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Reflections from a liminal space

Date written

11 April 2022

Reading time

13 minutes

The post ahead is sensitive and personal in nature. I hope to seek your understanding; I am another human at the end of this!

These past few months have been quite a surprising turn of events; perhaps me a year ago wouldn't have anticipated it either. Whether it's getting a surprisingly satisfying score for the O-Levels or participating in several tech-related events, or maybe even getting an internship and more self-growth, there's so much about myself that I've learnt these past few months.

I wish to describe this period of time — between the start of poly life and the end of secondary school life — as a liminal space. Not exactly the uncanny images you'd find on the web, but it still fits the description of being transitional; in between places. In this case, I want to reflect and think more about what's happened these past few months. I'll try to be chronological, but what's more important is what was felt and how I've grown since then.

On my first jobs

Before the year started, I had an attempt at a job — a glamping one, which paid well. As embarrassed as I am to say it, I went for one shift and didn't consider applying for any more after learning about how strenuous it was. Both physically and mentally, I was exhausted by the end of the day. I couldn't be sure I could handle any more shifts like this.

The idea of reaching out for an internship hasn't crossed my mind until before the job, and even then I considered it an alternative or a backup plan if this job didn't work. Since it didn't, I acted on my contingency; nervously and awkwardly reaching out to someone I knew, I asked if there was an opening where I could work as an intern. Compared to the glamping gig which paid well, I wanted to focus more on the experience of working at a company. What is it like to work at a place where education and technology intersect?

A few months later, a week after my last week working, I've realised a lot of things; both good and bad, of course. I've met many wonderful people in my time working as an intern, and I was glad I was able to make almost weekly visits to the office (which, for the record, is pretty neat). At the same time, I felt like a stranger out of my own shell. For one, I constantly experienced feelings of inadequacy and faced a crippling imposter syndrome. I was definitely underdeveloped in my knowledge and merely only played around with the code. I hadn't done much compared to what the previous intern had done in a month or two. I also felt like I had several awkward encounters — in particular with my direct higher up. Whether it's unexpectedly coughing in his face or not understanding concepts, I felt like I wasn't meant to be there at all.

For what it's worth, it didn't change the fact that I had been there at one point in time. I did help out a little — at least, to the extent my skill sets at the time could do. I was intrigued at how strong the dissonance was in my head – voices speaking over each other that I wasn't good enough — to the point where I often procrastinated on work. Even when I was supposed to be working remotely, I realised I had spent a lot of time doing a lot of other things. I didn't want to look at the code because I'll feel worse. I wonder if, moving on, I'll eventually get to tame this abnormal behaviour?

On my O-Level results

The day of my O-Level results couldn't have fallen on any other day — it coincidentally fell on another important date. I boasted about how the day felt like a full-circle moment for me. From having the inauguration ceremony on the same day as a Sec 1 student to receiving my results on the same day four years later, it's a little funny how I don't believe in fate as much as I do.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I scored, and just like other events that happened last year it felt surprisingly normal. I was expecting a climactic and emotional tear-filled monologue on how much I've grown and how proud I should be of myself, but instead I feel nothing much. How anticlimactic! I have to say, though, seeing the reaction of my family made me realise how much I have made them proud. That is to say, they were just as surprised as I was receiving the more-than-great news. I won't know if there'll be more moments like these to come, but this should be all the more reason why I should give things my best shot anyway.

On growing out of my shell

I think that there's still a long way when it comes to developing myself. My social front is the most concerning; sometimes, even mustering the courage to speak up remains an inner battle. I realised, though, that I've done quite a bit in these past few months — from something as small as being able to send a message without asking anyone to press the send button to something as unprecedented as taking part in an event alone, I've grown a lot.

Introversion remains both a blessing and a curse to someone like me. I remain ambivalent about introversion. I look up to and idolise my friends who are outgoing and extroverted, yet am comfortable sometimes remaining where I am. I do feel, however, an ever-growing presence of a tug somewhere in my mind: I want to try to be more extroverted. I realised that I've handicapped myself of a lot of opportunities the past few years, and the main attribution to that is introversion. It's not to say that introversion is bad, but in certain situations where it can be binding, I feel irritated.

Trying to grow out of my own shell is a continuous and ongoing journey that may never even have an end. I can try my best, or not at all, and I'll still be somewhere on the spectrum of the introvert-extrovert scale. I've tied my tongue so many times over unexpected and overwhelming anxiety when it comes to doing the most menial tasks, and I doubt that might change any time soon.

That isn't to say that I haven't grown at all, though. I feel like I've changed a lot. I'm a little better at giving presentations — that is, when it's planned well — and I would say that I'm getting better at interacting with people. I'm okay with where I am now, and even though looking at other people who are way better socially can break whatever mood I have for the day, maybe that's enough for now.

On grieving lost relationships

The past year has shown me the depths of my mental health, and among the reasons included the fact that I was grieving over lost relationships. This concept is pretty new, and I've gotten it after reading Blank: Why It's Fine to Falter and Fail, and How to Pick Yourself Up Again earlier this year. I find it fascinating yet logical; we grieve those who are gone forever, and isn't parting ways with someone similar to that?

