This was an article written by me for a school magazine. I've been waiting for 7 months to read it on print. However, since there's no sign whatsoever of the magazine in its entirety being published, I guess the next best thing that I can do is to publish it here on this space of mine. Assignments and meetings are currently keeping stories buried deep within my story box so until the day I can really breathe easy, here's an old thought just for you - whoever you guys are.
I recently attended MENDAKI Club's Inaugural Collegiate Symposium 2009 – where tertiary students come together in the spirit of learning from the sharing of experiences and perspectives by professionals in various fields.
During the symposium, I just can’t help but sense several things. Firstly, we seem to create excuses for ourselves not to succeed – without us even realizing. Could this be due to our construed understanding of takdir (fate) and how we simply choose to be contented with what we have? We also seem to lack the motivation, discipline and courage to push boundaries in order to achieve our desired goals. And some simply love playing the role of conspiracy theorists that have the ability to see (or create) invisible walls that prevent us from reaching our goals. We want to be fighter pilots, Armour officers and one even wanted a Malay Prime Minister, yet we do not bother to fill up the application form because of the “invisible walls” that we see. And when we see the first Malay BG in the SAF, we dismissed it as an act of tokenism, propaganda or one subtly blamed it on the fact that his wife is a Chinese. Perhaps we should start asking ourselves the following: Do we believe that we are really good enough to take on these roles in first place? And if we aren’t, are we doing something about it?
However, one can seek solace judging from the tremendous response to the Symposium, that we do care about our place in the uncertain future. It was really heartening to see fellow Tertiary students wanting to succeed. It’s just that we either feel incapable or are in need for a little guidance. We seem to create obstacles mentally through our self-thoughts – making an initially possible dream seem impossible. We seem to be lacking in self-belief.
It seems to me that many amongst us have the mentality that Malays will never be as good, if not better, than the Chinese and Indians, let alone the international students, even though we do not necessarily believe so. For instance, we feel like doing certain things like taking up leadership roles in schools or signing up to be a Pilot or an Armour officer, but stop short when influenced by what others like our peers and family say. Why stop short of applying just because someone told you that a Malay will never be an Officer of an Armour Brigade? I’ve applied to be a fighter pilot. Passed their medical tests but during the interview stage, my answers to their questions weren’t exactly the smartest of answers. Who would want to recruit someone who’s afraid of doing some collateral damage?
However, instead of a curt “You’re not selected” (that was what they said to the other pilot hopefuls standing in line before me), I was told by the interviewer that I wasn’t ready to be a pilot just yet, and that whenever I’m ready, I’m welcomed to apply again. And perhaps one day, I will. All I am saying is, we should not create excuses whenever we fail to get the things we want. Instead, each time we hit a dead end, we should continue pushing boundaries and not limit our dreams to what others may say.
Role of environment in our development
The environment we live in also seem to play a crucial role in our development. I feel that it’s the littlest things that we see, hear and experience as a child that makes all the difference. Personally, I was told that I wanted to be a grass-cutter when I grow up – just like my dad was. Years later, playing flight simulators made me want to be a pilot. But growing up in an environment where going to ITE seems like the norm and where only one of my many cousins went to University, I kind of believed that my destiny has been written. However, it was my mother’s insistence that I do not join Soccer in Primary 3 and also her insistence that I put Anderson Secondary as my first choice made all the difference. Never had I dreamed of achieving such an aggregate for PSLE, but I’m thankful my mother saw the better of me. Alhamdulillah, I ended up getting my first choice and the friends I made had been instrumental in my development and in the decisions that I needed to make. Having mentors during my JC days and beautiful individuals along the way made planning for my future all the more easier. However, there are others who might not be as lucky as me – like those who feel neglected by parents who are struggling to make ends meet. Or those who feel like they’re losing out to peers who have tuition simply because their parents do not have the means for it.
In addition, kids nowadays might want to be Taufik Batisah and Hady Mirza – the first 2 Singapore Idol - when they grow up. They will also probably see their Abangs (brothers) riding cool sports bike delivering McDonalds and want to follow their footstep. Right now, we may be Taufik, Hady and McDelivery riders but we’re definitely capable of more. It feels as though we’re allowing others to dictate our roles in our society.
I believe it’s time for us to determine for ourselves our own roles in society. Perhaps engineers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and military leaders out there can make themselves seen and known. That could perhaps give us the chance to see and dream a bigger dream.
Creating a difference
If it’s the littlest things that we see, hear and experience as a child that makes all the difference, then perhaps that is exactly where we should focus to create a difference.
I also strongly feel that more should be done at a younger age. Our younger siblings, neighbours, relatives and in future, our children, should be free from a mentality that only serves to limit their potential. This is where parents, teachers as well as undergraduates can each play a small role in achieving the bigger picture. Parents (not just mothers) should play a more proactive role in encouraging their children to start pushing boundaries and not make them see walls that do not exist. Teachers can also instill a progressive attitude among their Malay students by asking them about their hopes and aspirations and by exposing them to fields like the various engineering fields, law, journalism, and medicine.
Lastly, there are a number among us involved in community outreach programmes such as Alterisk, AAM and the AMP Youth Enrichment Programs. But there are still many of us who might want to help in one way or another but are unaware of the existence of such programmes. If such programmes could come together under one united umbrella, goals and objectives can be achieved and the effect can be felt in a much wider scale.
We are a community that can strive and must. It’s time we band together and work towards a better uncertain future for us, and our family.