I have 3 bad memories that I have consciously pushed to the furthest corners of my mind. And I don’t know why in heaven’s name I’m even thinking of writing about them here now but in my current morose mood I just want to wallow even deeper and dwell in the shadow of these memories, just to make me feel, well, even worse. I tend to do that sometimes. I didn’t use the word ‘shadow’ just to play around with the word or to add some creativity in this entry. I used the particular word because in truth, I cannot even begin to face some of these memories, for the vague details that I attach to them will become so vivid once I step across that memory threshold and I don’t think I can face them. Not yet.
And yes, one of the memories involves a death of a loved one. There, my throat constricts and my chest tightens the moment I start thinking about it, and I have not even begin recalling the details. I suppose, subconsciously even as I begin to type about it, I am already there in the shadows. But I just cannot go there, at least, if I want to finish this blog still emotionally and mentally intact!
The other is a painful experience. And it involves a lot of anger, for I was mistreated, bullied and sneered at like a common criminal - by the British Immigration Authorities, no less. No, I nearly added a descriptive swear word there and I refuse to resort to that to make me feel better. The experience was too painful for any words I can grasp right now and so, no, I will not go there as well.
And that leaves the final memory. And this one is safe, for it is rather silly in some parts and it is due to my own embarrassment that I have pushed this memory far, far away.
It’s my memory of school.
Don’t get me wrong – my loathing for this memory is no less serious than the other memories. I cringe when I think of my old school but I have to face this memory like I have to face the other bad memories some time in my life and in my current cynical and self deprecating mood, I am more inclined to indulge in the farce that was my experiences in school. I might as well.
Coffee break. After thinking for some time about the whys and what of this surpressed perhaps irrational feeling, to my surprise, I still could not put my finger on what exactly made me hate the memories of school. It’s not the memory of all the schools that I have been to. It’s just that particular one. It was and still is a reputable all-girls boarding school, situated somewhere in Malaysia. There were no bullies, no ragging and no physical cruelty nor violence in the school. The food was exceptional, I was told, if compared to other boarding schools and in all honestly, that was never a problem for me. The buildings and compound were more or less satisfactory although the hockey field was not too level and in fact was bare on various spots - but we won the tournaments anyway, so that was never a problem, I suppose. The man made waterfall was a tad extravagant and excessive and the canteen contractor was slimy but I hardly ever gave that a thought. And so I suppose, (with dread, as I turn my thoughts to look at what I now know to be the reason of my loathing,) I suppose it is the students and the teachers there.
Oh-oh. There’s that tightening of the chest again. So, I suppose, that must be it.
God, I’m cringing to pin point the exact details. Plus, my mind is blocking the exact memories that I’m trying to reach – seriously! Let me see now…the students and the teachers. I’ll start with the teachers.
Yes, I guess I have never been truly happy with the teachers. Not any teacher in particular, mind. Just how in general the teachers of the school treated the students. And within that notion, I don’t mean how all the teachers were with all the students, just how some of the teachers treated some of the students. And even in that, I would like to add, may or may not include myself as a victim of this ‘maltreatment’. Is that complex enough for you? I hope so because I'm feeling a little dazed myself after typing that.
I guess this came about after I one day realised that my 5 years experience in that school created a character trait in me that is most unnerving. And that is a low self-esteem. I suppose not everyone was affected as I have been. After all, different people react differently to these things. But I have seen a certain pattern amongst my ex school mates. It’s not so much a lack of self-confidence but a lack of the need to pursue excellence and to believe wholeheartedly that one can do the things that one desires. And to be prominent. And to show one’s capabilities. Touché. That is it. I think many of my friends from school are truly talented and brilliant but somehow they managed to keep it under wraps because they were not encouraged to ‘show-off’ their own brand of magic. Obviously, to be humble is a good thing but not when opportunity is staring you at the face and you don’t even realise that you are destined for better things with your God given talents and capabilities. Simply because you have never been encouraged to spread your wings and think better of yourself. Simply because your teachers wrongly assumed that you have already full knowledge of your capabilities at such an early age and rather than keeping that fire alive, they chose to put you ‘in your place’. And that is the cause of the affliction of many of my old friends, I feel. Alas, alas. And indeed I see myself as one of them.
