On Acceptance, Peace and Decision-Making

I was never one for decision-making, much less big ones. For me, deciding what to eat for breakfast or which cafe to go to tomorrow is a pretty big challenge already. I guess I've always been pretty content with going with the flow, and just taking things as they come. But you can't go with the flow indefinitely, and sometimes, life requires you - actually, no, forces you - to make decisions for yourself. 

Before I go on - I would like to acknowledge that I am incredibly, incredibly blessed to have been given such options, and to have the blessing of choice. But I can't have it all, and after a lot of prayer, I think that this is a lesson that I was meant to learn - and of making hard choices, along with the lesson of being thankful for what I do have. :-) ALSO this is a reflection of mine (and part of my road to acceptance) and I'd just like to put it out there that I don't mean any harm and/or offence to anyone ok!! 

The bulk of May was a period of self-reflection and intense pondering. With a deadline looming over my head, I certainly felt the pressure of time, especially in the last week. There were so many factors of consideration, and two equally plausible paths I could have taken. It's just that the road I wanted to go down was blocked off. It's more like an 'Under Construction' sign, with no definite completion date - that's what it was to me. 

I'll stop speaking in metaphor now. Basically, I was accepted into both Yale-NUS to do the Liberal Arts and NUS to do a double degree in Law & Economics. However, what I really wanted was to do the double degree in law and the liberal arts. But I was put on the waitlist for that (hence the under construction with no completion date). Somehow, I knew that I wouldn't get in - you get such a good deal with that double degree, it's really the best of both worlds and I can't see why anyone would reject it. Which left me with a painful job of decision-making. 

Being on the waitlist did mean that I got invited to the DDP tea at Yale-NUS for us to learn more about the double degree program, which only made me want to it even more. I thought they sold it really well - so well, that when I went for the NUS Law tea after I was slightly underwhelmed by what I heard and what I saw. Anyway, the Yale-NUS DDP tea only served to make me cross my fingers even tighter but that aside, I am thankful that I did get to meet some friends who were in the same boat as me, and I'm glad they eventually figured out where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do. Knowing them certainly helped me feel less alone when it came to having to make the decision but at the end of the day, the decision was still mine, and mine alone, to make - and I had to make it by the 2nd of June. 

I would say that I'm quite lucky in the sense that I have very supportive parents who took a backseat in the decision-making process. They did give me advice when I asked for it, but the final decision was left to me, and they said that they would support me in whatever choice I made. I made so many pros-and-con tables for this, and talked to so many people, but I always ended up in the same, undecided position. I even made a "mood chart" that charted wherever my gut was leaning towards - some days, it would have been to Yale-NUS and other days, law school. It fluctuated so much that it didn't help me very much, if at all. 

The thing is, I could see myself in both places. When I was asked which course I would have liked to study more, I never knew, because I think that I would like both. I liked the Yale-NUS vision, of "what a young person must learn to lead a responsible life in the 21st century", its study of both Eastern and Western thought and the amount of breadth it covered. I would study things that I probably wouldn't otherwise. I did like how law would provide me with a valuable set of skills, adaptability and flexibility. I think that the study of law is something that I will enjoy. And the thing is, I can't study law properly without going to law school, but I can read up on what I would have learned in liberal arts in my free time - I mean, I may and may not, but I always could.

But on the 2nd of June, I had to make a decision. I called Yale-NUS up and they said that all available spots for the DDP were currently filled, and that the waitlist would go on until matriculation and if I accepted Yale-NUS, I would still be on the waitlist but I would lose my place should I choose to do Law & Economics. So this happened.

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Funnily enough, I never wanted to do law at first. I had always shunned the idea, thinking it was oversubscribed and what with the glut of lawyers, it would be too tough a battle to fight and that it wasn't worth the effort. Which resulted me applying for PPE in the UK, although my mom had urged me to consider law multiple times before. If not for my internship in March (which I undertook at first to "experience boring CBD life"), I would have never seriously considered the option of doing law. I liked the work I did, liked what I saw, and could see myself doing the same work in the future. It certainly influenced my 'Why I choose to read law at NUS" essay a lot. In a way, I felt that my acceptance to law school was God's way of opening the door for me despite me shutting it earlier on. But I'm still glad that I can balance out my law degree with an economics one, as that way I still have the opportunity to study something I currently enjoy very much. 

I realised that I was leaning towards Yale-NUS for emotional reasons over anything else, which I guess wouldn't have been good for me in the long-run, for emotions are fleeting. Two main reasons, actually. I think going for the Yale-NUS movie night just days before D-day (aka acceptance day) influenced me quite a bit in this way because I really enjoyed the company of the people there and I had a lot of fun that night, and I got really excited about the prospect of spending the next four years with them in that beautiful campus. And as mentioned above, I was quite underwhelmed by the whole law school tea. I just didn't get very good vibes that day, maybe it was because the place was so crowded and small and I felt suffocated. I missed the intimacy of the Yale-NUS tea. Also, I already had friends in Yale-NUS, whereas that's not so much the case in law school. And I also missed law camp because I flew off to Sydney (though I am kind of glad that I didn't have to stay in hall for those four days). So yeah, it would have been somewhat easier for me to go to Yale-NUS where I already knew people. Massive fomo (fear of missing out) regarding law camp over here heh. But that's not a very good reason for wanting to go to a school, and I'm sure that law school has an incredible bunch of people that I will meet in the near future as well. 

