It’s been awhile since I’ve last posted. 17 days, in fact, according to the secret time keeper that WordPress hires for each account. As the title states, I went to my first university fair.
I live in Singapore. It’s a bustling, very fast paced, metropolitan city-state island. It’s also one of the smallest, most compact places in the world. A lot of times, historical areas have had to be sacrificed for innovation and change due to our lack of space. Singaporeans are also a very practical people, with sometimes considered pragmatic and even negative perspectives. We are a nation that basically relies on shipping, F1 and shopping to earn a living, and that’s not a necessarily bad thing.
However, for those of us with an artistic bent, it is an obstacle that few can break through.
In my darkest days, I have wished away my ability to write. I have wished as hard as I could that I was exactly like everyone else, that I could bury myself in mountains of assessment books, lecture notes and isolated studies in engineering, business, law or medicine. I wished I would not miss the passion, drive, time and love I had given to writing, to the dream of publishing my own book and to be in charge of a powerful, liberating and educating blog that helped others. I wished I could be the same, for the sake of my mother and for money.
I’ve only ever had my mother for support. She was the patriarch and matriarch of the house. She fed us, disciplined us and taught us to be tolerant, to be polite and to be hardworking. I have learned the first two, but the third is an ongoing decision and duel – as it should be. She has had to endure many things for myself and my brother, and I only wish for the best for her. And the best often requires money.
Singapore has only had 50 years of independence. 50 years of art, music, dance, fashion and cosmetic history. Our predecessors in these fields often consider us, the current and younger generation, to be the ‘strawberry generation’ and unable to fight through and bear with sufferings. It’s a bias and condition that I think the old will always have for the new and the experienced for the novice. But we do fight. We have no choice but to fight in such a small place, where people do not recognise you or are unable to recognise you in this internet age.
There are artists who have worked overseas, but are a practical unknown back in the motherland. There are writers, painters, singers, musicians, dancers, makeup artist who have to have a secondary job to earn a living. But there are even more writers, painters, singers, musicians and more in the world, who drown us in their numbers.
Yes, we now have local festivals that celebrate the arts. In November, the Singapore Writers Festival will kick off. There are some grants for art works, there is support from the National Arts Council, but we are nowhere near to being able to support a vibrant, inclusive, artistic society within our borders. Outside, there are so many people who are able to earn a living from their work in the artistic field because they are great at what they do. Singapore supports meritocracy, so where is the meritocracy rewards in art? 25k – 50k over an 18 month period, when in comparison a contractual engineer earns about 54k in that same period?
The 5 hours I spent at theRightU university fair opened my eyes to the possibilities outside Singapore’s borders. I decided initially that it was either an English, a Business, or a Psychology degree, with one of the three as a minor depending on what I was accepted. Then I met the man manning the Brunel University stand, and I listened as he talked about their creative writing course and the department it was under. They were famous for it, and they had an annual literary festival. I felt like I was in a dream, and I was dreading to see the tuition fees and the living costs, as it was located near London. I had gone to many universities for English and Creative Writing degrees, but it was Brunel that re-sparked the old me. The near-obsessive passion, the drive, the hours spent way past bedtime just putting pen to paper. Writing and writing and writing. Texting to my best friend and telling her I was finally going to sleep at 4am in the morning.
And of course, my dreams came crashing.
It was over S$40k per annum. I would get advance placement with my final GPA, but it would amount to at least S$120k at the end of it. I would only get 15 percent off my first year as a scholarship, and maybe 2 percent off if I manage to pay my fees promptly. With a single parent, this was an impossible dream.
The gentleman manning the stall could see that I would not be able to afford the fees, and advised that I asked theRightU for help in finding sponsors. I didn’t manage to do so, but I am very grateful for his help.
I went to three other university stalls after that. University of East Anglia, University of Lincoln and University of Dundee. They all had great English and Creative Writing modules, but in comparison to Brunel, it felt that they felt short to me. Or perhaps the gentleman from the Brunel stand had impressive oratory skills. They are still on the list for me, because there were areas about what they were providing that I do like.
Despite the disappointment, I was glad and happier for the experience. I had found my current next-to-impossible dream school. There is an anchor now in an otherwise ‘in-limbo’ state of my life. It is next-to-impossible, the degree could become useless in the practical, utilitarian, conventional society in Singapore, and I may not earn much money from it, but if I can and succeed, I want to study it. I want to dream again, my dream of writing, of being around people who love writing as much as I do, and do better this time.
Now that I look through the offerings of my local universities, and I find them lacking in the field that I have now chosen. I feel disappointed that I now have to step back into my original course of action – English, Business and Psychology, and maybe a minor in Creative Writing if the school offers. I’ve had people tell me that writing does not need to be studied. Implied that it was a waste of time to go to somewhere like Brown for their creative writing workshops. My own little pragmatic genie telling me to be practical, to be smart, and to be the same.
I’ve spent 8 years on amateur writings. I’ve learned scriptwriting, article writing, blog writing, pitch writing, presentation writing, and done so little of the original, novelistic stories that I had once loved more than breathing and sleeping (and I was a teenager). I know what I want now, even if everyone tells me no. But I have still yet decided on my next course of action.