A luxury I can(‘t) afford

It’s a famous quote of the founding prime minister of Singapore: poetry is a luxury we cannot afford. buoyed by the belief that anything that cannot translate directly into economic advancement is a non-essential. And having grown up in a country whose foundations were laid on this premise means that there is a part of me that agrees with it. I can certainly see the merits of dealing with the issues that can be quantified, dissected and medicated first, leaving the fluid/grey areas aside till these “bases” are covered. very maslow’s hierarchy of needs. but it also depends on what one is looking for. If it is clear cut economic prowess, then sure, it’s been proven that the “Singapore method” works. The danger in doing so, however, is that the aspect of humanity is always relegated. The shakes you get when someone’s voice raises even remotely above their usual, the insomnia when you can’t shake the fear that everything’s going to go to shit if you lose control, the desolation of a person, a family torn apart, the struggle always playing second fiddle to a trophy or a certificate. When I get my real, academic, extracurricular problems in order, then I’ll fix myself. If you’re on the edge of an emotional/mental/physical breakdown, get your shit together because you’ve got an exam tomorrow, an interview you gotta ace, homework to finish, chores to complete. No, you can fall apart, it’s ok to not be ok, but only in this corner please, don’t make a mess. People become conditioned to prioritise tangible/official achievements over or even at the expense of personal achievements. Yea we cheer when the underdog wins or when they at least complete the race, but will we rally round when all they can do is turn up and walk across the finish line. Will we cheer when it isn’t pretty, when our blood isn’t pumping through our veins, when a slow uneven walk is our Hail Mary? But therein also lies the problem: accolades and personal development are seen as dichotomous. I don’t know if this is naivety or if it’s truth. But I don’t really care. I’m tired of worrying about being right, balancing on the tight rope, anxious at the slightest shift of the placement of my foot.

But to get to the point, the luxury that I can’t seem to afford is university. I would very much like to study overseas because for many reasons, which the paragraph above kinda elucidates, but I literally cannot afford it. And its crushing, really. The frustrating thing is that the people around me keep telling me to just stay local, why go overseas? Isn’t NUS higher ranked than xxx university? Your family is in a tight spot, you have so many other siblings, be sensible. And it’s gotten to me a little, to be honest. And I hate that. I know that going to UCL is what I want, but I also know that it will cost a lot. It brings me some hesitation. Is it worth it? The thought of being without my family is also a little scary. But can’t I want to try for UCL without having to worry about succeeding at it? Can’t I just chase my dream without having to prove to others why its worth chasing? I guess that’s the real luxury I can’t afford.

The truth is, though, that I can afford to go to UCL. I could take a loan. The dilemma is if its worth it, because it means $100 000. Do I choose to do it? I could chase it without proving the merits to those who don’t care to know it. Will I choose to do so? And in the end, if I don’t get there right now, will I choose to forge forward?

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