Best Wishes for the New Year

It’s just past Christmas and a new year is coming. It’s that time of the year when everyone gets a little guilty about the things they haven’t done, especially homework; but also a little excited (and maybe a bit afraid) of the challenges of the new year ahead.

For many of you, the challenges of 2007 will come in the form of the ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels. Your parents, friends and teachers have probably labelled it as ‘the last leg of the race’, the time when you should stop conserving your energy and sprint right to the end. “Don’t get distracted by the roses along the road,” they say, as they pamper you with generous doses of TYS and exam papers from other schools.

I think they make some sense. It’s good to always try your best in whatever you do, but remember that neither the ‘O’ Levels, nor the ‘A’ Levels, nor your university or even working life will ever be ‘the last leg of the race’. Life meanders on and on – and we are the rabbits, hippos and tortoises that will trot along at all sorts of different paces.

Some of us will be fast at the start, then slow down or burn out; Some will be slow at the start, then speed up; Some will be slow and steady all the way; Very few will be very fast all the time. The funny thing is, if you become very brave and start having the courage to think for yourself, you’ll realise this: neither pace is superior to the other; it all depends on what you want from life.

Listen carefully again: It all depends on what you want from life. Not what others tell you is good for you, even if it’s your elders, teachers or best friends.

Think about this. Every pace has its own pros and cons, and therefore no pace is superior to the other*. Therefore, whatever you do, as long as you do your best in view of your goals and priorities, then you can never fail – provided, of course, that you are clear about what it is you want to achieve in life.

And know that this goal that you have will be arbitrary (but hopefully meaningful) – there’s no such thing as a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ goal, although I would say there are (ethically) wrong goals. It can be as grand as being the king of the world (my embarrassing ambition in kindergarten), to something humble like being a good father to three children (which was my ambition in Sec 4, believe it or not). All goals can be admirable, but are admirable not so much by themselves as by the effort in which the individual (that's you) strives to achieve them.

And know that this goal can change and change – it doesn’t quite matter, as long as it keeps you focused on doing your best. Sometimes it will change because you change, because you want something different now; sometimes you are forced to change it because situations change. But know that there are many paths to one goal – the key lies in understanding your goal clearly. For example, if you want to be a healer, but can’t make it to medical school, you don’t have to be a real doctor or nurse – you can simply be a good friend to every one around you, and that’s a respectable thing to be as well. The key lies in understanding why you wanted to be a doctor – in this case, because you wanted to heal others – and seeing if there are other ways in which this can be achieved, at perhaps a smaller scale.

Whatever your goals** in life, my wish for you in the coming year is that you will take one step closer to achieving them. However, there’s a saying that goes: “You can’t fire a canon from a canoe.” It simply means that all of us need a firm base from which to reach out to our goals. May we build Gift of Reading to be that base for all of us from which we reach to the skies; and regardless of how often we can be there for the children this year, may we always be there for each other as life meanders on, as the sparrows, doves, and phoenixes soaring forward together.

Best wishes for the New Year,

* If you run very fast all the time, you never get to appreciate the joy of living – whether now or in the future. On the bright side, you’ll probably have a more comfortable material life. If you run very slow all the time, you might not drive a big car next time, but as long as you’re happy leading a simple, stress-free life, then why not? If you choose to take things slower now, to learn more about running before actually running, that might not be such a bad idea – because most of the time when you are working hard to achieve something, you can’t afford to stop to get better at it. And if you choose to run fast now and slow down later – well, this one’s a different story altogether, and you probably need to look into yourself a bit to understand yourself a little better!

** For those of you who have no goals in life – and know that you are the special ones who are untouched by peer pressure, because I think that very few less than 18 would know clearly what they want to do in life yet - I encourage you to find a goal and work towards that. But in my own experience, I have found that it really helps if you think in terms of what you want to mean to others when you eventually (gasp!) die. In other words, instead of trying to decide whether you want to be a doctor, engineer, businessman or politician, etc. – which are just empty, egoistic titles – decide whether you want to be a healer, a builder, a creator or a ‘social servant’, etc. If you take this goal-seeking seriously, you will find that everything in life will miraculously improve just like that, simply because you have a goal to work towards now.

(Kish is taking the photo! Apologies to our dedicated volunteers who could not make it for the camp and those who left earlier before this photo was taken.)

(Our Gift of Reading Spirit!)


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