In a school where the students were supposed to be the ‘cream of the cream’ (pardon the unintentional snobbery), I feel the teachers could have done a better job at encouraging the students to pursue excellence, excellence and more excellence. Not by telling the students this word-by-word but by their day-to-day actions, advice, counselling, student programmes and how they nurture these students during the crucial phase when one’s personality is developed. I read somewhere that a child’s personality and character is ‘fully’ developed at the age of 15 when finally at that age it stops developing and that child’s personality at 15 will likely remain with her forever. And the critical point is during the early stages of secondary school, during the lower forms. How about that?
It’s really a psychological thing. After all, the teachers are the elected ‘mothers and fathers’ of the students when they were at school, especially in a boarding school. Thus, it’s their duty to teach and bring the students up accordingly and in their best capacity. Unfortunately, I think, at my old school they only managed to encourage rebellion and the need to show resistance. I used to think that some of the teachers were quite jealous of the students, especially, I’m sorry to say, the teachers of the lower forms. They discourage and say things like ‘don’t think you’re so clever’ when what they should actually say is, ‘you are all naturally bright and talented people so you must push yourselves harder.’ Of course, they are not the majority but the exception. The majority, however, are not the ones who encourage the students but have no impact at all on the students but for their exam results. And because of the vacuum in support, the effect brought on by the exception was great. Am I making any sense? It’s not so easy after all to analyse these unwanted memories even when you’re ready to face them.
Of course, I’m writing all this from my own experiences. I’ve typed my stories in great length in a Word document but I’ve decided not to publish them because they are really quite personal. But I’d like to point out one of the major vices of the teachers I had in my old school. It was known to all the students during my time that gossiping about the students was one of the teachers’ favourite past time in the staff room. The teachers loved to talk about what outrageous things this student or that student did but this need not matter if they could act indifferent to these students and just teach them as they should or even better, give extra attention to these students who obviously have certain ‘problems’ or ‘issues’ to deal with and perhaps offer their kind advice and counselling. Instead, they start to act ‘coldly’ towards her in class, already branding her as ‘problematic.’ And that is when, I think, they sow the seeds of rebellion in the girl if she is made of any strong stuff at all. If she is the weaker type however, she will feel humiliated and alone and depressed and God knows what that will lead to and how that will affect her character development at that age. Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that 1 or 2 of my lower form teachers were quite detrimental to my development as a person. I guess I didn't have enough of that 'strong stuff' in me, although I didn't exactly go into a depression.
You see, a boarding school is like a small little world of its own. You don’t have to watch the news about America and Britain attacking Iraq because I’ve seen some students ‘attacking’ a girl accused of something she has never admitted to, I think, until today. It only has to be proven by a neutral body that she has never done that ‘thing’ and it will be exactly like the Iraq WMD situation. And the similarities of school life to things happening in your life? At your office, for example; that woman sucking up to the boss and getting a promotion or somebody cheating on her husband with someone else (in my school’s case, a girl already has a ‘pet-sis’ but still writes ‘messages’ to somebody else or worse, goes on a ‘date’ with another senior – isn't that hilarious!). And occurences like a religious group forcing their views upon you and even power play at the office. Take my word for it, all this can be found in a boarding school albeit in smaller doses and perhaps on a more innocent scale. And the types of people in the world too; braggarts, hypocrites, liars, thieves, cheats, innocents, gullible, sly. You name it. A boarding school is really the real world in miniature size, but magnified. And yet it’s still only a small school with a few hundred students inside. Pathetic.
Am I going to be banned from the school reunions after this?
I have not been the perfect saint myself. In fact, I myself cannot bear to think of the stupid and ridiculous things I did in school although, after double-checking with some juniors apparently I didn’t make too much a fool of myself. But nevertheless, I still shudder when I think of my own actions and I certainly cannot bear to think of the other people who were equally and even more so ridiculous. I know its double standard but I cringe when I think of my past actions but I get annoyed and irritated when I think of the actions of others in that school. So that’s why I do not like to meet up with my ex schoolmates. It’s nothing personal, girls. Really. It’s just those horrible memories. They are just too embarrassing that surely I will not be able to look at anyone in the eye when we meet! Forgive and forget, somebody told me. After 13 years of leaving the school, yes, of course one must do that, but I find that I still cannot. Not yet. Not just yet.
Oh God, I feel that tightening in my chest again…