aut vincere aut mori

Hello again (: Since the last time I posted here, quite a lot has happened. In a few words, I’ve 1) Settled into senior high 2) Gone for a road trip across Kyushu 3) Joined a CCA that’s totally different from NPCC 4) Established some really fantastic relationships in school. 5) Grown not much taller! I told myself I would write, but all those silly, overused excuses would creep up over me,  convincing me to just let this blog rot.

This long absence has somewhat smothered my passion to write. I’ve forgotten how it feels like to write without a care in the world, to just pen my raw and unadulterated feelings without thinking if it would get me a good grade or please someone. And this feels absolutely terrible. This disappointment was echoed in Mr Purvis’ comments about our Lit assignment, when he could only find a few scripts that were “a complete joy to read”, where he could “forget about being a teacher” and just appreciate the “sincere and heartfelt emotions” of the writer.

I want to rediscover the joy of writing. I don’ t wish to find myself in another situation where I’ve got lots of stuff to say but no idea how to put it on paper. Like how “Lit is the only subject where you are judged for your ability to imagine”, the world of writing has no boundaries, and it is pure pleasure when you are able to go as far as your mind takes you.

To more happy days. (:


The pursuit of happiness

Happiness is probably the only remedy for the hard knocks of life. Not prescription medicine;  not binge eating; and no, throwing emotional fits is certainly not a solution either. Happiness is like the balmy powder you apply in the middle of a hot and sweltering night – it provides instant relief. It’s also like a blank cheque – it’s effects are limitless and you can have as much as you want. Nobody  doesn’t want happiness; everyone’s in the pursuit of it one way or another.

What I don’t understand is, why do people place a price on happiness? Why would anyone want to set standards – some impossibly high – to determine whether they should be happy or not? In Asia, or particularly my country, it’s  a trend to place a high value on academic success. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning the pursuit of academic excellence, but I’ve found particularly disturbing the way some teenagers view academic success. They have the notion that excelling will promise them happiness, and failing will spell their doom. Some really extreme ideas even bordered on suicide. “I’ll kill myself if I don’t get an L1R5 of 7” thoughts are not fabricated, I’ve heard them for myself. And it’s extremely disturbing. Unrealistic goals, horrendous punishments for failure; is it really motivated by the pursuit of happiness? I think not. Most of the time, they’re doing it for something else. To please their parents or teachers, defeat their peers etc.

I think it’s ridiculous to place a price on happiness. There is nothing you can do to deserve happiness. There are no ‘minimal requirements’ for you to fulfill before you can claim happiness. People lack happiness because they want to restrict themselves; they make it so difficult to grab that it often results in failure, disappointment and anger.

There is nothing wrong in pursuing success. I love to pursue success too. I love the feeling of having achieved something. But don’t ever relate success with happiness. And don’t deprive yourself of being happy by setting high, unattainable targets for yourself and defining happiness solely by achieveing them. Go, do something that really makes you happy. Not your peers. Not your parents. But you. Whether it’s indulging in that cup of ice cream, or hanging out with that person you love; go ahead and do it. Happiness is easily achieved and it just depends on what you view it as. What’s stopping you then?

No matter the outcome of my GCEs, I’ll take the results with a smile.  (:


Why do I love success?

Because it feels great to win.
Because I want to exploit my potential to the fullest.
Because I want the world to see what I’ve got.
Because I don’t want my detractors to have the last laugh.
Because I want to make everyone’s effort worth it.
Because I want my money’s worth.
Because it will secure me a brighter future.
Because God is on my side.

On my own I will finish the race. With God’s help I will win the race.

I found Miracle by Tom Baxter incredibly inspiring. It was used during BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and speaks about how we can make things happen only if we try.

Yes. Miracles do happen. It’s only if you want to believe and trust in yourself, and make something happen.

Let’s make something happen.

Game on.

I’ll come back and claim Mr Tan’s promised limited edition teacher’s tie next year. And the Literature prize. Mark my word.

