I learnt to double-tap. One essay I wrote in high school was returned with red-rimmed comments: “Your thesis is bland, but it does the job”. First draft on paper, then the word processor. I’m still not sure whether Barthes and Foucault knew each other, or if the similarities were solely linguistic. I eventually found out that most university students stop at the first draft, which doesn’t do your cardio any favours.
I learnt to break things down. Coir is a mixed-material coconut fibre which is used, amongst other things, as the digestible bedding for worm farms. It comes in pallets which you have to first soak in water then, when the pallet has sufficiently expanded, crumble into an earthy dough that smells and feels something like dried-then-saturated expired Black Forest cake. It’s a task which can only be tackled piecemeal, and you’ll strain yourself if you over-accelerate the process. Barthes and Foucault didn’t come in pallets, but they were hard for me to digest. After writing a paragraph, I would allow myself ten minutes for restfulness to soak in. It took longer, but it did the job.
I learnt to eat apples. They’re light, refreshing, and easy to consume while trotting around campus. As snacks, they’re far more cost-effective than coffee and they make the worms happy too. I ate apples to stay healthy. To stay healthy, I avoided group study sessions (unproductive), excessive alcoholic consumption (mostly), and student politics (always). I read a lot of Literature, but not a lot of stories.
I learnt to beware opinions. Everyone expects everyone else to have an opinion at university. Opinions are like opossums: nice to keep in theory, but with a tendency to scratch off valuable body parts. I would prefer an owl to an opossum, or a falcon. When I was little, before I left home-away-from-home, I used to go to Jurong Bird Park and gasp at the acrobatic toucans. My friend’s year-old parrot enjoys hopping on my neck and cleaning my nostrils with her beak, but my other friend’s (much larger) parrot gets squawkily protective of her when I’m around. A lorikeet flew down and danced in a circle around my feet as I sat outside this week. I prefer birds to opinions.
I learnt to sleep early. At first, I would stay up late because I liked the virtual company of others my age. Then, as I came into increasingly-pervasive employment and (more recently) less-than-optimal health, I began to sleep more and socialise less. Partying was never my strong point: I much preferred (mostly) to write children’s poetry before sunrise. I lost a lot of acquaintances that way, but not as many friends as I would’ve thought. I learnt that the important people are the ones who befriend you for who you are.