Coaching and the Gift of Running

“I want you to feel like you’ve just died. Yes, the feeling is similar to death. If you don’t understand what I mean after the race, then I’m sorry, you didn’t give it your best.” Motivating people is hard work. The approach is always the same, but the persistence makes for a tough job. The boys will look up at you and nod, they will give you some assurance. But in the end you’ll need to remind them again and again. The world out there is full of temptations; it isn’t easy to stay motivated.

I volunteered to take charge of the long distance component of the school Track and Field team. The school I was working at being St. Andrew’s Secondary School (SASS). There were two reasons for this. Firstly, it was because I was from the exact same track team six years back. The teachers still remembered me from back then and when they invited me to coach the boys, I was thrilled. Those days on the track were some of my fondest memories of SA. Secondly, it was because I basically loved to run. It sounds crazy, but there was something to be said about the feeling of taking long strides with the wind in your hair, hearing nothing but the sound of birds and cars, the sound of your own heartbeat, being with no one but yourself. It was amazing to me, and it brought me through tough times, school, and army, as well as dealing with being on my own. It helped me appreciate a lot of things. So yes, I latched onto this opportunity like a lazy sloth on a sturdy branch.

In the first few trainings, I could sense that there was a lot of work to do. The two teachers in charge, Madam Alifa and Miss Fernandez had been struggling to get things done because the coaches kept changing in the past and a lot of the boys were half-assed about track. I really admire their efforts because they didn’t have substantial background in track, and it was made harder because the school didn’t give it as much support as the niche sports (mainly rugby). At the first training, some of the boys would start walking during warm up, or weren’t serious in their stretching. I had to give them some talks about pursuing excellence and what not, but I wasn’t sure if that was particularly effective. I concluded that the boys didn’t have that desire. The culture was lopsided and they lacked an identity. A lot of them were in it for the points. Just like the problem I had with teaching literature, many of them chose the CCA simply because they had no other sport to join.

I was determined to change that. The methods are simple, but the persistence is hard. I made sure I was there beside them for the first month, running with them, shouting at them as we went along. Then just when they were about to give up I would shout, “SERIOUSLY, YOU’VE DONE FIVE SETS JUST TO GIVE UP ON THE SIX? ALRIGHT, GIVE UP NOW. I DARE YOU. GIVE UP LAH, COME ON, YOU LOOK LIKE YOU WANT TO GIVE UP ANYWAY!” A lot of them gave me exasperated looks, and some even gave up now and then.

Pushing them hard on the road...

Pushing them hard on the road…

And on the track.

And on the track.

No matter, I told them, I wasn’t going to give up even if they did. Upon reaching home I would text the group, prepare them for the next training, or tell them to jog over the weekends. I had to keep reminding them that it was a marathon, not a sprint. You cannot just hope to do things at the last minute and not put in consistent effort. I always linked it to studies and how you can’t study for the ‘O’ Levels one month in advance. I probably bored them to death, but I was persistent. I was once their age, and I know that with regards to running this sort of motivation is needed. In soccer or rugby it is very easy to find motivation; the entire world seems to be glorifying ball sports, and so it’s very easy to get caught up in that. What running instills in you is something more deep seated, and that is a sense of personal achievement. This was a mindset that was sorely missing in these boys, one that I had to help them discover.

I think being relatable helps, and it helped them believe in me. Madam Alifa and Miss Fernandez had a lot of experience in guiding the boys and planning out trainings, but they valued me because in all probability, I could relate better to them. I was in the boys’ shoes just a few years before, after all. We would talk and joke during and outside trainings, and it always made them feel at ease. The pain you feel would be less than the actual pain if you knew it came from a benign and understanding source. I had to be that cool, kind coach that only wanted the best for the kids. The balance between tough trainings and supportive coaching had to be discovered there and then.

I remember this, we were celebrating Madam Alifa's birthday and were deliberating whether we should smash her with the cake. Thankfully, we didn't.

