Was it a choice?

After a week I thought I should finally open up about this. Unfortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly, I did not obtain COC in time before I return back. For the less aware: COC refers to the Certificate of Competency, certifying one fit to perform duties in harbour. While it sounds stupid, i.e. going through trials and tribulations just to be certified to do harbour duty, it IS essential. Because more things happen in harbour than one could think — afterall, most ships, even merchant vessels, seem to spend more time in harbour than out at sea.

People could console me and blame it on a lot of attributes for me, just to see me smile a little wider. “COC is a lot about time and space”, “COC is one of the most difficult things to get”, “PV COC is more difficult”, “You had a tough one”, “I laughed when I saw your scenario because if you passed, I would say you are fkn zai”, “I think they have higher expectations for you”, “You cannot compare your COC to others”, but honestly, we all know the truth: I am clearly unprepared, way more unprepared and unaware than any COC holder on board my ship. Because there are people who get it in 2.5 months, the total time I spent on board my ship. To add on to it, there are people who get it on board my ship in 2.5 months.

I concluded that it was all my choice, my choice to be sorely lacking compared to the other COC holders on board my ship, my choice to not shamelessly fight for my own opportunities and attach to other ships for duty. My choice to pick up slowly and chase slowly, being scolded for my own mistakes instead of learning quickly from the mistakes of others. My choice to return home to family and comfort on many weekday nights instead of staying in and walking the ship over and over again, my choice to go out on several weekends and SRs (when granted the privilege) instead of attaching myself to other ships to do fire drills and learn faster.

It was all a choice, and I have no one to blame but myself. I wondered why I cried so much, throughout the night, eyes so dry that I couldn’t keep them open. People were astonished that it affected me so much. Because I knew that it was my fault and I didn’t know what to do or who to fault. People could blame it on circumstances for me, people could offer me a hug and tell me that it’ll all be okay because no one remembers in a few years time, and people would tell me that I’d be more prepared than ever when I return in a year’s time. But I cried really hard because I knew I was lacking, I knew why I was lacking, and I knew that in a month’s or a year’s time when I meet up with senior commanders and fellow scholars again, I do not have solid reasons to convince them why I am lagging and lacking. All I have with me right now are excuses; I have no defence against the fact that I failed in my position as a scholar, one who should go all out in her efforts to achieve more than others. I am responsible for my own training and I know I cannot blame it on anyone else.

On hindsight, looking at the past 3 months, do I regret? Do I regret not working hard earlier enough? Do I regret not following my training plan strictly, do I regret not finding out things that I should have found out earlier? Do I regret not choosing a better ship posting that may have put me in a better position? Do I regret not opting for an earlier VA such that I had more liberty of time and space even if my ship were not in harbour?

I don’t know, because these two years have honestly been a tiring chase for me since I got termed a ‘scholar’. The title is heavier than anyone would think — the expectations of me and my actions are constantly tagged to the idea of being a “scholar”. I should perform well in my academics and get first class easily. I should get my COC within my first VA without any problems. I should be an effective leader and gel well with the ship crew. I should be many many things, because a lot of resources are invested in me and they cannot go to naught; there is no room for opportunity cost.

Do I want to continue chasing? I don’t want to, which was why I changed my perspective towards my capabilities, or the lack thereof, so much after I got out of OCS. Enough of that shit, enough of striving to outperform everyone and enough of feeling inferior just because I fell short by a bit. But after this VA it seems like chasing is not a choice. Some people are excellent in their own right and “chasing” does not even occur to them; these are exactly the people I’m chasing after to be on the same page. I thought doing well for A Levels would be the free gangway to everything, because you undoubtedly have access to a brighter future with better grades. But in retrospect doing well in A Levels seems to be the beginning of everything. In the past I only faced up to my personal expectations; right now, I constantly strive to meet the expectations of others. What’s worse? “Scholar don’t complain”, because of course I can’t. I am indeed blessed with so much and given so many that I will never be able to contribute back to the organisation in the same right. For some people, the organisation is lucky to have them. For me, I know I am truly lucky to have the organisation.

I don’t know when the tears will ever stop from feeling inferior and inadequate as I mentioned in my previous post. I know and still believe that hard work will always breed success, but whether I really want to work so hard my whole life just to be on the same page as everyone else… I am not sure of the choices that I will make anymore.

“In my contacts with other President’s Scholars over the years, I discovered that some did as well as they expected while others did not. One observation that dawned on me was that several of these scholars as well as their circle of family, friends and community expected comparable achievements to continue by default. If a scholar did not do well, or as well as perceived, a sense of betrayal over what was deemed an entitlement to success crept in.”

LWL

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