Graduation: the aftermath

4-2 of 2009. Well, almost.

With Ms Fernandez and Ms Thian. I failed to do a ‘shitting behind the bush’ pose. Look out for the ‘ooh, a butterfly! guy. ;)

After four years, the China map is finally gone.

Fabulous scenery

Mates of four years.

Farewell cake from Ms Fernandez

The nicest certificate you’ll ever receive from the school

CHS forever!

Scroll downwards for Graduation post if you haven’t already read.

The best I ever had

Everyone has to go through a few phases in life – adolescence, school, employment, starting a family etc. High school is just part of those phases. Although it’s just a short four years, it is believed to be one of the most pivotal points of one’s life. High school is where a person’s character and values will be shaped – for life. Who he interacts with and what he learns from those years will shape his outlook and perspectives in life. Personally, I believe that high school is where you meet your best mates, the people who will stand by you and people you can trust. These friends make high school life interesting and memorable. These friends allow you to learn lessons that will put you in good stead. And it is these friends that make life worth living for, despite how trying our circumstances may get.

Friday marked the closure of yet another chapter in my life. After this, a life – changing event will happen – the November GCSEs. The feeling is kind of bittersweet. Part of me wants to move on and start a whole new life in senior high (JC), but another part of me wants time to slow down and let me enjoy what’s left of my time in school. It’s like a child who wants to grow up and be treated seriously, yet when he’s old and has experienced all the hard knocks of life, he just wishes he were young and carefree again. How many friends will go to the same school as me next year? 1? 5? 10? 20? 0? It’s anybody’s guess.

Four years ago, when I first stepped through the gates of CHS, I was young and clueless, with no idea how my high school life was to turn out. It was rather unnerving, being uprooted from primary school and placed, all alone, in a new and unfamiliar environment. But I survived. I had never dreamed of forming new friendships on my first day in school, but I did. I never thought I could stay on for all four years in CHS, but I did. And I cannot even describe how fantastic the teachers in CHS are. Caring, thoughtful, passionate, dedicated, motivated, friendly and (some) with a good sense of humour, they’re practically the epitome of teaching. When I first entered, our principal would always say CHS is the best high school in the world. Back then, we took his words with sarcasm and mocked his lofty rhetoric. Today, I believe his words. CHS is the best high school in the world. You might think it’s just second best, but to me, there couldn’t have been a better school.

Ten things I’ll miss about CHS:

  1. To be able to wake up and arrive in school 10 minutes later every morning.
  2. Being scammed by some canteen operators ;)
  3. The ever friendly cleaning aunties
  4. The fantastic teachers (sorry for repeating this)
  5. My wonderful bunch of friends who never let me down (sorry for repeating this!)
  6. Fantastic juniors. For all the lame jokes (especially Sec Ones!) and for helping me to develop as a person
  7. The Principal’s ever – entertaining speeches
  8. For giving me the chance of a lifetime to go on the UK trip and other overseas trips
  9. For all the camps we endured
  10. Wearing green shorts

To all my teachers:
Thank you, all of you, for being such a blessing in my life. I’ve heard of teachers who give up on weaker students, who label and discriminate. I’ve never had any one of you do that, and I appreciate it. I’ve seen the patience, effort and dedication you put in for each and every one of us, whether it’s the extra lessons that you never refused to organize, or spending money on food for the class to enjoy. :) All of you were as good as friends, whom we could always talk to and share jokes without the fear of rebuke.

Mr Tan, I’ll always remember your Chemistry lessons, with all the cold jokes injected to spice up our life. I can dare say your last Chemistry lesson was more moving than all the performances and videos of Farewell Assembly combined. I saw your sincere effort to try and perform for us with your guitar. Who cares if you didn’t play it like a pro? The emotion and passion you put into the songs was good enough, and many of us were moved by it. I hope we can meet sometime again to play tennis?

Ms Chow, thanks for being a fantastic Math teacher who was ever – patient with us. (despite my numerous careless mistakes and enduring your strangles) =D I’ll give my very best for my Os! It’ll make all our lessons worth it.

