Category Archives: Rants

On Smoke and Fire Alarms

This is something I’ve been wanting rant about for awhile.

The smoke alarms here. In Australia. Are seriously freaky.

My introduction to them came in the second week I was here. On a quiet Tuesday evening, when I was settling into my room after dinner, enjoying the silence I had gotten used to over the past few days.

Suddenly –

A loud wailing noise from the ceiling in my room.

That was when I realised they had installed a speaker up there (Seriously, why do they need intercom speakers in every single little room, as if we can’t hear it if it’s in the hall, as loud as it is?!).

Then –

“EMERGENCY! EVACUATE NOW! EMERGENCY! EVACUATE NOW!”

I was scared – for lack of a better word – shitless.

I clamored around my room like a headless chicken for a few seconds, before grabbing my phone and passport and running out. My heart felt like it had shriveled up and was just crouching in a corner of my body, too scared to move.

The first signs of it being a false alarm occurred to me when I noticed that the people who lived above us were not rushing down like they were supposed to. They, apparently, had seen their fair share of false alarms (Unlike me).

Then, at the common room, people were murmuring about how it’s probably just another false alarm, and somebody is going to get fined for getting the fire truck down when there’s no fire.

All this time, the siren was still going on, and the voice, computerized and mechanical, was still going on about evacuating. It was deeply unsettling.

Finally, the trucks came, confirmed that there was no fire, the sirens were stopped (finally) and we returned to our rooms.

I was very much shaken, and no longer viewed the silence of the night as something comforting, but now as a suspicious, filmsy scaffolding which could give way at any time.

Just a few days ago, I was sitting in my room, doing some readings, when the intercom cackled to life again. I jumped and felt my muscles freeze up.

“Residents”, the voice began, loud, harsh and distorted. I opened my door and made to go outside to check if this was another false alarm, my heart beating wildly from the initial shock.

“This is a sound test. Test. Test.”

Then the intercom went off.

I sank into my chair and took many deep deep breaths.

Seriously. They cannot keep doing this to me. I feel like my life has already been shortened by 2 years, and I’ve only been here less than 2 months! It’s gotten so bad that I now approach the silence of each night with more apprehension than before, when I used to welcome the peace and quiet. Now it just feels like something is waiting to happen. To pounce on us in the dark.

 

So I’ve been trying to rationalize my thinking to help myself get over this fear.

The reason why I’m afraid is because I’m attached to life. My belongings, my existence. I am afraid of getting into a disaster which could endanger my life. I don’t want to die. And as we all know, attachment is the cause of suffering. If I could live with detachment, fully knowing that even my next breath is not in my hands, then I would not be so fearful.

Also, I need to learn how to respond, not react. Responding requires you to do just what need to be done at that moment. Reacting holds an emotional component. Because I am attached to my life, I react with emotion, and feel fear. If I’m able to cultivate detachment and simply respond as the situation calls for it, I’d simply be responding, and fear need not be involved. 

Easier said than done, I know. But at least I’ve got my game plan mapped out. Respond, not react. Be detached, and fear won’t have a place.

Take a deep breath, and live on.

The Grass Thing

It’s always tempting to think that the grass is always greener on the other side, that others always have it better than we do, that we’d be happier – if only we had that person’s job scope, if only we had a spouse like so-and-so, if only we had that much money…

Over the years, I think I’ve learnt (the hard way) that comparing myself with others will only bring me more misery. Thankfully, thoughts on comparing myself with others (Why can’t I be like … Why am I not more…) gave way more to thoughts on learning how to accept myself (It’s ok, you may need more time than others, but you’ll get there if you don’t give up).  Of course there are still days when I feel that I would be happier, if only… But I try to stop myself from going too far down that road.

One problem I still face frequently is how to handle people who seem to think that everyone’s grass is greener than theirs, that everyone has it better than them. I do not mind listening to my friends and colleagues talk, rant, complain and whine about their problems, be it at home or at work, but I feel that they have crossed the line when they start making personal remarks like “I’m not as fortunate as YOU… YOU don’t need to… YOU don’t have to… YOU have it so much better…” or any other lines that imply such. 

I usually feel waves of anger and indignation swelling up inside me then, but I, being me, usually do quite a good job of hiding it, laughing the person’s insensitive remarks away. Pretending to agree that “Yes, I don’t work as hard as YOU.” “Yes, YOU work the hardest and I am just slacking off compared to YOU.”

I used to wonder why I am the butt of these people’s insensitive remarks, and even reflected on the impression I give others. Am I truly not working hard enough? Am I giving others the impression that I only do the minimal? Just because I pride myself on being efficient, is it something that has been taken the wrong way?

