An education

Life is like a game of Tetris:

Apart from being a fine game, Tetris is also a perfect mirror of the human condition. For a while the game is entertaining, and we seem to have mastered it and are having fun. Then, something goes wrong — a rash mistake, or an unfulfilled wish, and we’re fighting to repair the damage, but we’ve been thrown off-balance, and everything is piling up. Blocks that were once orderly and harmonious are jumbled and filled with holes, and our cup is on the verge of running over. There’s always a point at which we stop planning for the future, and realize that we don’t have one — all we can do is cling to the present and concentrate, focus our minds on what it’s like to be alive, to play the game, before it’s all over.

You were waiting for a four-by-one block that never came.

Sometimes we resist to the bitter end, moving blocks left and right without thought or care, just to hang on, and sometimes we accept the inevitable and pull the blocks down to us, smiling inwardly at the great joke. The rest is silence.

I found a great analysis of Tetris and just thought I’d share it here since it’s too long to post on Twitter wtf.

By the way, I’m home!!!! For good. Forever. It feels so foreign and weird…I still feel like I’m on my usual summer holiday, and still feel like a college student. I guess it’ll take a while for it to sink in.

My parents were here for my graduation and they really were my personal photographers the entire time. Shanshan’s parents had THREE cameras with them and they would use ALL the cameras everytime. So I have about a million pictures to vet through before I can post them up!

But what I have so far:

Aileen and I before the Laurel Parade

My white dress from H&M and the beautiful yellow scarf given by our alumnae!

My best friend Shanshan and I. I don’t want to think about not seeing her for a while and that it’s the end of us being in college together, because if I do I know I will not be able to stop crying. I was very lucky to have someone like her throughout my 4 years in college cos she’s one of the very few people who completely understands me and is extremely supportive of me T___T

Laurel Parade, one of our oldest and most beloved traditions. Graduating seniors will all wear white and will carry the Laurel chain (the chain of green grass thingy), signifying a link that brings all of us together, and we’ll carry it to our founder’s grave.

And then we’ll gather and sing Bread and Roses, a song that supports international women suffrage and appeals for gender equality and women’s rights.

I cried while we were singing that song, it was so beautiful T___T then I looked around and saw everyone crying too T__T Now I really don’t regret going to a women’s college that takes activism so seriously.

Men in kilts performing before the parade

probably my absolute favorite part of the parade! the school spirit is so strong because hundreds of alumnae actually came back for reunion! this is the class of 1961, which means they’re all around 70+ years old!

there was also someone from the class of 1931, she was 102 years old!

the feeling of having so many people cheer you on during the parade was indescribable. Especially when you see the look of pride and recognition on their faces, it was amazing.

The night before graduation, we have another ceremony called the Baccalaureate. It was basically a more personal event where we had our Dean wrapping up our college life. She said soooo many quotable quotes that night, and everyone was tearing quite badly too. She talked about uncertainties, and fear, and anxiety upon completing college and finally going out in the real world. It was so…relatable and so real which makes it scarier.

Graduation!!!!

We were all given a sunflower each 🙂

Our president insisted on hugging ALL of us when we received our degree. She also congratulated each and everyone of us when she hugged us, damn nice!!!

I’m happy to announce that I received my degree without falling on stage because I chickened out and didn’t wear high heels wtf. Everything is in Latin, I only recognized my name here hahah

Treated myself to a huge ice cream hoho

The next day, I packed all my 4 years in college in 4 suitcases and left my second home.

As the bus gained momentum and drove past my college, I got quite emotional for the first time upon graduation. This picture describes my feelings perfectly. In a blur, scared, excited, unsure, sad, very sad, glad, hopeful. I don’t know what’s in store for me after leaving a place that has changed me tremendously, a place that I was only beginning to really love and be comfortable in.

Thank you Mount Holyoke for making me the woman that I am today.

Thank you for teaching me how to think critically for myself, for nurturing the principles in me that I never knew existed, for being patient and kind when I didn’t quite get the point of a liberal arts education at first, for never giving up when I doubted you.

