What does AC mean to you?
It’s a question we’re all asked at the beginning of our time here. And it is not difficult to answer – we pull positive adjectives out of a magic hat without a moment’s hesitation, and even less of an experience. The truth is that many of us came in already expecting a certain experience from ACSians we knew, or things we’d heard or read. We know of this ‘AC spirit’ long before we feel it: some hand-over-heart, #tgbtg #tbiytb euphoria that prompts a stream of Facebook profile picture changes to the school crest come March every year, that melts grown-up composure into pride that flows like water; fills up a room, comes in wave after wave of red, blue, gold. So as the next two, four or six years pass, the question we were first asked pushes its way from the back of our minds to right front and centre: have I made the most of my time here? Has this journey lived up to my expectations?
Maybe it did. But it’s okay if it didn’t.
I refrain from speaking in absolutes, because for a fresh graduate like myself, reminiscence still boards the train of my thoughts with some ambivalence. Whichever is the case, know this: your AC experience is wholly, uncompromisingly yours. You created it during your time here, and it is yours to take with you into your future. We err in thinking that this nebulous AC identity is forever frozen in time once we tread past the last day of school, like some kind of gleaming relic immortalised in nostalgia. No, it is an asset (perhaps the only one, if you hadn’t been paying attention during lessons) – as solid as a key in your hand. It is a keepsake from the whirlwind of classes, OEPs, lepak-ing in the SAC, playing soccer during break – and you have the rest of your life to continue making it your own.
AC is a place many of us grow into our own skin, or maybe just learn to grow some skin. It gives different things to each of us, whether or not we recognise it at that present moment. Perhaps you shake your head and distance yourself from this sentimentality, because for you AC did not live up to its hype. Perhaps you, like me for a period, felt dislocated and isolated, and made a semi-conscious decision to launch your self-sufficient little pod on a one-way linear trajectory away from the social cosmos – looking out for that horizon, that line where school ends and life begins. Even then, AC wanted to give you gifts. Time is a funny thing; the benefit of hindsight grants us big-picture distance and small-detail appreciation, and I am almost certain you will look back and find something to be grateful for in this school, or at least this season of your life – resilience, independence, forgiveness. Hold on to it. After all, youth only indulges us once, and what a blessing it is for us to be young in an environment that is so forgiving, so nurturing.
Down the ramp and past the gates of 121 Dover Road, don’t lose the energy, the youthfulness, the zest for life that you first witnessed here, then caught on to. It may be an appetite for adventure, or a wholesome love for fun, or an attitude that prompts you to always say, “Let’s just try.” It may be determination, or a willingness to put yourself out there, or it may be the audacity to hope (credit: Obama, I learnt my academic honesty skills well). It may be friendships. Memories. That one teacher you grew to respect and trust. It may be all of these things. It may be none. The beauty of the AC spirit is that it wants to reflect the light in you.
I am acutely aware that my waxing lyrical may baffle some of you. Emotional attachment can’t be forced, and a school is a school, isn’t it? Yes, maybe. To be clear: your time as an ACSian does not make you as a person. But Man is a product of his or her environment, and the time you have spent here has undoubtedly made a difference to your character, values or worldview. Recognise that, and make it for the better. Education is always a worthwhile investment if we choose to become better because of it, so that we may be conduits for good (catalysts for change, if you will) to the people around us. Your time in AC is coming to a close. Remember to celebrate it, be it out of thankfulness and fondness, or relief. But what matters now is how you have grown from it. Rise from this seat of comfort; go forward, and beyond.
Jing min graduated with the class of 2017. A published poet, Jing has been an avid writer since secondary school. Her writing lucidly captures everything from quotidian coffee shop aromas to faraway travels. For this, she was commended in the Foyles Young Poet of the Year competition. During her IB days, she could be seen at the koi pond benches munching on leafy greens in animal lunch boxes, and jogging furiously around school with the cross country team. She’s now headed off to the University of Cambridge to read Law, where this editor hopes she will continue to bless us with delightful salads, homemade baked goods and effusive writing.