A little self-indulgence

Upon reading this post by Raja Petra;

Throwing the baby out with the bath water


It reminded me of my dilemma not too long ago. Back in 2003 I graduated high school and was torn between the idea of either pursuing a degree overseas or doing it locally. The problem was because of the nature of my dad's job I have never felt really secure in the sense that our life was a turbulent one in terms of finances. There were times when we were doing well and there were times when we were at wits end trying to make ends meet. This was in no way anyone's fault least of all my dad. He was involved in construction, mainly earthworks and heavy machinery. Being a one man show, and no political affiliation projects do not come by easily, and even if they do sub-contractors usually get the bad end of the bargain.

In 2003 our circumstances were average; my dad could afford to send me overseas and even offered to do so. But i knew that if I took up that offer, my parents would have to struggle after my first year. So I took the prudent option, knowing that if i were to enter Form 6 and try to gain entry into one of the local universities, my chances of doing what I wanted would be one in a thousand.

So I opted for a small private college, not big guns like sunway or taylor's, my parents paid for my A-levels and after that I took a government loan for the remainder of 3 years to complete my degree. In my second year, things started to spiral downwards. I thank my lucky stars that i did not opt for an overseas education because that would mean my parents mortgaging the house or borrowing large sums of money to complete my education, because I know that no matter how hard the circumstances, they would not leave me stranded.

So to ease my parent's burden I started to earn my own living. Although I had working experience throughout my A-levels and first year, it was mainly weekend jobs at a pet store which was my passion;animals. But I knew a RM4.50 an hour job would not be enough to sustain me and help my family.

That's when I put my brains to work, or whatever little of it I had and started tutoring. It was not easy initially, agents require 50-70% of your first months salary, for any job that you get through them. So I took any tutoring job I could find initially, no matter how far it was. I would travel from Wangsa Maju to Sri Petaling for my very first tutoring job. I had to build experience and credibility, if a parent was willing to give me a chance I'm not going to turn it down since I had zero experience.

Eventually, offers started coming in and I was able to sustain myself, give a little to my family and juggle my studies at the same time. There was immense pressure from every angle, I had the fear of failing my exams, or my students failing their exams and at the same time bills to be paid for the family.

I did not slow down when exams approached last year in May/June 2007, this could have turned out to be a fatal mistake. The morning of my Land Law paper Just 3 hours before the exam, I fell sick. Nothing life-threatening, merely a bout of chronic gastritis but painful enough for me to doubt my ability to do the exams. But I was stubborn, I went for the exams anyway because with London external exams there's no such thing as taking the paper on another day.

I remember crying before the exam, writing furiously and in the midst of nausea swallowing my own vomit back down my throat just to continue writing. Finally I could not take it anymore and left the exam hall 1/2 an our early. I cried again after that, not because of the pain but the thought of doing the whole year again if I failed that paper. No it was not embarrassment, it was about paying exam fees and school fees for another year which I could not afford.

Miracles of miracles, when we received our results 3 months later, not only did I pass but I achieved the highest result in my college for that paper which I dreaded failing. I feel thankful I did not give up before, the struggles before have only made it sweeter.

This May I sit for my final exams, it will be a relief after I do, because then I can start a new chapter in my life. No doubt I will still have to face the monster called CLP, but at least with my degree in my hand, I will have better prospects.

The lesson to learn here, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


  1. this, i am sure, will put you in good stead, for the future. those that never went thru the lows in life will never understand what you have gone thru. on reflection, i am sure you will agree with me thats a great experience which you will always remember and will make you a stronger and compassionate person.

  2. What you went through should be an example for those who are seeking inspiration in their studies. Never give up. I know that you prepared well for your exams too- the high exam scores show it, regardless of the adverse situation you underwent. Life is full of tests- it is how we well we conquer the obstacles, not how big the obstacles are.

    I am proud to have a friend like you.