In my vision of Hell, I find myself enclosed in a room of evangelists eagerly hounding me with their visions of Heaven.
i want / all the good things in the world
Today is the first day of my month-long social media detox. Three hours in and I’m not feeling so good. My finger still absentmindedly taps on the space where Instagram used to be on my iPhone. It doesn’t know. But a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do. In the meantime, I want to appreciate this beautifully shot music video. Four devilishly good-looking men lounging around in a lavish house under the control of some… cultist? Along with those undeniable Meteor Garden vibes? I’m all yours. Take my money. Step on me.
I want you to myself
Your peach give me good health
I need you, need you, need you
Bad batch I’ll bite the belt
PCP on my shelf
My pump when I in hell
I breathe you, breathe you, breathe you
I want you bad
Need you, want you
What’s there left to say?
I need you back, what can I do?
Nothing left to say (ay)
berhana – health food (lyrics)
This is a short piece on what UniPsych Symposium is about. It was originally written as part of a broader text of what the NTU Psychology Society does, but I’ve opted to publish it as an independent article as the event is approaching soon (7th September 2019, Saturday). All links open in a new tab. Opinions are my own.
I was elected as the representative of PsychSoc to join the organising committee of UniPsych Symposium 2018. It was spearheaded by InPsych, an organisation with a purpose similar to the Society, but less constrained by institutional boundaries. The organising committee comprised 5 people, including me – one from each of the participating universities (NTU, NUS, SIM, SUSS, and JCUS) for the purposes of equal representation.
In short, the event is a series of independent seminars occurring simultaneously, each featuring a specialist from multiple sub-disciplines within psychology. Participants get to attend 3 talks of their choice from out of more than 20 speakers/sessions (subject to demand). The topics covered can be radically different in breadth and content – in my year (2018), it ranged from an overview of forensic/investigative psychology to specific techniques in psychoanalytic therapy. Another pivotal component is the panel session, where leaders in specific fields ponder over the future of psychology careers and answer questions from the audience. Included also is everyone’s favourite part: lunch and networking.
An annual, single-day event where undergraduates and specialists within the psychology field in Singapore gather to network and exchange opportunitiesapparently, I wrote this
I was in charge of publicity and outreach efforts. It wasn’t a role I was accustomed to up to that point. Still, together with a talented designer in my sub-committee, we crafted all the advertisement material from scratch, ranging from the banner to the Facebook page’s header image. We were superbly compatible – while I generated content ideas and the publicity timeline, she worked her artistic prowess. You can still find the website we produced here [outdated]! The learning experience was a fruitful one, and it set the foundation for my later endeavours as a student leader – a story for another time.
UniPsych Symposium 2019 [Facebook page] is happening soon (tomorrow, actually), so if you’re fresh on the field trying to expand your horizons or Finding Your Passion, it’s worth your time. There was admittedly a mild slant towards the field of clinical psychology in 2018. This year’s appears more diversified, and I’m impressed at some of the niches they managed to tap into. There’s a defence psychologist from SAF (I’m legit shookt!?), a medical music therapist, AND a Gestalt therapist – and that’s just the icing on the cake. A mere glance at the list of speakers [UniPsych 19 website] already reveals how heterogeneous the discipline is, and the overall picture excellently elucidates the tagline of this year’s Symposium: discover opportunities, uncover possibilities. I like that. InPsych was so kind as to invite me this year, so I’m going to make the best out of it.
I’m recommending this not in the capacity of a former organising member, but as a Psychology undergraduate (though I’ll admit that I have some lingering affection for the project, of course). I registered earlier at 4:15am and noticed that tickets are still available, so if you’re thinking about it, give it a chance. After all, the fact that you’re reading this is a sign, no? It’s a worthwhile investment. P/S: The talks that I’m interested in are neuropsychology (A8), community psychology (B3), and the one with Resilienz Clinic (C2). Well then – I’ll see you if I see you!
So, as I have previously mentioned via my encounter with Richie-san, okanemochi means rich person. Specifically, the word is made up of two parts: okane (money) and mochi (to hold/have) – that is, okanemochi literally translated means ‘to have money’.
