In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Land of Confusion.”
Everyone in their school years, regardless of how much of a prodigy they are, have that one subject that they have struggled with. Some may conquer that subject and proceed to become the school valedictorian either through talent or sheer effort. Others, well, just remain dazed and confused wondering why they even bothered taking that subject in the first place.
This was the case for me during my IGCSE years. Back when I was in Form 4, I was told that I could take any 9 subjects for the IGCSE exam. This might sound familiar to most of you readers out there as this is the official Cambridge examination system for international students. To me, however, it was completely new to me as I have been in the local schooling system for almost my whole life. The concept of actually being able to pick subjects was alien.
I went ahead and chose English, English Literature, Malay, Modern Mathematics, Economics, Further Pure Mathematics, ICT, Chemistry and Physics. During Form 4, I never really learned much about Further Pure Maths as throughout the entire year the main focus was on Modern Mathematics. This was because my batch was the first batch of their experimental new system where “normal” maths, as they called it, would be taken on the first year to ease up student burdens for the other subjects the following year.
Fast forward to Form 5 and everything seemed to be working as planned by the management. My homework was not a huge pile of boredom, I had ample time to indulge in my pastime activities and I only had one other Math subject to take on. However, it also happened to be the toughest one yet. Even Physics was a walk in the park when compared to this and I struggled for over a year with it! It did not help at all that most of the people in my set were progressing at a much quicker pace than I was. It was as if they were getaway drivers in Lamboghinis and I was the hapless fool that got dragged along for the ride with chains strapped to my legs with a 2-meter gap between me and the car. “Barely catching up” would be the understatement of the year. Moving down a set or two was certainly not an option as I was in the lowest, aptly named, “Set F”.
It frustrated me to no end that my brain was not able to process any thing related to Further Pure Maths properly. This might as well be the closest thing to actually trying meth. I mean, they both cause increased aggressiveness and disturb sleep patterns. Might as well be the
poor educated man’s version of it.
When the anticipated week arrived, I have done all I could to prepare for the test. Not a single past paper to be spared. I wanted to prove to myself that I can beat it. So, on the day of test I read through my note for one last time before I went to battle. The skies were an ominous grey, the wind was blowing furiously and the dreaded door loomed over me mockingly. When it opened, I knew that it was time. Time to face death on paper.
Write an essay about a vague poem? Any day. Figure out what logic gate to use? No problem. Find out the value of x, in radians, in the above diagram? Heck no.
I walked out of the principal’s office carrying a folder. But this was not an ordinary folder. This was the folder that contained my certificates for the exam. Looking through the certificates, I was the happiest man alive. Sure, I did not get straight A’s but I still managed to nab a few A*’s for myself! Even “normal” Maths was an A*!
Within that folder, however, there lay a single certificate different from the rest. It bore the name of a certain feared subject and on it was a reminder immortalized in solid ink. A reminder to my failures. A plain old ‘D’.