Alot has been on my mind recently. As I sit here writing my thoughts out on this blog, I have less than thirteen hours before my next English exam. I had finished most of my essay last week, but because of the looming presence of exams I felt something I have never really noticed before.

I felt scared. Yes. Scared of an English exam.

I, someone who holds hard work, perseverance and dedication above all else, and has no doubt that he can do whatever he sets his mind to, genuinely fear the outcome of the exam.

And because of my fear, I put off finishing my essay for more than a week. Now I have less than thirteen hours to finish and memorise.

But that’s not what scares me. Not even the outcome of the exam scares me much. What I do fear is stepping into the examination hall, picking up the pen and knowing in my heart that I would not be able to perform well. That I would fall under my expectations, and in the eyes of others I would be lesser.

Where I go to school, how well you do in your exams dictates your popularity, your confidence, your ability, your character, your personality, your ethics, and most importantly, your happiness.

And I have always listened like a keen puppy, lapping up all of the environment and attitudes around me.

I look at those who are “smarter” than me and idolise them like my favourite sportstars, and to those who aren’t, I don’t spare their potential a second thought. I gauge people’s worthiness on their examination marks, simply because everyone does.

Since year 8 I have believed this. From that year, I worked as hard as I could.

Every exam was stressful and painful, but I reaped the rewards of my efforts. My intellect was growing, but so was my perception that people were only worth their exam mark, because their mark was proportional to the amount of effort they put in.

Every year I struggled and struggled to improve and placed myself under incredible stress. Seeing others beating me would make me depressed. Receiving marks lower than others made me think of myself as an underachiever. Receiving a higher mark only further indented this notion for the next time I got beaten.

All the way through high school. Even up till three weeks ago. I participated in this crazy competition, this zero-sum race where the top of the ladder were hailed as gods, “unbeatable”, “on another level”, “geniuses from birth”, which meant those on the other side were “dropkicks”, “idiots”, “lazy”.

Never once did I consider what I was putting so much effort into. The whole time I exerted every last bit of energy I thought only of the marks I would receive, and like a poor addict sitting at a slot-machine, I gambled away every last coin in my pocket. In return I got a few hours of happiness.

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Floating Aces” – Artist Unknown

I never realised that my joy never came out of what I studied. The joy came purely from the number on my report card.

Of course I did enjoy parts of my subjects. I loved learning the formulas in maths, the philosophical teachings in english, the analysis of language in latin and the complex inter-relations in the functioning of a society in economics. But I never really had the chance to enjoy them for what they were.

Every subject I chose was never based off interest, it was based off performance. As soon as I received lower marks in one subject, I dropped it for another.

The most devastating thing to understand was that this type of race was completely futile. I was feeling tired, depressed, anxious and angry because my rank was not first. Not once did I pause and think – “Where is this going to take me?”. Until now. Nearing the end of year 12 I can see so blatantly that the entire education course was never meant to facilitate the learning of individual passions and desires. No. It was made to fulfill the general needs of our society.

The government needs intellectuals, politicians and corporate officials to keep the Economy running, so engineering, medicine, commerce and law are set at the highest marks. There’s no time for humanities such as art, philosophy, history, drama, music or languages. They’re shoved under the rug and heavily discouraged, only for the extremely promising and talented. Personal growth and happiness is never considered; financial and economic growth is all a human needs to survive.

And so I am stuck in this awful predicament, with quite possibly one of most important exams coming up that will dictate my life – or not.

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