or If I Tested Myself, Would I Pass?
I am trying to find a way back into myself.
If you’ve known me at all or stalked me at all, you know I’m just always being a student. The years went by and you might have gone through 3 relationships, or found yourself married, had kids, got promoted twice at work by now or moved out of the country to party away from the brain drain, or ALL THOSE THINGS— but I’m sure the last you checked, you’d recall I was always a student, in this or that or the other.
When I was young and fresh, I allowed myself to fantasize about university life. I dreamt of sprawling campuses, enthusiastic students, and lecturers who landed their jobs weaned on films like Dead Poets Society, To Sir With Love, Freedom Writers, Mona Lisa Smile, and Dangerous Minds. For many reasons, I once thought that was what I was slowly working my way towards, and— although I’m still confident such experiences exist— for many reasons, I didn’t get there.
What next then? Well I didn’t want a public university environment filled with predominantly ‘earth royalty‘ race. The alternative was private local universities, in which I sure was a minority, but not only by race. Within a few years of course-changing and university-hopping I threw in the dream towel, stopped being young and fresh, and decided to just suck it up until it was done. Each place seemed about the same anyway: a strange cycle of students who didn’t really want to learn, being educated by lecturers seemingly resigned to the fact, and were only teaching watered-down versions of their dream job in their dream field that they bitterly couldn’t get anyway (yet). No one took anything from the previous classes into the next. Everyone just wanted to know what was coming out in the test. I got straight As and Bs for awhile, and then I didn’t.
I got tired of lecturers being annoyed at me raising my hand to talk so much in class even though it was quiet as a tomb in there.
I got tired of students plagiarizing and piggybacking on me by slacking in groupwork because they think I make magic overnight.
I got tired of local private universities that clearly only see me as a statistic that coughs up cash from time to time. I got tired of being told “I don’t belong” here and that I “should’ve gone to study overseas” when I don’t have the money to.
I was tired of the university never having enough parking spots for the very students they managed to ‘get’ to come here, but giftwrap five of those lots for a Starbucks van in town for the week while the rest of us park precariously on top of a hill not unlike a rocky warzone.
My great lecturer, the one great lecturer I had is fed up too with the bureaucracy and left, presumably to where she can make a difference. I could yawn when my father tells me I should still try for an Ivy League or that I should do a Masters next because that’s how one pursues “progression in the education world.” I’m not ruling it out, but I’d much prefer a sincere progression in myself, even if it’s on a farm somewhere.
And after being in a few other places or seeing friends from other places, there was no point complaining with hopes that things would change in Malaysia. Local private education runs itself like a branding business and that’s that. If I can’t deal with it, I am some nontraditional hippie rebel brat who’s making excuses because she can’t do something so simple such as finishing a degree on time and never missing a class, and that’s that.
So I cooked up all these plans to keep me going, to tide me over, like a list of things I would do once I was done with university for good. Things I really wanted to do, I told myself, things I really cared about, things that could make me better, and might even pay: writing, and martial arts, and roadtrips, and language lessons, and volunteering, and free lessons, and teaching children to start to love reading as much as I did at their age. Above all, I fantasized about doing those things with equally enthusiastic people who wanted to be there, who love learning and exploring, and didn’t pay a left arm and leg for admission into insincerity theme park uni just to camwhore and whine about how plain life is.
I’m pretty much done now, finally. And man, I can’t even look at that list I spent years making, I am so burned out. I gave as much as I could of myself without going insane (this is debatable). Pouring my time into classes of meek quiet zombies and the frustration of private uni— lecturers frustrated at students, students frustrated at lecturers, students and lecturers frustrated with university bureaucracy— that even though I am not in it anymore, it’s poisoned me more than I would like to admit. Especially since in the later years, I made this silly decision to get ‘driven’ and cut off about 99% of everything (outside of university) that kept me laughing and happy and sane, just so I could focus on getting through this shitty 1% of my life. I gave insincerity theme park such a huge percentage that 1. walking around campus feeling like an alien sociopath damn well gave me a meltdown, and 2. now that this chapter’s ending, I find myself withered, at a loss to cope with this newfound and spacious silence. I am trying to recognize that it’s the beginning of freedom, but it’s also grey area, and overwhelming, and paralysing. I’m staring glassy eyed into the distance while waiting for training wheels to come off my bicycle. The joke I kept making was that I’d have no friends left by the time I graduate, and now the joke isn’t as funny as it used to be.
I still have some loose ends to tie up on that campus before convocation, before I can receive what everyone’s told me is so important to my life: that degree piece of paper. It’s my green light to go ahead and try to make my life as important as I knew it always was before it ever came along. In another lifetime, in another society, in another set of perspectives or culture or variables, I would feel less afraid to continue being the untraditional quirky ball of energy I was a few years ago. I could’ve been okay with not being tamed into the syllabus. But I had a fear of being too different, and so I talked myself into also adopting the fear of the future everyone seemed so eager to inherit. And then I allowed others to profit from that fear. It was a valid fear, so why not be scared, right? There’s too many people in the future after all, stability is precious and there isn’t enough for everyone. Well damn, after being spat out by the system, I think I finally understand why.
So I am trying to find my way back into myself. It sounds cheesy but I’ll always be studying. I’ve lost a great part of me in this avalanche, and I am attempting to figure out the best spot at which to start digging.