The immense stress and the butterflies in my stomach I got from my first experience on IELTS had somehow made a path for the date to reach my hippocampus. I can imagine how right now it’s working hand in hand with the Amygdala going through my long term memory library looking for “15/Mar/14”. But that’s all I can recall from IELTS – the stress and the date. As if the day started with a remote control in my hand, I was slowly switching between TV channels. “[…] but look what happens as I walk toward that guy”. From the TV screen, I could see the tick tock slowing down. I got hooked immediately. And the next thing I knew I was staring at the ceiling in the middle of the day questioning common sense and my whole existence. What a fool to think that watching Brian Greene’s “The Illusion of Time” is going to relax the brain. But the existential crisis didn’t last very long until the TV program became the beginning of my new perception of our world and myself.
No, it’s not about how I’ve become more of a nerd by seeing the world through a physicist’s eyes. Sort of. But that wouldn’t be a good news since it happened to be around the time when I felt left out because I couldn’t find a common ground with everybody else. Talking about what I just learnt would only drive people further away from me. Imagine friends giving me the dead look, the what are u talking about look. That’s all I need, a little imagination, to stop myself from bringing this up during a conversation.
Growing up, I was told that if you want to be successful in life you have to have a good academic record. Friends? Nah! They’re such a waste of time and effort. Communication skill? What for? As long as you’re good, people will come to you. Teamwork? Nope, I can handle all the work alone. You guys don’t have to do anything. Back then, my skill was studying. My comfort zone was studying.
As I grow older, I started to feel like academic performance alone is not enough. It no longer satisfied me and that was when I tried to live life like a normal teenage girl. I failed. I ended up with a lot of criticisms and misjudgments about how rude, selfish, and too competitive I was. Well, what do you expect from someone who just got let out of a cage? Survival instinct perhaps? And before I even realized it, I was beating myself up with self-blame and eventually shut myself from the world again.
So, with a bad past experience and a TV program nobody interested in, it would only make sense if I kept everything to myself and continued exploring on my own. As I go further in depth, by watching related videos on YouTube and reading “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking, I’ve come to realize that my passion lies in science. From ember to inferno, I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. “The illusion of time” became a presentation topic. To my surprise, I received a fair number of positive feedbacks.
All I needed was a passion and a little push. It didn’t happen overnight. But with time, I was able to sacrifice my comfort zone for something I love and actually put myself out there to help promote STEM in Cambodia. Not only that, I’ve also come to accept myself along the way. It’s only when I’m at peace with myself that I can turn criticisms into constructive messages. It’s only when I’m at peace with myself that I can appreciate other people for who they are.
Looking up at the sky at night always reminds me of how small we all are and that none of what we do is going to affect our universe as a whole. So, take a deep breath of courage and take risk. We are given consciousness only for a short while. It’s up to us whether to use the majority of time we have to feel pain or joy. I choose joy.