Thursday, January 01, 2015

Thoughts that Count: A Different Kind of End-of-Year Reflection

Once again, I bid farewell to 2014, another year filled with laughters, joy, love and tears. The past 22 years of my life, though short, has shaped and moulded me to be who I am today. It is indeed amazing to begin with, of how I was even brought into this world, definitely not by coincidence. Before the world begin, I was on His mind; the almighty creator of this universe - a mind-blowing fact that I still cannot fathom till date. Here is a summary and recap of my life thus far, which I give thanks greatly for.  


Back in 1992

Back in 25 July 1992, a baby girl was born in Gleneagles Hospital, after her parents were having a stroll at the Singapore Botanic Gardens that afternoon, when the alert of giving birth occurred. She was named "Toh Quan Mei", literally written as "all beautiful" in mandarin. When asked about the meaning of my name, my father replied that his wish for me to be "beautiful" in all areas of life, to be an all-rounder. From that day onwards, I love my name (even though it sounded like a really thick-skin name) and aspire to bring justice to it. 

I later learnt from my mother that I wasn't "planned" and for that, I give all thanks to God for even bringing me into the world. Sometimes I even wonder, where would I (my soul) be if I didn't exist in the world. Being the youngest in the family, I've had a fair share of pampering and love showered upon me. Right after giving birth to me, my mother quit her job just so that she could stay home to take care of me. I was indeed blessed. 

When I was slightly past one year old, I had a terribly high fever (also known as fever seizures) and was rushed to the hospital. It was quite a close save as if I were admitted any later, I might even lose my brains. The hospital days didn't end just there. When I was three, the mischievous and active me slipped and banged my forehead into the full-length glass sliding doors at home one day, when attempting to run away from my mother who was forcing me to drink some herbal soup. It was such a terrifying experience in the ambulance van as my forehead was bleeding profusely. After three to five stitches and a "harry potter" scar (something I used to be very proud of during Primary school days), I concluded my childhood mischievous years.

My Childhood 

A family photo taken at my church's playground when I was seven years old maybe. 

I wasn't exactly the most popular or most well-liked kid in Primary school, but that was fine for me. I was happy with my life nevertheless and that was all that matters. The boys in my classes would call me names, such as "all ugly" in mandarin or pull off my hair rubber band in class. There was a point in time when I was really upset and affected, but I found comfort and solace in God. From then all, I learnt how to let things go, and not be affected by something for too long. Life has to go on, I figured. 

From primary three, my choir journey begin and I've never stopped singing since then. I am indeed grateful my whole life for that ability to sing and to play the piano. When I was in Primary one, I remembered standing next to the piano every single day to watch my brother and sister practise the piano, till one day, I begged my parents to let me learn it too. That, was the best decision I've ever made. All the way from Grade 1-8, Music O-Levels, up to Diploma and even serving in the church music ministry now, I'm thankful for all the opportunities to learn and serve. 

The Teenage Years

Fast forwarding to the Secondary School days, also the phase where life started to change. I wasn't exactly the smartest child, but definitely a hardworking one. In secondary one, I scored almost 90 marks for one Higher Chinese composition, and with much excitement, I showed it off to my father that night when he came home from work. To my surprise, instead of praising me, he taught me an important lesson which I will remember forever. He said solemnly to me in mandarin, 

"Are you showing me this just because you did well? So will you still show it to me if you hadn't scored this well? I want you to do your best in everything you do, and no matter the results, you know that you have not let yourself down. In all that you do, be humble, don't rejoice just for that one second of success and forget that you have a whole lifetime to work hard for."

From then on, I knew that he was my role model and the most down-to-earth man I've ever known and will ever know. With his leaving when I was in Secondary two, it was a sudden blow to the entire family. Our sole breadwinner, role-model, mentor and father was no longer with us. For a fourteen year old teenager back then, I was surprised that I didn't give up on life, turn emotional and hate life, or even turn astray.

With the JC clique at the canteen during our morning PE lesson which was cancelled as usual.

Under God's grace and providence, I studied hard (even the much hated chemistry) and managed to enter my dream Junior College. The two years in JC were tough, much tougher than I thought it would be. With a very strict form teacher, life was almost torturous every single day. It was many months of battling with maths, essays, past year papers and many nights of staying back in school to study. With a combination of H2 English Literature, Economics, Mathematics and H1 Chemistry (I don't even understand how I chose this once again), I managed to obtain a more than desirable grade for me to enter my dream faculty, FASS at National University of Singapore. I even remembered crying on the A-Levels results release day the moment I pulled out the results slip from the envelope. I hugged my form teacher, who was also my literature tutor. It was a magical moment of seeing the impossible turn possible.