I remember this, we were celebrating Madam Alifa’s birthday and were deliberating whether we should smash her with the cake. Thankfully, we didn’t.

What really encouraged me was our Intra School Cross Country. The upper secondary track boys got 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th! One of the lower sec boys clinched 1st, with two others in the top twenty. Sure, it was only within the school, but it was highly encouraging to them, and even more encouraging for me. A few weeks later, some of the sprinters attained second for the 4 x 100m during the Akira Swift Track and Field meet. They were presented with their medals before the entire school. Those were proud moments for us, and I told them later that nobody was going to shove us around, not rugby, not soccer. WE are runners, and as runners, we have to be the best at running. In time, we showed the entire school that we certainly weren’t just a bunch of ball-sport rejects, but a serious force to be reckoned with. I was in charge of these boys and no one was going to belittle us.

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The almost-clean sweep of 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th for the Intra-School Cross Country.

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Closely followed by a 2nd place for our 4 x 100 team at Akira Swift!

Training continued from that positive result, up till now. There was an Inter-School Cross country in between, but we didn’t fare as well for that. I kept telling them that they should only focus on themselves and not the competitors from the other schools. If you feel you’ve tried your best, it shouldn’t matter what your competitors did. They’ve probably trained harder than you in the past, so you cannot expect any miracles. Miracles are for the operating theatre, not the start line of a race. The miracle comes from the months of hard training, the sweat, the tears and the cries of I WON’T GIVE UP! The true miracle is the persistence of your mind. Well, I didn’t actually say that word for word (it would be epic if I did), but I articulated these thoughts to them well enough.

Sad as it sounds, I will be having my last training with them come Friday. I would love to continue with this bunch and send them off to the nationals in April, but I have my own commitments to attend to by then. I really do wish them all the best for that. They’ve been such a joy. Some of the less motivated boys would even text me now and then asking me “Sir, how should I train over the weekends”, or “Is my method of training good enough?” I am encouraged that some of my persistence has paid off, that this “culture of excellence” thing is slowly creeping into their minds. I think that beyond the long runs, dietary advice, painful stretching and reminders to run on the weekends, the best gift I could offer them was a renewed confidence in themselves and their abilities. It is a special gift the running gods had granted me so many years back, so I feel it is only right if I helped them discover it as well.

For one last time, Up and On!

You guys will be missed. continue training hard and do your school proud! Up and On!

You guys will be missed. Continue training hard and do your school proud! Up and On!

The Lee Kuan Yew I Know

During history lessons, you will always find me tucked into a comfortable position and dozing off contentedly. I was never a history buff. The first of Stalin’s five-year-plans were… David Marshall did a certain something when he was in a certain political party and then after that… Franz Ferdinand, if let’s say he wasn’t shot, and he didn’t die… You would lose me right about here.

 So you get it, I didn’t really participate much in history classes. Neither was I conscious for very long. I drew mind maps at the end of term to try to memorize some of that dreaded content and then hopefully pass my exams. I wasn’t exactly your model student.

And then there were some lessons on the founder of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. Like many people my age, we were born into an era where the man had already performed his magic and built up the nation. All that was left, it seemed, was to carry on the legacy. I do wish I had listened a bit harder in history class, because right now, I only know three things about him with absolute certainty:

  1. He watched as Japanese soldiers beat a man up during the occupation years.
  2. He teared when Singapore was on the brink of independence.
  3. His wife passed away recently, back in 2010

That is basically all I can say with absolute certainty. Sure, he also founded the PAP, that one we all know, right?

I’m saying all this very casually, not because I have no respect, and certainly not because I have nothing better to say. I’m being casual with it because part of me believed that this great man would never see his deathbed. This is a man who vowed to rise from his grave if anything bad happened to us. He was the exuberant speaker in his heyday. We would see his face on the TV screen, his movements in real life, his words in books, and his voice on the radio. Of late, we even see him appear on viral memes on facebook and twitter, portraying him as the “badass” we all know him to be. He was everywhere, and though of late his appearances have become less commonplace, he would still pop into vision now and then like the sun peeping out on a cloudy day.

