The Dumb One - Or Just A Fish Out Of Water? | Behind the Scenes

18 January 2016

The dumber one or the fish out of water

I've decided to start a new thing on my blog. I know I always post travel and fashion related things, but there are other topics that i'd like to talk about. The things I think about whenever I'm alone, in the shower, or before bed. The deeper stream of thoughts that run at the back of my brain. Hence why I'm calling it Behind the Scenes.
I did a personal post talking about the concept of Impossible, and not letting someone else define your potential, if you need a little motivation.
Today's is probably going to be  little bit deeper, a little more closer to my heart, and not all that motivating (you can probably tell from the title).

The Day I Broke (IN PUBLIC)
The other day, I was having a leadership training session in school with the rest of my course mates (I'm in a really small course) and we were talking about our personal vision in life. Before we had to share it with our own group, we had a one to one session with our partners (mine was a good friend who wasn't in my group) and the purpose was to share what we thought our biggest failure in life was. I started telling her about how I feel as though I'm still stuck in my failure.
Long story short, I slogged really hard for my grades and academics since the age of 15. Did well for O levels (GCSEs) and A levels, had always wanted to do something design related, but because of the whole asian society, decided to try out for medicine, didn't get in, got into a couple of good schools for architecture and landscape architecture - locally and abroad, didn't get a scholarship, and got offered this course I am in now with a scholarship. I never wanted to do engineering, but because of the scholarship, and because I had some insane need to accomplish something after doing well for A levels, took up the course and here I am.

For the first 2 years of University/college, I struggled. I refused to hang out with my course mates, because I felt as though they never understood me. And more importantly, I felt inferior whenever I was around them. I still do. Which is ridiculous.
Im in the process of convincing myself that they don't actually think I'm dumb, a bimbo, worthless, or a person that will never succeed.
Here I was, highly interested in the creative industry and arts, and having to slog it out for an engineering and business related degree. I do decently well in uni, but to get the grades I have, I have to put in so much more, obviously, because I have no interest in the things I'm learning. I really dislike engineering, I breathe a sigh of relieve after every semester, dread every engineering class during, and Thank God for every single time I do ok.
No doubt being on a scholarship has saved SO MUCH agony with finance and brought me all around the world, but I was never happy, I was always depressed.
Regardless of my grades. An A+ never made me happy. But a B would ruin me, and i'd think I was going to end up no where. Unsuccessful.

So, back to the leadership session, We were talking about our goals, strengths and weaknesses. I started to share how I wish i was more self assured, and less affected by the fact that I would appear stupid in front of my classmates, because of my interest - you can tell, its fashion, art, creating things, and inspiring people - not something that sits well with an elitist engineering cohort and a room of aspiring corporate high flyers. And at that moment when I said
"sometimes I feel my classmates think I'm stupid", 
the mentor/facilitator for our group (a successful investment banker) asked "why". And i lost it. 
I cried.
Because that scene, where that group of classmates - who had no clue who I was, no clue of my past, no clue about my life - all staring at me, was exactly the reason why I felt stupid.
I felt stupid for thinking that they thought I was stupid. Why would they? Why should I care? Do they even?!
But I know there will be people who think I wouldn't accomplish much in life because I wasn't interested in the things they were, or because I still had no clue of how to get to where I want to in life. And because I don't have the same goals they do.

A Little Bit About The Past
When I was younger, I had to always deal with being the dumber one. I did the worst in Primary school among my friends, and always had hell from my teachers for sucking at mandarin. My YOUNGER sister was always smarter, she had incredible grades, ALWAYS doing better at every exam, every stage of her life. I was always "the pretty one" and she, "the smart one". My own parents admit / tell me that she is more intelligent, and somehow I accepted it. Of course I don't feel less compared to her now, because of my academic accomplishments post 15 years old. But being told you're "the pretty one" and not "the smart one" does have its repercussions, evidently.
I was never the smart one because I was never really interested in science, and Singapore, was a very science oriented country academic wise - like many other asian societies.

I was 13 when I wanted to be a fashion designer, but of course my parents were against that. Because I wasn't doing well in chemistry, math or any of my subjects at that point. I remember being told that there was no way I could be successful as a fashion designer, and it was a lofty, idealistic dream. I didn't want to unsuccessful, so I found a way to do well in school, and my family members treated me so differently. I became "the smart one" too, "the disciplined one", "the one with potential".

So there I was, after having worked so hard to fit society's idea of smart. To get a first, to try and keep my first (God knows how I'm going to be able to do that, well I have 1 final sem to get through), and yet still feeling as stupid as I was at the age of 13. Except, when I was sketching different dresses at 13 I felt some form of accomplishment.

Anyway, The session ended of well, I had a chat with some other of my closer friends (and then went home to ask my mum if i was gonna be a failure and talked to her for another 2 hours) and basically realised that, being a fish out of water, and not fitting in to the stereotype of an engineering student or a business student or a science student, DOES NOT MAKE ME A DUMB OR STUPID PERSON.

Being a fish out of water is just being in the wrong place, and it does not make you stupid, or any less than those around you. 
You just need to find the right place for yourself.

Alas, here I am, with a moderate idea of where I want to head, and realising that a) not all who wander are lost, and b) If you don't know your final destination, you can't possibly be lost (thank you to that senior who shared that).

I'm not dumb. I'm just a little different. I just want my life to head a different direction. A less conventional direction.

That does NOT make me unsuccessful.

I should be proud of whatever i've accomplished. I should be proud of sticking it through when the going gets tough. And more importantly I should be proud of (almost) finishing with this degree that I don't like, and doing pretty decent.
Not fitting in does not mean I have nothing to be proud of (thanks for telling me that mum) and not fitting in does not mean i'll end up no where. In fact it means i'll end up somewhere, because when I find the place I'd fit in, i'll thrive even more. And I will keep searching, and keep going until the day I find THAT PLACE. The place where my contributions will be appreciated, the place i'll excel in, the place I'll feel proud for being a part of.

That was one hell of a long post, and i'm pretty sure  lot of people out there can relate - if they manage to get through all that text. Regardless, this is a reminder to myself, and to the people who like me, feel stupid or less because they don't fit in.

"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success."
- John D. Rockefeller
Pictures were from the National Gallery Singapore and more can be found in this video.

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