prior to that, I had finished Sartre’s Huis Clos and did some German, but this last week has been a foggy sweep of sleep, Internet and occasionally forays out into Reality for food.

But you know, that’s okay. It was a very restful break, and at least I have no more excuses to use when work this term starts picking up !! I’ve realized maybe I would be generally happier in a job more dutiful than passionate. There’s always that indie wisdom that you should find a job you love, because it’s not work if you love it, but I … observed that I do more on my own when I have to fight to fit it into a schedule filled with things I don’t care about than when I have freedom over my own schedule and control over my ‘job’. Essentially, if it becomes my job, I stop liking it. It could be the fear of failure in an assignment, I suppose, because when something is a hobby, I have the freedom to fail, but when something is my task or goal, then I don’t have that space for exploration anymore, because I need to accomplish it :l

As in the article on Singapore that’s going around on FB, there’s a bit about the Singaporean kiasu mindset, and that’s a word I haven’t heard in so long in spite of its accuracy.

If there is a single word that sums up the Singaporean existential condition, it is kiasu, a term that means “afraid to lose.” … Singaporeans are big on being number one in everything, but in a kiasu world, winning is never completely sweet, carrying with it the dread of ceasing to win. When the Singapore port, the busiest container hub in the world, slipped behind Shanghai in 2005 in total cargo tonnage handled, it was a national calamity.

This description strikes close to home, yes, especially the dread of ceasing to win. While in my case, the ‘winning’ is not necessarily judged by mainstream standards, the sentiment is still uncomfortably familiar, I admit. The whole article is a neat encapsulation of Singapore, but it’s old – everything on it is familiar, and almost rhetorical, textbook-standard version of Singapore. I can’t help feeling like there’s so much more to us than that, but I don’t know where or how to find it. Even my perspective of Singapore is skewed too; it’s gotten to the point where the default position I’m used to is subversively anti-government instead of the expected pro-government propaganda, and as we are always thought to question the conventional, for me, the conventional has become the voice that criticises the government, instead of the government’s voice. I don’t see much of the criticism against the government – I want to, but I don’t. The response to that, I know, is how isolated and privileged and well, ‘elitist’, my background has been, to the extent that it has limited my exposure to other elements of the society. This has been a lingering question for a long time, and I’ve never quite known how to satisfy it, but it affects so many of my decisions, especially this whole government scholarship thing, because it’s a little … in any case. Oddly enough, this article made me prouder of Singapore and being Singaporean than I have been in the past few months.

I actually really like my host dad, and the past few days. We’ve had very lazy days, and also a few structured outings and discussions, which were refreshing and interesting. I would elaborate but I have other things to be doing right now. On a side note, though, I just showed someone photos of me in the OLD CANOEING GLORY days (yeah, right), and I’m now motivated to actually get on a proper, intense gym plan next term. I wish I had the sun’s help, though. But I liked feeling good about my fitness level.

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