Path Seekers

26 May 2019

Last week at the National Museum we met a bunch of cosplay enthusiasts. I asked the girl in costume if I could hold her trident. Without skipping a beat her photographer interjected, “Don’t! You’ll be disappointed.” 😆

The girl then went on to show us gamely that her trident which looked so solid and metallic was in reality made of a plastic mop handle and bits of plastic that had been painstakingly painted.

We all had a good laugh after that revelation and a sense of kinship was formed on the spot.

The spontaneity and liveliness of these people in the creative fields was so refreshing that I wanted to hug each of them.

Their passion to share their work & interests had me remembering a former student in my English class.

This student of mine was lanky and fair. Her cropped hair was jet black and her eyes were deep and dark, very much like a Manga character in that sense. She also spoke with a lisp, which she tried to hide by either speaking quickly or not at all.

Manga Girl was also a very good writer and often augmented her written work with amazing sketches of fantasy creatures that she imagined or copied from the manga comics she followed.

Her parents headed important agencies under which medical workers, researchers and scientists worked.

They worried constantly for their dreamy child whom they felt were the least promising of their brood.

At each parent-teacher meeting my observations on Manga Girl’s superb language mastery, rich imagination and sketching skills were diplomatically ignored. Instead, increasingly elaborate study plans & remediation follow up to help her focus on her science subjects were created.

After a while I learnt to keep quiet about my student’s natural gifts to avoid getting her into further trouble with her parents and teachers for dwelling too much on English and all that airy fairy stuff.

But no matter how hard or how long Manga Girl studied, her science grades remained disappointingly low.

Around that time she also seemed progressively more withdrawn.

One day I tried to comfort her by saying that her parents had meant well and their expectations were within their life experiences. I also asked her to keep writing & sketching because they gave her so much joy.

Manga Girl appreciated my mediative attempts. She assured me that she knew her parents loved her but also quietly added, “When my parents refuse to recognise my real abilities, it’s as if I don’t exist.”

At this point I had no platitudes left to make her feel better but just encouraged her to consider compiling all her creative pieces she did in class and in private into a portfolio of some sort, just in case.

For what purpose I didn’t dare tell her yet for fear of boosting her hope only to be disappointed. I knew that if they wanted, her parents had the means to get Manga Girl onto the path which THEY felt was good for her.

The following year she moved onto another class. We spoke now & then, mostly to show me things she wrote or drew.

When it was time to choose post secondary pathways, I suggested that she looked up polytechnic courses that offered animation studies or other creative but no less demanding options such as media studies etc.

She did and was shortlisted for an interview for animation studies.

She was smiling and rambling on as she shared the news with me in the school assembly square.

“What did your mom say?” I asked cautiously.

“She said she’ll take leave from work and drive me to the interview,” Manga Girl replied brightly, as joy overflowed and neutralised whatever awkwardness her lisp was causing her.

Finally the parents were able to see the path that their daughter was seeking and supporting her. Manga Girl had come into existence at last!

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