Hits and misses, ifs and buts

I’m turning 23 in a few days. It’s pretty weird, because I don’t identify with the age — I’d be watching say 中国好声音 (The Voice of China) and listening to the contestants introduce themselves, and they’d say, I’m 22, 23 this year, and I’d be nodding, thinking, that seems like the right age to be, at the cusp of adulthood! And a bell rings somewhere — I’m that age too!

To my 12 year old self a decade ago, this was the age to be for a singer, up to about 25, 26. 27 onwards they start feeling a little old. That gives me about 4 years until I’m old. I guess I had 10 years to adjust my definition of old.

It seems like a good time to evaluate my life a bit. My life phases have been slightly out of sync with everyone else’s, given that I finished my bachelor’s one semester ago and have been taking it easy since, so there never seemed to be a monumental YOU MUST REFLECT moment.

One of my regrets of college life: I didn’t find a bunch of close friends.

Something I noticed when I was on exchange in California: everyone stays, if not on campus, then really close to it. It’s because America’s so huge– when you go college, you move away from your family; in a sense, everyone’s “overseas”. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, there was a vibe of excitement in the air; everyone’s leaving for home, the campus empties, and it’s actually possible to be the only person in a building. In Singapore the furthest you can get from your university is 1h+ away on public transport, so public holidays seem like any other non-school day. But more to the point: because you’re away from what you’re used to, everyone has to start anew and find new friendships, so it’s easier, I think, to find that group of friends. It’s not impossible here, but it takes more effort, so that was one of the things I lacked — at the end of the school day I just wanted to go back and go online. Yup, I can see that fostering many friendships.

A Singapore university education: at the end of it, I had my fair share of great modules. I think for any new subject, the introductory classes are the most important to spark enthusiasm, and I’ve been very lucky to have had fantastic programming modules that built my confidence in my programming skills. Four years ago when I chose my course (Computing in Media and Communications) I did it because I thought that was my road to the creative industry, given my lack of drawing skills, but as I progressed further I found that the modules which I felt fulfilled by were unexpectedly the ones in the CS side rather than my major — the modules in my major turned out to feel fluffy and random or taken by professors who either didn’t have a clue what they were doing or didn’t give a fuck. That’s another regret of mine about college: I wish I took more CS mods instead of the CM ones I did. In particular, I didn’t learn much from Film Production, Special Effects, User Interface, and User Interface Development. Graphics was good for giving you a foundation, and it led up to Graphics Rendering, which was at least more intellectually satisfying than other CM mods.

WHAT I DON’T REGRET: this whole chain of events:

    • Being interested in contract bridge (this led to a few of my closest friendships as well)
    • Going for NUS contract bridge
    • Getting to know this captain of NUS bridge
    • Playing the whole of Portal 2 co-op with him as well as many LoL games
    • MAGIC

I don’t know why this guy is willing to go to all sorts of crazy lengths for me, but I’m not complaining. THANK YOU ALL MY LUCKY STARS.

What else I don’t regret: Exchange. I actually studied. Because I’m a nerd like that. Experiencing other students’ passion for what they do, which is also what I do, was revitalising and much needed. The one day trip to SF by myself was sublime. The ten days holiday in Santa Barbara immersed me in the Chinese students culture more than I have ever had the chance to. Watching Stars perform from a distance close enough to touch them — perfect. Going for Korean supper at 2AM with the bunch of NOC and Silicon Valley people was liberating, and Japanese hotpot for dinner with James and John Goh on a cold night was exactly, exactly right.

The friendships I made in Lit Soc.

Meeting John Soh, without whom I might never have gotten the courage to switch to Scheme.

SWITCHING TO SCHEME. That is the best decision I have made in my undergraduate life.

Choosing programming. That is the best decision I made before my undergraduate life.


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