I first felt this grief near the end of my time in my CCA in school. A friend and I usually had a little pocket of time after the CCA — when climbing up three floors — to talk about whatever's happening. I looked forward to that always. For me, it was something stable; the calm before the storm; a comfortable moment with someone I trust. We'd talk about anything, and though I forget what we'd talked about, I still remember the feeling of being alone with just him and talking without needing to care about anything.

It could be just a one-sided thing, but I for one genuinely enjoyed our conversations. I knew, though, that they have to end someday; the beginning of the end came quickly. After our last CCA session, we haven't been talking as frequently as before, and I suppose it still hurt.

Things got worse nearing the O-Levels period, when everyone's expected to focus on themselves. I drowned in stacks of papers, as if quantity yielded a guarantee that you'd do better. Friend groups around me maintained, yet I felt like I was slipping from everyone.

Today, I still am grieving these relationships. I talk to some friends and think of them so highly. I wonder if that's an illusion I've subconsciously put up; to fool myself into thinking that if I'd praise the people I want to remain close with enough, they'd still care to remember me?

On jealousy

Envy hasn't been a stranger in my head; it dates back quite a while. Its almost tide-like behaviour comes as swiftly as it goes. It feels like a twang in my brain, then a heavy and constricted sensation in my chest. I don't mean to be envious, but now more than ever have I realised that maybe envy is just a natural human trait after all. It's okay to be envious; what you do with envy plaguing your mind may not.

My biggest battles lie in the looks. Looks are subjective, and yet to me they are seemingly a lot. Someone I find good-looking can immediately shatter the mood I have, and I've been meaning to take a look and understand why that is the case. I haven't gotten the chance to come closer to the truth, but I know for sure that envy brews whenever people like these are on the scene. I am, however, aware that looks shouldn't be everything, but it can be difficult to change a subconscious thought than a conscious one.

Another lies in performance. Everyone performs up to their own capabilities, and yet I still find myself comparing myself to others in terms of performance. I'd argue that my class was one of, if not the most, competitive class academically. There was a certain clique of students who were stellar beyond words — chairpersons of student leadership boards, never falling below a high A, and had social lives that boasted easy-going conversations with just about anyone. It hurt a lot to be side cast in a way. It took me a long time to realise that the hurt was jealousy.

I think that jealousy is something I'm still trying to navigate around. It's a feeling that I've felt for a long time, yet only recently defined. I like to think that I don't wish the worst of people — even those I'm envious about — but would rather learn more from them to try and reflect some of the traits they have in my own way. It's still a work in progress, and I doubt I will a comfortable spot regarding envy soon; that's okay, though, as I'll be continually learning something about myself!

On self-deprecation

My relationship with self-deprecation is long-standing, and I am only beginning to be aware of the times I've employed it. Whether it's to fool myself into thinking that doing so would make someone remember me for longer, or to joke around to make others feel better, I realised that I've conditioned myself to it. I no longer have to think about self-deprecating; the words leave my mouth before I could think twice. The sinking feeling of adding salt to my own emotional wounds has become an uninvited familiarity.

It hurts differently each time, and in varying amounts. The pain could be instant, like a whack on the face. Others, like the ones that hurt the most, happen when I lay in bed and overthink everything. I evaluate my worth only to find nothing. I shouldn't be surprised considering I constantly reduce myself to nothing, but why did it still hurt? Why did I do this to myself?

I realise that self-deprecation is a tricky thing. To call it completely useless and bad is too much, yet it also doesn't take a lot to realise that it isn't good, either. It's something that, when used in moderation, can be helpful to one's growth. I just happen to use it too much, and the greater consequence of that is the fall of the self-esteem and self-confidence I have in myself.

I shouldn't handicap myself by using self-deprecation as a reason behind who I am, but in some way that is partially the truth. With that said, I shouldn't try to make it an entire truth, either. There's more to me that I might think, and if many people see it, then it must be true. I strive to show more on what's on the inside than outside; I hope to live with transparency, knowing that I speak my truth instead of lying behind words. There's still a long way to go before I can even begin to think of being transparent, but I like to think that it's in the works anyway.

Conclusion

I like to think that the thoughts put across in this post are incredibly raw. I feel partly embarrassed by some of these thoughts — especially the ones on envy — but I think that it's an important step for transparency and self-growth. This, of course, is a fairly redacted version of the original stored somewhere else, and I think that constant reflections like this really get you to sit down with yourself and evaluate who you really are and what you can work on.

This method of reflecting definitely takes time, and the benefits it bring definitely differs from person to person. For what it's worth, though, writing down your thoughts can help to consolidate your feelings. When you read your words again at another time, perhaps you may realise certain things that you were blind to see when you wrote it in the first place! If you've read this far, thank you for sharing a piece of my thoughts. I hope that this inspires you, in some regard, to self-reflection and some introspection on your part. It doesn't hurt, and maybe you'll learn something new about yourself in the process!