F*** the Rat Race
Get your education certs fast. Enrol into an established university. Apply for high-paying jobs. Fall in love at 21. Get married by 28. Apply for BTO. Settle down with 2 kids. And the vicious cycle continues. For the past generations of young people that came before us, that was a way of life. The only way of life that most Singaporeans knew. Either you put up with the system and sail through but struggle, or simply struggle. That, however, will not be our narrative today. Not for us Gen Z kids.
Gen Z = Strawberry + Loud + Misguided.
We have been called all the names that make us sound like wailing brats. Say whatever you want about us. We are merely the product of internalised intergenerational trauma from our boomers and millennials. So, let us reintroduce ourselves to you again. We are Generation Z. The very first real digital natives who were born between 1997 to 2013 who are unapologetic, reforming and driven.
From family to schools and even at work, we want to defy conventional norms. We want to redefine what success can look like and correct social and political traditions to better the way of life. Period.
“It’s a very isolated elitist community that I was quite disgusted by” – Damien, 21 Year Old SAF Reservist
As a kid, I really wanted to be an architect. I really liked drawing and looking at industrial buildings. Now, I decided to pursue a degree in Sociology instead. I only figured that in my time in National Service (NS). If not, I still won’t know where I should do or go next.
I was in quite a traditional primary school. And really they emphasise a lot of the academic performance. So I remember a quite traumatic memory is that every time we failed a spelling test, the teacher would throw the spelling book on the floor and make us pick it up. And that just shows how cut-throat the academic environment is. There’s no acceptance for failure. So I grew up with a lot of academic stress in school and also from parents. I don’t think I did very well for PSLE. Even though I thought I did, my parents were still disappointed.
But in JC really is like, the moment you enter school 7:15 am until 6pm, you just study non stop without a break. That was really unhealthy. And I think in my JC, it’s also a very closed minded environment because it’s a very homogenous environment. It’s a very isolated elitist community that I frankly was quite disgusted by. So I guess I was relieved to enlist because that would mean like a sabbatical. I was really quite burnt out from studying for 14 years of my life.
After NS I went for an internship with an SME company. I knew I wanted to get my hands dirty and experience what it’s like to work. Even as an intern, I was required to do a lot of work that’s normally assigned to a full timer. It was quite overwhelming at first and the learning curve was quite steep. But as I progressed on, I slowly got the hang of it. It really taught me quite a bit about people management – just learning how to communicate effectively with people.
I think our generation will eventually find what we want to do in life. But it’ll just take time which is completely okay. We have so many choices to choose from that can overwhelm us. But eventually, as we mature, and as we move on either into our first job or into further education, we will slowly begin to understand what we want in life.
“The cost of living in Singapore is very expensive and it’s just going to get higher” – Ella, 22 Years Old Diploma Graduate
I had to choose work over getting a degree because I wanted to support my parents. I’m the oldest of my siblings so I knew I had to be the one to work first. I just want my parents to retire faster. I mean the cost of living in Singapore is also very expensive and it’s just going to get higher.
I am still open to going back to school. I actually do still really want to. Like just having that achievement like oh, I got my degree! I feel like that has always been a life goal of mine lah. So I hope I get to achieve it sometime in the future when I’m a bit more stable – when I can pay for my own school fees without having to ask my parents to pay for me.
If you’re lost and don’t know what to do in life, the best way is probably to just look up internships and any contract jobs that’s out there. And it could be of any industry you know. If you like it, good! If you don’t, at least you gave it a shot.
“I never knew somebody like me could be in NUS” – Sonia, 21 Years Old University Undergrad
There’s all that stigmatisation on Republic Polytechnic (RP) being like the “ITE rejects”. If you don’t go to ITE, then you come to RP. So I guess I just had that perception that perhaps going to other universities that are not as recognised, is the path for me. I remember that from my NUS orientation, I was the only kid from poly. And not just any poly, but RP. Immediately, the reactions that I got from people were very telling of how it’s not common to see individuals like me in such a university.
But regardless of the labels, I am proud of how far I have come. I was able to grow a lot from the experiences that I got. I managed to work on many projects with industry clients. I also took up leadership positions in my interest groups. And now, I am the Vice-President for the Communications and New Media Society.
Of course, having a strong support system was really helpful to me during this time. My friends and family had faith in me. It gave me the motivation I needed to get through it.
“Know that you are moving at the pace that best fits you.” I wish somebody would have given me this advice earlier. Recently there was an article that came out saying that if you don’t find a partner by 21, you’re basically not set for a good future. Wow. We’re only at that age where we are just starting our adulthood but we’re given that liability and responsibility to make such a big decision?
To any Gen Z’s out there who feel like you are being pressured, just know that you are right where you should be now and continue to do what makes you feel the most comfortable. Because at the end of the day, the pressure can come from anyone but they’re not the ones who are leading your life. We’re the one who are in-charge, right? So make choices that can allow you to breathe. Your life, your rules.
Are you content with where you are at now after graduating?