I was kinda ‘inspired’ to share my story. Maybe I might in turn, ‘inspire’ a few young rascals. So here I am blogging when I should be mugging for my finals, haha! Still I think it’s worth a few minutes of ‘penning’ my thoughts down, as I think this blog is a good platform for me to rant at the multitude of young audience that flock to the site.
The social issue I want to discuss is the the ‘education path’ our youth undertake and it’s alternative to get good results. I have blogged before about the Malays in the decline on their academia achievements, in particular I hope some of them are reading this. Not only I hope my entry will be read and pondered by my own race but I think the topic at hand, involves other ethnicity in our multi diverse society of Singapore. It’s a trying times for our youth at that young age of initial schooling years. I know, we all know, for we were once young. The syllabus may be different now compared during my time but how you actually approach with the objective wanting to be successful in your studies and life, has not changed. It’s still the same.
There’s no shortcut to ‘success’ and with that I want to share the journey I’ve started back in 1997 when I was in ITE and the learning experience of hard knocks of life which has taught me invaluable lessons, which am now still ‘hardwired’ in me. I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘success’ story but my education journey is somewhat unique.
I believe my involvement in sports has made a huge difference in my academic pursuits. The sport, in particular running for which I love, became inseparable and my involvement with the sport has been the most enriching experience of my career. So I truly recommend our youth out there, those considerably having no motivation nor the drive to study, take up a sport. As the sport I got involved with, developed my character traits – integrity, loyalty, determination, and dedication. And that carried over to the work I’ve choose and the life I lead.
Here’s how it got started, here’s my life story …
Who am I … I’m Uncle Sha. Uncle who?
I’m Uncle Sha, that’s my nickname as I’m more affectionately known among my peers and friends. This uncle is 28 years old going on to 29 this December, yes yes, I’m that old! Currently I’m pursuing my engineering degree at NTU. I’m an avid blogger, thus this ‘hip-hip hooray’ entry to positively ‘brainwash’, some might even say to ‘bore’ the young minds reading this entry, haha!
I’m also quite ‘active’ in the sense that every ‘stinking’ minute is either spent outdoors training, running, or cartwheeling. In return for that rather healthy lifestyle that I lead, I’ve been blessed with a tanned looking outlook for which has served me well. I can truly blend in well at Little India with the Banglas and Indians. No holding hand for me please, that one I prefer to do it on the third date.
Well why do I call myself Uncle Sha. For one, I’m technically an actual uncle, being that I’ve a cute and pretty 2 year old niece, Aisah. She’s such a bundle of joy!
Secondly because I’m a late bloomer in practically everything I’ve done, in such that I’m way behind in terms of ‘getting there’, may it be academic, relationship or involvement in sports. Though it took me a very long time, my route of Sec School (5 years Normal Tech), ITE (2 years), Polytechnic (3 years), University (Into my 3rd year now) has been a fulfilling one. It’s not the destination but the journey that matters. I’m that person who starts slow like a tortise, but I know I’ll get to the end one way or another, no matter how long it takes. Thus I’m known as the ‘old guy’, hence the Uncle status. I’m also used to other popular aliases such as Ahpek, Bangla and Atuk. So take your pick in calling me, I’m fine with anything as long it’s not offensive.
For many youth out there during primary and secondary school time, most of our school days are said by some to be the happiest and busiest days of their lives. Mine weren’t. They were were horrid. I was busy however but not with school, but busy getting into trouble. The importance of education isn’t exactly preached much in my household and I was from a poor background and tough neighbourhood, thus my gangster-ness.
At that time, I was ‘alone’ with nobody on my side. My parents were busy. I was however love soccer, which was really the only thing that interest me then. I would rather be kicking about in the soccer courtyard rather than be stuck in a classroom. I can safely say I was the ‘kid from hell’. The social outcast everyone stayed away from. I learned to generate my own happiness, I steal, I cut school, habitual latecomer, I fight and bully other kids. I’m sure some of you young readers can relate to me on this.
I was in school just for the sake of just being there. I went on from Primary to Secondary school without much of a single cherished memories I could conjure up. I was not surprised that I flunked my O’Levels and based on my horrendous results, my only option was to go to ITE in 1997.
It was to change my life as I found out, I found my salvation
Salvation has come … Run Sha!