The second reason is for the scholarship. I think it's one of the saddest parts about giving Yale-NUS up, losing my scholarship. I remember it very clearly - the day I had gotten my acceptance notice, I went to West Coast Park with a friend to play on the giant spider web to celebrate, and my parents picked me up at midnight. I was in the car on the way home when I checked my email, and there it was - a Congratulatory note, sent at 11:50pm -  I was awarded a Dean's Scholarship that covered all four years of my residential college fees. Granted, it's not very much but it's SOMETHING and it really meant a lot to me. 

Three years ago, I applied for an internal scholarship in my high school and I really wanted to get it, as my school fees were rather high and they kept increasing throughout the four years I was there. I was one of the six people that were shortlisted for the interview with the school's senior management, but I was one of the two that didn't make the cut. What made everything worse, though, was being called up to the head of senior school's office the next day and being told that to get the scholarship, I would have needed an interview score of 9/10 and my score was 8.5/10 which was great and if I had applied last year, I would have definitely gotten it. I was honestly quite upset because I ALREADY DIDN'T GET IT WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS it doesn't help and it's not going to change anything. You're basically telling me that I'm good but at the same time I'm not good enough, leaving me to feel insanely inadequate. I even wrote an appeal letter which was rejected.

I channelled all this negative energy into doing the best I could in my last two years in the school, into positive vibes instead, using it to fuel me throughout my IB years. In a way, I wanted to prove something to myself and to the school, for I wanted so badly to believe that I could be good enough. Which is why receiving the scholarship from Yale-NUS meant to much to me. I know that I shouldn't look to such means to validate myself and that it does not define me as a person; it doesn't. The scholarship feels like a sort of affirmation; it is a gift from God. I definitely didn't expect it, and it is one of the most pleasant surprises I have ever had. But I gave it up, for I feel that this is just something to encourage me keep going, to keep trying, working  hard and to believe that good things will come in time. 

Yale-NUS was a more unconventional path; a path less-travelled, but with this path came risks, and I wasn't ready to take them. In twenty years' time, maybe I'll look back and regret not taking this chance and in all honesty, this is my greatest fear in the whole situation. I don't want to look back in disappointment at myself for not being brave enough to take this opportunity.

But you see, there is no point in regret. I realised that regret is a choice and I can always choose to regret the path I didn't take or choose to rejoice in the one I did. There is always the "could have been"s and "what if"s, but they would exist no matter which path I chose; the opportunity costs are equally great. There is nothing to gain from regret and everything to gain by taking this as a lesson and moving on, with my head up. 

I guess if I had gone to Yale-NUS, I would definitely have had a great four years, but I don't know what I would do with a liberal arts degree after. I'm sure that there's a lot of things I can do, but it means that certain doors such as becoming a lawyer would be closed off, unless I did a post-graduate degree in Law, which was something I was seriously considering at first. But I realised that you can only practice in Singapore if you did your post-grad in Harvard, Columbia, NYU or Michigan, which narrows my options down by so much! And as my uncles told me, it would be easier to go from an undergrad in Law to a masters in something I enjoy than to go from an undergrad in Lib. Arts to a masters in Law. I just didn't want to close off the option of becoming a lawyer. I want as many doors open as possible, and for that door to be open as well.

And there's no reason why I can't have a great five years in NUS! One of the things that attracted me to Yale-NUS at first was the multiple opportunities available there - overseas trips, internships, summer school, etc. But then I realised that I could create my own opportunities, and just because they aren't as widely available in NUS doesn't mean that I can't do it.  As long as I keep trying and making the most of my time in and out of school, I am sure that I can enjoy the same opportunities in law school as well, and maybe I'll miss out of some of those opportunities here, but I will also get to experience others that I won't get to over there! What I get out of my experience is the result of how much I put into it, and I just need to force myself out of my comfort zone, to stop second-guessing and go ahead and challenge myself instead. 

When asked about my decision, I told a number of people that "practicality won out" - but after thinking about it a lot more, I'm starting to realise that it's not exactly so. Sure, I could always go down the conventional law school -> bar exam -> become a practicing lawyer route, I mean, I'm on the way there right? But I believe that I still have the opportunity to carve my own route, to forge my own path. Nothing is ever set in stone, and going to law school will open both conventional and unconventional routes to me, and it is the freedom of opportunity that I seek. Maybe I will have to go knocking on some doors on my own, but right now, I feel like I can still do anything as long as I am willing to fight for it. 

This ted talk that I watched was a major influence in my thought process in making this decision. Basically, it says that it is through the hard choices we have to make that we become the person we want to be. When we put ourselves behind one option, we create reasons for doing so, and through these reasons, we become who we are. So while making this decision, I had to reflect on the kind of person I wanted to be. 

I want to be the kind of person who isn't afraid to take risks, and who fights for what she wants. I want to create and capture opportunities, I want to continue to better myself. But beyond that, I want to be kind, to be a good daughter/sister/friend, to be more service-oriented, to be a ray of sunshine, to spread love; to be love. And most importantly, to become a more God-oriented person. (I've backslid a lot in recent years, but more on that another time.)  I know I can be this person wherever I go, because your environment does not determine the kind of person you are or will be, or can be, but whilst making my decision, I somehow felt that law school might be the place that will challenge and push me more in this aspect. Ultimately, however, what matters most is what you make out of wherever you are, and to keep yourself grounded; to continue working towards being the person you want to be. 

Sometimes, the answer to making a hard choice isn't very obvious, much less the reasons behind the eventual choice. It was through a lot of reflection and a few clicks of a button that I eventually made peace with the choice I made. Look, the grass is always greener on the other side. One just needs to learn to be contented, and right now, I am. I'm in a good place right now, and I'm very thankful to be here. And as I said on my Instagram post, happiness is a choice - and I choose to be happy. We will always end up where we are meant to, anyway. 

p.s. if you made it all the way here, thanks for reading these 2.8k words of word vomit. x