Why I'm Giving Convocation A Miss

I remember those days of counting down, gazing somberly at the golden-brown tiles. When will the four years of undergraduate life be over? Please, go away, vanish like an unexpected nightmare or an unwanted pimple. 

After the first university semester - a whirlwind of experiments, essays and examinations - I told my mum that the experience was terrible. A monotone of work and joylessness. Was it possible for me to drop out? After all, I had savings. Incurred monetary debts, I could repay, but not the sense of mindlessly trotting along the prescribed path, step by step.

All they want is a son with a university degree, my elder brother said, is that too difficult for you to do?

There's something strange, when these four years are finally over and, here I am, sitting in front of the computer, clicking the mouse, pressing keys after keys. Thoughts become action and action turns into pixels floating on the glaring white screen.

Yes, the four years are over. I've not learned what I hoped to learn. But I've picked up scattered fruits of experience, wisdom and friendships. These fruits were succulent - sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes partly sweet and partly sour. They looked different too. At times, swollen with purple goodness; at times, green and thorny. For these nourishing fruits, I'm immensely grateful.

It's time for graduation. Time to put on black satiny gowns, wear mortarboards and smile for the dizzying camera flashes.

After much thought - which was mildly(?) self-centric - I've decided not to attend any ceremony where fresh graduates have to stroll across a wooden stage to receive pieces of paper from someone they probably haven't seen before.

"Don't you have any friend?" An ex-classmate asked when he found out that I wasn't intending to turn up for the convocation.

"To save up on the rental fees," I casually replied. It was too embarrassing to explain that this refusal to attend is a symbolic rejection of societal expectations and an affirmation to tame the compulsion to conform. Much easier to behave like a cheapskate.

At times, it seems quite petty to talk about this issue. It feels as though everyone's attending the party, wearing their feathers - how bright and beautiful - while here I am, in a corner with a wet blanket draped across my face.

How did my parents react? Other friends asked. Didn't they want to attend? After all, my parents grew up in a different era. Producing children with paper qualifications mean so much to them.

The truth is my parents simply don't know. If they were to know, they would have encouraged me to turn up. ONCE IN A LIFETIME. GO. WE'LL PAY.

There's a selfish desire to live for myself, to cease being their obedient and docile boy. Parents want what's good for you, but what's good may not necessarily be the best, an author once mused.

When friends are chatting about the collection of their graduation gowns, there is a slight beetle of regret buzzing about, blackish green and shiny. Why didn't someone force me to attend? Make the decision and nudge me into acquiesce, for who wants to be the little fella in a corner clutching his wet blanket?

At the same time, there is a silver of acceptance, of calmness. This act - utterly unimportant in the greater scheme of life - paves the way to rejecting more social conventions.


  1. What did you intend but didn't get to learn at NUS?

    1. NUS has been a series of unexpected experiences. Some brilliant at first try; others, less thrilling. Yet, all have contributed to a quilt of colours, warmth and insights after moments of introspection.

      I've wanted to learn more about art, learn more from people who are passionate and willing to fail. Not many of these people exist in NUS (though there are). So there's always this sense that I've been walking down the prescribed paths, on roads well-charted, paved with glistening tiles and thoroughly trodden.

      So, I guess NUS has been too sheltered :/


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