Apologia Pro Vita Sua and an apology

I’ve had my share of mindless rants (and a lot of them at that), but I cannot help but go back to that post of mine I made about a third of a year ago. Frankly, I wrote that post with a burst of hot passion, and it died simply as a burst. I’d like to reevaluate myself once more, this time trying to grasp and grapple ideas with cooler and more taciturn thinking.

So let me begin once again.

Even when just in preschool, I started excelling in academics and it was bolstered by a regimented study schedule implemented by my father (who really did sit with me all that time). This continued all the way up to the end of my elementary schooldays, although with a little less instruction and a little more freedom. People within that time always told me I was smart: I took diagnostic tests and almost always got 99+ as a percentile rank in different disciplines, and I was among the few who scored 99+ as a percentile rank in our nationwide exam for secondary school admission.

This may seem like bragging to the reader, but I’m merely stating the facts; and to top that all off, I got admitted to the premier high school of our country. By that time, however, I started slacking off and it gradually got worse and worse. I still escaped with high honors, though, and I was happy to be admitted to a premier university with a scholarship to boot. I managed to break into the Director’s List once when that semester was full of subjects on and of the English language, but my grades have been drastically slipping – and this brings me to where I am right now.

I have realized a long time ago that life was never about grades: as early as the third grade I failed an exam on Chinese (we had Chinese when I was in elementary school, although I forgot all about it already); it was all about having fun and living it the best way possible. Now I may have offended quite a few Singaporeans with ‘slurs’ on their race, although I do notice (with quite a few Singaporeans here) that they flourish in the world of excellence, be that in the field of academics or in online games or in a field of their choice. I ask pardon whatever evil things about the people I may have unwittingly said that may have offended. But going back, being in college has affected a drastic change in me: as I have become free from the ‘bondage’ of physical parentage I have had become more liberal with my thoughts and my actions. I still think, even amidst these crises of failures with different subjects, that I’m a pretty smart guy not because of the high grades that I’ve obtained in elementary and secondary school but because I can pretty much engage and participate in an intellectual discussion with anyone (at least I think so). I never game much meaning to grades, and this only has intensified throughout my stay in college because I’d agree with Randall that it’s just an arbitrary number. Why? It doesn’t – no, it cannot – measure one’s intelligence intrinsically in any given subject; it measures only how much one reads books and memorized or internalized what was in it. Einstein was declared an imbecile by his math teacher, but look where he stands right now and where that math teacher stands. Einstein will never be forgotten in the annals of Time, but that math teacher will always remain nameless. I guess this was what I was trying to say in that post four months ago: one may have the highest possible grade but still suck at what really matters; or, conversely, one can have the worst grade possible and yet still excel at life.

I may have had friction with the Singaporean anime community when I started bashing the Singaporean way of life (I really wouldn’t know if, but tj_han and I even had our own little drama segment) when I started talking about Singaporeans only caring about grades and excellence. This was basically from my sheer dislike of a Singaporean classmate and this dislike may have been inadvertently transferred into a generalization of the Singaporean people. For that, I am sorry. Basically, that classmate of mine is disliked by quite a few people of our bloc because of his arrogance with his high grades and his ‘intelligence’ (or so he likes to think). He’s just laughed upon by us, though. And for those who do think this may be just sheer jealousy, incidentally, I owned him in English as well as tied his grade for the Director’s List the time I qualified to be part of it. :) He once said a lot of things about me, but he mostly keeps his mouth shut when I’m around now, though. I’m pretty good with verbal fencing in English. But for the misconceptions I may have had for Singaporeans and their community, I am truly sorry.

I hope that that post of mine has been more coherent and more concise compared to the one I wrote some time ago; I also hope that it’s cleared up a lot of things that may have occurred in the past. And although this post still hasn’t the rationality and cohesiveness that I hoped it would have, I hope it has conveyed what I wanted to convey, and I hope you’d find it interesting and readable. (This is still about anime, even if you think otherwise.) :)

20 Responses to “Apologia Pro Vita Sua and an apology”

  1. Ronin Says:

    You are forgiven for your transgressions, man.

    Let’s not make war with other nations through their “representative student citizen” (aka exchange student) ^^

  2. Michael Says:

    I didn’t mean for it to come out as a rant, but it still did. Instead of however, postponing the post I decided to post it after some rough editing, because the zeitgeist may be gone by then … at least for me.

    I have tried to correct that hideous outrage from me that time, however. I think I’ve done that. :)

  3. Stoner Says:

    There are some very vague things that can be said about any given culture or ethnic group. But I firmly believe that every single human is unique and substantially different from everyone else, even from their own families.

    We all have our good, bad and sometimes terrible moments, but the fact that you can look back to those moments and reconsider your thoughts says a lot.


