I will carry you through me.

Loneliness. 

You don’t really fully realise the gravity of this emotion until you’ve experienced the opposite of it which is happiness.

Dark.

You cannot fathom the depth of this pit until you’ve reached the surface, have climbed yourself out of it, and have seen the light.

I didn’t know I was lonely and in the dark several years ago. Looking back, I can remember being surrounded by people, yet feeling alone. I was earning a good amount of salary, but my pockets were empty. I was doing my maximum performance at work, but it seemed like a futile effort. I felt used, but also useless at the same time.

I didn’t know that I was lonely and in the dark because I was highly functional and productive. I was trusted to teach more modules in the college. I was leading the team in charge of the on-the-job-training for students. My students were happy with the way I teach them. I was able to put my brother through college and pay my bills.

Now that I’m in a better place, in hindsight, I can say that in those years, I was actually in a gloomy and forlorn state. It didn’t look like it on the outside, but I was on the inside. I was probably too busy to notice it. Or perhaps, it was my subconscious mind masking the real situation.

I’m glad I’m no longer in that state. I’m not euphorically happy now, but I’m less dispirited and my days are brighter.

Do you want to know what helped me get through from there to here?

It’s this Master of Education in Leadership and School Improvement I took at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam in 2013.

During brief get-to-know-you conversations with my university classmates, questions such as, “Why are you taking this programme?” would come up. I would, then, reason out that I have plans of managing my own school someday. That wasn’t a lie, but there was more to that answer than that.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell them that I was there to find myself…that perhaps, this programme will give me something to look forward to..in life.

At that time, I didn’t want to sound ridiculous to any of my classmates because they were all in high-ranking positions in the schools they lead.

I did a qualitative thesis for my coursework. It was a depiction of the exploration of a middle manager of her journey in leadership.

I think that somehow the universe had my back and understood my plight because this research activity suited me well. It meshed with my personality and it served the therapy I didn’t know I needed back then.

My research supervisor, Dr. Takeyuki Ueyama, encouraged me to look up John Flanagan and read up on the Critical Incident Technique. This, as it turned out, is a procedure that one can use to understand one’s behaviour in certain experiences and how this understanding can help in solving personal and professional challenges.

The idea sat well with me because it was just like keeping a diary or journaling which I’ve already been doing since my younger years. The act of recording and reflecting on the critical incidents also resonated with me being an introvert. Plus, I gravitated towards introspection and retrospection. 

3 months after completing this programme, I left Brunei Darussalam where I taught for 7 years and I moved to Sri Lanka to finally settle down in life. I didn’t get to practice my masters degree in the traditional sense of it like being a principal in a learning institute or building my own school. 

But…

I brought with me the technique and habit of recording incidents that are critical to me. That was the biggest takeaway from it all.

The universe had to put me in a desolate phase in my life so I could be prodded to go through a 2-year part-time programme to realise this.

Am I angry? No.

Am I thankful? Very.

Because of this whole experience, I learned the art of leading and improving myself. I have fully understood what it means to lead full throttle. I’m a big believer now of one cannot uplift others if one cannot even lift himself or herself up.

I needed to learn how to carry myself because when and if I get to be lonely and in the dark again, I know there’s no other person who can and who will carry me…but myself.

It’s this Master of Education in Leadership and School Improvement that shaped this realization.

As always…the journey of self-improvement continues and who knows what and when the next leap will be. The universe leaves clues.

Whatever happens…

I will carry myself through me.

We pursue higher studies for different reasons. I often get asked by my adult students for advice on what study for Master’s Education, which topics to explore for research, when is the best time to take it, and in which university.

Some of them are worried about their GPA not being enough to qualify. Some want to make sure they can use the qualification to migrate. Some want to use it so they can apply for better opportunities domestically.

There are so many thoughts and emotions around this life-changing decision. I don’t have the right answers, but I guide them in the best way that I can.

When we find ourselves in that situation where it’s hopeless to change, sometimes, the wiser thing to do is to change ourselves. I take this from experience. A better mindset would help. A more solid set of habits would help. A great avenue to gain all this is education.

And at one point, you’ll feel that urge to get out of your plight. You’ll feel frustrated about something.

You’ll somehow feel that genuine calling for change.

And then…slowly, every thing becomes a little brighter and more sensible to you.

You’ll be less and less hopeless and more and more hopeful.

At the end of the day…

You will carry yourself through you.

By the time you know it, you will have completed your studies.

You’ll get to say, “Oh, well, this is what a Masters of Education did to me!”

Then, you’ll realize that your decision to take it was worth it.

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