In my lower secondary days, I was a consistent top scorer with a near perfect score for all subjects.
CHASING AN ARTIFICIAL GOAL OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE
With only an O-Level certificate, I took a gap year to recuperate, hoping to pick myself up again. I am glad I did.
I realised that all my life, I was stubbornly fixated on two things — my dream and societal expectations — that I failed to consider reality.
During this time, I realised I was chasing an artificial goal of academic excellence, without much thought towards what I wanted to end up doing.
As such, I looked into as many industries as I could, given the limited options to choose from within the gap year.
In that time, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to dabble with retail marketing and videography as a support staff, and also a handful of short stints on marketing teams with some companies.
Through this experience, I discovered that I enjoyed creating content, and the most rewarding moment was seeing how what I created had a direct impact on the business I was supporting.
This time, I knew what I wanted to do in my life, and I decided to reapply into a polytechnic to pursue a diploma in mass communication.
Republic Polytechnic (RP) stood out for me, especially with its problem-based learning pedagogy, as I felt that it will help with my transition back to student life.
During the admission interview, I had the chance to briefly share about my educational journey with my interviewers. I was lucky that instead of turning me away, they reciprocated with heartfelt advice.
The former school director even extended me a kind gesture and brought me to RP’s education and career coaches for a counselling session, which helped to ascertain my choice.
The day I received the admission offer marked the beginning of a new phase in life.
Throughout my three polytechnic years, my thirst for knowledge and curiosity served as my constant motivation as I joined various interest groups, such as a student publication The Republican Post, and RePResent, a group that produces digital content for the school.
I took on numerous projects with key industry partners such as Mediacorp, and participated in competitions to put my skills into practice.
In my final year, I also had the opportunity to intern at the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group, my first work experience after my one big detour in my education journey.
Being able to expose myself with these opportunities and graduating with a diploma in merit would not have been possible without the relentless support from my lecturers.
Today, I am awaiting admission into a local university to further my passion in communications.
Looking back at my education journey, I realised there is more to learn about myself through adversity, and despite the difficult journey I went through, I never gave up on myself.
I now understand where I stand and how determined I am to get there.
It hasn’t been easy, but I believe that it is okay to make wrong choices and learn valuable lessons later. The bitter taste of failure helped to shape the person I am today and gave me a greater awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses as I progress through life.
Yes, I may be several years behind some of my peers, and my path might have turned out to be more convoluted than others.
However, I know now that there really is no such thing as a fixed route in life, with one exception: that ignoring reality and having tunnel vision is a sure path to disappointment and regret.
Instead, what matters more is reaching the finishing line.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Veronica Lee Wan Ling, 23, is a polytechnic graduate waiting to enter university.