  4. uhsieh Says:

    While it might not be wholly true, I do feel that in a lot of the more competitive Asia communities, grades and what sort of diploma you have is more important than who you are. In Hong Kong, which is where I’m living right now, what you have during your “School Certs” will most certainly influence the rest of your life. I’ve seen quite a few application forms asking for my cert grades, and since I studied in the US, I didn’t have them.

    I can’t say that people in HK only cares about grades and excellence, but to break into the working world, one does in fact need the credentials. Without the grade to show, what you have matters less than what’s on paper. At the same time, once you are part of the working world, your ability counts more than your resume. So I guess it’s a catch-22.

    However, I don’t think the same could be said of friends. Since I don’t think a person could be judged by their grade or how much they make per month, looking at them in this way is frankly wrong. I guess I’m rather lucky in that most of my friends doesn’t care if I had bombed out of college or how much I make now. But then, the people whom I have met that cared about those things didn’t care for me and I return the sentiments.

    I don’t mean to lecture or be distainful, but Michael, I think you were unfortunate that you were trapped in environments that required you to excel. Hopefully, you’ll find the world different from what it has to offer you now. I guess the reason why I’m offering advice like I know it all is because I’ve been through the same thing. Without going too personal, I’m like you that I breezed through HS, but bombed in college. Without a diploma, I had a hard time looking for jobs, and thought the same things. I couldn’t find peace because of the competitiveness, but once I have proven to myself (and others) that I could hack it, it was different.

    So take it easy, and hopefully the world that usually look at your credentials at first will treat you better.

    Sorry for the long rant and the know it all message. And good luck to you and your life.

  5. Michael Says:

    Thanks. Thank you very much – all of you guys. ^^

    Of course, special thanks goes to uhsieh. Thank you for the insightful advice. And to reciprocate (as well as to answer whatever doubts may have formed), I may have talked more than once about my state, but allow me that transgression, because I\’m separated from my family (I live some thousand miles away) and I don\’t really have many people that I talk to. It\’s only in paper (virtual or otherwise) where I can transmit all these emotions of mine. I\’m not very much a sociable guy; I ask pardon for some redundancies or what not – but I just can\’t help but write. :)

  6. Chinz Says:

    Hey! I just happened to come across this blog of yours. Read ‘who i am’ and thought to myself, there are people like me out there. I’m not excessively passionate about anime, or i think i’m not, to the extent of being able to write so much about it. I’m relatively new to anime, but i do agree that Honey and Clover is by far, the best anime i’ve watched. I’m also in uni in the health line(pharmacy), and there’s one thing i can be sure about: i don’t have passion in it. Also in my second year.
    Don’t know where i can drop you a line, if there’s one, i must be really blind to not see it.
    from Malaysia

  7. Chinz Says:

    Sorry, didn’t read this post before replying. I’d like to add, that i too was once getting all the strings of As in the national exams, but i never felt that i was intelligent or anything. I mean, if i don’t study, do you think i can get those As? And i’ve also slacked and slacked after i entered uni. I think i’m starting to dislike studying. ESPECIALLY memorizing. And in the health line, you can’t escape from that. I now, much prefer reading things i’m interested in, or could help me in various ways in life. I’ve also come to realize that grades aren’t that important. Successful people usually suck at schoolwork 😛 (maybe this is just another self-consoling advice i’m giving myself, to make up for the slacking results, or my lacking of interest in academic books, especially those related to, you know, whatever i’m doing. People are getting sick of me telling them how much i dislike it, but since you don’t know me, i think it’s safe to blurt it here)
    But i honestly feel, results are NOT everthing. Tell that to the new generation of kids. And parents. I’m glad i didn’t have parents who stressed too much on results. I guess maybe they just feel that i’ll be responsible for myself. Which is why they never asked about my grades except those national exam stuff(which parent doesn’t right?). And they’ll never know i’ve slacked in uni unless i tell them. It doesn’t matter.
    And the intelligent discussion stuff, yes! It’s interesting to sit down and talk about this. Maybe you should blog about it too. Or did you already?

  8. Einsteinmonkey Says:

    Directed here from Retsgip’s blog.

    I guess I’m also part of those ranks. Skipped some grades, never looked back. In first year university, I was on the track to med school – the track pushed by my parents, naturally. Then I had some medical problems causing me to miss uni for the first half of this year. During that time, I realized that I really didn’t want to do medicine; I loathe memorization and I can’t stand needles. What I like is business/economics. My parents resisted (and still do a little, I guess), but thankfully they allowed me to travel the path I wanted. I’m out of the thickest part of the woods.

    Now I’m 17 years old, in second year (transferring to business), learning economics for fun (and will have to as part of the business program), and since I’m happy and enjoying learning, I’m getting straight-A’s. My grades reflect my happiness and ability. If achieved for the wrong reasons, grades mean little.

  9. Michael Says:

    Drop me a line at michael_david_sy AT yahoo.com.

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