“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough. and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”
― Lemony Snicket
Naturally, people are curious about why I left SMU. I’ll save that for another post.
Perhaps what’s more important now is what happened in between that led me to making this decision. I’m sure we all have studied History before, and realise that though there are underlying factors that laid the foundation for a huge event, there were specific things that set the wheel in motion, resulting in a chain of happenings which ultimately resulted in that huge event.
I thought back of what led me to start considering getting out of SMU, and definitely it more or less started when I received my first semester results.
November/December 2013: First Semester Academic Results
Although I was honestly okay with my results, considering my level of focus and thus effort, I felt I could surely have done better. It was only natural for me to compare to her first sem results, and can’t help but to feel a tinge of disappointment that I had a hand in helping her attain those results even though I feel she deserved it. I remember feeling only obliged to help her with her schoolwork when she sacrificed time out of studies to spend time with me, and the most notable one was planning my birthday while her exams were nearing.
I guess pride disallowed me from ever being satisfied that I would do worse than her, especially since it was a course I chose and she followed me to. While back then thoughts of leaving did not cross my mind, it only meant I pressurised myself to attain better results – which was against my will to not do things just to get one over her. If I want to do well, it would be for myself, and not to prove that I’m better than her. This dissonance troubled me quite a bit as the start of the second sem came.
December 2013/January 2014: Failed Photography Project
This greatly disappointed me, as I couldn’t find anyone willing enough to be the subject of a photography project. This was the period of time when I was in desperate need to do something that I’m inspired about, anything, having felt trapped under a spell. While I have been free for 6 months, I felt I wasn’t truly flying until I do something that allowed me to express myself fully.
The inspiration for a photography project came when I started imagining scenes while listening to songs. I wanted to capture the essence of my favourite songs through my eyes, and the ideas came easily thick and fast whenever I listen to them. I already have the images in my head, yet, there was only one major problem – it requires the help of a female.
I asked around, and found myself empty-handed because nobody was willing nor free to help out with my ideas. I was ready to spend whatever little savings I had on this project, to rent a room for some shots and even a car to travel around. I already had everything planned out and all I needed was just one willing soul who’s comfortable enough to work with me. I couldn’t find her. Worse, I knew this was the kind of project she would have dreamt and knew that I could come up with, with her naturally being the subject, for she had believed in me. Sadly, I couldn’t get out of numbness fast enough, and it haunted me that I couldn’t get inspired faster.
It was then that I began to feel the magnitude of missing camps before school started – my network of friends was little to none, and I have little chance to connect with anyone over the semester period. Somehow people are more reserved and closed during the semester, and hopes in making friends during mods and project groups came to little success. I think of my project groups from the first sem and I could only think of two people I still keep in contact with, and one whom I could really chat about random things. Of course, camps do not guarantee the chances of making friends, but being an extrovert, it definitely would have helped me expand my chances in making more friends.
Not being able to carry out my project really hit my confidence hard, as I began to withdraw into myself for the first time in a long long time.
February / March 2014: Sports Camp Rejection / Failure to Apply for Arts Camp
Having missed camps for obvious reasons (partly due to work, though I could have easily made an arrangement that allowed me to go for camps), I thought I could chase and create my own freshman experience by applying for camps. I wanted to fill my summer with camps that I missed, hoping being a facilitator in many different camps would allow me so.
Sports/Arts camp were two camps that were very much talked about and appreciated, and being in soccer and dance allowed me to apply and be a faci. Unfortunately, these two camps made me realise how important it was to go for camps to establish friends that could help you as well as helping them when they’re in need.
Though I hoped not knowing anyone in the org comm for Sports Camp wouldn’t work against me, it was quite expected that I didn’t get in. I still remember a friend promising me a spot if I had applied last year, not realising the magnitude of those words could come back and haunt me. It’s very important to make friends everywhere we go, because we never know when we would need someone’s help. Similarly, it made me reconcile with how involved I wanted to be in everything when I was younger, mainly because I know I could be in a position to help someone if they would ever need it.
For Arts Camp, it sucked when I was stuck at the part where we needed a partner to apply with. Back then I was barely close with the dance people, having entered late, and remember nobody replying my queries for someone to pair with. I wanted to ask someone else, only to realise there are only so few people I know that were in an Arts CCA (one of the pre-requisites), which basically meant I had zero chance of applying to be a facilitator. It was frustrating, and I realised my summer would not turn out as how I envisioned it to be.
Though getting rejected nor being unable to apply did not really feel so bad, the fact that my past decisions based on a premise that no longer existed continued to haunt me were taking a real toll on me. Yes, I did sign up for FTB and ICON camp successfully, which could have more than made up for my failure to be in Sports/Arts, but the damage to my summer plans had already been done, as I began to feel more and more the impact of my decisions based on a non-existent future.
April/May 2014: Depression
While there are other ways I could subtly put this, I decided not to. Nobody knew that I was in depression (or perhaps they believed I was well), and I’m revealing it all today.
