The Alchemist

I’m not reviewing the book by Paulo Coelho, though I have to warn you that I will talk about the ending of the book so this is my spoiler alert. I remembered something a few days ago from when I was in primary 2. I don’t think I have ever told anyone about this ever. I sort of had it archived in the back of my brain and also never wanted to be accused of self-adulation, because while this is largely about my amazing teacher Mrs Heng, it is more about 8 year old me. But now, given that I am probably the only person who reads my own blog regularly, I decided to post it. I thought about this a few weeks ago when i  was feeling emo and assessing my life in general and thinking about what road I was going down.

I had a bad time in primary 1. I didn’t like any of my teachers mainly because I was a very inquisitive/fidgety kid that always had questions, and seemed to test their patience (yeah I know I was an annoying child). I hated school. But that changed in primary 2. Mrs Heng was one of the kindest, most patient people and always made class interesting for an 8 year old. The only problem was that she was suffering from some sort of condition that cause her to have low blood pressure to the point she fainted once in class. I was quite traumatised by the fainting incident, mostly because I was very sad that Mrs Heng was sick. What that meant for our class was that we didn’t see her as much as I would have liked. She took a fair bit of sick leave (not that much but more than other teachers) and she had to wear a mic in class sometimes cause she didn’t have the energy project her voice. Despite the fact that we didn’t see her as much, to me she was the best teacher I had in my six years in that school and probably one of the best teachers I have ever had in my life.

A funny thing happened at the end of that year in school. On the last day of school when report cards were given out, Mrs Heng announced the person who came in first in class and yes you may have guessed, it was me.  That was one of my earliest personal achievements. And right now, putting things in perspective it may have been my biggest one. It wasn’t so much coming in 1st overall academically that was the achievement, all that probably meant was that I knew the answer to 8×12 or something. It was what Mrs Heng reminded me of when she announced the top student that I think was more important. You see she started off saying that she was very happy that this student got first in class. Then she said their name started with an A (my spelling must have been not that great cause for some reason I didn’t remember that my name started with an A, I thought it had to be this other girl named Adonsia).  She went on to say, that this student without fail, would come up to her everyday to ask her how she was doing and if she was feeling better. And that that itself made her feel better. Me, I did that. Without any ulterior motives, without caring what anyone else or Mrs Heng would think. Looking back, I find it a unbelievable that I could have done that but it was me! I can’t say this about the almost 27 year old me but the 8 year old me was pretty amazing. It may not seem like too big a deal but I just feel like the current me wouldn’t have done that. The current me would still want to know how she was doing but I would be too afraid to ask. I would be too worried thinking I might invade her privacy or she might think I’m being weird or nosy or people around would think I’m trying hard to get in her good books or a variety of other stupid reasons that I probably shouldn’t care about.

And hence in my emo state when I thought about this while walking to class on a foggy Canberra morning, I thought about the Alchemist. When I finished reading that book I was a bit underwhelmed. I found the ending a little cliche in trying to convey that you always had what you were looking and all the other moral values.  I think though, I owe the book a re-reading now. In the almost 20 years since I was in primary 2 when I just wanted to be happy, have fun and wanted people around me to be happy as well, life has conditioned me to become a cynical, critical person with slightly more materialistic priorities. I need to find a way (and now I’m going to sound cliche) to bring out that 8 year old me who seemed to have a better understanding of what is truly important in life than 27 year old me.  I don’t think it’s very easy but I think am very slowly moving in that direction. I just need to consciously focus on not getting distracted.

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