When I was in primary school, I was the top student in my class. Being hampered by relatively gigantic glasses, I naturally turned to books instead of sports. Let’s just say studying became my thing.
I was never a naughty kid. Even my classmates were all goody-goody. The teachers liked me. A lot.
After all, what is not to like in a sweet nine-year old boy who listens to the teachers and does his homework? ;P
From the very beginning, I enjoyed the attention. It didn’t take long for me to be the teachers’ pet. *ahem*
I was also class monitor for many years. I enjoyed the privileges that came with it.
Like being noisy in the classroom when I was supposed to make sure my friends didn’t. I need not sweep the floor or clean the board. Called by teachers to answer questions, orally or written. Almost always chosen for competitions like story telling and public speaking.
I enjoyed it all. Come to think of it, I believed I have also been seeking external affirmation and recognition.
I remember distinctly an incident which happened when I was in Standard 5 (Grade 5).
My school had a system of awarding prizes to students who scored well in individual subjects. There were five subjects at the time – Malay, English, Mathematics, Alam dan Manusia (The World and Humankind, which combined geography, history and science) and Moral Studies.
As there were two terms in a year, it was the practice that the highest total marks for both terms for a particular subject be the criteria for awarding the prizes. I don’t remember which subject, but in the second term exams, I scored the highest for two subjects and another person, K, got the highest marks for two other subjects. Someone else got the fifth subject prize.
K was my best friend at the time. We hanged out all the time, spent recess time together and almost inseparable.
Anyway, the class teacher decided that since I won two awards, I should let K receive the other two awards for the subjects he scored highest in. But, if total marks for the entire year were added up, I got the highest for all four subjects.
So what to do? There was this good buddy versus prize and recognition issue. Also, K has not won many prizes previously and I had always won something every year.
Being the nice person that I am, I actually contemplated hard and decided that it was OK for me to share. Ultimately, he was my friend and I had plenty of those trophies from previous years.
That decision was not painless one as I did want the prizes badly too. After all, I deserved them and it was based on merit.
It was very tempting to go up on stage and received all four prizes at one go. Two awards less was, to me at the time, quite a blow to the ego.
However, my parents felt that it was not fair to award the prizes to K. It somehow smacked of sympathy – since he has not won before, let him have a taste of it. But rules are rules, the person with highest marks in a subject for the entire year should get the award. If someone was not good enough, so be it. That was an award based on merit, not charity to be given to those who have not won before.
In the end, the class teacher agreed with the rationale and all four prizes went to me. It was bittersweet, though of course, more sweet than bitter.
Needless to say, K and I grew apart. The following school year, we seldom talked to each other. It was as if we never knew each other, like commuters whom we meet almost every day but never speak to each other.
Furthermore, we were in the same class. I felt awkward and bad around him and if we ever did talk, it was unnatural and formal. Rigid and lacking in warmth.
What happened was something I don’t regret. We were in young and I believe that we would have drifted apart anyway.
Just like those promises to keep in touch when I went to a different secondary school from most of my classmates.
Promises made, which were meant to be kept, but alas, never did. No one is to be blamed.
People come in and go out from our lives.
Life goes on. C’est la vie.