Why am I telling you this? Because now that you know, you can appreciate the following incident that happened to my friend and I earlier at KFC.
KFC attendant: [In Japanese] Are you having your meal here?
We wanted to take away our food, so we replied simultaneously.
Friend: Mochikaeri (lit. take home)
One of us was wrong. Tragically, it was me, who had yelled RICH PERSON at the attendant out of NOWHERE. I swear her face twitched in confusion. My friend looked at me in disgust, appalled. I could not decide if I wanted to cry or laugh, so I apologised instead. Congratulations to me for perfecting the art of the baka gaijin.
Joke explained: my friend and I built on the same root phrase mochi (to take), but headed in wildly different directions from there. Language construction is a magical thing. Okay, it’s not as funny in writing as in person, but whatever. Mochi a sense of humour, y’all.
Surely at one point of your life you must have wondered: how much am I worth? Idealism (and probably religion, but what would I know?) informs us that the value of a human life is priceless, and is therefore unquantifiable. Then being said, when did utopian visions ever translate perfectly to reality? Inadvertently or deliberately, our existence comes with a value tag. Maybe it is part and parcel of being human – to compare, to be compared. Everything counts in this life, and some elements count more than others: the family you were born into, your potential contribution to society, your physical appearance, yadda yadda.
Anyway, thanks to the potent combination that is commodification and capitalism, we have this new service concept in town: incentivised dating! Except that it isn’t a new service concept, losers, and it has existed from the beginning of organised society: it’s the new incarnation of social escort services, packaged in evermore innocuous language and supposed boundaries. See, we can pretend to be a civilised species all we want, but our basal urges will always come back to haunt us. And we’ll always slurp that poison up, like buying snake oil infused with Prayer Power.
Don’t get me wrong. Money is the essence of modern life. If I had a chance to earn money easily, I’d be all over my knees for it too (to my favourite MLM ‘micro-business owners’: no, I don’t want to meet at your office for a short chat, thanks). Plus, when you have no talent, no connections, and no looks like me, there’s only so many opportunities for you. And escort services, at least the one we’re talking about right now, seem deceptively simple for the person who’s considering it as a vocation:
- You (the, uh, incentivised date) meet a client who’s lonely or in need of a short-term partner;
- You spend a period of time, as agreed, serving as a companion;
- Your customer’s social needs are fulfilled;
- You get paid.
- (Bonus) Your agency may take additional steps to protect your chastity and privacy through explicit contracts with your clients. Dates in public areas only, no touching, no phone numbers – well, not unless you’re willing.
Deconstructed this way, the whole scheme is hard to decry. And that’s also why these platforms are growing in (man)power as you and I sit on our asses, wondering where the next best opportunity to earn money is. (Of course, I checked. Since the last time I accessed the platform that inspired this post a few weeks ago, about two handsome boys and a handful of sweet-looking ladies have joined the circle.)
I think about this way. I have a few friends who give tuition part-time. It is a service, that is, the tuition teacher trades their knowledge, attention, and time for pay. If the student benefits and is satisfied, the existing arrangement is extended.
In an escort arrangement, essentially the same thing happens, except that ‘knowledge’ is replaced by ‘intimacy’ (or ‘sex’???????). Also, the end-product being sold is an illusion, rather than something tangible like grades on a report card. You’re paying for that elusive high, that feeling of being good enough to sit face-to-face with someone who’s way out of your league. Because you couldn’t get to that situation otherwise with who you are, to the point where you were willing to pay to meet them. But all is forgiven and forgotten as they sit across you for that two hours, because their time is yours, and you are the priority. You are numero uno, and no one else can snatch that from you.
The escort is merely a means to an end. Sure, you’re paying for their companionship, but it’s also fulfilling the need to be affirmed as a person, the desire to be important. Maybe it’s also for the envious gazes of others, betraying a naked wonder of how you managed to get that piece of eye-candy to revolve around you. (Sorry, I definitely meant to say that we select escorts on the basis of their personality, but my hand slipped.) In short, you’re paying for an ego boost. And you gotta give it to the minds behind this scheme: they’ve identified a weakness, and they’re now exploiting it on the pretense that they’re contributing to society via helping people find dates. Now that’s advertising that works. I’ll take it.