But most importantly, thank you for showing me that education is never a means to an end, that the pursuit of knowledge is lifelong.

We don’t go to school because we need practical knowledge to help us in our jobs, we go to school to gain knowledge that will help us make sense of the world and our place and roles to play. The past weekend was a culmination of this realization. One of my favorite professors, in his final lecture to us, told us this:

“Look at the person on your left, and the person on your right. In a hundred years, they will both be dead. We spend our lives worrying about things that are in the present, things that are transitory and are insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Spend your life thinking about things that are eternal, not temporary. Spend your life thinking about things that will matter 100 years from today, things that mattered 100 years ago and will continue to be important.

Your education has not ended, in fact it starts right after your graduation. Think about the everlasting effect of your existence, read the great books, read because it matters. Your education starts when you start learning about stuff because it matters and the only questions that matter are why are you here? what’s the purpose of your life?”

This is only an excerpt of some of the most inspiring speeches I’ve heard. Someone else talked about the roles that women should play in the society and urged us to be the women who pave ways for changes and the women who play critical roles locally and globally.

Our commencement speaker talked about the importance of the liberal arts education and how it’s getting underrated these days in pursuit of more material gains and knowledge. She spoke about the role of the humanities and art in democracy and in a more holistic society and I couldn’t have agreed more.

I was never a big fan of the humanities and art, and sometimes question my decision to be in a liberal arts college. Why am I not learning more practical skills? skills that can be applied in my jobs in the future? It wasn’t until I realized at the end that that’s not what education is all about, at least not to me. I can go on about this for maybe another 10 pages or so, but I just got home and I need to eat all the Malaysian food that my stomach can take!!!

The end from the college student Suet. It’s time to be a big girl now.

“Go forth, make a difference, be the change you want to see, change the world”

555 comments

  1. brian wong says:

    Congrats!The real learning experience is just about to begin when u ready to become a big girl…btw, this is the first time i leave comment here 🙂

  2. yumii says:

    you have indeed grown a lot in these four years and i am glad that you are finally home! Don’t worry about the future, and just do whatever you want and like to do. Pursue your passion and you will be able to make a difference! once again, welcome back and hope to continue reading more of your journey in life. ^^

  3. Cleo says:

    So proud of u girl ! Congrats & welcome home . You should organise some blog reader meet up session when ure still free. That will be good to keep u occupied & dun forget to invite me ^^

  4. Hwei says:

    Hey Suet Li, this is my first time commenting on your blog! I just wanted to recommend this book to you – ‘Half the Sky – Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide’ by Nicholas D. Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn. I’m half way through it, some parts made me really angry with the way some women are treated and some parts are really inspiring. The long and short of it is that women deserve to be educated. Now that you have your stint with Teach for Malaysia (which I personally would love to do) waiting for you, I’m pretty sure this book will inspire you!

    Congrats on your graduation! And all the best with everything.

  5. Rebeca says:

    Hi Suet – i dont know you personally so its weird to say this but after reading your blog for years and seeing you go through all of the growing pains and seeing you u happy w ur future and making tough (but smart) decisions to fight to be the Suet you want to be, i have to say: I’m really proud of you! Thank u for not conforming to what people want you to be/do. Its really inspiring!!!!!!

  6. mg says:

    Congrats!! welcome home.. i felt exactly the same way when i first came back home for good about 6 months ago. now im busy with work; sometimes rewarding but being home is worth it (despite the hard work and average pay). Im sure you will enjoy what you are doing as long as you have the passion for it. All the best!

  7. strawberry says:

    oh god, reading your graduation makes me remember mine. my name was in between the 2 hottest guys in my major and when we went up to take our degrees, the crowd went like this: (LOUD CHEERS & WHISTLES)(POLITE & WEAK CLAPPINGS)(LOUD CHEERS & WHISTLES). fuck lah. *roars*

  8. strawberry says:

    and oh, C.O.N.G.R.A.T.U.L.A.T.I.O.N.S. on your graduation! know who’s the happiest besides your parents? tax authorities hahahahahahhaha ok lame T________T

  9. Jane says:

    without realize, time really fly, i still remember the first time i come across your blog,when you just start your college, being reading your blog since then and now you had graduate ! time really goes so fast! Congratulation Suet Li, do you know that you really inspire me…Wishing you all the best !

