I would like to share with you something I wrote, while sitting atop a 5-tonner, waiting for things to happen during a National Day Parade rehearsal.
The Chosen Ones
I was one of the “lucky” lot who were chosen to participate in this year’s National Day Parade (NDP); it’s made me wish I wasn’t Singaporean. Currently serving compulsory national service, I only have weekends to look forward to, and these weekends are in terribly short supply.
With the addition of the NDP rehearsals intruding into my life, this short supply of weekends has been cut even shorter. If weekends were a skirt, Marlyn Monroe would have been embarrassed.
I, an avid reader of self-improvement and psychology books, as well as being versed in some very basic Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques, felt obligated to put my knowledge to good use. I needed to lift my morale — quick. I hated wasting time, and this has been, to me as well as a number of others I know involved, wasted time.
What We Do
Before you lambast me on how unpatriotic (especially to you Singaporeans out there, and especially so, girls, whom currently do not have to be conscripted — you will eventually) I am, allow me to lament on the ridiculous things I am presently tasked to do:
- Sit on 5-tonner, with helmet, rifle and other battle gear
- Stand up on tonner, holding rifle 45-degrees
- Jump off tonner, look fierce and solemn, fire five rounds of blanks
- and finally run beside tonner till out of sight, board the tonner and head back to camp
This takes about 5 to 10 minutes in all. After two full days of rehearsal (awake at 5:30 a.m., back at 11:30 p.m.), we have rehearsed our bit a grand total of: five times! In other words, we have, very effectively, wasted more than 90% of our day! And let’s see, 12 weekends to go, and just about as many weekdays. I say, go eat my sh*t. (No, of course I can’t say that, I’d be charged for that.)
I feel positively indignant about this.
Anyway, it brings me to idea I originally wanted to write about, that of looking for opportunities in any situation, good or bad.
Looking for Opportunities
Again, let me reiterate that my morale is at present, low. In an attempt to “up” my morale — hardly do I ever feel so down — I decided to practise what I have learnt before: about seeking opportunities from seemingly problematic situations.
Opportunity is a noun that requires an adjective. Alone, the word “opportunity” is at best a vague concept — for how does one define an opportunity? Alas, opportunity cannot stand by itself, without a context, wthout someone or something to define it. [Like a wish, opportunity is a personal thing]
As I sought opportunities (in its generic and vague form) in my predicament, I found, to my surprise, a rather large number of opportunities. These opportunities include things like: “its NDP, I’m going to be on TV!”; “serving my country, this is what patriotism is all about”; “all these sacrifices will pay off in the end — Karma will settle it”; “hardwork makes me stronger”; “imagine the stories I can tell about this”.
The Opportunity List
Going through this generic list of opportunities however, made me realise how many of them were mere falsities, created by my kind but misdirected mind, to make me feel better (but which alas, contained no foundation for their being listed as “opportunities” for me).
After a while though, as the opportunities I had gathered in my mind were edited and cut away, what was left were traces of who I really was, about “who I am”. It made me think about what mattered to me, about who I wished I was, about what — and who — I was living for.
As I seperated what I considerd the real opportunities from the fake ones, I felt quite a bit better. At long last, I felt that I wasn’t quite wasting time, and was in fact, becoming a better man going through this hell.
The Next Chapter — One Week Later
The ideas expressed above were from a week ago. I can honestly say that the discipline required to keep “real” opportunities real (otherwise I dismiss them as more falsities) is tremendous.
Day after day, I keep lamenting the fact that I am actually going to have to continue doing stupid (since they waste so much time without much improvement) rehearsals, and burn many weekends thus.
I have to constantly remind myself that I am improving in some way through this sacrifice. Looking for opportunities in every situation isn’t quite as easy as it might first seem. Alas, life goes on, and as the local military men like to put it, I’ll just have to continue to “suck thumb”.
Alas, things did not stay that bad for long. I am as of writing no longer an “infantry trooper”, as in I no longer have to do the things I described in this essay, but am now an “Ammo IC”.
It isn’t exactly more meaningful or anything like that, but my investment in terms of time has been cut considerably. I no longer participate during weekends, and do have indeed, a physically less taxing job, but with increased responsibility.