By Alena Siaw (24S03O)
Since secondary school, extracurricular activities have played an integral role in shaping one’s student identity. They remain a cornerstone of student life, offering a plethora of opportunities: CCA, WEPs, VIA, leadership positions, and H3 subjects (with upcoming applications). However, in a world where choices are seemingly endless, we can feel lost and uncertain about what to take up, and more importantly, which path to follow.
As the educational year draws to a close, we unknowingly find ourselves creeping closer and closer to another chapter of our lives—university, where the scope of our education narrows into distinct and specialised domains.
In a similar vein, life often demands that we find our own forté—the one unique passion that we excel at, that makes us feel alive. The idea of discovering your own purpose is frequently touted as the key to a meaningful life, but finding your spark can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Till now, I still grapple with finding my own strengths, my voice, and what makes me, me.
Paradox of Choice
As academic excellence becomes increasingly common, grades are no longer the be-all and end-all of successful employment or university acceptance. Employers and universities now place greater emphasis on a candidate’s engagement in extracurricular pursuits to determine how ‘unique’ they are, underscoring the importance of crafting a well-rounded image that extends beyond academic performance in today’s fiercely competitive world.
Moreover, the power of aligning one’s passions with school-related pursuits is exemplified by some of the world’s most renowned individuals. For instance, Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, dedicated countless hours to his high school’s computer lab as an extracurricular activity, while media mogul Oprah Winfrey was actively involved in the speech and drama club and participated in several oratory competitions outside of regular school hours.
Hence, some of us might come to believe that our identities, futures and worth are largely defined by extracurriculars, causing the corresponding choices we make to hold much more weight than they should. This trend can often result in students losing direction, either committing to too many activities or none at all.
One of the two common responses, over-commitment, can result in a lack of depth and mastery in any single area. Some, under the false belief that participating in as many extracurriculars as possible will enhance their personal growth, can find themselves in the “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” scenario. By spreading their time and effort thinly across various activities, they may hinder their ability to truly excel in their actual passion.
On the other extreme, indecision can immobilise others, preventing them from exploring their passions due to the fear of not excelling in their chosen path. I find myself falling under this category—the prospect of investing time and effort into something only to find out it’s not my true passion can be intimidating.
This fear of failure can, in turn, thwart us from taking the necessary steps to discover our true calling, leaving the questions: “What’s your passion?” or “What do you want to be in the future?” unanswered.
This begs another million-dollar question: how do we cope with this overwhelming dilemma?
The Never-ending Search
Finding our own passion is commonly portrayed as a single, monumental discovery that will forever alter our course. However, the notion that we must find a single defining purpose can lead to a feeling of inadequacy when the path to fulfilling that ‘purpose’ isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be.
Our process of self-discovery remains ongoing, and our passions can evolve over time. Experimentation is the best (and possibly, only) way to discover what resonates with us and what doesn’t.
For some of us, now’s the perfect opportunity to explore our interests through side projects and activities, even if they seem unrelated to our current pursuits. The important thing is to explore what you love at a pace that aligns with your capabilities and personal boundaries. Progress is not always linear, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Conclusion: It’s Okay to Say “I Don’t Know.”
Most people don’t have all the answers immediately, and that’s perfectly okay.
The journey to find what truly ignites your soul is a deeply personal one, and there’s no fixed timeline for this discovery. It’s crucial to remember that the extracurriculars we engage in during our JC years are only a fraction of what shapes our career paths and futures. Stay open to new experiences, be willing to adapt as you discover more about your passions, and be patient with yourself!
In this process of self-discovery, the journey is just as significant as the ultimate destination, and the setbacks we face along the way contribute to our growth and self-understanding. In life, remember that no universally right or wrong path exists; so just embrace the beauty of living it on your own terms.