I am twenty-one this year. It is a pretty idealistic age where we tell ourselves to let go of our childish ways and look forward to the future. I believe that like most people my age, we will feel some sort of sadness at his passing. Sure, there will be some youths out there who will be totally indifferent, and I understand that. He may have built us up in the past, but his efforts may not seem as relevant today. Some people call this unappreciative and heartless, but it’s just the side effect of a generation raised in relative comfort.

It was a Wednesday, and it was rumoured that our founder had passed away. This was not inconceivable; he had been in intensive care for more than a month by then and his condition had deteriorated. There were WhatsApp messages spreading around and some news agencies even confirmed his death. I felt an immediate pang of sadness, though it wasn’t just sadness. It was also emptiness, one that couldn’t be explained in a few words. This was a man I only knew three things about, a man who I didn’t think much about, a man that I took for granted all this time. And yet, my heart sank there and then.

Thankfully, those rumours proved to be untrue. Anger at the authors of such a hoax gave way to some measure of relief. The man wasn’t gone after all, not yet, at least. Not yet. But then you can’t help but feel, that the clock was ticking, that at one point such news would prove to be true. And then what?

And then we brace ourselves for what is to come. As a nation, we have always had things go our way. Virtually nobody wore masks during the SARS outbreak. The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami didn’t touch our shores. The Bird Flu, Mad Cow Disease or Ebola was either well controlled or unheard of here. We have had no major terrorist attacks, and our airport has been voted the best in Asia for as long as anyone can remember. There is a lot that has gone our way, so much so that we forget that there was a time when things didn’t go our way.

“Lee Kuan Yew had raised Singapore out of the slums into the first world wonder that we are.” This sort of statement brings with it some baggage. He is a man that had been questioned for his actions, a man who stood by everything he did and denied his critics their time in the sun. We always take this kind of success story with a pinch of salt, and don’t appreciate this the same way our elders do. Perhaps in the annals of history, he will always be that force of change and progress; one man who fought against a thousand ideals to forge what he felt was best. Perhaps this is true, but to my generation, I believe that he will always be the guiding hand that rode above all criticism, the assuring figure overlooking it all.

I don’t know whether to feel proud of his legacy, or sadness at his waning health. I am at a loss as to how to feel about these things simply because I always believed him to be with us through it all. When I was younger, my family would huddle together in front of our television on the ninth of August. And he would be there; smiling and waving at the crowd during the National Day Parade. Every single year, he would be there. His hair would grow whiter and maybe thin out a little, but he would be there. I always believed that this one man would weather all storms as he had in the past, and prove everyone wrong time and again.

After the storm has past, perhaps he will prove us wrong. One day, he may be gone but within this generation, his ideals will be stronger than ever. Because Mr Lee, the single biggest gift you have granted upon us is hope for the future. You have fought for us tirelessly and given more than just your life. You’ve had to make many tough and unpopular decisions just to give us what we have today. Sure, we may not yet be perfect, but you have given our people the platform to work towards it. Whether someone else could have done a better job or not is irrelevant. Because beyond just politics, you have shown us what it means to be Singaporean, and by and large, we owe this identity to you.

This is a man that goes beyond the history textbooks. He has reached into our lives from beyond history itself, and given us more than we could ever hope for. Thank you, Mr Lee, for everything.

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courtesy of fivestarsandamoon.com

Teaching, Part III: 3 Things I’ve Learnt

Why do all good things come to an end? Back in 2007, Nelly Furtado posed this question in her hit single, and back in 2007 I was supposed to be a secondary one kid in St. Andrew’s Secondary School (SASS). I was in Perth, Western Australia for the whole of 07’ and I came back in 2008 as a Sec 2 kid to the open arms of SASS. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful journey that led me back to where I started. And so it was, that on January 2nd, 2015, I returned as a relief teacher to the very same school that raised me. Two and a half months passed, and on a warm Friday morning I stepped into St Andrew’s Secondary School as a teacher for the last time.

