“Leave it up to fate”, a phrase that repeats in my mind every single day. It reassures me that everything will be fine at the end of the day. Peace, love, faith, and hope are things I hold dear to my heart but they are not always in my possession. They get shaken.
Being a first year undergraduate student in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) so far has not been the most enjoyable phase of my life. I find myself feeling broken - soulless, empty, and drained. I find myself losing motivation and dreading everything. Faking a smile hurts. All my heart desires is to lie down on my bed, snuggle under a duvet, close my eyes, and wish, “Please no sleep paralysis today. Don’t think about work.” But these are things I can’t control. The most I can do is to pray before I sleep.
When I wake up early in the morning, I sit at my usual spot at the dining table, open up my MacBook, and start doing my work. This goes on till after midnight. The days seem endless as it’s a repeating cycle.
“Eh, study again? Every time I see you, you’re at the same spot doing the same thing. You know what they say? Too much of something good is not always something good,” my cousin advised. All I could do was to laugh it off. Welcome to my life.
Every so often, the hope of falling into a coma consumes my mind, just so time would stop so I can get my rest, disappear, and escape reality for a bit. I wonder where I would be if I could fast-forward time.
Taking my studies seriously and prioritising them has always been ingrained in me. I believe that trying my best and working hard will pay off. It will give me my desired results and a sense of satisfaction. Studying has been and will always be my top priority, no matter how much it harms me physically or mentally.
I am a very stubborn person insofar as I think the people around me can give up on me. I hear my family and friends saying, “Go rest and eat”, multiple times yet I won’t move an inch. Stopping my work halfway gives me so much anxiety and I make it a must that I complete it first before anything else. This is not in any way healthy. As much as I am aware of that, it is difficult for me to step out of it. I fear getting out of my comfort zone and not doing well.
Adjusting to life in University after attending Polytechnic isn’t the easiest transition. It isn’t making anything better. As far as I’m concerned, the notion that University is easier for Polytechnic students and that studies get better as we progress further in education does not hold water for me.
Polytechnic made me accustomed to subjective project works, creating content, producing, writing, editing, and designing based on my own ideas. Going from that to theoretical examinations was hard for me to adapt to, especially with tight deadlines and surviving on 2 hours of sleep. I’m constantly trying to catch my breath when it feels like there is no time. Furthermore, traveling from the East to the West and vice versa every day is time-consuming, expensive, and tiring.
I was unprepared to gain class participation marks. Participating in class makes my heart palpitate and my whole body shiver. I am uncomfortable with the attention that comes with being the person who is speaking and I fear my classmates judging me.
It was, at least to me, simpler to be with core friends in Polytechnic as my classmates remained the same throughout the year. There was often enough time for us to sit down, relax, and spend time with each other. Right now, I just feel loneliness. I walk around school alone aimlessly, finding empty benches to just sit and drown in my studies. There are only little pockets of time to spare to catch up with friends. We all have different schedules and different classes with different classmates. It makes it harder for me to ask for help.
There is no doubt that dropping out, getting dismissed, and being a failure have crossed my mind. I don’t think I will reach the end. I wonder if it would be different if I weren’t where I am currently. Would it be easier or would I suffer the same? I feel like I’m not doing well and I’m falling behind my peers. They are doing better than me. I am barely making it through. They will judge me for not keeping up. Friends and family who believe that I could perform the same way I did in Polytechnic will start questioning why I’m not living up to that now. I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself.
I’m not who I was before. I was happier. I was a high achiever. I was certain of my life decisions. I was more appreciative and accepting. I believed in myself more. I had so much motivation and determination to get back up once I fell. And I wish I could go back to being that person.
I tried to set realistic expectations by aiming for the minimum to graduate but why am I doing so much just to pass? Why is my best not enough? I can’t let myself fall.
I am afraid of being a disappointment to my loved ones, troubling them, and that what other people would say about me will affect them too. It wouldn’t be the first time that has ever happened to me as my hard work to reach this far has been degraded before.
But here’s the thing - these are my inner thoughts and they are all in my mind. I doubted myself and I doubted my decisions. I shouldn’t be this negative and I shouldn’t think of the worst scenarios that have yet to happen.
As much as studies are important, it does not define who I am and does not determine my future. I have to change my ways and I have been slowly trying to get better each and every day. I know that my negative mindset shouldn’t prolong any longer as it won’t do me any good.
