A while ago one of my horoscopes (I'm a Libra if you're interested in knowing) told me that I will – or should – be doing something that "thrills [me] to [my] toes". That got me thinking about what exactly does thrill me to that extent; that feeling of knowing you're doing what you're supposed to be doing in your life, that you're on the right path.
Right now, after much musing and thinking, I've decided on what I'm going to do, at least for the beginning of this year. I have taken up the job offer with Channel [V] International; I'll be working with them as a Production Assistant for at least three months, with a possible web facilitation job on the way. This involves relocating to Petaling Jaya, which also allows me to be more involved in arts and activism, since such activities are based around that area. I have been accepted into AWAM's (All Women's Action Society) Writers For Women's Rights workshop later this month; if I can finagle two days of leave, I'll most likely go. I haven't heard anything yet regarding the Up With People PreStaging, though it did look positive at the beginning; I've already made it clear with my contact – and future boss! – at [V] that if I get the opportunity, I'll take it, even if it means taking 2 weeks off and replacing that when I return. In what seems like an act of serendipity, on the first day of work, the Women's Aid Organization's Creative Changers group is holding a meeting later that evening; I've been a member from the beginning but this will be the first time I'll actually get to take part in person.
As for the rest of the year? Well, Up With People's Employment page hasn't been updated yet; it won't be until April. As a fall-back plan, I'm applying to a bunch of Australian universities (including one to satisfy my dad's request), with a choice in degrees ranging from Arts to Media to International Relations. So if I'm not travelling across the US, Japan, and Europe in the latter half of 2006, at least I'd be travelling to Australia.
The funny thing about all this, though, is that I haven't felt that "thrills to my toes" feeling yet with any of those choices. Sure, working with Channel [V] had been a dream for quite a while, and I am in a far better situation than most fresh grads would be (for starters, I have higher pay than usual). In the media and television field, this is a golden tickets; it's as entry-level as it gets, but it's a lot more necessary and useful than a degree would be in many cases, as it provides exposure – it exposes you to the people in the world of television, and the world of television is truly exposed to you. The Malaysian arts, entertainment, and activism scene is so small anyway; know one person, be connected to just about everyone else. Australia is a country that I love dearly, and their undergraduate degree choices are a lot more flexible and interesting than what I've experienced so far: interdisplinary, a wide variety of things to learn, opportunities to study abroad in yet another country or two. It's not like I'll be completely losing out.
And yet, the most I'm feeling is a little sense of pre-job jitters. Anticipation for the new opportunities, yes, but also a sense that things could have been a lot more interesting. What am I doing in a field that doesn't hold much priority for me now? What am I doing pandering to other people's requests anyway? What am I doing with a fall-back plan – am I only guaranteeing myself a "fall-back"? Where's the thrill?
I've had a few moments in my life that really thrilled me through my whole body and soul – a strong feeling that this was where I was meant to be and this was what I was meant to be doing.
- Winning tickets to see Savage Garden in showcase in KL in 2000, and then actually seeing them live in person
- Making a fansite for Channel [V]'s By Demand and letting them know about it
- Signing up for BRATs
- Being in the audience at an American Idol concert in Washington, DC in 2003 and feeling the crowd's energy
- Doing a radio show as part of Power 98 FM Singapore's Radio Workshop
- Being on stage during Orientation Week in college basically mocking and imitating our MC, which led to popularity, opportunities, and a close friendship with my mock target
- Being involved in activism through Amnesty International and a few other things
- Participating in Hitz.FM's Radio Icon on a whim, getting good reviews from the DJs themselves
- Everything from the moment I looked at the Up With People website (WorldSmart then), to the application form, to the interview, to the anticipation, to the YahooGroup, to the actual trip, to now
Many times these moments led to other thrill-like moments; opportunities that were fun and enjoyable and quite the learning process. Almost all of them were preceded (or accompanied) by a deep feeling within my heart, the feeling of excitement and anticipation and near-anxiety and pure thrill. And I yearn to feel that thrill again, as strongly as before, perhaps even more so.
I did feel a slight thrill when I sent off the email to my now-future-boss in [V] directly asking for a job – and the surprise when I found out that, not only did they want to give me a job, they also had a far better job in mind for me, and they were willing to pay what I asked for – which was higher than the market price. (Mainly I felt very surprised that I had the audacity to do it in the first place.) I felt quite a thrill when I sent off the application for the PreStaging, and got back a pretty encouraging email thanking me for my interest and passion. The thought of going to university isn't necessarily off-putting; at the very least, it's a change of scenery.
But I know there is a bigger thrill out there.