Alas, the fatal flaw of our local incentivised dating service is that it makes the process of developing a relationship extrinsically motivated. If you are paying for someone to treat you like a friend or a romantic interest, how do you know where the genuine interest begins and ends? You don’t. The phrase ‘incentivised dating’ per se is telling (who in the world came up with that phrase, anyway? It’s awful) – your partner is incentivised to date you. It is, plain and simple, an insult: you’re not good enough on your own. Why else would you need the money as an incentive?
No matter how much money you funnel into your incentivised date, every single time it ends, your meticulously constructed alternate reality crumbles. Think about it this way, from the perspective of the escort: if you’re being paid to pretend you enjoy being with someone, what motivation would you have to end the arrangement? Even if you did genuinely enjoy your client’s company, who would say no to being paid for it at the same time? Do you really think your date will change their mind and voluntarily come into your arms after you’ve spent enough money and time on them? LMAO sis, this ain’t Pretty Woman. The ultimate purpose of being an escort is to earn money. If they wanted to smash or find a beautiful connection with another human soul, they hardly need an escort platform for those purposes. Tinder is free.
It’s like playing a game at the arcade. The timer runs out, and you have to pay to continue. And a human connection, even if rooted in artificiality, is so much more powerful than a game. So there you go, my friends – you’ve been hooked. Thanks for contributing to the economy. Eventually you’ll run out of money, and where is your date going to be? With someone else who has it. C’est la vie.
Alright, onto the topic of joining as an escort. It comes down to the question: how much is your dignity worth? Not because escorting is in and of itself shameful (primary deviance), but because of the social repercussions that arise from others’ knowledge of your involvement (secondary deviance). And in this world you have to wonder if your own opinion of yourself is enough, because it likely isn’t, and your own is intertwined with everyone else’s around you. It’s probably okay or even in your favour if you’re pursuing the #contentcreator (because #influencer is so passé) life, but other than that, hmm. For the same reason, though, I am impressed by the courage of the individuals who are willing to put themselves out there. Sometimes I wish I could live like that. In the meantime, I’ll satisfy myself with hiding behind a wall of text.
Finally: sorry to disappoint all my fans and haters, but please do NOT send me unsolicited offers. You can’t afford me. I’ll be honest: I can’t afford such an arrangement either. If you have that much money, I recommend you donate to ShareTheMeal – at least your funds will go somewhere tangible. And go out and look for some organic relationships based on genuine reciprocity instead. Or read the other posts on my blog because I want attention. I don’t know. It’s your life.
Recently I met someone who said they were from Bukit Timah JC, but only when I asked. Okay, I should have picked up the hint the moment they mentioned ‘six-year programme’, but I took a full minute to process it (so much for me panicking about potentially being an uninformed brat!). Is this modern humility? Should I tell people I am from Pioneer University the next time they ask? It is funny and intriguing at once.
Picture this: you are a (somewhat) hardworking, ordinary student struggling to graduate from the unforgiving institution that is university. During the prelude to every semester, you reiterate to yourself with renewed gusto: this semester is the semester I will finally get myself together! I will pull up my GPA! I will pursue the modules I enjoy! I will set unattainable standards for myself!
You have enthusiastically prepared a list of electives that sparked your interest earlier. A quick online query pulls up the course outline of a module for your viewing pleasure. You scroll down the document eagerly, barely glancing at the syllabus breakdown, to identify how your marks will be divided.
Oh, there seems to be one component in particular that contains a large chunk of information. Your eyes locate the source; it reads ‘Group Project’.
Beside it, marked in bold, is (40%).
Instantly, your gut squirms. Memories of pain come flooding. You remember the last time you embarked on a risk of such enormous scale, and how you were duly punished for your arrogance. You remember everything, from the genesis of team spirit to its inevitable demise.
