Putting my dreams on hold

Expressway adventures.jpg

A little over two weeks ago, I flew to Kuala Lumpur from my humble hometown, Kuching for my first ever job interview. Granted, it was only for an internship, but the promise of a real job as I was entering into adulthood made every inch of me tingle with excitement. I had been waiting for far too long to kick start my dreams of being a writer, and I was finally bestowed the chance to, albeit only for an interview. It was with a start-up advertising company, and I was eager to work with them because they boast an impressive portfolio. The best part of it all was that they were looking for a copywriter– and they were interested in me.

Undoubtedly, I was nervous, but being with my long-distance boyfriend over that same weekend helped to alleviate whatever jitters I had. Zero Hour arrived, and I was a bundle of nerves. I prepared my own portfolio of articles I had written over the recent years, my academic transcript, and even equipped myself with pseudo-confidence I did not know I was capable of, but on the inside, I was nervous and praying that I would get the job.

Lo and behold, after an hour of being interviewed, I was hired. Finally, after years of craving independence and freedom from the prying eyes of everyone at home, I secured a job that I was very much interested in. I was ecstatic, but somehow doubtful at the same time. Was I ready to leave home? Was I ready to start the rest of my life? It didn’t matter. All the years of slaving in university and having to deal with difficult group members paid off. I was going to kick start my career, and it felt amazing.

Fast forward to about nearly a week later. It was a Tuesday evening, and I had just ended a long day of classes. Something struck me, and it dawned on me that I had forgotten something important. I rushed to the administrative office, told the staff about my problem, and after nearly breaking out into an argument with them, they realized that it was a genuine mistake. I had forgotten to register for the subject that my entire degree depended on– my Final Year Project.

I was told to return the next day with a letter of appeal, stating my intentions, and present it to the dean of my faculty. And that, I did. Fortunately, I was endorsed by the dean, the dean’s office, and I was supplemented with a memorandum and a personal e-mail from the dean himself to be sent to the student affairs division in my university. I was then told to await their phone call to see if my appeal was successful. I felt rather confident, since I have been consistently performing every semester, I have a (rather) good CGPA, and I had only missed the registration deadline by a week anyway.

What happened next is something I will never forget. My appeal was rejected. This meant that I had to extend my studies for another year, and that, consequently, meant that my entire future was put on hold. I could only graduate in November 2017. They did not even give me a valid reason for it, but what I found out was that it was too much for said department to open the e-registration system and deal with the paperwork come auditing. I was, without a shadow of a doubt, crushed.

I worked three long years to get to where I am today, with one of the highest CGPAs in my class. I have never missed an assignment deadline, and I have never failed a single paper. Yet, I was being penalized for one mistake simply because it was more important to avoid paperwork than to let a top student graduate on time.

The rollercoaster of emotions I felt over the next two days was the most polarized I have ever felt. Firstly, I was devastated. The moment I entered this university, I knew that I wanted to leave as soon as I could. I hate(d) it there, I hate(d) everything about it. I worked incredibly hard for three years, and because of one minor error, my dreams of graduating this November were dashed.

And then, I became angry. Angry that the system failed the people. This bureaucracy prioritized their workload over their students’ welfare. Was it really so important to avoid paperwork, and as a result, stop a first-class student from graduating on time? What the fuck. A lot of my anger also stemmed from the fact that it was so unfair that I, the one who picked everyone up for the past six semesters, would be left behind, and free-riders would graduate before I did.

I prayed for many nights to God so that He would grant me the strength to accept His fate for me. If I could not change the circumstances I was in, I at least needed to equip myself with emotional resilience. It took a few days, but I then realized that it was all for a reason. I have yet to see what that reason is, but I am sure that I will soon.

As soon as I heard the news, I devised a plan for myself for the next few months, perhaps even a year. Plans which will reveal itself in due time, but because I am naturally inclined to plan my life down to a T, I could not leave anything up to chance anymore.

Two weeks on, I am still trying to figure out what this all means. Maybe I wasn’t truly ready to leave. Maybe there is a mission for me here at home. Maybe I needed to repair a lot of my relationships before I leave. There are so many maybes, so much uncertainty.

Through it all, this has been an extremely humbling experience for me. I realize where I went wrong in all of this– letting my workload come in the way of me and my personal responsibilities, and allowing myself to be consumed with self-pity once I was told of my fate. I have, since then, felt different. I have a new resolve, and this saga makes me more determined than ever to achieve everything I’ve always wanted to achieve. It’s like dangling a piece of meat in front of an animal and then taking it away. At the end of all this, what I’ve developed (other than a deep hate and distrust towards my university) is the hunger and desire for what I want.

I will not let this break me. Not now, not ever.

Author: Natalie Ha

I remember being enthralled with the written word ever since my parents started reading fairytales to me at a young age. Seeing the power it has to influence behaviours and mindsets, I have learned, over the years, to translate my thoughts onto paper, in an attempt to positively disrupt the lives of others. Having my written works published in various forms of media has empowered me to weave stories that people can resonate with. I look forward to the life-long process of perfecting this craft, and hope to see my work touch the hearts of many in the future. This blog attempts to do just that - and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy penning it down.

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