As I got to know some of these people better, I realised – it is not me. There are simply people who will feel that the world surrounding them is better than the world they have. Making comparisons and complaints are their coping mechanisms, albeit rather unhappy ones. So no matter what I do, no matter how much harder I drive myself, they are probably going to go on saying the things they say, thinking the things they think.

And this year, I should do myself the favour of not taking their words too seriously.

Made Up

There’s a Chinese saying which says that there are no ugly women on this world, only lazy ones.

It implies that even the ugliest women can be made to look good, as long as she is willing to put in the effort. (And money)

My rant starts.

What’s wrong with feeling OK about looking plain and less than fabulous? Why are there people who feel that their self worth and importance and presence comes from how people see them, how professional they look, how eye-catching they are? Why are there people who would rather spend 2 hours making their face up, rather than spending the same amount of time on a good, meaningful and inspiring book?

If I wasn’t such a sucker for social norms, I would gladly skip the ritual of applying stuff on my face and just go out, without having to feel self-conscious when interacting with people. But because we have been brought up in an environment which stresses perfect skin and flawless appearances, I feel myself being caught up with trying to fit in, as much as I contemplate the futility of it all. Ironic, isn’t it.

Even then, it does not seem to be enough, with people asking  things like “Why don’t you try some eye make up?”

But that’s where I draw the line. For you, society, I have degraded myself to applying foreign substances on my skin. I will go no further than that!

I could… But…

I could go on like this forever, but...

Had a conversation with a friend the other day, about what is meant to be will be VS working hard to change what will be.

How do we know when we need to continue working hard for what we want, for the goal could just be a few hidden steps away, reachable by a little more effort, a little more time, a little more…?

At the same time, how do we know when to accept that certain things are never meant to be, never will be, will only bring disaster if it were to be, and we therefore should let it be?

In other words, when do we accept our lot, and when do we continue fighting?

 

When I received the call today, and heard the rather disheartening news, my mind came back to this conversation.

I guess I could have fought back, even a little. I could have argued. I could have said something. Asked questions. Anything.

Instead, I kept quiet. Silent.

Until her “hello?” forced me to reply with a “…Ok.”

I guess, I just felt so tired. Tired of explaining myself, tired of justifying what I want to do and achieve to people who probably don’t and won’t understand.

How long can you keep fighting a battle for your dreams, before you start to feel that maybe you are not pursuing the right dreams anymore?

Perhaps it is relative, and perhaps it is still too early for me to say such things. After all, Nelson Mandela waited for more than 20 years before he saw a glimpse of his dream coming true.

But I know this – my heart is restless, and I want to do what I think I can be good at doing, before it is too late to do it.

I just hope I still get a chance.

“…I dreamed a dream of time gone by

When hope was high and life worth living…”

“…So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…”

Unsorted Thoughts from a Conference

Thinking out of the box is seeing things not as they are, but as what they could be.

Are our schools the gravity that binds our children’s imagination to the ground, unable to take flight?

Have we unknowingly, by encouraging obedience and mainstream-ness, shunned creativity and imagination?

No one will ever say: “I don’t want to be myself. Make me like everyone else.” So why are we doing it to others if we don’t want it done to us?

Are we still teaching for the 21st Century when we should be teaching for the 31st?

Teaching is a moral, human, intellectual, thinking activity.

Assessment should motivate learning, not kill the love for it. Alas… What have we done?

Diversity is the norm. Conformity is not.

 

To be sorted. Soon.

The Worth of it All.

 

2 Days and 1 Night of camp has totally sapped my energy, confidence and faith in any benefits of camps.

I heard that they are going to make it compulsory next year for every group to have at least 3 Days and 2 Nights of Camp.

I add to my already fervent prayers that I will not be around then.

 

Nevertheless, among all the childish crankiness, pampered whines, rule breaking attempts, one thing that touched my heart was the fact that some alumni bothered to come back, to visit their juniors and teachers, to see their CCA grow. When you see people who were once relatively immature and lacking in direction in life, turn into confident individuals pursuing their dreams and newly-formed goals in various institutes of higher learning, (finally) enjoying what they are doing… it just makes life, and what we have to do, feel more worthwhile after all.

I need more moments like these. We all do.

I wish.

I wish I was a happy person. Happy, not because I do not face problems in life, but because I am able to make a conscious decision to be so.

I wish I could see the brighter side of everything, instead of being drawn to darkness or negativity, most of the time.

I wish I could feel better about myself as a part of this world, instead of seeing myself as just another resource-draining human existing only to fulfill one’s own selfish desires.

 

I am typing all these because there are days when you know that you are far from the person you wish to be, and today seems to be one of them for me.

Hence I am just reminding myself of what I wish I could be.