Ms Fernandez, I’ll remember you as the English teacher with the dictionary of sarky witty quotes. Originally I thought of you as a fierce and demanding teacher, but you proved to be a person that could be good friends with us as well as a strict teacher. Thanks for everything! I really like the cake you bought for us on Thursday. I’ll treasure all the memories we had.

Mrs Tham, thanks for being ever patient with your form class in Sec 1 and 2. Despite the countless times we ran afoul of rules (‘the day the Principal jumped’ and ‘let me in!!’ incidents always bring a smile to my face), you never gave up on us and always helped us out.

I could go on and write about every single teacher, but it would be a strain on the eyes to read on. Perhaps after Grad Nite.

To my classmates of four years, Leonard and Jordan:
Wow. Four years. It’s strange isn’t it? How we started off as complete strangers, but are now best mates because of a common – theme: class. We’ve been through a lot, some good and others bad. But through it all I learnt that you guys were people that I could confide in and trust, and people with an awesome sense of humour. It’s really been a great four years, and I seriously hope we can be together for another 2 years and more?

To the best class in the world, 4-2 2009:
When I first stepped into class, my first thought was, “Why are all these people so weird? I don’t like their hair” (no offence!) I never thought we could ever bond and become so close like we are today. Yes, there were quirky people, there were drama – mama people, there were all sorts of differing personalities. But that’s what makes our class unique. That’s what makes life in school interesting and fun. That’s what defines our class, 4-2. And I’m glad I got the chance to spend 2 years of my life with each and every one of you. And I learnt so much from everyone. Today, I don’t find anyone weird or unfamiliar. After 2 years, I think all of you are the best people I’ve ever met, and the best class I could ever have in CHS. So thank you for everything, and I hope CHS won’t be the last place we’ll be together in.

To all my friends:
No matter what the association was that brought us together, I hope that it won’t be the association, but our affinity that holds us together. Thanks for all the memories we shared. I’ll remember and treasure each and everyone of you, especially your unique personalities. Let’s have more good years ahead!

Thank you, CHS.

Someday, we’ll be together.

Photo journal coming soon.

Why I love JPOP

If you know me personally, I am a huge fan of JPOP (Japanese – pop), although not a single word makes sense to me. What’s the point? you may ask. Well, it’s not the lyrics, it’s the music that appeals! Watch this video to get a better idea:

Andrew Hansen from my favourite satirical comedy show The Chasers does a hilarious remix on death metal song Rancid Amputation and turns it into a lounge track, because Cannibal Corpse was banned from Australia for its violent lyrics. Pretty ingenious, I must say. (:

Like how babies are naturally attracted to objects/persons of beauty, good music always has that magnetic effect on people that sometimes overwhelms them with a plethora of emotions – and this is regardless of whether the lyrics can be understood or not. This is why music is often seen as a universal language that connects people, breaking racial and cultural boundaries.

There is no definition for what is good music – you just know it when you listen to one. So, stop trying to figure why you keep playing that song on loop, or why that particular song cheers you up. As for me, I wouldn’t want to find out what the lyrics in my favourite JPOP songs mean. I’m not a fan of Mandarin songs because most of them are sappy, annoying love songs in my opinion, and I don’t want to find out if those JPOP songs fall into that category.


Chasers War On Everything was a fantastic satirical comedy show that dared to challenge everything, from celebrities to politicians. Remembered for their daring APEC stunt where they gatecrashed APEC dressed as Osama, Chasers finished its last season, unfortunately, because society did not find a skit they did on terminally ill children amusing. I’ve got word that Chaser will start again under a new name though.


Seven metres. The harsh reality of the situation became apparent to me as I stared, fixated on the red stencilled writing on the pool edge. There was no way my feet could touch the bottom, and I would most definitely drown if I failed in my attempt. The frigid autumn wind stung my bare chest, sending me into uncontrollable convulsions.

