I have always wondered why the world must be so centred on studies

I am not exactly sure whether it is apt or ironic that I write this post now, whilst in the midst of mugging for my own exams. On one hand, I too feel pressured and feel that I need to study more. On the other hand, I (try to) remember that this life and this world holds so much more than grades.

August 2011. A group of us go for World Youth Day in Madrid. We would be missing the first 2 weeks of school. Which strikes great apprehension in my heart because I use the first 2 weeks of the semester to find my system. I go anyway. Catching up is a bitch. But we manage, with great help from classmates. I get pretty miraculous grades for modules I do not even feel any affinity for.

May 2012. Four of us are in Japan. At 7am, the harbinging NUS SMS comes in, hailing our results for the semester. I get a B- and a C+. It’s the worst I ever did in law school. I go back to sleep. An hour later, we are at Tsukiji Fish Market, savouring the freshest and bestest sashimi ever.

October 2013. Soo and I are in the midst of a 24-hour exam from Sat 8pm to Sun 8pm. On Sun 1.45pm, we both head to church to deliver a talk. We head home around 3+pm, losing a total of about 1.5 hours. I rush to hit my word count as the deadline approaches. I suspect I write quite a lot of nonsense. We receive great feedback for the session. Perhaps I will not do too well for my exam.

But this is not just about me. The lives around us are replete with examples of lifestyles where grades have been displaced from their centres. These are not lives of fame and success; these are the lives of persons secure enough to find meaning and magic in the ordinariness of everyday. An ILP senior took a gap year to do a theology course. A deans-lister wants to be a pilot. A friend decides to do literature instead of practicing law. Schoolmates serve in camps and rallies weekends before their exams.

This does not detract from the fact that we should study. After all, we are Christian Students. And a student’s vocation is to study; not studying enough is also a form of sloth, as detestable as any of the other six vices.

But the question is not whether we should study, but whether studies have displaced Christ from the centre of our lives. Because we are not merely students who happen to be Christians. We are Christians who happen to be students. While being a student might be a vocation, being a Christian is an identity.

One of the great virtues of community is that you get to know people from all walks of life. You get to know people across a spectrum of academic abilities. And when you do, you realise how grossly misrepresentative grades are of intellect, or efficacy, or character, or anything important for that matter.

Why must the world be so centred on studies? Here’s the short answer. It shouldn’t be. It doesn’t have to be. It isn’t.

The world is moving on. And it is those who remain fixated on studies that will be left behind in this new emerging race – not of success, not of achievement, not of rats, but of goodness and faithfulness.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 

– 2 Tim 4:7

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