Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sharing Nugget #22

#22: The story of Z.

There was a young man named Z, who entered SMU as a freshie ready to make the best of uni life. He had a strong belief - that a uni education is not about studying, but also an education in life, which comes from an active involvement in student life. There, people will grow in character, pick up life skills, and realize that the fulfillment from giving service to the needy or to a community goes deeper than material ones.

Z decided to do dedicate himself to draw fellow students to participate in student life. He co-founded a society and worked with a good bunch of people who served with their heart. Many of these pioneers when on to become leaders in other CCAs. But Z realized that it is not easy to get student participation. Students are more worried about grades!

When he handed-over, he decides that if he can make the orientation camp a great one, he can make the freshies feel like they want to be involved in student life too. Furthermore, he intends to involve many more people to help execute it. The camp came and gone. But he learnt a lot about politics amongst staff and students.

Z then headed a big event done with an external agency and a SMU student body. He saw the ugliness of how the agency played the politics to manipulate SMU people to further their own agenda – and pitted student bodies against each other. In the end, SMU decided to huddle together as one. But Z was scarred from this ugliness.

Z then decides to take part in a national social entrepreneurship competition. And the team won. Z was very proud to do his part in representing SMU, and subsequently, S’pore. Z then became tired. His GPA dropped. He could not find any energy to go on. It has been a year and a half. What has he achieved? Yes, he did contribute a lot, but how much a difference has he made?

Z saw for himself how other student bodies tear at each other, and refuses to work together – to the detriment of SMU student life. If Z’s student body does well, intending to set an example, they will be seen as rivals. Antagonism seems to be the outcome of success. Z realized that there are many forces at work which will prevent sincere student participation. And he could not make a significant change. He got disillusioned.

Then, after half a year in the wilderness, he woke up. He was shown how one can make a difference. Its not the position one is holding, it’s the influence. There is such a thing as high-task, high-relationships.

Z got charged up. But ghosts came back to haunt him. There was an ugly scene. And he had to hand over as the head of the student body. He still believes strongly in the merits of student participation. But he has no involvement in student life save for been a member for the student body, which he has to minimize his influence to avoid more ugly scenes.

Z feels drained from politics after these 2 years, but still has a fire to serve, to apply his new learning, and to do his part. Z has a chance to start afresh.

Z realizes that by trying to changing things from the top, he risk getting lost in the limelight and let his pride and ego get the better of him. Also, he might spend too much time handling politics and not enough time to address the feelings of his team mates. Z also realizes that since he is now on the ground, he might try a different way to make a difference in SMU student life.

Z learned that he should set his targets small. Cultures cannot be built in 4 years, norms overhauled and mindsets changed without a dramatic punch from an iron fist. Z realizes that in a capacity as a student, there is only so much he can do. He needs to get his studies right. He cannot be a full-time CCA person.

Z has set his targets small. He will do his part from the ground. His only influence would be to rub off his enthusiasm for the love of student life to his team mates and the example of selfless service. Most importantly, Z needs to let go. To let go of a habit of been involved in everything. And let go of the habit of being on the front. Let others have their chance to make a difference, he thought.

Z feels free. Z feels a burden off his shoulders. Z still has his beliefs and heart of service. Z has grown. Z feels the innocence of intents that comes from the lack of politics. Z has been in touch with people he cares about.

Z has no regrets about his traumatic 2 years. If he has to, he will do it all over again. Z knows that he will only regret not trying.

Z dug deep and brutal into his heart. He found answers. Z has found a direction.

Z still has dreams. But not now, he thought, not now.

This is the story of Z.


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