On student suicides

I nearly became one of them.

I made it to Top 3 in Form 5 in school, and was an honours student for many years at my alma mater The Y.W.C.A. Hioe Tjo Young College. Underperforming in the HKALE narrowed my options to my then-least favourite subject chemistry, but I managed to transfer to mathematics eventually. In Year 3, I was hoping for great grades after a superb summer at the University of Cambridge, but thanks to a serious misunderstanding, my grades hit rock bottom. I gritted my teeth at the good maths grades like the fox in Aesop’s fable vying for grapes. I could not graduate with the rest of the people my age because I wanted to get close to my dream – and I’ve just learnt that my honours classification has closed many doors.

In the past 12 months, interview after interview, I was rejected, even though I have zealously learnt cover letter and CV writing since Form 2. As I was not good at social skills, I upset a young talented boy, who majored in my subject and whom I was dying to meet. He turned against me, shunning further contact completely as if we were sworn enemies; I could not understand why hatred could run so deeply. Some tried to take advantage of me and my multiple abilities, and I extricated myself with great difficulty. I have been devastated and apprehensive of the future.

But unlike what I have thought in the past, I have decided against taking my life. What have I done to leave the darkness? Yes, on the day I was to get my HKALE results, I was hit by a taxi. It would have been a fatal motorbike accident had I not frozen just in front of it – and then the taxi rammed into me. I have failed once, twice, and many times, yet because of those scars, I have learnt to embrace failure as if it were my naughty child. To laugh at mistakes, for mistakes are the beginning of real learning. To celebrate the little wins I gained by writing for mathematics and finding that people, when gently guided, can get interested in the art of problem solving and wow at abstract thinking. To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower. To appreciate what Rudyard Kipling once wrote,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same

To the stressed student and all others feeling sad over students who had taken their lives: The difficulties you have today – these too shall pass. Life’s not about your expectations, but how you manage them when they fail. I hope Hongkongers of all ages are strong enough to let themselves be flawed, because when we all stop ostracising failure but like ourselves instead, it makes a difference in this city. Perspective changes everything.

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