Editor's note: this article is a work of satire.
Like most law students, I like to start the day right.
In the first ten minutes of my morning routine, I drink a cup of cold water, meditate for seven minutes, and do at least five minutes of high-intensity interval training. I brush my teeth and cleanse my face — I use a Chanel Le Blanc cleanser, a moisturising Dior cream, and a sunblock I got from my aesthetic doctor.
Law students might not have as much time as the other students to eat mala hotpots or attend hall parties. Still, being a hardworking, motivated, and ambitious law student doesn’t mean compromising on spiritual, physical, and emotional wellbeing.
I set off from home.
On the way to the BTC, I listen to music. I’m not snobbish about my music choice. In fact, I listen a lot to gangster rap nowadays: 2Pac Shakur, MF Doom, and Eminem.
I enjoy gangster rap because I relate to the raw and powerful lyrics: the ecstatic combinations of harmonious lexical rhythms and melodious samples are not unlike the peaks and crescendos of classical music. (Yes, I love music — I also happen to have a grade 8 ABRSM in piano.)
At about 5.10 am, I arrive at the carpark. I run around the garden behind the Centre for Ethnobotany for about an hour, before taking a shower in school.
The pigeon’s coos, the screams of starlings, and the unheard taps of the woodpeckers of Botanic Gardens draw me outside, where I start on my tort assignment. Above all else, her campus was the reason I chose NUS Law.
As the hours pass, dogs are brought by their owners in vintage cars. Some of my cohorts take photos in front of the cars, and it’s this kind of sincerity, honesty, and hope that I admire in them.
(I get to pet a big and old golden retriever. The poodles feel too aggressive to approach.)
I have missed the torts lecture by five minutes.
Anxiety overwhelms me as I imagine myself walking into the lecture, late, looking for one of the cliques I usually sit with, and walking up the stairs while everyone ignores, but is acutely aware of, my presence.
I message Lucius on Telegram, asking if the lecture has started, but he does not reply. I know that it has, but I need someone to talk to.
I tell myself that I’ll wait until 9.10 am for his reply, toggling between my Instagram page (which has over 2000 followers and counting) and my LinkedIn (where I now have 64 connections). He doesn’t reply by then, but I don’t want to make a move.
Instead, I close my eyes, and engage in a few moments of mindfulness meditation, placing the spotlight of my attention on the sensations of breathing.
At 9.14 am, he replies: “yea”. As Bateman once said, relief washes over me in an awesome wave.
I run to the lecture theatre — there is only one in the law school — and I am about to go inside when I trip on a banana peel someone has negligently thrown on the floor. My M2 Macbook Pro flies out of my satchel, which I failed to clasp.
Oh. My. God.
I am paralysed with fear and shame at the thought of going inside and my cohorts looking at me, knowing that I’d just made the sound everyone heard. I already hear the lecturer inside saying, “Woah, what was that?”
I acknowledge my fear, but I also notice within me an intense disgust at my weakness. Thoughts of doing better, being observant, and coming on time fill my mind. I wonder whether I’m good enough for law school, or if I’m just an imposter.
I am reminded of the me at 16, having grown up only in all-boys schools, entering the junior college section of Raffles Institution for the first time. I remember trying to impress the humanities programme ladies in my class by doing a moonwalk. It was all-crocs day at RI (yes, it was a thing — just one of those Rafflesian quirks), and I slipped, accidentally doing a split, ripping my pants, exposing my Calvin Kleins to the girls, who guffawed and schadenfreuded.
On that first day of school, I lost control of my body. But in many ways, that experience gave me even more control over my life. The week later, with the help of my parents and friends, I attended my first ballet class, realising the importance of support structures in my life.
I was told then that there was a glass ceiling for males in ballet, but I don’t pay attention to the people who don’t spark joy in my life. In spite of their harsh remarks, I trained hard. I tore tendons and muscles and skin, but all of that made me all the more determined to achieve mastery over my body and mind.
Right before my A-levels, in the midst of mugging and taking both the LNAT and BMAT, I was awarded a grade 8 in ballet from the Royal Academy of Dance.
I knew then that there was no such thing as a glass ceiling — everyone has different levels of advantage and disadvantage, and life is about how you use the talents you were given to open the right doors for yourself.
Unfortunately, I was too occupied with my men in NS to continue ballet classes. I told myself that after I ORDed I would start with ballet again, but that never happened.
Maybe it was my weakness again, the anxieties that 16-year old me had about being able to actualise — becoming a lawyer, a PSC scholar, a President’s Scout, and (most of all) someone who could dance.
Lying, face down, in law school, I know that I can cry. I know that I can give in to the bad habits that made past me want to be present me so badly. I know that I can run.
But I look back at what I’ve overcome. I think about past me, and how much I wish I could tell him that everything will be okay.
And I pick myself up.
Silently, I make a promise that I will start barre classes, that I will come early the next time, that I will be careful and observant. It dawned on me then, that I lost something in my NS years more than my ability to study — hunger.
Being given that sword, talking to enciks like they were my friends — it made me soft and complacent. When Oxford rejected me, I didn’t try again, even though I knew that I’d have a fighting chance the next time round. I didn’t even bother applying to the US, because I was afraid that I didn’t have the kind of story they look out for.
The fact is, the only thing that kept me back this whole time was me. And as I stand up straight for the first time in a while, I make a reminder in my Google Calendar to apply again this year.
My shoulders aback, I walk into the lecture theatre, telling myself in my head, over and over again, that it’s no big deal to be late.
No one notices that I am.
My acquaintances and I head to the nearby Dempsey Hill for a quick Peranakan lunch. It’s Bartholomew’s turn to drive; we take his E-Class there.