Before I start going full sentimental with the goodbyes, I’d just like to keep composed, and touch on three key takeaways from my experience as a relief teacher.

  1. Teachers sacrifice a lot

You always hear awesome things about being a teacher; that they end work at 2pm and that civil servant pay is actually pretty decent and they have one month of holiday in June and another month in December and oh my gosh that’s not fair everyone in the corporate world only gets 14 days and it’s just kids how tough can it be? Yeah, you get the sensing, that teaching is quite the “easy” and undervalued job. I believe many people choose not to be teachers because they feel they are “better than that”, that they could probably take on a bigger challenge in life and make a “bigger impact to society”. Well, mud to them, because let me tell you straight out: teaching is tough shit. In the world of teaching, there are a lot of variables that play out in the background that society is blissfully unaware of.

Most of the teachers end their regular timetables at 1:45 PM, but I always observe a bunch of teachers spread out at the wooden tables outside the staffroom after school. They are crowded around by a group of students, giving consults that last till as late as 4. Teachers sacrifice their own time to give these consults, and on paper, they have no obligation to do so. I myself have given some consults, but not nearly as many as the full-timers. Consults are pretty interesting because you actually have a smaller audience so you feel like you’re teaching more effectively. But at the same time, it’s draining to put in this extra effort after the entire morning of slogging it out. But they’d gladly do it, because after all, they still care for their students.

Besides these extra consults, there is at least one after-school staff meeting (if you’re lucky) and two CCA training days per week (again, if you’re lucky. The school Rugby team trains at least 5 times a week, even on weekends). So with all these considerations, ending work early is really an illusion. Most teachers only have one day in the week that they can leave school early, and even then, an avalanche of marking greets them at home.

Holidays aren’t as festive as you might think either. Teachers are at home (or even in school) making long-term lesson plans, goal setting, crafting worksheets and marking the worksheets they created last term. In my opinion, the effort and sacrifice more than justifies this “decent civil servant salary”. Other jobs may be tough, but teaching is certainly no less tough.
 

  1. Teaching is not a one-man show.

 I used to think that teaching was like hosting the Ellen Show, you just step on up, do that cute little dance, crack a few jokes, make the entire world interested, and then step on down. Well, it isn’t. Teaching is an insane balance of everything and anything. What do I mean by that?

Firstly, you have to balance between micro and macro management. One minute you’re giving out general instruction, and the next minute you are scuttling about, answering the specific questions of individual students. It takes tremendous skill to vacillate between both roles so your class knows exactly what you want. And that is assuming you have an attentive class. If you have a noisy class that throws things around and threatens to get into a fight every five minutes, then it’s a whole new ball game.

Which is the second challenge: discipline. To maintain some classroom decorum, you have to bargain with the students and make sense to them throughout the lesson. They will bargain for second chances, ask if they can eat in class, and give a myriad of excuses to get out of line. There is no one minute you can take your eyes off them, no moment in time you can fully turn your back to them. Between the bargaining you have to manage your volume effectively, and more importantly manage the way you punish them. You cannot be too lenient to the point where they crawl over your head, nor can you be too strict to a point were they lose all respect for you. It all hinges upon the right balance of attention and discipline, and from that, you get effective teacher-student communication.

As you can already guess, teaching is nothing like hosting your own stand up comedy. It took quite a few lessons to understand this, and after two months, my classroom management is still an area that is sorely lacking. I wish I could be more versatile and adapt faster, but I don’t blame myself. I believe that most teachers take years of experience to master this, and even then, it is never truly perfect.

