Thursday, March 11, 2010

SPM Results and the American Civil War

The year was 1860, and the United States of America declared war on it's Southern states, and it was a war was as painful emotionally as it was physically.

Wars are always painful, but civil wars are even more so, since you are fighting men similar to yourself. Men who speak your language. Men who celebrate your celebrations. The land you call home may be the same land your "enemy" calls home as well. You couldn't just block out the fact that these men were people you may know, may even be related to.

It was not uncommon, for example, for men in the American Civil War to have friends in the opposing army. Friends they may have known for life. It made killing them that much harder - not that killing is ever easy in the first place. In one case, an army officer fighting for the Union (the United States federal army) had three brothers fighting for the Confederacy (the rebels).

Makes me wonder how it was when those brothers reunited after the war. Must have been pretty awkward...

There is a soldier's saying:

"A soldier's life consists of long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror".

When I think about it, a student's life also consists of long periods of boredom (e.g. lessons) punctuated by moments of sheer terror (e.g. exams). And when I think about it more, a student's life is an 11-year war. And when I think about it even more, it is a civil war, since your "enemies" are your friends. Sure there's no shooting and killing, but it is a rat race, where a student winning the prize, indirectly, is depriving friends of that very prize!

Maybe I think too much.

Which brings us to the SPM results, which are, effectively, the culmination of the 11-year war. When I went to school today to receive my results with my fellow ex-students, we all felt the feeling of a battle fought, that we were all war veterans; some admittedly more successful, but all gone through the same experience.

We waited for the results of a battle concluded months ago. I won't narrate the events that transpired when the results came out, because that will take days to write out. But the thing I remember most in those few euphoric moments after I accepted my exam slip is the overwhelming sense of relief.

The relief. It's like getting to empty your bowels after being stuck at a party where the curry served has passed it's sell-by date. Diarrhoea of the mind, that's what I felt in those moments. And as weird as it sounds, it felt good.

Anyways, this entry is reaching its point of expiry, and I'm supposed to tie all the loose ends neatly together, like a typical Korean drama. Sigh. Here goes:

Maybe my schooling life shouldn't be compared to a civil war. As I looked around at my friends getting great results, I felt their joy. I was as overwhelmed as the friend who shed tears of joy when she finally got to know her marks (Tiffany). Or as hyper as the friend who belted out Malay tunes with his guitar after getting straight A's (Lam).

Yup. Its not a civil war. Not if I'm happy for the "enemy". I would make a pretty crappy military commander, come to think of it. And the underlying message to all this is: its not over. The battle may be won (or lost, for some) but the war at large is not decided until your terminal breath.

Back to the Civil War: the Confederacy officially admitted defeat on 9th of April 1865. But the individual Confederate Generals fought throughout the next month, not willing to let go. One Confederate ship even sailed all the way to Liverpool, England before surrendering. That particular event confuses me. Why sail all the way to Liverpool? They don't even have a decent football team, for God's sake!

But all Manchester United fanaticism aside, the message I can milk out from all of this is that we should always let go and be ready to move on after an occasional defeat, military or otherwise. For my friends who weren't happy with their results, the war is not over, and life goes on. For those who had the results they wished for (me included), the same rule applies, and complacency is not an option. Take your next step eagerly and decisively.

In my case, I'll steer away from any military-related career options.