I have seen people who struggle in studies, and life in general while growing up and despite their failures, they sometimes fail miserably at one thing: picking up the pieces and try again. I have also seen people who, despite the struggles, just shrugged it off, like a mere annoyance, and continue on their journey. Despite the difficulties and the long journey they make, at the end of it all, they have accomplished what they set out to do. This latter group of people are the kinds of people whom I have the utmost respect for. And indeed some of my friends, no matter how distant they are, I truly respect them.

It’s never easy to accept failure. The ultimate difficulty is probably the act of picking up where you left off, standing up on your own two feet after a fall, and continue on your journey to achieve your dreams or goals. To have the tenacity and the energy to accomplish your own dreams and goals is something that not everyone can do. I have seen with my own two eyes, friends and family members who struggled so much, internally and externally, that despite where they are heading, the very act of that struggle, really hits me in the deepest darkest reaches of my heart. This is probably because, if I were in their shoes, I probably would have failed in their place. I can share with you so many stories, like for example, I know friends who are not academically inclined and having matured a little bit, realized their mistakes and tried to make amends. I know of one who goes to night classes during NS to achieve a diploma. Others have struggled during in their N and O levels, but having performed brilliantly, they were able to get a diploma of their choice after going through ITE. Sure, they took a longer path, but it is a path they undertook and reached the end of it nonetheless. In these kinds of struggles, I can relate closely with them, for I too have struggled during my secondary school years.

There were only 2 Express classes when I enrolled to a secondary school. I was in the second class. Despite only 2 classes, it was still considered the last Express class for that batch, so the stigma really stuck hard and refused to go away. Looking back at my report book during my secondary school years, I was amazed at my results. It was awful. I was borderline on all subjects and even failing occasionally in my Second Language and Math. Back then I remembered that I did not have a care in the world about the bad results, because by those standards, I was one of the better students in that class, ranking wise. At the end of Sec 2, I had the desire to upgrade myself to the first class, because they offered triple science, double math. Realizing that I would have better prospects there, it was too little too late. My results just did not cut it. I was utterly disappointed. To stay in the second class, for a moment I told myself that the subjects offered were mediocre. I had no future to say the least. Combined science, no biology, no A math and combine humanities. What rubbish combination of subjects. But instead of wallowing in my misery, I performed a 360 degree stunt. With a new outlook in life, I constantly told myself, that it’s OK, it’s alright. What you have been given, do not take it for granted, instead, make full use of it. And I did. I performed good enough to enroll to NYP with the desired course effortlessly during O levels. It wasn’t straight A’s but I was still damn proud of it. Till then it had been the single most important achievement in my life. It really taught me the power of positive thinking, positive attitude in times of struggle. The difficulties and the negative outcomes you thought would happen aren’t really that bad at the end of the day. They are just figments of your imagination and your imaginations can run wild sometimes. Sure I could have done better during O levels, and be the poster boy for the success story that I had from a borderline student to a straight A’s one. But i still achieved my goals and dreams. I also realized that it is far easier to set smaller, chunkier goals and reach your overarching dream. And it feels good when you achieved them one by one.

My dad for one, also struggled a lot when I grew up. If not for his struggles, I would not have enjoyed life as it is today. When I was young, my dad would go for night classes almost everyday, just to upgrade himself and attain a degree. Part time study for a degree is an arduous and uphill task to complete it. So not only does he had to balance family life, but also his job, his studies and our family’s finances. Going for such courses really bleeds the finances of the household, so on top of studying, he work not one but two jobs. He held a part time position at Night Safari when I was young. Night safari jobs are usually at night. And because of that massive juggling of work and family, I rarely see him at home. Fast forward 10 to 15 years later and I must say, life is good and its something I tried really hard not to take it for granted. I studied hard, get results and tried hard not to throw my education money away.

And then you get snide remarks or comments such as, “oh, a single child, must have been a privilege to have everything you want on a whim.” Spoiled Brat” “Doesn’t know what’s like to struggle”  “Tender loving care from your parents 24/7”. Remarks that usually doesn’t hurt me, but sometimes when they tried to justify those comments to their own struggles in life, its quite hurting and somewhat unnecessary. To compare my fortunate life to theirs, is like complaining against something that he or she could ultimately do to change and take control of the situation, instead of just making remarks casually like that. They preferred to direct their energy over something they cant control over something that they can, if only they realized it.

I’m not saying that all those remarks are untrue, it does ring some truth to it, but they often forget that there are always two sides of a coin, two sides to the story. When making such remarks above, have they considered the struggles my parents faced in meeting their expectations on how they expect their children to be like? Certainly not. But I do. Have they considered the difficulties faced by them and the things that they do, the great lengths they take to improve their lives? Certainly not. But I do. I understand and appreciate their struggles. Certainly they do not, because they do not understand. They do not understand the expectations that I have to meet for them sometimes, the future prospects of a lone child to take care of their parents when they grow old, the possible financial burdens paying back the education fees, healthcare for them and other finances in caring for them. I have seen, children who pushes their parents away from one sibling to another sibling, refusing to take care of them, or take them into their household, with a simple assumption that the brother or sister next in line will simply care for them. It hurts my heart. I have heard of their tales, unfilial sons and daughters, but I do not have that luxury. I wouldn’t even call that luxury. For me it would be my duty to take care of them one day, as they had all my life. It is utterly difficult, a prospect that I am only beginning to see. Something that most failed to realize. If I don’t suffer now, there is no reason for me not to suffer later somewhere down the line.

Sometimes when i meet new peeps, and hold conversations with them, or my relatives too, I can somehow determine to a certain degree of accuracy, who have genuinely struggled in life, be it family wise, or studies wise or simply seen how life is like to struggle and achieve your dreams. I cannot really pinpoint the nuances and differences in how people react or respond during the conversations that I had with my friends and relatives, but suffice to say, there are differences. You can feel, and somehow know if this person is taking things for granted or not. People may be better at connecting with other people who have positive outlooks in their lives. It’s like associating different groups of people whether they see the cup half empty or half full. People who have struggled hard and succeeded certainly have a different outlook in life and thus respond differently to people when they converse. Those are the people that I have the utmost respect for.

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