if only for better health.
But if you really want to live,
why not try to make yourself?"
- Make yourself, Incubus
"I guess everything seems more clear here on the other side."
- The other side, Tonight Alive
NUS varsity christian fellowship invited me back to speak last Tuesday. I had to answer some questions about career and life, to give my Arts juniors advice on how to navigate university life and what's beyond.
Besides me, another of my close juniors who had just graduated (Shermaine) was also speaking, along with a soon-to-be-ordained Methodist minister who graduated about a decade back (Winston).
These sessions are illuminating only because the teacher can immediately be the one being taught. Even though I had the benefit of going first, several minutes into the whole thing it seemed clear that I wasn't the best person to give advice. Some of the personal experiences I offered were very specific, and to not confuse them I deliberately left out talking about the intersection of my cross-country and Christian experience (something that even I have yet to fully understand). The recent thrill of living 'a second undergraduate life' in the last months, dinner-ing and hanging out with my team's juniors, is perhaps a crucial indication that I'm yet unable to see things maturely. Or objectively.
Perhaps it was good advice to some people. But I don't want to think too much about something I can't control. Instead, these are things I thought were useful:
1. People worry because we fear loss. People fear uncertainty even more, because we fear perceived losses or missed opportunities. (Because Winston was referring to the Bible, he mentioned it's not very productive to see life in terms of gains and losses, but rather to reach the position the apostle Paul reached in his letter to the Philippians)
2. An Arts education is helpful because it's flexible in the skills one chooses to accumulate. But it's still better to accumulate virtues, not just skills.
3. In life, there will always be struggle. But struggle never ends.
4. And struggle is good. It helps us deal with expectations, perfectionism and irresponsibility. In doing so, we find our finest moments in struggle.
5. The biggest problem with the working world is: performance is too often conflated with character.
6. Classes and paper degrees can only prepare you so much. Experience is still the greatest teacher.
7. That said, dealing with bad grades is no different from dealing with bad results at work.
8. Learn to distinguish between true guilt (screwups you make) and false guilt (screwups outside your control).
9. Lastly, Winston's closing remarks on calling: "Live however you are living now in God's presence." (i.e "live wherever God leads you.")
After everything was over, there was a short moment when we were all supposed to go for supper. It's a typical Singaporean student thing - you go for supper even if you had dinner an hour ago for the company. But I declined. There can be only so much of a life you left that you can revisit.