by Esther Yew
Tick, tick, tick…
The sound of the clock brought immense pressure not just to me, but also to every single person in the room. It sounded like a time bomb, about to go off any minute. I felt the tension in the room gradually increasing with every second that went by, as well as the smell of freedom that got stronger and stronger. Before long, there was only one more minute left on the clock to write my last sentence, last word and last letter.
“TIME’S UP. PUT YOUR PENS DOWN.”
All over the room, I heard sighs of relief that filled the room, including mine. I felt as though a huge burden had been suddenly lifted off my back. After all the chaos of hurried whispers to discuss the papers and the scrambling to get out of the dreaded exam room, I realized then, that this was it, the end of our high school lives. There would be no more high school drama about love triangles or silent yet poisonous gossips about classmates whispered in the hallways. The never-ending battle for popularity to the top of the high school pyramid will finally come to an end and there will be no more taunting guru disiplin to punish us if our nails or hair were longer than the required length. Finally, we will not need to endure the tasteless food we had to eat daily. This was such a bittersweet taste for me because leaving behind the best years of my life was saddening, but then, I wanted to get out of it, as fast as I could and finally it was ‘the day’ for me.
Everyone returned home and reversed those sleeping hours that they terribly messed up, or dive into endless rounds of DOTA. I, on the other hand, watched back-to-back episodes of ‘How I Met Your Mother’, melodramatic Korean dramas or episodes of ‘Running Man’ and crammed in the past two years worth of movies into a week. Finally, we all could pursue our pleasures without having to bother about studying, extra classes, homework, and tuition. Overtime, we then realized that this was extremely mundane so we got ourselves part-time jobs to earn some petty cash. Then the agonizing wait for our SPM results to be released would be killing us on the inside, subconsciously, during this time.
During this period, there was this one nerve wrecking question that made my heart pound as it was at the back of my head day in, day out. This question was a living nightmare not just to me, but also to most Form 5 students, and it went something like this, “Oh, you have finished SPM, what do you plan to do next?” Sometimes, this question came to me way before the exam.
Well, not all will find this a nightmare, as some would already know straight from their mother’s womb what they plan to do in the future and are born as lawyers, engineers and doctors. Congratulations to them but commiserations to those who have absolutely no clue what to do, like yours truly. With so many options to choose from, Foundations, Diplomas, A-Levels, Canadian or Australian Matriculations, American Degree Programs and the list goes on; I was constantly flooded with what to do for my future. Most of my friends just did A-levels to pass time and discovered options along the way. However, I never wanted to do the A-Levels exam because of that perceived notion that it was the WORST exams in the world.
Many called this period of having no plan for the near future, the ‘waiting room’ space. Being in a waiting room, waiting for the doctor or headmaster will probably be the scariest moment of our lives, because as we wait we do not know what is ahead of us. We will think and overthink about the most ridiculous reasons why we are there. We wait for what seem like eternity, and when it’s finally our turn, we enter the ‘supposed’ destination and that waiting period has passed. There was some comfort in knowing that we will all get through our ‘waiting room’ space; it’s just a matter of when. It was the same scenario for me; I was in that space.
When I was younger, my ambition was to become a doctor because medical dramas made it ‘cool’ to become one. Then I got older and my love for seeing how children behaved and how adorable they were with their childlike innocence made me want to become a child psychologist or rather just a general psychologist. However after all those years, I realized that I had a natural inclination towards public speaking. Being a bookworm, I could read books after books and just be in my own book world. I grew up loving to write and just be creative in my own mental world, and with that in mind, the year I took my final exams, I was looking at universities that offered Mass Communications thinking it could be my future career path.
After the SPM examinations, somehow those universities that I was interested in and visited for Mass Communications did not ignite a spark in me which was supposed to signify that ‘THIS WAS THE COURSE FOR ME’, but rather what I felt was just a sense of emptiness that I should continue looking for THAT ONE course. This whole ordeal made me realize that it was like a romantic and corny chase after the one we supposedly ‘love’. Many used to say that when we meet the love of our life unexpectedly, there would be sparks.
One afternoon, my apparently wiser brother, after lunch made a comment that gave me THAT cliché ‘spark’. This was what he said, “Hey, why not law? Has it ever occurred to you to read law? You love talking, reading, and writing. Law seems to require all that.” He got out of his waiting room space long time ago being a contented chartered accountant. That statement of his kindled that spark in me. It occurred to me once to read law but however, the thought of memorizing brought fear to me. Moreover, reading law was stereotyped as a very difficult subject. However, at that moment of realization, the preconceived fear of memorizing was very minimal.
After an intensive research, I got myself to a great law school in Malaysia and did A-Levels. Yes, it was funny how I finally attempted the exam that I dreaded when I was younger and in one year at that. Yet, I have to say, that exam was not as difficult as it was heavily perceived to be. One of my subjects for A-Levels was law and it was to see if I liked that particular subject. It turned out to be really interesting and without me realizing it, I was starting to fall in love with it, as cheesy as it sounds. After acing my law paper, it was a very good indication that law seemed to be the right choice for me.
This was how I got out of my waiting room space, being in the know of what I was created to be and my natural bent, which was suitable for law. If we all could do just that, imagine how we will emerge as great contributors to society with whatever unique talents that we have. Each of us have our individual make-up and we should discover what it is ourselves. If we do not like numbers or reading, why then do something that requires just that everyday? If we were introverted in nature, why do something that requires us to go out and meet the human race daily?
What we perceived things to be may not always be accurate, as it seemed to be. For example, take myself, by reading law, it has very little to do with memorizing but rather a thorough grasp of it and a whole lot of application, as opposed to my fear. Moreover, there are great mentors or friends who could even help you by giving different perspectives on things. We should always remember to do what we love, and love what we do, whether you are going to go into something or already in it.
Therefore those who are currently in your own ‘waiting space’, faced with a constant dilemma of choice, take your time and slowly discover your own unique traits and your natural bent. Don’t compare yourself to others but rather do well with whatever you have. You will eventually get out of that space with ease and a smile on your face knowing it was THE RIGHT ONE for you. However, for those who are already out of your ‘waiting room’ space, I wish you all the best in whatever you are currently pursuing.