  1. Teachers need constant encouragement and support.

Teaching is one hell of a demanding job. Outside lessons, they are juggling a thousand matters to do with admin, marking and parents. During lessons they are juggling forty-odd students. Anything can go wrong at anytime. We have a lot to think about, and when something goes wrong, we often blame ourselves.

We partly blame ourselves for all sorts of things like poor test results, parent complains, and even when our students are late for class. We are expected to have some control over the class, so when there is a slip, we feel bad.

For instance, I once had a class where one student lost his temper and injured another student. This happened in the split second when my back was turned to the class. It was total chaos, and after the lesson, I had to make an incident report and do a bunch of things to ensure that punishment was meted out and that things were settled properly. At the end of it, I felt terrible. I tried very hard to rationalize, that it was too sudden, that things like that just happen, that boys will be boys. But like how water tends to flow to the lowest point, the blame always led back to me.

We will never admit it, but through all this negativity, we desperately need the assurance that we’re not screwing everything up for the kids. It may be that some experienced teachers have seen a lot through the years and so manage to hold their own, but either way, some sort of doubt does creep in. I was fortunate that I got the assurance from my colleagues that this sort of experience is inevitable. There were tough times but we’d talk it out. There were even meetings that targeted problem students and in the aftermath, no one was left alone. They knew I was new to all this, and whenever I helped out with their lessons or marking they’d occasionally place throat remedies and fruit juices on my desk. Sometimes I would even find lunch on my desk. We helped each other out, and I was taken aback by how immensely kind and supportive they were.

The only thing possibly better than support from my colleagues is support from my students. Sometimes after lesson they’d tell me how engaging it was, and that my style of teaching is refreshing even though I was shaky and uncertain during the lesson. Even the small gestures like the casual hello and a simple “how was your day?” can really make you feel a lot better amidst the everyday pressure. Sure, the students can turn into devils mid-lesson, but as I discovered early on, their childlike innocence never fails to reveal itself now and then. It makes you feel like for all your efforts, there is some positive result reflected off their care and concern. That in itself makes a lot of things seem worth it.

Ultimately, saying goodbye has been made very hard because of the above. All the encouragement and support, all the smiles and benign gestures have all melted down to harried goodbyes, a few thank you notes and nice firm handshakes. No, it hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies, and yes, I’ve had my lows even within two short months. But within these trails hid important lessons, and with these lessons I have found some purpose in my life.

Every experience has taught me a lot, but what will truly stick with me is the kindness of both my colleagues and students. I hold them in such high esteem, and if my path ever takes me back, it is to be part of this family again.

Teaching, Part II

It is already March. More than two months have passed since I first stepped into the staff room.

Remember my first post about teaching? I sort of acknowledged that teaching came with it’s own ideals, and that you have to dismantle every last one of them to survive. If you don’t destroy your ideals, they will destroy you. Well, that’s what I thought, and I guess it worked for a while. Teaching each class, I tried having fun while I could with them, and the boys have been largely supportive of me. Of me, meaning me as a person. They can like you, but will they like what you teach? Lesson time is almost always noisy, and needless to say, I’ve had to compete with all that noise. When your primary school teacher says things like, THERE ARE FORTY OF YOU AND ONE OF ME, she absolutely means it. It is tiring, and you get frustrated.

Funny story, when I started off I made this silly vow to never shout in class. Amazingly, for the first week, it worked. The boys were still in a daze from the holidays, fresh from all the slacking and unfamiliar with each other after such a long absence. I could be engaging, and they would listen. I knew this wouldn’t last, though. I had been a student before, and I just knew they needed a few weeks to warm up.