  10. yourSecretAdmirer says:

    Congratulation!

    Very nice written self-reflection, except may be going too far on the Tetris analog, life is more like Pacman; should you stop moving, someone from front and back, left and right will eat you up.

    Again, congratulation.

  11. Ming says:

    Congratulation on your graduation!

    Reading your posts makes me think of my own graduation which is scheduled at the end of the year. It’s going to be bittersweet.

    From my own observation, choosing humanities and art at overseas education institution is rather unconventional, especially among Malaysians. I have to explain to people back home every time that, doing Arts in college doesn’t mean I’m painting all day 🙂

    Bravo on your choice, and hope you can bring what you have learnt back to Malaysia and make a change, for the generations to come.

  12. Jian Wei Ang says:

    Hey! Congratulations! I really am not looking forward to my graduation next year but wth, it has to come sooner or later anyway so I might as well take it with stride. MF USA will miss you dearly but I suppose you’ll be doing work from the KL front. Hope Teach for Malaysia will give you an exciting time! 😉

  13. veendee says:

    Congratulation Suet Li! This post of urs inspired me in many different ways. Thank you for this wonderful piece of writing. 🙂

    You have always been so tough and brave, despite of your whiny post but you kinda pull all of it through. Congratulation again and welcome back to malaysia.

    We met in nuffnang office when firdy introduced both of us to each other! 🙂

  14. natalie says:

    aaaa this made me tear up a little :’) makes me excited to have my experience of college/uni in a few months’ time.
    congratulations suet li!! you’ll continue doing great 😀

  15. Crash says:

    congrats!! great that you have learned so much about yourself.. the true learning has just begun.. you will do great. life is not how much breaths you take but the moments that takes your breath away….

  16. {whenpenmeetspaper} says:

    Like you, I graduated with a liberal arts education, albeit almost 2 years ago. To make your situation a tad more hopeful, my batch graduated into recession. Expectedly, the dean’s message then was “this too shall pass”, along the lines of “do not be afraid”.

    Looking back, the first 6 months was tough – grappling with the realities of the working world, an unforgiving society and demanding expectatios. The next 1.5 year I stumbled upon the creative industry and has been loving it since. Seriously, the theories and books mean nothing much in the real working world. Unless one is in the academic line, no one really gives a damn what Hobbes or John Locke theorized.They’d rather be interested if you can perform/deliver in a job or not.

    Nonetheless, I’m eternally thankful for my liberal arts education (Political Sci in particular). Without which, I would probably never harnessed depth of critical thought that I can use lifelong.

    • The Walrus says:

      I was going to roast your liberal arts degree for saying no one cares what Locke/Hobbes wrote, because all of us liberal arts graduates know fully well that the education of the individual takes priority in our institutions over practical training…until I read your last line. Nearly trolled me there wtf.

  17. Amy says:

    Wah, how did you come back with only four suitcases? How many did you leave with =p. I love that white dress btw. Anyway just wanted to say chukha hae (congrats) on graduating. Great teachers go on to inspire great students who also wants to change the world.

  18. SK says:

    I have been reading your blog and followed you through those years – enrolled into the college, then now – graduation. Wow. Time really flies.

    It is just the beginning – stepping fulltime into the working society soon. But, have no fear and may you have the strength and courage to face all challenges ahead.

    All the best to you 🙂

  19. mandy says:

    this post was written so beautifully and it gaves me goosebumps. thanks for sharing all those inspirational words.. 🙂 the time will come when I graduate and I’m sure the feelings will be mutual.. Congratulations once again Liew Suet LI!! 😀 as a blog reader, i’m proud of u too. hehe!

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