‘Dear Claire, we regret to inform you that your scholarship application is unsuccessful.’
This was the reply I received after weeks of waiting.
When I received the news, I was not numb, not upset, not disappointed. I was relieved; I was happy. That was when I realised: I’ve been seeking external validation all along and this time, for once, my source of validation was internal. From me.
I was shocked by my response to the supposed disappointment. In my brain, the news was supposed to drown me in waves of torment and despair; it was supposed to cause tears of self- hatred and failure. Normally, it would. Normally, it should. However, pride and relief decided to visit instead. In a society that prizes prestige and perpetuates certain notions of success, I was proud of myself for having come so far; for trying my best within the boundaries this society has set up for me; and most importantly, for letting go. The relief that washed through me was immediate. As someone who values her freedom above anything else, I am finally released from the chains of society- free to explore to her heart’s desire.
It took me nineteen years to realise it. From young, I was brainwashed to do academically well; to attain an impressive portfolio; to clinch a government scholarship, and ultimately have a stable job by working in the public sector. It was society’s dream; it became my dream. Thus throughout my schooling years I did a bunch of things I did not necessarily have interest in but did anyway because I thought it would increase my chances of receiving a government scholarship. However when I look back now, it was saddening to see that I did not know what I truly wanted for myself. Perhaps this rejection is the world’s signal for me to go out and search for who I am- a sign for me to create who I am.
A set of unknown burden has lifted off my shoulders; I was akin to a bird released from a cage- a cage that was created by myself that has been putting me to misery since birth, a cage that society has locked me up in without me realising. For the first time in my life, I am free.