More Than Words: Kaleidos 2014

By Celine Liu 15A01E, Michelle Zhu 15A01B, and Nai Jie Lin 15A13A

Photo Credits: Raffles Institution Year 5 - 6 Orientation 2014 Facebook Page

Photo Credits: Raffles Institution Year 5 – 6 Orientation 2014 Facebook Page

Kaleidos – from Ancient Greek Kalos, meaning beautiful, and eidos, meaning form.

We are all aware of that which we call a kaleidoscope, a narrow, enclosed tube filled with beads and pebbles and other beautiful things all crammed and packed into a mangled mess of colour that, when observed, launches into a medley of brilliant light. Kaleidos 2014, a time once so woefully dreaded and eagerly anticipated, has come to a close after 4 short days and an even shorter weekend packed with new experiences, new memories and new friendships.

Or so that’s the plan.

Though to the casual observer orientation must have seemed a jumble of energy, excitement and light, for some of us more inconspicuous pebbles in the midst this was far from the case. Being surrounded by people seemingly on a constant, albeit rather artificial high- the energy can become exhausting, the excitement forced and the light- blinding.

What is an introvert?An oft-seen term that’s frequently tossed around and loudly (and ironically) claimed on the internet. Yet putting the ‘introvert pride’ debate aside,  an introvert is simply a person who gains energy by being alone, and expands energy when communicating and interacting with others. By that definition, orientation must of course seem like every introvert’s worst nightmare, when one is literally surrounded by strangers sunrise to sunset. But that does not necessarily have to be the case. While eliminating the socializing aspect of orientation may defeat the purpose of orientation itself, there are still many ways in which one may fulfill the aims of orientation, that is, initiation into a new community, without systematically excluding the needs of those who are not content with relationships formed over the span of 4 days and a lot of adrenaline.

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Something that most may agree on, yet few dare to say, is that orientation can be rather superficial, a fact that can be ascertained by the sobering small number of OGs that manage to stay together throughout the two short years in JC. Despite the various OG ‘bonding’ activities and the copious amount of time spent together, it seems I’ve come away from orientation knowing absolutely nothing about anyone. And before an angry mob descends upon me in protest, I would just like you to stop and think for a moment about how much you truly know about your OG mates. What are their hopes, their stories, their fears, their loves? And no, whom they choose to shoot, shag, or marry doesn’t count. While we applaud the efforts of some OGLs to initiate ‘H2HT’s within the OG, the whole idea of forcing a connection can be rather oxymoronic.

Perhaps the real issue here can be put across by a Year Five, who commented that “I am more comfortable knowing a person before choosing to spend time with them because I know I will enjoy it, which is the opposite of orientation.” Personally, I have no qualms about being chummy with people I’ve only just met, but many people fail to realize that this may cause some discomfort amongst introverts who prefer interacting with people within their own comfort zone, and that comfort zone takes time to expand to accommodate new people – time which we don’t have.

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In a period crippled with uncertainty and anxiety, trying to drown out your apprehension through fun and games and loud music may not appeal to everyone. Some may say that it all comes together with time, yet ought not the point of orientation to be to ease this process of transition? Perhaps some changes to enable better quality interaction with our peers may be at hand to benefit not just those who require deeper interaction to feel comfortable with people but everyone as a whole. While OGs may broaden your social circle and enable you to meet a larger variety of people, bringing 20 people together and then tearing them apart immediately after seems rather cruel, especially for those who already have trouble forming relationships quickly. Indeed, some introverted Year 5s admitted to intentionally distancing themselves somewhat from their OGs because there is little meaning in the superficial interactions that do not culminate into genuine friendships. Perhaps orientation should be geared less towards a focus on the OG alone and instead directed towards developing a passion and sense of identity with the school. The focus and emphasis of “socializing” with our OGmates is really only a fraction of the big picture, that is, providing a smoother transition into the school and its systems.

Even within the OG/House system, the large amount of physical bonding activities may not be the most effective in bringing people closer. Speaking candidly from an introvert’s perspective, team-building activities may even be a factor in widening the gap between introverts and extroverts; while extroverts derive energy and enjoyment from them, introverts tend to shrink and retreat, preferring more intimate one-on-one time with their OG mates instead. Activities like station games and war games may be a lot of fun, but some time could be set aside for more meaningful getting-to-know-you activities, instead of relying solely on OG dinners and downtime to really sit down and talk. This is especially so when you consider how these times usually end up occupied more by embarrassing dares and forfeits than anything more sincere. As a self-proclaimed introverted batchmate aptly put, “what brought us together as an OG were the times we sat together and ‘talked about strange things’.” True and heartfelt interactions were much likelier when the introverts feel comfortable with their fellow OGmates, possibly even with the slight nudges of their extroverted friends. To be plunged into team-building activities is a prospect that appeals more to the extroverts, and continues to prove itself intimidating and tiring to others.

However, as OIC Ruthanne so fittingly puts it: ‘Orientation doesn’t necessarily cater to any type, extroverts or introverts. Rather, it is dependent on how willing the individual is to participate; life is all about choices after all.’ It is easy to claim the short end of the stick, but rarely is anything moulded and pressed to fit precisely your form. Nothing stops you from making this your experience, be it as an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between. Proposals and planning can only go so far, but at the end of the day, the real stories and friendships you forge are of your own creation, and worth so much more than words.

Comments
One Response to “More Than Words: Kaleidos 2014”
  1. Anonymous Introvert says:

    My introverted friends and I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments discussed in the article. However, what frankly disappointed us was OIC Ruthanne’s comment on the issue. Perhaps the Organising Committee could acknowledge the need for improvements to the programme to help us introverts better integrate into our new school rather than shift the responsibility for this process solely onto us. Although she may not have meant this, I felt as if those introverts who did not enjoy Orientation were being blamed for having made the wrong choices, even though the whole programme hardly offered a suitable environment for them. Considering that the Organising Committee is made largely of extroverts – or, at the very least, those in between – it may be hard for them to empathise with our sentiments. It’s very difficult for us to simply “make a choice” to act gregariously toward everyone whilst keeping our energy levels high – our nature just isn’t inherently suited for such behaviour and doing so only drains our energy rapidly while leaving us feeling stressed, uncomfortable and unsatisfied. Although we aren’t the most prominent of individuals, we make up a considerable portion of every batch, and it would be a shame if countless introverts from subsequent batches continue to walk away from Orientation feeling alienated because our feedback was ignored. I think it also goes without saying that the OGLs should not get too caught up in their excitement during OG conversations and neglect us introverts who are often being unconsciously excluded by our OG mates from the whole affair.

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