By Nor Akmal (23S03A) and Venkatesan Ranjana (23A01D)
Cover image by Johnathan Lim (23S03M)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/RIAAUU and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
I feel like people have become so fake in JC, becoming hyper aware of universities, competitions, scholarships etc, it makes me feel very uncomfortable.— Frustrated Felix
Dear Frustrated Felix,
We understand where you’re coming from. We’re nearing the end of the penultimate stage of our education journey and many of us are very worried for the next chapter of our lives. Sometimes, this anxiety manifests as discussions about the future—your peers may be talking non-stop about the prestigious universities they’re interested in, the scholarships that are available for them, and other instances of humble bragging that you may find rather pretentious. In any case, we agree that it can be very uncomfortable to listen to such conversations, but we feel that there is more to this phenomenon than meets the eye.
The Fearful Future
We live in tumultuous times (ten months away from the A-Levels), so it’s understandable that many of us are afraid of what’s yet to come. Afraid of not doing well, afraid of not knowing which course to pursue in the future…the list goes on and on. Naturally, some of our peers may not react well to these fears.
Saddled with this overwhelming anxiety, they begin to calculate their options and discuss them with friends–such as yourself—in order to alleviate some of their uneasiness. You can consider the possibility that there is no malice in their intentions, and what you may be interpreting as “fake” may very well be just the behaviour of a student who is simply insecure about the future. To that end, you can try to validate their thoughts and feelings and even contribute to the discussion with worries of your own.
Nevertheless, if you still feel like their “vibes” are off, you could always talk to them about their behaviour, which brings us to our next point.
When the people around you seem to have ulterior motives behind every interaction, it can sometimes fall on you to bring a little candour to the conversation – if you have the energy to, of course. While your first priority should always be your emotional wellbeing, if you wish to see a change in the attitudes of those who frustrate you with such behaviour, consider having a heart-to-heart with them.
Most of the time, people are unaware of how their actions can impact other people, and this lack of awareness can sometimes be interpreted as malice. Once you’ve cleared the air, whenever this matter comes up in conversation, you can consider treating it the way you wish they would.
If you sense someone hedging on the topic of study habits or scholarship applications, perhaps you could take the first step and be open and upfront about your own thoughts on the topic. Remember that they might be motivated by their fears – and thus, talk about your own.
Being more direct about their ‘fakeness’ may not always be the best idea, but this first step that you take to be the bigger person may motivate them to be more “real” around you. And who knows? Perhaps this could be the beginning of a closer relationship.
Distance, for Good Riddance
If you’ve told them how you feel and they’ve yet to take your feedback into account, perhaps the best thing to do is to distance yourselves from them. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to rectify their behaviour.
They may simply lack the social awareness to realise that they’re making the people around them feel annoyed. Distancing yourself from these people may be the best course of action – after all, this particular uncertainty will only last until the end of JC, and we’re almost there. While it may not be too comfortable, it will markedly improve your own mental health, instead of having different versions of an ideal future hammered into your mind day in, day out by “friends” who can’t stop talking about their own future prospects.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that we may encounter instances of this behaviour for the rest of our lives, as the perceived stakes continue to increase. Think of situations like these as an opportunity to learn how best to tackle similar problems in a way that minimises harm to your own wellbeing.
Learning when to get emotionally involved and when to take that step back may serve you well in the long run. We hope this helps you navigate your situation.
Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset
If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Tuesday from 2.30 – 4.30 p.m, Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m., Thursday 2.30 – 4.30 p.m. and Friday 1.30 – 4.30 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at email@example.com fill in our request form at our website https://rafflespeerhelpers.wordpress.com!