ITE which was more of a vocational technical school then, it’s acronym ITE stands for It’s The End. True enough I truly think it was the end for me. I was so ‘short-sighted’ then eh. Back then, ITE was well known for its rowdy students, delinquents and trouble maker, like me! I comfortably fit it as you can guessed it. Funnily enough for all my ‘bad-ass-ness’, I’m not into smoking nor drinking. Never done that before and will I ever advocate such ‘vices’ to anyone.
I was truly going ‘downhill’ for the next year or so in ITE, until I found my ‘salvation’
What ‘turned‘ me around was actually by chance. A clear and significant turning point in my life came during my school sports meet. We were all forced to come down to the stadium and support the participating athletes which I find it a waste of time. Still I came down, not for the teachers but for one of my friend who was actually running in one of the heats. I always thought such individual showcase of running around an oval track is rather ‘stupid‘. Why run in circles when you can use a bicycle or rollerskate (there’s no rollerblade back then), haha!
Well to make the story short, what turn out as a day for me to boo the runners from the stands, I found myself on the track lane, preparing to run a race!
Yes quite a drastic change of event eh. Safe to say, my friend was late for his run and begged me to run in his place in the heats and if I qualified for the finals, for which he would run, he would treat me to two MacDonald’s Happy Meal! I agreed without much hesitation, as a sane person would never ever turn down a free meal, let alone 2 Happy Meals!!
I coyly went to the registration area and lied I was my friend. Before the run, I ‘borrowed’ a pair of running spikes, hey it’s conveniently lying around with no one in sight. Maybe someone dropped it from their bag? Rightttt … Abit loose but still it fits. I did however returned it to its location after the run, that is when I saw couple of people asking & searching for it, haha. Hey I did returned it ah.
When everyone else was busy warming up, stretching and preparing for their events, I was squatting, happily checking out, waving and whistling at the ‘chicks’ in the stands, haha!
As I approached the starting line, I told myself how the hell I got myself into this position. The things I do for a free meal. Quietly before the gun goes off, I pacified myself. I told myself, “Hey it’s just like soccer, just imagine I’m chasing the ball” … yeah right, the phantom ball for which I’ve to chase for the next 2 freaking rounds! Yes I’m running the 800m event! Oh brother!
As the gun goes off, everyone starts to jostle and pushing each other. Hey that’s so gay, so this genius decided to run on the outer lane. More room & space mah! So there I was running on the outer most lane keeping up with the main running pack. I recalled my friend telling me that he would only buy me the Happy Meal if I qualified for the finals, so this genius again overtook the main running group and I just run as fast as I could.
As I came around the 300m bend, people in the stands started to shout and pointed at me. What the hell, they want to pick a fight with me eh. Let me finish the run first la, then we fight. I even gave the crowd the ‘FU’ sign when running, haha! Later on after the race only then I found out, as told by one of the officials, that I was still running in the outer lane and should move into the inner lane. That’s what the crowd was shouting. Hahaha!
Well the race surprisingly ended on a good note for me. I finished first in my heats. Albeit the tiredness, wobbly legs and panting as if I’m going to ‘pengsan’, I’m going to get my two Happy Meal. At the end of the race, I saw my friend who was supposed to run. He approached me, gave a pat on my back, told me he saw my ‘Hero’ race and commented, “Dei tambi, you run like Carl Lewis. Brave but a stupid run”.
I gave him the blur look, I couldn’t comprehend who this gay guy name Carl Lewis is. Is he a local tambi too?
Photo courtesy of Sprint Dynamic
The running interest grew
After that race, I became known as “That Kid” and I was used to people in school who came up to me asking, “Hey aren’t you that dude …”. I bet what they wanted to say was, ‘Hey aren’t you that gundo who ran stupidly on the outer lane’ Kanasai! Hey give me a break, I’ve never ran the 800m before. Hahaha.
As much painful as it was running that race, I find running fun and it’s something I feel I can excel at. Quietly my interest grew. I even joined the school running team! Hows that! A bad-ass gangster running for his school!
Being more ‘visible’ in school and known as a jock, truly brought out the difference in me. I found a profound impact on my formative ITE years as someone who represent my institution. I was proud to run for my school colors, as being in a member of the athletics team serves not only as a bond, but it helped me to identify with a group of people who share my interest and helps me make the transition from a ‘bad’ to an ‘OK’ student.
