3:10 PM: ‘Crossroads of Asia’. That was the title of my reading material for the art history module. Listening to Gwen Stefani and using a bulky yellow highlighter, I was reading about ancient Afghanistan. Pretty soon, my mind was beginning to wander around as I was getting tired of reading my endless pile of journals and articles.
3:15 PM: A thought suddenly came across my mind about tomorrow’s schedule. “Monday, Monday, what am I doing on Monday? There’s my lab training, that’s okay. There’s history module, okay, check. And then…Gasp, I have Engineering Ethics tutorial. And, that means, I have to do homework. And, THAT means I have to get a book from the library.” I quickly glanced at the time, it was almost 3:20 PM. The library closes at 4 PM.
3:18 – 3:28 PM: I grabbed my hand-phone, keys, and my lanyard with my student card, switched off the fan, locked the room, took the elevator down, and started my mad dash to the library. All the while, I was begging to whomever who would listen to me that the RBR book loans will still be available when I reached the library. Let me not be wrong about the library’s closing time. Please, please. Begging all the way, I was running and running.
Every so often, using my hand, I applied pressure to my chest as I was having some difficulties breathing and should not be doing rigorous exercise like running up the not-so-steep-slope at the Yusof Ishak House. It was slightly painful, but I was desperate to reach the library. I need the book. I tried consoling myself to keep breathing, stay calm and positive, and to think of this as my daily exercise. Still, it would be a very big inconvenience for me tomorrow if I don’t get the book today. So, I need the book.
I kept on running. I stopped once in a while as I’m not athletic enough. I pressed my chest a little harder and continued walking briskly. Then, I started running again. And, finally I reached the library, and a little later, the RBR section. The librarian was already closing its doors and telling me and another student that we have at most three minutes to take our book. I told her it’s okay, because I knew where the book is. I saw it at the aisle, grabbed it, and put it on the librarian’s desk.
As I watched the librarian stamped the book, I felt a sense of relief. “Now, I can breathe easy”.
3:30 PM: As I was taking a slow stroll back home, I told myself that this is not the way to live up to 90 years old with a healthy body and mind. Seriously, I might die younger than I wish for. Then, I reflected on how many of my friends and family have told me to calm down, to not exhaust myself by putting too much load on myself, and I just kept thinking about that until I reached my room.
Why am I not calm? How to learn to be calm? I am breathing. I do have lapses of silent moments like now, when I’m alone and clearly not stressed. I don’t lose my temper often, but I do get annoyed; and I always try my very best to refrain from expressing my anger and frustration, and instead to keep tolerating them. How to stay calm? Covey’s book is supposed to help me in this, but for now, I find it hard to create a schedule based on his recommendation because of the unpredictable nature of being a student. A meeting pops up here, an event pops up here, people standing me up thus delaying the schedule, a friends’ gathering there. It’s difficult to set a schedule. How to stay calm?
Anyway, I’ve written before that in my years in NUS***, I’ve learned something new every academic year. Last year, it was to fulfill a promise to myself that at least once before I leave NUS, I will dedicate my time for engineering studies to prove myself that I can do it too, if I wanted to, as well as learning about my character as a leader and team player in diverse teams. This year, I suppose, it’s going to be about balance. Equanimity. Between my studies/work and my self-recuperation. Between myself and others. Between reality and fantasy.
So, balance. Like a clown juggling three balls for entertainment, I will learn to juggle my physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs for success in life. I think this is going to be a tough lesson, but a very important one.
*** Why do I only talk about my memories in NUS? You might be wondering, “Doesn’t this girl have a life before NUS?” Actually, I think that I have some sort of retrograde amnesia. Okay, maybe I should not exaggerate it, and just be humble and honest about it. I actually don’t bother to keep irrelevant memories. That’s so much to remember and to take and digest, thus I have developed a mechanism that acts like a permanent trash bin for memories older than six months or so. Thus, unless I write it down, or only if the particular event or person was particularly memorable (e.g. my great teachers, my childhood nemeses, my best friends, embarrassing or happy moments). Other than that, within six months of unwritten or unrecorded history, it’s like the Men in Black zapping my memory with a bright flash of light. Gone, na-da, zilch. The words ‘distant memory’ does not exist for me. They are now nothing. Oops, my bad that I cannot recognize you. But, ’tis the truth. You can’t fault me for being honest about it.
Only in NUS, I started writing a proper personal journal (be it online, or stored in the laptop, or hidden somewhere among my endless collection of notebooks). Only in NUS, I have clear memories of what had happened, and what I’ve learned from those events. Only in NUS, I remember the people around me, those who have helped me, those who made my times pleasurable or horribly disastrous. Honestly, my colourful life began in NUS, both bad and good times. So, thank you people and events and life in general. It’s more fun now.
So, I am an enthusiastic proponent for writing diaries. It creates and solidifies memories. Reading and recollecting your memories let you reflect, reminiscence and reformulate your perception of yourself in the past, present and for the future. Diaries are a powerful tool to self-improve and self-motivate yourself. No kidding.
And, writing always make me happier… and much calmer.