My ‘Arts Education’ is ruining me

“You can just tell when someone is from the Arts faculty,” a science student commented.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I don’t know. errrrr. I guess you guys are just very opinionated and think very differently?”


Contemporary Singapore society, albeit gradual shifts in perspective, still value a Science/Math education over the Arts– entrenched by State emphasis on the sciences early on its in education reform. This could perhaps account for the number of perplexed faces I’ve witnessed as a result of my telling them that I’m pursuing a degree in arts. “Oh cool. So you can draw very well?” they would respond. Sure… let’s just go with that.  

But for those who actually do realise that I am generally referring to the Humanities and Social Sciences, usually respond with a curious amalgam of incredulity and scepticism. They can’t seem to rationalise the purpose of an Arts education vis-à-vis an actual career trajectory. Follow up questions, along the lines of “What are you planning to do after that?” usually ensue. The general implied consensus is that my degree is of little value– and by extension; my intellect.

Ironically, the Arts faculty is by far the largest in NUS, with an intake of around 1200 undergrads per year. Critics reconcile this paradox by subscribing to the perception that the faculty is a ‘dumping-ground’ for those who could not secure places in science-related faculties (subsuming a considerable population of undergrads, like me, who willingly chose the Arts). Alas, this perpetuates the notion that the Arts kids are just not ‘smart’ enough.

Now that I have established the context within which my education is being perceived by others –although I admit that these are my sole interpretation of general sentiments and are, thus, open to my bias/overstatements– I shall present a non-exhaustive list of reasons as to why my education is ‘ruining’ me.  Continue reading


The Ingenious Mind of Jake

Writing 101, Day Eighteen: The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. Mrs. Pauley had fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict her from the house she’s lived in for forty years. Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

I look at my kid sister sitting beside me. This little scallywag is growing up fast – I can’t even believe her first tooth dropped yesterday. I mean, she’s only six! I think mine started falling off at seven. Anyway, I have been scaring her about her teeth. I told her that they’re all going to come off within the next few days, and that she’s going to look like the crazy ol’ Mrs. Pauley. I’m an evil genius, aren’t I?

Speaking of Mrs. Pauley the Loony; she’s the neighbourhood nutcase. She used to sit by her porch almost daily, book in hand, waiting for some poor little soul to walk past her estate. Once I was walking home from school, and that maniac screamed at me about how I’m going to grow up and leave my parents and never call them again. What does she know? She’s just a crazy old lady. Anyway, when she wasn’t screaming at random people, she was always screaming at her husband. I don’t even know how that poor old man survived all those years. Thank goodness, he kicked the bucket a few months back. I can only picture him floating towards heaven with a crazy gleeful smile pasted on his face. I would too – if I had to live with that one.  Continue reading

The Man In The Mirror

Writing 101, Day Seventeen: We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Parts: One| Two|


He finds a piece of parched paper on his desk by the window. He picks it up. It is a letter, he realises. With perplexed curiosity, he reads the letter addressed to him. 


June 25, 2014

Dear Journal,

It has been five days since I found the letter – and I am still haunted by it.

For the larger part of my life, I have been portraying myself to be the way I wanted to be perceived. I am certain that I am not the only man in this universe who has done this – or am I? The point is, this portrayal – this betrayal to myself – has been eating at my soul. This letter has rudely stripped me of my protective walls, and I am afraid I am floundering. Continue reading

Screwtape, is that you?

Writing 101, Day Fourteen: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word to write a letter around it.

Parts: One| Two|

June 20, 2014

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you because I am honestly getting sick and tired of these stupid games we play. Can we stop fighting already for Chrissake? Relax, please. I can feel you floundering in confusion. Let’s make this really clear though – I’m not Chbosky; nor am I a wallflower. This is most definitely not a random letter to some figment of an unhinged 15-year-old’s mind. I am real; very real. I’ve been watching you for the past 20 odd years, and it’s about time we have this talk.

I have to admit it though, you amuse me like no other. I have witnessed so many different versions of you, even I almost fell for your ruse at times.  Continue reading

Alas, assumptions may not translate to truth.

Writing 101, Day Nine: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.


So, the universe has made itself clear to me. Any ideas on motherhood shall cease to exist from now on. I am barren. I can’t have babies. Nada. What does it say about me if I’m mostly relieved? I mean, yeah, obviously a small part of me will mourn the loss of the option. Oh my god. Am I hearing myself? I sound like the Ice Queen. Jesus. I should probably blame Him. He made me this way, didn’t He? It isn’t my fault that I’m innately ambitious, career-wise. Is it my fault that I have the motherhood instincts of a toothpick? Trust me, I nearly murdered my sister’s kids with my bare hands the last time I spent the day at her place.

My train of thought dissipate as I feel a tug. The body connected to the hand I was holding had decidedly stopped at his track. I look at him with a mixture of petulance and curiosity. He does not look away from a figure on the bench. His eyes moisten with tears. His teeth chatter slightly as his jaw twitches involuntarily. Continue reading

Snapshot Stories

[Daily post: Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.]



He sat there in masked trepidation. He was about an hour away from catching his flight to Auckland, New Zealand – a trip he was not excited for. This would make it his second overseas deployment. Sergeant Jefferson of the Singapore Armed Forces was about to spend 10 agonizing hours in the air before he arrived in Auckland International; hurry to a different terminal to catch a domestic flight to Palmerston North thereafter; and finally kill another 4 hours on a bus ride down to Waiouru Military Camp. He would know, because it was going to be deja vu from there and out for the next 2 months. He was going to be terribly home-sick, missing his loved ones, his 2 little dogs and his macbook. He was going to be suffering from Muay Thai withdrawals. Two months without practicing Muay Thai was going to leave him feeling depressed and unhinged. He was most definitely not going to be enjoying his time out in the temperamental Waiouru training grounds, where he would experience the four seasons in a single day. “Perhaps this time round, with a new bunch of peers, it would be completely different,” he conjectured.

It wasn’t.