Written and illustrated by Sam Liu
Five days out of the week I wear red ties on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, blue ones on Tuesday and Thursday. 6:45 is the time I get up; 7:20 is the time I sprint to breakfast; from 8:05 to 2:20, I run through my daily classes; and back to my bed again at 9:30. Looking back at my schedule, I believe that these are the chains that education brings me, which a machine can manage even better than I do. There is a disconnect in sixth form education between the joy of learning and curiosity because the need to get a good grade is somehow more important to us all. I tend to believe that only by remembering that education can be fun can we start to absorb knowledge and break these chains we believe are hindering us.
At some point in your life, I’m positive you’ve made something that inspired you, that was profound and exciting and that reflected in some way who you would become as you grew up. I want to show you how the curiosity of a child can be harnessed when we get older, and that a creative mind should always be nurtured. I am thrilled to present to you today a story about how I extended my knowledge from books and classes into my life, which enabled me to develop aspirations from a very very young age. These aspirations are those that now push me to be a better student. As we continue to deal with stress and anxiety, items that make us feel chained down, as we learn and move towards our life goals, it is important to look back on the parts of ourselves that have brought us here and to reflect and remember the joys of learning.
It was about a decade ago, I was an adorable primary school student who imagined the possibility of becoming an astronaut when I grew up. I was full of curiosity towards the dark night sky even though I couldn’t really see anything from my window. I immersed myself in the new concepts of science at that age because I was beginning to develop future goals for myself. I had a vision of becoming someone great.
Once I got a chemistry book that basically explained how this planet works in the vision of a chemist. Through the photographs in the book, I was able to see the unique characteristics of a lab that came with being a scientist. The gas mask shocked me as soon as I stepped into this book. I started to consider the construction of a laboratory in my house right inside the left side corner where Mom and Dad had established a babysitting room for me when I was even younger.
In this small room, which is 3 by 3 meters in size, the first thing I had to do was to get rid of all those board notes for my early education, and I got a box of medical gloves right away. When I carefully put these gloves on, I felt as if I were becoming a real scientist.
Then I bought an air blower which is supposed to be used for barbeque cooking, but it now stood in the position as a professional lab-use air dryer. After my father sent me my first stereoscopic microscope, which was quite professional, I started to operate my lab. I invited friends to this small space to do complicated experiments, to compose soap, which was the base of sodium hydroxide. And in the meanwhile, I was still intending to expand my lab.
My father satisfied literally all of my needs. And my uncle, who is a professional scientist in the field of nanoparticles, evaluated the conditions of my lab, and he claimed that the ventilating system was terrible because there was none. With their help eventually, I made huge progress and my science lab became a working space.
About half a decade ago, in a room which was supposed to be a personal laboratory, my passions experienced a significant turning point. I started to collect paper bills from countries around the world, and further expanded to the collection of ancient money. In other words, I was moving from a scientist to a collector, and the ‘chains’ that might have bound others were beginning to move with my interests. They were becoming a part of me, and because of that, were not restricting me. I analyzed the different formats of these collections and tried to deeply understand the fundamental knowledge of antique appraisal. Moving in between boxes of my new collections, I found that this small room was enriched with all of my interests. After I discovered these precious products, I showed every guest who came for a visit to my place, exhibited these shining surfaces on the amphora to them, or the curves under the heavy coin. I wanted to tell them how honored I was to get a deep connection to those old, prosperous ancient civilizations; I wanted to inform them that they could be involved with something that they dreamed about, even though they weren’t professional experts yet. I know now looking back at my young self that I was beginning to plant the seeds of my future.
Thirty years from now, I will look at the faces of my own children that look exactly like mine did when I was their age, and I will share my memories of how I found ways to break the chains and make them useful to my life. I know that they too will feel the burden of education, so I want them to learn to have dreams and to put them into a room where those dreams can thrive. I will tell my children that once I had a room that fulfilled my purpose and motivated me, and this room also showed me the benefit of following my passions, of taking my dreams and making them realities. I want to tell them that the joy in this room has become such a big part of who I am. When they grow up and find their positions in society, they will carry a lot of stress on their shoulders and will want to have a break. I will encourage them to find moments that make learning fun for them. I believe everyone has a tiny room that is filled with little secrets and possibilities.
My fellow students, I am also reminding you to try to locate your own memories at moments when you might forget what motivates you, what the purpose of all this education is in your life. I believe that education truly makes you become who you are, that these chains are not meant to burden us; they should enable students to become whatever we hope to be. And just like with my children in the future, I hope that every single one of you too can find your own little room to cultivate your curiosity, breaking these chains, which will bring you great joy.