The dreaded day had arrived: Water confidence training for Marine Corps recruits. In order to become a full – fledged Marine, one would need to dive from a fifteen metre platform. This rite of passage separated the men from the boys – many recruits had quit because of their fear of diving. Sitting on the bench, I was just on the edge of joining the ranks of those supposed rejects.

“Recruits! Line up beside the stairs now!” the waiting drill sergeant hollered menacingly. My heart began palpitating as I shuffled to the back of the line. The imposing dive platform looked terrifying, to say the least. I hated water, and I had no affinity with heights either. An incident which happened twenty years ago stayed fresh in my mind. I was at a friend’s party, lazing beside the pool when four mischievous boys hoisted my hapless, limp body and tossed me into the water. The feeling of being blinded and suffocated by the water rushing into my mouth was horrible. I had to be ‘rescued’ from the one metre deep wading pool, and ridiculed for being so silly. I shuddered at the memory.

A loud splash jolted me from my thoughts as I witnessed a recruit land gracefully into the pool and emerge barely seconds later. Cheers erupted from the waiting crowd. I sighed. If only I had even a quarter of his courage…

“Darnell Johnson! Step up now!” The words were cold. My stomach lurched, and I had to swallow violently to keep its contents inside. My knuckles trembled as I placed my hands on the hard, metallic rungs of the ladder. Looking up, the ladder seemed to stretch on to eternity. Although inside I was  a total wreck, I could not betray my emotions. Darnell Johnson was known for being a tough, tenacious Marine that would never quit on anything. I must not appear weak. The ladder visibly shook as I began my slow ascent.

It was not long before I reached the platform. Climbing was not so difficult after all. I sighed in satisfaction as I congratulated myself on this little success. Little did I know, the real test had yet to arrive. Glancing down, I could barely make out the shapes of my peers, and the pool only appeared as a small, blue shape. The intensity of my heart palpitations increased as I gripped onto the dive platform for my dear life.

“Darnell! Stand up and move toward the edge!” The command wafted up like a death warrant. I hoisted myself up with all my might, but I could only manage a little before my knees buckled. The flimsy board vibrated, as if ready to snap anytime. I tried again, but somehow I just could not stand up. I collapsed on the board, frustrated.

“Darnell! Stop wasting my time and move toward the edge!” The drill sergeant yelled with a greater intensity. I must not show my weakness. I had to stand. Gingerly, I changed into a crouching stance, and slowly maneuvered myself to the edge. The board creaked with my every move. Fear and apprehension began mounting as I approached the edge. A peek under it made me close my eyes immediately. A fifteen metre drop! What if I missed the pool? What if I drowned? Questions flooded my mind as I gulped large mouthfuls of air.

“Darnell, are you afraid? Are you quitting the Marine Corps because of this?” The drill sergeant began his trademark, nasty taunting. I remembered the time I first learnt to ride a bike. I was crying, screaming for Dad not to let go of the handlebars, despite his reassurances that I would not fall if I continued pedalling. ‘Have you no faith?’ he questioned before letting go. Tears streaming my face, I closed my eyes and pedaled for my dear life before I realized I was still on the bike and alive. This was another have you no faith moment I guess. I knew I would float if I just relaxed, but what was stopping me then?

I had joined the Marines to toughen myself up and show that I could contribute to society. I was the strongest recruit in the platoon, who could effortlessly run ten kilometers and do twenty pull ups immediately after. I was envied by all, for being so strong and excelling in all fields. How was I to quit as this moment? What would they think of Darnell Johnson being another reject?

In an almost simultaneous motion, I closed my eyes, and took one step off the dive platform. My vertical descent was quick and uncontrollable, like in an elevator that has just snapped.

Within a split second, I plunged into the seven metre pool. Before I could struggle, my body was propelled upwards, and my head came into contact with air. Gasping violently, I breathed in as much air as I could, and smiled weakly at the applauding recruits.

I guess living with faith sure beats living in the grip of fear.


Zachary Kieran does not believe in the stereotype that African Americans cannot swim.