I see no reason why I should hide this fact, neither do I feel it’s to gain sympathy points because it is over for now. As much as it is difficult for me to type this out, social stigma coming to mind, I’m putting it bluntly for all to see. I believe nobody should go through the same shit as I did, and if anyone reading this is – you are not alone.
Somewhere, I started to get disillusioned with everything I once believed in – especially people and love. It’s a shock to me when people weren’t as friendly nor open as I thought, it’s a disappointment to me when professors aren’t really as unbiased as they could be. I began to doubt my faith in love as well, the one thing that has kept me going in an otherwise faithless life, wondering if I could ever experience love the way I had, and if anyone could ever make me feel loved again.
What started out as an innocent insomnia turned into a living nightmare, as I began to fall out of touch with what I used to enjoy - soccer, dance, gaming, reading, writing, everything that made me continue living. While I took medication for insomnia, apparently only the stronger ones seem to work, as I find myself being able to be cooped up in my room for days with little to eat/drink, which meant I started to skip school once again, and the only reason I pushed myself to complete group assignments was that I would not allow myself to pull others down with me. Thankfully, through all the panic attacks in the middle of the night, desperately messaging the few friends I trust in the middle of the night hoping they’ll be awake to keep me sane, I pulled countless all-nighters for group projects to ensure I was not a burden.
I know exactly when everything started crumbling, academic-wise, that led me to skip all exams. While the signs that I was losing hope were there; coming late for classes, skipping school/getting MCs and especially last-minute assignment submissions. Getting a 5/20 for my PolSci presentation - because I stayed up all night to complete it (and probably did not sleep the previous two/three nights as well), only to find myself in no state to go for an 815am class – was the start, and I had AW Assignment 3 to complete that week. I know that was the last of my group presentations, and the disappointment overwhelmed me terribly, resulting in failing to motivate myself in completing Assignment 3. I knew my life in SMU was more or less over – that was 20% of the final grade for both mods. Instead of completing Assignment 3, I spent the night at one of the beaches staring blankly at the light from the ships and hearing the lullaby of waves crashing onto the sand to sleep, one of the rare times I could find peace during that period.
Despite the doctors questioning me countless times, I refused to entertain the notion I was depressed, and began to roam the nights that much more, finding myself sleeping at the airport, parks, anywhere, for the night just to get myself out of the house. Yes, I did consider going to the school counsellor, but I had very bad experiences with school counsellors bar one (they tried to change me instead of giving me the space I needed), I decided not to after checking out their website and how they simplify common problems many students have, as though the pain and suffering we had went through are supposed to mean nothing.
Having known of suicides lately, I would not lie those addictive thoughts long played in my mind, and the only thing stopping me from jumping into the sea, from a height onto the road, flinging myself in front of a fast-moving vehicle… was the fact that I have parents who still love me and have suffered long enough, no thanks to their other son, that they would not be able to handle another of their son going wrong.
I forgot what exactly shocked me awake, but the moment I realised what has become of me, I knew I had to give myself a whole new hope to survive. I began to realise that I no longer had hope in SMU, and the only way to get myself back was to get myself out. While I have long contemplated dropping out of studies altogether, even considering applying to work as an air steward based overseas, I thought hard about what I truly wanted and NTU offered a way out, and gave me the hope I desperately needed to create.
PS: For the few who read this, know that you’re never alone, and there’s always hope to allow yourself to continue to live. While suffering has allowed me to find strength in solitude, it may not be the same for everyone else (knowing of two suicides over the past month). Yes, it is difficult to find help – I was there scrambling around for friends to be there but they can only be willing to be there for so many times. Even the ones I love, or claimed to have loved me, left – leaving me to fend for myself. While I went through torment alone, it doesn’t mean you, or anyone else, should. If you ever think of someone who needs you to be there, probably while reading this that person pops up in your head right now, pause, grab your phone, and drop them a call or message, reminding them that you are there for them and you do care.
You never know how much establishing a simple connection could do for a person in need.
Brave New World (Preview)
After all that has transpired, as mentioned above, I am quite thankful and proud to say I am recovering quite well. Somehow I have gotten myself out of what I experienced, and hopefully into a stronger and better person. No doubt, getting myself away from Singapore for 2 weeks had helped, finding inspiration to do photos and videos for my OCSP. Preparing for Ardiente’s production thereafter gave me something to look forward to as a way to mark the end of my SMU life. Through the anxiety of applying to NTU considering my circumstances, I am endlessly thankful that I have dragged myself into a second opportunity at a uni life, and I am that much relieved when the acceptance email came in.
This time, I’m entering a new environment with a whole new hope and a whole new pair of eyes, and I dare say I’m generally at peace and more prepared for what challenges are to come. Nevertheless, I hope to list the core factors that led to me creating a new hope that I embodied, and made me seriously consider going to NTU.
It’ll be a brave new world, for a brave new person.