Life often suffocates us by forcing us to make difficult decisions. Probably everyone has experienced that feeling of anxiety when being thrust mercilessly into a moral dilemma. The fact that I had made my own decision once, being equivalent to digging my own grave, made my failure all the more painful.
I distinctly remember how exultant I felt when I received my Primary School Leaving Examination results. Meeting my expectation satisfied me, but I was exhilarated by qualifying for application of a foreign language – either Japanese, German, Malay or French.
My heart was crying out for French, as the general loveliness of France had always intrigued me. There is nothing quite like the lilting music coming out of a French lady's mouth to brighten your spirits. However, my adamant parents insisted on Japanese, as it is more practical in Asia.
For one of the first times in my life, I felt compelled to take a stand against my parents. I knew that my decision would drive them mad, but I wanted to have the final say. I was not going to hide in my parent's shadows anymore and was prepared to fight for what I wanted and believed in,
A huge game of tug-and-war ensued. After much persuasion on my part and subsequent reluctance from my parents, I got what I wanted. The prospect of gaining an irresistible French accent enthralled me.
Every Monday and Wednesday, our school shuttled bus shuttled us off to the language centre. Initially, I was excited to be taught by an actual French person. His witty mannerisms never failed to receive hearty laughter from the class. However, he had the most peculiar hairy ears, resulting in the moniker "hairy ears". French lessons were exotic and filled with fun.
At first, French seemed like a breeze, as we were already familiar with the basic words. My confidence in it soared as my teacher handed back my star-studded worksheets. My friends could only stare upon my excellent test grades with envy.
Unfortunately, it grew harder. Much harder. Verbs came into the picture and conjugating them was a hassle. My keen interest in French was beginning to waver. Still, I remained resolute and the thought of quitting never crossed my mind.
Time had flown past during French lessons at the start of the term. I distinctly remember that we had even stayed back after class to bombard Monsieur Gilbert about meanings of French words in pop songs. Now, the anticipation of learning French was waning away, like a leaking tap. I could not wait to get out of class.
While he taught us about how different items take on either masculine or feminine forms, my mind was not registering anything. The information just went in and out, completely undigested. Even worse, French oral communication was simply humiliating. Twenty pairs of beady eyes would fix on me disapprovingly as I stuttered through a basic French conversation. Through everything, I still attempted to like French. It meant so much to prove to my parents that I could excel in something I wanted for a change.
I spent so much time revising French that I finally understood the fundamentals of his lessons. Slowly, my hard work paid off. However, my school grades dwindled. For a student who was relatively conscientious in schoolwork, it was ghastly.
I felt like I was skipping on hot stones, One minute I focused all my attention on French, and the next I would be poring over schoolwork.
While my mind was undergoing a near breakdown, my classmates started to drop their languages one by one. At this point, I considered quitting French. My classmates encouraged me to, as I could not continue on in this manner. Not having the ability to balance to balance my academic schedule well enough would only result in dismal grades in both areas. At this rate, I would not even be promoted to Secondary Two.
The final straw was when I received a bad fail for my French test. The fire-red crosses scrawled all over the paper scarred me; I would not be able to pick myself up from this steep fall. Armed with a putrid yellow form, I bid adieu to my second school. It wasn't all smooth. I faced resistance from my teacher, unwilling to see even of his worse students leave. I will always remember the pained frown on his face, his knit brows and creased features as he signed it. Of course I felt guilty, but there was no turning back.
Unexpectedly, my parents did not fix me with their usual " I told you so" smirk. I was surprised at the tact they displayed, attributing it to their sensitivity after seeing how morose I was feeling. It embarrasses me that the reason I presented to my friends was that I could not handle it. Sure, that was partly the case, but there was more to it.
It was absolutely petrifying to lose control of life- to not know what was going on. For me, it was like driving blindfolded at high speeds, getting caught up in the rush hour. I was not used to living life day by day, without any aim. I never admitted it, but I was afraid of making mistakes. Imperfection was my greatest fear.
From time to time, I find myself subconsciously flipping through French books, feeling out the words on the tip of my tongue and allowing its cadence to sweep me away to another dimension. I never quite got over it, especially since I had failed myself. As cliché as it sounds, I was more cautious of learning new skills in the future.
The revelation I made still echoes in my mind. I realized that failing to prepare myself to face up to challenges was preparing to fail.