Home is where the heart is (really?)

It’s been six months since I’ve been back in Singapore. It’s been six months that I’ve been living in Japan, and attending uni there.

First, is the huge misconception that Japan is always busy. Wrong. I’ve been living there and it’s been so much more laid back than I imagined. The pace of life is so much slower. Sure, people rush about on the train. Rush hour can be crazy (really?), punctuality is of utmost importance, there are standards to uphold. But it’s not hectic, it’s not crazy, it’s not the constant city hustle bustle 24/7. It’s not like Singapore.

Background: I live in Takarazuka, in Hyogo prefecture. It’s in the Kansai region, about 40min from Osaka (no one ever knows where I stay so I just tell them it’s near Osaka. Even still, they don’t really quite get it) It’s quiet. Very quiet. Not quite countryside, more like suburbs.

Even school is barely as hectic as I’ve been used to. Singapore, as I will always say, is so elitist you have to fight so hard for everything you want. Tests, tests and more tests. Grades, nothing but grades. So much so I believed my mother equated my worth to the grades I produced and because I couldn’t be the straight A student she wanted, I was worthless. Life is easier now. I don’t have to work that hard for my grades, but I fear complacency. Some days I fear what will happen to me, will I be able to get a job in Singapore where university rankings and positions matter so much?

I am elitist. By nature or nurture I don’t know, but I am elitist. I have always cared about rankings and positions and prestige, and deep down even if I never achieved it, I want to be first, I want to see my name on the lists of prize winners or distinction holders. I want the attention people will gush and bestow upon me because I have been recognized, to academic standards, as smart. I like it when people recognize the schools I have gone to, know them by name as good schools were smart people go to, where people who produce results go to, where people who are seen as important come from.

And now I’m in a university virtually no one knows. It’s not highly ranked, the standards aren’t great. And I am scared. Tea told me I can’t get a job with the Singapore government as they only recognize degrees from the top 500 universities in the world. Not that I want to work for the government, but I might have to, and what if I can’t because of the lack of prestige of my university? I am scared because maybe I should have stayed in Singapore and gone to a local, highly ranked university. World recognized. But I’d have to throw in days filled with stress, assignments, travel time and everyday busy busy busy. Study study study. (Though FASS isn’t that bad, supposedly)

I crashed a lecture at NTU, and another at NUS. This life is not for me. One day feels so draining, stressful. Singapore feels stressful. Everyone is talking about assignments, writing, working hard. Mugging. I’m not a mugger, never have been, probably never will. But in Japan, I have become a mugger. My friends see me as a mugger. Because I read up and force myself not to fall behind, I take notes diligently (not always), I complete my assignments and worked through my textbooks. I find the tests easy, I stay in school to study. But the only reason why I can do it is because of the Singapore system and how it forced me to work hard for my grades, how I learnt how to score, what it took to do well. Days, weeks, months before the A levels it was study every day. Morning till past 11pm. Everyday read read read, mug mug mug, notes notes notes, graphs graphs graphs.

I am a bad student in my JC. I don’t complete assignments in time, and when I do, they’re crappy. I don’t do well in tests. I fall asleep all the time. I barely take any notes. I hated studying. I didn’t like school. Classes were boring and I’d count down the minutes till it ended. But now, in uni, classes are so much more fun. I don’t have to kill myself over assignments. I don’t dread school. But I think it is only because I am not in Singapore. The environment in Singapore is so different. The study or have no future vibe is so strong. It feels suffocating.

Maybe I am learning that there is a life outside of existing in the elitist system, maybe I have found my place. I love it there, but I miss things back here in Singapore too. I feel more at ease with my friends back here, I feel like I have no friends in school, only acquaintances.

In the future, I want a job where I have to transit between Singapore and Japan. I want a job where I can link Singapore and Japan, be the link between them. I think this post doesn’t have a central focus (like me) but hopefully I got my point across.

I have two homes. Where I split my heart between the two, and wish I could live in one beautiful place where there exists an amalgamation of both.

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