For some reason, Bartholomew has invited his friend from FASS, Yuan Peng, to join along in our luncheon. At Candlenut, he doesn’t order anything except for a side dish, and he keeps remarking on how “chim” the place is. I wonder why he’s eating with us.
I don’t judge him, however, because I know that university is a place where people like you and me, regardless of our faculty or “major”, can make the sorts of friendships that last lifetimes. One’s varsity years are a rare and exciting opportunity, where everyone here is a person that you can go up to and say Hi!, without any of the animosity and backstabbing that the working world holds. Yuan Peng probably joined us just because he wanted to make friends — and who could blame him!
We start to talk about our life in law school, and I am heartened that Yuan Peng tries to participate in our discussion, laughing along with the jokes he doesn’t understand. Occasionally, he interjects with his experience of the PPE course, which creates a short but forgivable silence among us.
I am the type of person who always tries to see the better angels of another person’s nature. If someone puts me off or says something that I don’t agree with, I’ll smile, laugh, and be the better person. I know that I’m not perfect, and when I err, I can only hope that other people regard me in the way that I regard them.
During Yuan Peng’s silences, I try to reboot the conversation, because I know that he’s not doing it intentionally. He is simply trying to relate to us, and I try to relate to him too.
As the dessert course arrives, we reminisce about Griffles, the mascot of our alma mater, but Yuan Peng has given up on trying to fit in, and is unsuccessfully trying to court a girl over Telegram.
It is difficult to talk with a man who is not a Rafflesian, let alone someone who is not a law student, but we try to be an accommodating and inclusive bunch. Before we ask for the bill, I make the effort to affirm Yuan Peng that I am genuinely interested in philosophy, psychology, and economics. I know that when I say these things, I become the words that I speak. I laugh; the rest of us laugh; and he laughs, too. We have a good time after that.
Overall, the food was tasteful and quaint, but the ambience was somewhat too oriental for my liking.
Torts, and my tutor is late.
I generally dislike my torts classmates. On multiple occasions, I have tried befriending them, but all they talk about are the small portions of hall food, their multiple hall CCAs, and their friends who live with them in their halls.
They even talk about their hall buildings, their hall floors, and the rooms and corridors of each hall floor. The current conversation on buildings is somehow getting intimate, but I maintain a stoic silence, for I am unable to relate to their problems.
Someone tells a joke about Benjamin Sheares, and everyone laughs, so I laugh as well. I don’t see the need to join in the conversation, if it can be called a conversation at all. A conversation is an exchange of ideas, interests, and information between two or more parties. The current climate of talking isn’t a conversation; it’s just an interaction.
I don’t need to make myself part of every interaction I encounter. Neither do I have to relate to all the people that exist out there. I am okay with this, because I know that everyone has different personality traits, prejudices, and boundaries. I also know that there are people who I simply cannot get along with, who I take an instant dislike to. I am fine with the possibility that my torts classmates may have taken a similar prejudice towards me, because I know that not everyone has to like me. I am my own person, with my own goals and boundaries, and I know that it’s not my fault if someone dislikes me. I know that I am liked by many people, sometimes on first impression too.
Thankfully, before Boon Pang asks me a question on “Whether I stay in hall,” our tutor comes. I guess one of the great things about a meritocratic society like Singapore is that you get to meet people from all backgrounds.
For the past few weeks, I have tried to pique the interest of my classmates in law. I often raise my hands, I’d like to think that I ask the kind of questions that make not only my classmates, but my professors think — things like, “What does it really mean for something to be a tort?” and “What does it mean to do something ‘wrong’”.
My efforts so far have been in vain, and I’m pretty sure they’ve created a Telegram group without me. I don’t mind however — we’re all adults here. I don’t need them to be my friends.
During the class, my tutor makes a totally incorrect assumption about Phang’s decision in a Court of Appeal case. I want to correct her, but I feel that my classmates wouldn’t appreciate it, so I ask to see her after class.
Calmly and methodologically, I explain to her why she is wrong, but she seems to be unable to accept constructive criticism, and goes on a rant on my class participation mark and the quality of my assignments so far.
I know that it is pointless to reason with her at this stage, so I call Andrew to clarify the issue. He is nice to her about it, and affirms her that it’s okay to make mistakes, especially since it’s her first year as an instructor.
I, on the other hand, regard her aloofness as to the sanctity of law unbefitting of someone who calls themselves a teacher — besides, I wouldn’t want to be ‘marked’ for a bad grade. So, I make a reminder in my Google Calendar to tell Gary the next time I see him at the Tanglin Club.
As with every “major”, law has its fair share of bad teachers.
I pick my girlfriend up at her residential college for a late dinner. We go to Marina Bay Sands. I like going there because of the free valet.
Usually at this time we can get a table at Cut, but they’re fully booked tonight. It doesn’t upset me. I know that we can go there another time, but I am disappointed that we hadn’t planned for this in advance.
I’m raging at the fact that we’ll have to go to Koma, when my girlfriend suggests we check out Waku Ghin. Thankfully, they have an ala carte table, and we have a number of small but succulent sushi and spaghetti dishes. I thank the chef for the lovely dinner, and I drop her off at her residential college.
She gives me a hug, and asks if I’d like to stay. I remind her that I have a torts assignment to do. Even though she’s a FASS student, she understands the sacrifices that law students make. I send her a Telegram sticker of two cats kissing each other before I return home.
On the way home, I spend what little time I have to myself writing about the lows and highs of law school.
I draw a bath and prepare myself for bed. Before going to sleep, I do some light reading. Today, it’s the Concept of Law by HLA Hart, but yesterday it was just Harry Potter. I make sure to sleep by eleven every day, so that I can get at least eight hours of sleep.
Like most law students, I like to end my day right.