The University Years

Photo taken by Kenneth during my pre-graduation photoshoot at Utown.

The first year of university was again tough. I was influenced into thinking that getting a stable job and earning lots of money is the way into a comfortable future. Without thinking, I plunged into majoring in Economics, thinking that a future in the economics world sounded cool and successful. Never did I realized that it wasn't what I enjoy at all. I hated numbers and not surprisingly, I did rather badly for all my economics modules. I regretted terribly for not seeking for God's will. Rather, I went ahead with what I thought was good for myself and my future. I was indeed narrow-minded and wrong. 

After my second semester, I prayed that morning after receiving my results, for directions, through the rest of the University years as well as my future. I had no clue what I'd wanted to do. All I knew was that I was in University to study, to graduate and to find a job after which. As such, I went ahead to switch and pursue a major in Communications and New Media, a concentration which I found so much love for. Every project, tutorial and lecture was no longer a torture to me. In fact, I enjoyed studying, I really did. 

However, the truth is that I wasn't on the dean's list, neither was I the all-A-grade student. I struggled every semester to keep a decent CAP just enough to graduate. No, I have not gone for any exchange programme simply because my results were not good enough to compete with the rest. Not to mention about any honors studies, to be honest. My take is this, you don't need a honors status to determine that you are better than the other, so be contented but keep working. 

The NUSChoir competing at the "Choir of the World" Competition at United Kingdom, Wales in 2012.

The NUSChoir sings the Finale from the musical, Les Misérables, at their Christmas concert in 2013. 

Besides studying, I found my sense of community in NUS through The NUSChoir, a special family which I hold my heart closely to, up till today. It was indeed my greatest honour and blessing to be able to serve the choir together with dedicated and amazing individuals in the EXCO, Admin and Music committees. We found friendship and support through our love and passion for choral music. After two annual concert and an amazing competition in United Kingdom, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 2012, where we bagged home three categories champions, and were one of the five choirs to compete in the "Choir of the World" finals, I ended my stay in the choir. Friendship, nevertheless, continues.

In year two, God gave me the courage and determination to start Sketch-a-Tote, turning something that I love to do into a blessing to others. July 2015 will mark Sketch-a-Tote's 3rd Anniversary. The birth of Sketch-a-Tote was never ever meant to maximize profit as a goal, but for me to enjoy what I love and may that passion be translated into something that could greatly be a blessing to others and glorify God. Therefore, upon my graduation, when deciding whether to plunge full-time into Sketch-a-Tote, I decided not to after much prayer. Going full-time on your own business meant more stress and monetary liability, something that I wouldn't like to add on to my innocent wish for Sketch-a-Tote; to be a happy and personal avenue. In fact, I would like it to stay this way till I retire eventually. 

The class of 2014, FASS- Communications and New Media

And finally, comes graduation in July 2014! With much excitement, I was all ready to end my education journey an to embrace the working world almost immediately. It was definitely not an easy task, coming all the way from a not-so-smart child and neighborhood school student. Today, I hold a job in the CBD area, and I am grateful for what I have. 

Till now, I look back and wonder how I was able to do all these by myself. The answer is, I didn't. Precisely, I wouldn't have been able to do this without the guidance, wisdom and strength given by my heavenly father. For one thing that I'm sure of, I am who I am today because of Him. 

To Happier Days Beyond Graduation 

That is basically a summary of my life thus far. 

Instead of the usual reflections or resolutions that are commonly seen at the end/start of every year, I've decided to do something different. As I woke up this morning (1 January 2015), I realized that every year has been zooming by just like that; too quickly for me to catch up on. This is probably the first time where I sat down to reflect and analyze each phase of my life. Even though there were ups and downs, my life has been a blissful one and I give all thanks and glory to God for the abundant love and grace, and keeping me on earth thus far.  

In this new year, I will not make any specific resolutions but the following: 

Focus all attention to glorifying God and putting Him first in all you do, because when that happens, all else will fall in place. 
Here's a last word to my friends who are still studying or might have started working: Don't count your days but make your days count. May your life be a meaningful one that would bring blessings to others. 

Have a blissful and blessed year ahead! 

Love, Quans

1 comment:

Ming Shu Seah said...

Nice read hahaha. All the best in the year ahead Quan Mei! :)