It may have been the second or third week that I shouted for the first time. Two boys got annoyed at each other, and the bigger sized boy pushed his classmate to the ground. I strode over and slammed my hand on the table so hard my palm hurt. I shouted at him to sit down, I shouted at him to think about what he just did, and I shouted at him to look me in the eye. I shouted at him as if we were fighting a war and there were bullets whizzing overhead and bombs falling around us. I shouted so loud the entire class froze, that everything seemed to stand still for a while. My throat hurt and I was trembling. The boys looked at me quietly, as if thinking but you’re just a relief teacher…aren’t you supposed to be nice? Yes, I am a relief teacher, but no, I won’t be nice if that means you get to injure your classmate. There is something more important than kindness, and that is fear: the fear of wrong choices. That day, I felt very surprised at myself, that I could actually be so stern. It felt good to be firm about something, yet it felt strangely out of character. After that first time, the subsequent shouting sessions didn’t matter as much anymore, and the same goes for most first time experiences.

The subject I teach is very interesting to me, and I find great meaning in it. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for all my students. Not that I blame them; no one can do six subjects in school and say they’re in love with every one of them. They tend to prioritize their energy on certain subjects and slack off on the others. It’s just my luck that Literature seems to be a popular “slack off” choice. So, weeks wore on and I could tell, that the interest level in the subject was fading. They were getting rowdier, clustering together at the back and disrupting my teaching.

Those were a tough few weeks for me. I thought I had prepared myself for it, but I was wrong. This is one problem that shouting wasn’t going to cure. There were a few attentive ones, but that was it. The rest were uninterested. They didn’t listen not because they were distracted, or that they were tired. They didn’t listen simply because they didn’t want to. That was, to me, very hard to accept.

I would wake up on some days and ask myself: is it worth it? Is it worth teaching when you know that a lot of what you say may not actually help the kids? Sure, it got interesting sometimes, the weird things the students say, and weirder things they did. It was all fun and laughter, but I couldn’t help but think, that beneath all that, how much was I actually helping them? My confidence fell at that period, and I worried a lot about how I could reach out to these kids. One of the students told me after lesson, sir, I can’t listen well in class because it is just too distracting, we’re not getting much done. That comment was so raw and honest that it scalded me. I felt so empty after that lesson, and so bitterly discouraged.

That low point lasted for about a month. I would go to school and find it so hard to face the lesson, find it so hard to understand these kids. I’d like to think I understood what they had going on in their heads, but I have to admit, I had left my student days clean behind. I was tired but tried not to show it, annoyed at myself but pretended to smile through it all.

What eventually saved me was that I never stopped trying. I had to abide by the universal truth; that you cannot expect the circumstances to change for you, that you yourself have to change for your circumstances. I just kept to the routines: planning lessons, shouting for attention, slamming doors, banging tables, and giving out worksheet after worksheet. I mixed things up, and attempted to make things interesting.

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Found this in one of my students’ essays. And it related well to my situation at that time, that the storms you go through will eventually define you.

I think that after a month or so, it has paid off. It paid off not because the classes got any easier to teach, and it certainly hasn’t made the rowdy bunch any more subdued. It worked because after trying week after week, my perspective started to shift. I started to believe that although these kids may not appear to listen, they actually need you. Sure, they don’t need you to survive by a long shot, and neither will they need you as a friend. But when they look back at their secondary school days, they will realize how big a role every teacher has played, just like how I realize it now. What they need you for is your role in their growing experience; one that may have turned out totally dissimilar had a different teacher taken my place. I remember every last teacher that had taught me, and I’m sure the kids I teach will (hopefully) remember me. I hope they remember the “values” that I have preached, the ideas that I’ve shared during lesson. Time keeps running, and these are irreplaceable moments in their lives that cannot ever be exchanged for anything else. As someone who is just a relief teacher, I am glad I could share these moments with them. As you can see, I’m pretty idealistic after all.

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It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

It saddens me to say that I will be leaving soon. Maybe I’ll be back for a day or two in between holidays, but once the rhythm and routine is broken, it just won’t be the same anymore. This is probably a cliché in education, but I believe that the kids have taught me much more about life than I’ve taught them about literature and in some way that makes me feel selfish.