For the first time, I stepped out of my comfort zone to gain other experiences. I took up commitments such as part-time work and co-curricular activities (CCA). Before this, I’d only focused on studies but I wanted to do more. These do make it harder for me to cope but I found myself loving these lately. I enjoy the company of the Muslim Society and my radio team and the things we do. I am able to build my portfolio more, bring my skills to the table, and partake in new activities. They make me look forward to school more.
When I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore, I took the courage to inform my manager that I wasn’t able to work for the time being and I would offer help only when I am capable of doing so. I decided to think of myself first. I shouldn’t overestimate myself, overload, and think about others more than myself. I need to first figure out what I can and cannot do and ensure that I am stable enough to stand on my own two feet. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to let people know that I’m not okay. My feelings are valid.
“It hurts me seeing you like this,” said my father with a worried face as I bawled my eyes out, finally letting out the tears after a long time of bottling everything, keeping it in, and feeling numb.
It hit me. It hit me when my father said that to me. What I’m going through wasn’t just affecting me, but also the people I love. It made me realise that there were people who genuinely cared and this includes my friends. They were all open to me expressing myself and I am thankful to have them in my life. Their social support and words of encouragement reassured me and kept me going. Their love and belief in me made me realise that I should reciprocate those to myself. It was the starting point for me to look at things less intensely and in a positive light. I can actually do this and I have to stop looking down on myself. I am proud that I am moving a step forward.
I’ve been trying to overcome my fear of being alone in public. I make an effort to enjoy my own company by ignoring the surroundings and not being self-conscious. I’ve been forcing myself to take breaks in between and have meals, even if it’s only once per day. This is still better than nothing right? With time, this will go from once per day to twice and more.
Currently, I’m learning to control my anxiety and panic attacks. For the first time after 8 weeks, I finally took the courage to participate in my classes. Of course, I couldn’t spontaneously convey my thoughts so I wrote down what I wanted to say and referred to it because I knew that this would enable me to manage my nervousness better.
Life is like a complicated game. Just like how I know the strengths and weaknesses in games, I should also know my own strengths and weaknesses, limits, and capabilities. I should only perform according to my capabilities and not go beyond as it can take a toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I should embrace my weaknesses and if possible, take it as a chance to improve.
There is no need to stress unnecessarily and lose out on the fun and things I enjoy. Break away from my comfort zone if I need to and if it makes me better. Don’t aim to be the best in school but aim for the best I can do out of my own will. Don’t be hard on myself. Share - others may also be struggling and we can help each other get through it. Hence, here I am sharing on this platform through a heart-to-heart talk with myself to break out of my shell as I’ve never shared with anybody.
We tend to unnecessarily think about life negatively and start self-victimising. It makes things worse when things are hard. We are certain that the whole world will be out to get us. But surprise - it’s not.
Studying is not a life-and-death situation and may not always be the way in life. Not doing well does not mean the end of the world. I can always find a job and pursue my passion at my own pace. Ultimately, everyone has different pathways in life.
Tawakkul and trust Allah SWT as He is the best planner. I am fully aware that there are ups and downs in life for everyone and I shouldn’t throw all hopes in the bin once I go through a difficult time. It’s been destined that I face this at this exact time. Praise be to God, I thank and am grateful towards Allah SWT for letting me reach this far. I believe that things will get better and I will be able to come out of it stronger. I trust His plans and this trust is my safe space.
No matter what I face, I trust that it is for the best and it is for my success in this world. He knows and does what’s best for me as He has everything planned out. I leave it up to what’s meant to be, to happen. If this isn’t the path for me, I accept my fate with an open heart. I believe that my best is enough and even if I don’t achieve what I hope to achieve, there will be other better opportunities out there for me. He does not test one beyond their limits. May He ease.
A friend of mine assured me that I should not see the “ifs” but instead, appreciate the paths taken.
I will always remind myself why I believe in Allah SWT. If God wills it, I’ll keep myself connected and strengthen my relationship with Him every day through prayers, increasing my knowledge by sparing time to research topics, and reading the Quran, all of which give me peace. Let’s keep my faith, love, and trust in Him up all the time. Eventually, I will see myself sincerely smiling – it is sunnah!