I even surprised myself as I slowly became a good student because my running mates brought out that competitiveness in me. It was always there, its just that I needed this new found running passion of mine to bring it out of me. Seeing my teachers at various meets, let me know that they cared about what we were doing outside of the classroom too. It’s a whole new experience for me and I’m quite liking it, how I’ve ‘transformed’ myself.
I know I’ll never ever be a rocket scientist but I was improving dramatically in my studies due to my involvement in sports. This running-mania which I’ve caught on, has really has created an attitude within me that inspires me to give every task I took, with all the deserved effort it requires. I believe it’s a consistent level of energy that breeds success.
Back then I was supporting myself with several part-time jobs. Some of the jobs I’ve took upon can be a really humbling experience, like cleaning toilets. It’s a ‘harsh’ world out there for which I learned the ‘Hard Knocks of Life’ first hand at such a young age. Truly I learned the value of money and that education is important in our ‘paper-chase’ society and a must-have if I don’t wish to continue cleaning up other people’s ‘crap’.
Furthermore my late mum then was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. Knowing that you could lose someone is truly scary. I needed support, and I got it from my track mates. In a way the competitive attitude instilled by athletics also has helped me to excel in areas away from the running track, and helped me coped with any adversity that came my way.
This uncle was also lucky enough to be featured several times in the papers. Feel free to gawk and look at a few of the articles I’ve scanned. Do laugh at my old retro hairdo and fashion sense!
The running continues
I played sports because I enjoyed them, even if it creates stressful situations. What I’ve learned in those years, I brought it with me as I graduted after ITE. I went from an ‘F’ student to a ‘C’ average student at the end of my two years at ITE with glowing reviews in Track and my various leadership roles in school. I went through National Service, Polytechnic and University years with the same set of principles I learned of my new found ‘lease’ of life. With that mindset, I really excelled during NS, graduated in the top cohort of my Polytechnic peers and am now coping well in University.
I truly believe sports goes hand in hand with education. It is when you play your sport closest to the heart, it is then most compelling. I’ve found new found friends and a certain bond only found in sports, that never ends. Although some have ‘retired’ from sports, we continue to get together long after graduation. It is always fun, when we do gather for reunions, and to see how that bond, that was instilled in all of us, is just amazing. It’s all because, all of us just love running.
I view sports; as in my case it’s running, as one of the key ways in which we can form young minds. To be able to go out there into the ‘real world’ and with the values they learned and to take over important roles in society. As our PM Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in the last parlimentary discussion, “We have had a second generation of leaders, one transition; a third generation of leaders, a second transition. And it is a system which delivers results.” Youth upon reading that should take up such challenge by our PM and be the future leaders. I truly believe such future leaders can be nurtured through sports as I’ve blogged here. Even some of our member of cabinet was former school player!
The mission statement above, however, can be easily lost if another lesson from sport is not well learned: the need for a good game plan. True you can’t overdo just your sports aspect only, there must be a balance of both academic and sports. Athletics has an important role in my life, but it must complement the academic experience, which is the clear priority for everyone involved. That’s my advise
These days, I am immensely privileged. I love my family and my friends. My life is stimulating and I have a wide range of active interests these days. Every now and then, there would be challenges that comes across my path, who doesn’t but I’ve been through plenty of them before. Indirectly running indeed has really equipped me well to face the world.
I’ve had a whole ‘lifetime’ of experience, not only of survival but of staying true to my own enthusiasm, may it be running or anything, regardless of whatever happens. With such glee, without any hesitation, I can honestly say that the happiest days of my life really are right about now.
“Make good of yourself“, that message still echoes in my mind always. That was my mum final wish from her death-bed. With her passing few years back, I know I’ve not reached my full potential, may it be in my studies or athletics, even now at the age of 28 years old. I do not wish to disappoint my mum nor myself, so I’m still dreaming ‘big’. My whole life it’s all about ‘Preserverance’. I do hope this blog entry has ‘moved’ and inspires some of you out there. I’m no role model, but I feel I’ve a story to tell here. so young readers, take up a an active role in some kind of outdoor activities.
Thank you sports, you’ve ‘saved’ my life