Learning purely from experience has been both terrible and fun, cruel and kind. The students have driven me mad, yet their kindness and (relative) innocence cannot keep me angry for long. I believe that to teach, you have to indulge yourself in such ironies. There were ups and downs, and that has made the journey a worthwhile and memorable one. Naturally, the next and perhaps the most important question I ask myself is: will I consider this as a lifetime career?

The Death of Spontaneity

Free tonight? I check my watch. 7pm. I am sitting at home. Yes. I am free tonight, I reply. Great, meet you at the usual place? Yes ok, see you there in 20 minutes. And then before long, we’d meet. One of us would be late by ten minutes, the other by half an hour, but regardless of that, we’d meet. And then we would talk, and more friends would suddenly join halfway and it’ll be a crowd before long. Maybe we would go play a game of pool, bowling, kbox if time permits. All with twenty minutes notice.

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Nowadays...

Nowadays it is different. Free tonight? I am wearing my jeans, and off to somewhere. No, I reply, I have something on that I had planned out since last Saturday,  bro. Some other time, perhaps? Oh that’s alright, I’ll just stick around at home, no worries.

But the thing is, I am worried.

I am worried because recently, this has been happening more. Things that then took twenty minutes to decide now take days, and weeks of planning. Concise, sophisticated planning, every minute of our day wrung dry of its value. What used to be a casual question has taken on a whole new meaning. Everytime I hear free tonight? I think of what I have planned, I think of whether I have jam packed my life enough with things to do, people to meet. And when I realise I have, the answer will usually be a clear no, I can’t meet. Why?

Why am I witnessing the death of spontaneity in my life? Is it so hard to do things on a whim? Is it so hard to pack your things and just go?

I see my brother after his track and field training sometimes, and I envy the amount of time he has. He goes to find a pen at Popular, queues up patiently, gets a dessert, battles the long queue, finds a longer route to the bus interchange and casually ambles there, like he has all the time in the world. He misses the bus by seconds and doesn’t even bother to give chase. Was I like that when I was fifteen? Yes, I was. I didn’t even own a mobile phone at that time, and time was aplenty, and I was on the brink of teenage independence. I was not in the rush to spend any of that time.

Back when I was fifteen I was also in track. After training I would take the bus that went by a longer route. I would stop at Chancery Court (opposite ACS Barker) and get a 1 Litre bottle of juice and watch a few buses pass by as I gulped down the contents. Life was simple then. I had no obligation to be anywhere, so if anyone asked me out, I was free. Likewise, if I asked anyone out, I’d get the same reply. No biggie.

What happened? Recently it hasn’t been like that, and looking back, I miss it. Plans are now drawn up like the blueprints of a skyscraper, get these plans messed up, and the skyscraper may just come crashing down. The scaffold that holds my life together will buckle and crush me under it. This isn’t just true for me, I believe we (twenty year-olds like myself) are all moving forward (knowingly or unknowkingly) into a phase of life where we have to be more organised.

Organise your work, studies, family, friends. You’re becoming an adult! You’re on the brink of your lives, you have to absolutely make sure you know what you’re going to do with every minute, every second. You drink beer to destress now, not Coca-Cola! With that privilege comes the responsibility to be hyper organised, if not people around will be upset. The other grown-ups won’t like you to suddenly cancel, or mess up your plans you swore to preserve. Damn. Damn it! What an organised mess we’ve been plunged into.

I don’t think we can ever go back to being the spontaneous and fun loving kids we were in the past. All fun and pleasure is heightened with the element of spontaneity and surprise, and I am sad to say that we’ve either buried this part of ourselves or have placed it on life support. Now we plan our fun, and organise our surprises.

That’s just what it means to grow up, kids. You can’t quite say that this is how you want to turn out, or be assured that you will be this or that in the future. But I guess being organised is our very own way of trying.

Spontaneity. He was a loving friend that brought with him fun, enjoyment and a seemingly unlimited supply of surprises. Rest in peace buddy, you will be dearly missed.