Everyone is born with attributes that fall comfortably within the normal distribution of the population, but surely, there would be some characteristics that would deviate far from the norm, to be the Supernorm. When I look back at my 30 years of life, I find that I can pick out some supernormal aspects of myself.
The most contentious of all (according to my colleagues), was the fact that I got my driving license only after I attempted the practical test 8 times.
“Don’t take his car.”, they said. “Who takes test for a license to drive manual transmission cars these days?”
While I would tell my experience of obtaining my driving license as a means to preach the virtue of perseverance, the twist of this story is that my 7 prior attempts occurred at Bukit Batok Driving Centre, the place where many people swore by their heart and soul was the easiest place to pass driving tests, as opposed to Comfort Delgro Driving Centre (fondly known as “Ubi Driving Centre”). The former has test routes among the quiet neighbourhood of Bukit Batok, while the latter is set in the truck-infested region riddled with busy roads, which, as it happened, was the place I took and passed my final test.
Talk about rising against all odds.
And did you know that I was a relief teacher for a semester? I was originally asked to stand in for a woman teacher who was on maternity (she had cleared half of it during the Jun holidays), taking over 4 of her classes for… English.
To digress, the punchline was that I was always bad in English. From Sec 2 to JC, I was so bad that I would be picked out by my English teacher to attend remedial classes. I got B3 and C5 for my O and A levels respectively, which was a blemish to my reputable school.
I knew the Vice Principal was desperate when she asked me to relief the teacher, but as I was only required to do it for a month, my guess was she just needed to appease the parents. The twist came when the teacher on maternity leave fractured her leg and took another 3 months of MC. I went from babysitting to ensuring that the classes I took that suffered from a low passing rate of 40% in the mid-year exams, could survive the end-of-year exams for the streaming into Sec 3. Needless to say, all of them survived and I only lost a few with reasons linking to entanglements with street gangs.
And then there is my very wide variety of interests, like how I went from NCC in secondary school to choir in JC, or from studying for an engineering degree to taking up a job that focus on human dynamics and behaviour.
In Singapore’s paranoic culture of boxing everyone in some way or another, many people around me find it hard to accept my behaviour. Once, my NS mate just exclaimed with exasperation, “There is no genre of songs that you only listen to!” He was referring to how my playlist jumped from ballads to heavy metals and then to soul.
What many of them failed to realize is that there is no binary explanation to human behaviour. The reason why I could switch from engineering to social science is because I belong to somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, what some may call the middle brainers. Just like how I was always dabbling with colourful broadcasts to inform my staff about new updates to IPPT regimes, while at the same time churn tonnes of graphs to plot trends of the recent years.
Back to the opening topic, the attributes of a person that makes them supernormal could be the reasons why some people are successful, from the arena of sports like Tiger Wood, or creativity like Lee Ang, to the hawker uncle driving Merz. Drawing from my own experience, it doesn’t mean that the formula that worked for others would definitely work for me, or that my previous difficulties in languages would mean I would be make a bad English teacher for the young people. In fact, when I first joined this testosterone-filled workplace as a newly-minted graduate, fresh and pasty-faced, I made my mark to bring security and peace to all the units I went to by virtue of my strength – of managing processes. I have to level the playing field, and play in my field, in order to win.
Because of all the little successes that my supernormal parts of me, I know that I am great in my own way. Some day, my little successes would come together to be big and shiny.
* Link to Comfort Delgro Driving Centre (a.k.a Ubi Driving Centre) website