For most J2s, the beginning of the year was hardly differentiable from the end of the previous one. Having completed the most important examination in our lives, we sank into a hedonistic existence primarily involving a gluttonous consumption of entertainment. Weeks were spent binge-watching anime and dramas, reveling in their fictional worlds and getting deeply attached to their characters. As a result, we stumbled into 2017 with a clogged mind and dulled intellect, exhausted from the unfettered merrymaking. Two weeks into the new year, O-level results were released; for some, it was a joyous occasion. For others, not so much.
But for another group of us, a different series of events greeted our reentry to school. Like the former group of people, we played our hearts out during break. Unlike them, we had done nothing to deserve it, except for perhaps getting one more math question correct four years ago. And while they were yet in bed, we received an abrupt phone call from a stranger, summoning us to assemble with fourteen or so other tense and expressionless individuals. VCA IP Initiation 2017.
Icebreakers and activities of all sorts commenced, the most dreaded one being the dances. Boys were paired with girls, and in a flurry of clammy hands and bony limbs, the waltz and disco dances were temporarily mastered. A minority possessed enough savoir-faire to prevent the event from devolving into a complete cringefest; but all the instantly broken eye contact and overtly disdainful drying of the hands almost made it so. Perhaps our seniors had envisioned a romantic evening where dashing young men confidently twirled around blushing ladies. It couldn’t have been more different.
Soon things warmed, however, and conversations were initiated, birthdays celebrated, and pictures taken. Over the next few weeks, adjectives such as “bonded”, “close”, and “SO bonded” were used to describe the groups. Over the next few months, these turned to the groups being either “alive”, or “dead”, the latter being much more common. Much more.
And when the second round of social overindulgence arrived, the prevailing thought among the first group of people was: “Why do they have so many friends already?”, and among the second group : “This is chicken feed.” JC Orientation 2017.
The obsession with dances continued; hundreds crowded the hall and sluggishly mirrored seniors. The goofy shuffles and gyrations, when performed countless times and in sweltering heat, soon lost their appeal.
Finally, after the greatest reserves of our interpersonal stamina had been depleted, we were introduced to our classmates. Class Initiation 2017. Following the trend, the class-initiation was the shortest one among the three.
To those who had come from single-gender schools, it was, let’s be honest, a painfully awkward transition (or maybe that’s just me). Idealistic preconceptions of male-female interaction were discarded, and new ones more grounded in reality were formed. Honest friendships bloomed as our social skills increased tenfold.
After the initial excitement, many of us felt as if our brains had been stultified; frozen, ironically, by all the icebreakers. With no perceptible pressure to do well academically, we, or at least everyone around me, chose the well trodden path of skipped tutorials, lectures full of nodding (and not the kind induced by profound understanding), and undone homework. The masses soon settled into a general mood of leisure, choosing to stroll languorously for the first quarter of this two-year long marathon.
Yet this first quarter was the most exciting it would ever be, thanks to the variety of CCAs we took part in and supported. Concerts were held every week, serving as melodious respites from the ennui of schoolwork. Racquets, sticks, and worn red tracks awaited our dismissal every few days. But I felt that the best CCA related activities were the match supports. The electric atmosphere, the half-crazed screams and cheers, and the ferocity with which our players fought for victory were truly unforgettable.
Then the mid-year holidays arrived, to which everybody querulously proclaimed how fast time had passed, and prepared for a month of hermitry. Those who decided to buck up, did. Those who wanted to relish J1 freedom for a month more, did. Mid-years came and went, people had epiphanies on the importance of studies, and as a result started training their vacuous minds. Promos, which at first seemed daunting and insurmountable, passed in a jiffy. And just like that, the year was over, half the battle won. One down, one to go.
But wait. Like realizing after crossing the apparent finish line that there is 800 meters more to go, we turned from celebrations to come face to face with Project Work. People suddenly became pedants of oratory, picky perfectionists of diction. We came to school at brunch time to hone our sangfroid and master the art of grandiloquence, enunciating again and again the details of a product that would never materialise. Groups often had to fake enthusiasm, forcing soulless grins and speaking in a sycophantic, kindergartener-esque falsetto.
The stepping out of the PW classroom signaled, as cliché as it might sound, the end of the beginning. The obligatory ‘ripping of the name tag’ boomerang was taken and posted on Instagram with an equally obligatory thanking of the group. Never again would we look back at this period.
We were truly liberated, at least for a while; released into a bona fide holiday, some planned to fly home, while others packed for an overseas adventure. It was as if we had collectively pulled over for a pit stop, refueling and pumping up our tires.
The Sunday before school reopened, windshields were wiped and engines revved. The race for 90 rank points was on.
As we toil through our final school year, however, there is one thing to keep in mind, something crucial to our growth as students, as leaders, and as human beings.
The Victorian Spirit.
The Spirit of Victoria that courses through our veins the moment we step foot in school, and which serves as our everlasting beacon of hope. The spirit that binds us, all of us, to one another with soul-chains as adamantine as Wolverine’s claws. Her ethereal beauty guides us, without us even knowing it, to always do the right thing, making us eligible, perhaps, for the coveted VGem trophy, that shining testament to a person’s intrinsic moral goodness. Her presence permeates the air and ignites in us roaring fires hungry for camaraderie and all things red and yellow. When we are old and grey, good ole’ Victoria will extend an invisible hand and usher us back through its gates, uniting the class of 2017 once again in the form of reunions. all the while advising us that depositing a plump wad of money in its donation box will be very altruistic and Victorian-like of us indeed.
So we must remember, in the midst of it all, to always stay true to our roots, and to never forsake that which makes us, us.
On a more serious note: The year ahead for J2s is a tough one, maybe the toughest one so far. A-level prep will suck away our élan and rob our lives of color and diversity. Each day will be a repeat of the one before – a dozen hours of nebulous economic concepts, abstruse formulae, and unintelligible passages. Hopefully – and God knows, we wish for it above everything else – we will crawl out of the ordeal, bruised and battered but alive, 90 rank points clenched in hand.
After that, there will be no more pins and needles from sitting too long, no more hiding of our voluminous coiffures, even if it “goes below the eyebrows”, no more running to the hall at 0739 just to escape the embarrassment of standing outside. Only blissful, pure liberty unblemished by the compulsion to do work which so often ruined our past holidays.
But until that day comes, we grit our teeth, pull up our sleeves, and get to work. As Frank Sinatra once said, “The key to deionization is not sleep, but dancing. No matter how hard you try, the end will never start”.
Wise words, truly.
Kim Young Jin, 17S52