Given the choice or chance, I'd continue travelling around the world, helping people along the way. Ideally, I'd be Road Staff with Up With People, doing development and bridging work; I'd research the needs, wants, challenges, and opportunities of the crew members, the host communities, and the organization, and develop strategies to help them along – helping a student with their plan after the program, facilitating a Special Project, keeping tabs on the progress of a previous Community Impact project, introducing the crew to the families that will host them.
If not – or rather, then after – I'd just take part in lots more educational travel opportunities – classes with Semester at Sea, a voyage as student or staff on the Peace Boat, joining the Friends World Program and learning about cultures and religions. Heck, I could go in a spiritual retreat for a while. I'd meet up with all my friends and loved ones everywhere and anywhere, and together we'd travel and learn about the world around us. I'd look for opportunities to let other people explore and experience the vast opportunities out there – and do it. I'd start a revolution and get people moving. I'd get things written, things typed up, things uploaded, things downloaded, things thought, things done. And, best of all, I'd get a degree eventually…a honourary one, for I have learnt through experience and taught through experience and have gained and shared enough experience in the University of Life. (or, at the very least, I could get credit for everything I've done and get an interdisplinary degree from a place like Goddard or Empire State, which apparently lets you do such a thing.)
Then again, a lot of the thrills in my life have been complete surprises. Up With People was a complete surprise. Radio Icon and BRATs were done on a whim. No one could have forseen the reaction I got from making that fansite for Channel [V] – heck, it only came about because I got rejected from AFS Malaysia and wrote in to By Demand to console myself. Who knows what the next surprise will be – it wouldn't be a surprise if I really knew.
I'm lucky, in the sense that I am aware of myself enough to know what thrills me, and to actually go ahead with it. Most people in my situation – young, Malaysian, somewhere in the schooling age – have become rather desensitized to that feeling of passion, of the thrill. Schools do not spend a lot of time on following your dreams or your passion. There are a thousand seminars on "how to score all As in your exams" but none on "how to find your passion in life". Personality and interest didn't matter anymore; only the ability to be top grade cattle.
When I was in school, I suggested to my teachers a seminar on "what to do with your life after school". Things such as how to be independent, how to manage your own life, how to survive without the safety net of school. I got laughed at. Last year I went back to my old secondary school and talked to my juniors about the various possibilities they had after school, beyond "go to university before your SPM results are announced". Study abroad, gap years, volunteering, creative ventures, alternative education. I received massive response from the students; they had never heard anything like this before from anyone, and it sparked a lot of ideas and inspiration. The teachers, however, didn't seem to be as pleased – mainly because I kept going on about how it's not worth stressing over As when what really matters is what you do with whatever life throws at you. About how, in the long run, those As don't matter; your will and tenacity does.
Yet this seems to be a common theme. In the past few weeks there's been a run of letters in The Star's Education Section about not getting all As. One letter made me sad; the writer talked about how losing out on one A could mean complete loss of confidence, that they'd never be sucessful.
Oh, at least you can learn! At least you can write! At least you can read! Many people would crave to be in your situation, dear people who fret over one non-A! At least you know what an A is! And besides, exams (Malaysian ones anyway) aren't as much a measure of intellegence and creativity as they are a measure of regurgitation and rote learning. If losing out on one subject could lead to such a drop in confidence, how will you fare when bigger, more important, challenges in life come by – the death of a loved one, the loss of a golden opportunity, sheer survival? Why base your self-worth on an arbitary grading of arbitary knowledge?
what makes you come alive?
It's worth reading (it's a free PDF file) and it may help you find that thing that gives your passion, no matter how many A1s or B3s or whatever you get in your SPM or STPM. The thing that truly thrills you to your toes.
Actually, I may have already figured out what I need to do to get that thrill back in my toes. I have an idea for the World Bank 2006 Essay Competition (as posted previously) and it's sparked a lot of possibility. That idea, combined with the PreStaging and a possible job for the July 2006 semester of Up With People, highly motivated me, and I felt that buzz of passion deep in my heart again. That feeling of excitement and anticipation and near-anxiety and pure thrill. The thrill to my toes.
Links in Post:
- EducateDeviate: Thoughts On Education (well, mine at least)
- Channel [V] International
- All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
- AWAM: Special Projects
- Up With People
- Women's Aid Organization (WAO)
- Up With People: Employment
- Griffith University
- Queensland University of Technology
- University of Queensland
- University of New South Wales
- [my demand]
- The Star (Malaysia)
- Power 98 FM Singapore
- Limkokwing University Colleg of Creative Technology
- Amnesty International
- Semester at Sea
- Peace Boat
- Friends World Program at Long Island University
- Goddard University
- Empire State College
- AFS International
- The Star (Malaysia): Education
- Vision Monthly
- dream big
- World Bank 2006 Essay Competition
- EducateDeviate: World Bank 2006 Essay Competition: Wanted – Your Personal Ideas!