The veil of unfounded optimism shrouded all in the beginning: everyone was brimming with ideas in early brainstorming sessions, and the future glittered with potential. Then, tears in the fabric: tags unanswered on WhatsApp, conversations left hanging, meetings increasingly elusive. Next came suffocation: one night before the deadline, you realised only 50% of the report was presentable. The other half was fluff, or missing altogether. The references lay in shambles – who was in charge of them? Nobody knew. Desperate, you pulled an all-nighter to compensate. Then again, when was the last time you didn’t pull an all-nighter to deal with such events? It’s the rule, not the exception. Last on the list to deal with was the implicit question written on your professor’s face, even as he commended your group for the effort: is this the best you can do?
You remember the names and faces of every ex-groupmate who failed you. You remember how you swore that you’d never collaborate with them again (yet at the same time taking care not to actually burn bridges, because god knows it’s better to retain undesired connections than have none at all, right?). You remember parting with the others for the last time, smiling at each other and waving goodbye, in a coordinated farewell, to your grades.
You snap back to reality at the end of your extended montage. The lingering discomfort unsettles you, and you are eager to rationalise it away. Ah, but this module looks so interesting, though. Surely it would be a waste to let it go just because of a few bad experiences in the past. Besides, group work is merely part and parcel of university life. Like it or not, you have to overcome it. That’s what your professor would say. You talk yourself into a state of ease.
That’s right. Everything will work out.
Maybe this time it will be different.
Now I am not saying group work is inherently problematic (though it is a tempting conclusion, given what I’ve experienced). We can’t do great things without collaborative efforts, unfortunately. Only together can we can do so much. The trade-off is that as the group size increases, the individual effort decreases. Obligatory trivia time: the social loafing effect is studied in social psychology. There’s a whole journal article with a title that begins with “I hate group work!” here.
What baffles me is the complacency that some students shrug at their core modules with, or their education in general. It might be understandable if we’re looking at a pass/fail subject or you plan to S/U it. (Since we’re on the topic of pass/fail modules: just this semester, I was in a 7-man group. We had to deliver a 5000-word report for a graded elective. 3 of my groupmates, who were taking the module as a pass/fail subject, disappeared into thin air and only magically reappeared on the submission deadline to enter their matriculation numbers on the first page of the report. I’m not kidding. One out of the three contributed a total of 150 words, and I deleted it all because it was irrelevant, had no theoretical or empirical basis, and just because. We got an A for the report. Yes, we pulled an all-nighter.)
Back to the topic, your core modules are directly linked to the credentials you’re going to enter the future with. Fine, perhaps you’re not motivated and you’re here just to get your degree because your parents threatened to disown you or something to that effect if you didn’t follow their wishes. It is unfortunate, but you can at least try to make something of it. Sorry, but ‘not giving a rat’s ass about my studies’ is a badge of honour in nobody’s book.
Also, is it not basic decency to at least put in some effort when you see your teammates trying to do their best? Is it not? Tell me if it isn’t so. Delivering slipshod work is telling of an abysmal work ethic and betrays a lack of respect you possess for your teammates. It’s worse if you call them friends. Your friends may close one eye in the beginning, but even they will end up resenting you when you are consistently taking them for granted. See: you might not owe anyone anything, but it is nobody’s obligation to coddle you either. If you think that you will be able to get by easily because you’re comfortably nestled in a team of people who you think will carry you all the time, you are jolly well wrong. I have seen this happen with my own eyes.
It’s not a matter of ability. We are all in university. We have established that we possess a basic level of competence, such that the institution has been convinced to invest its resources towards each and every one of us, to develop us into productive members of society. The spot that you hold as a student here is a opportunity cost that the school undertook for you at the expense of someone else who received a rejection notice. Whether you like that fact or not, it is true. Incompetency is not an adequate excuse, and it shouldn’t be a problem that the people around you have to deal with. Even if you are bad at what you do, it is your responsibility to work on improving yourself. Does this even need to be said? Or are expecting others to inform you and carry you?
I’m not saying good results are always achievable. Some subjects may challenge us more than others and it’s unrealistic to expect one to perform excellently all the time. There are instances where I was out of my depth, and I was not useful. What I am asking for is simply effort and initiative. And it’s not that hard to tell if one has it or is just pretending. Missing a meeting once in a blue moon is understandable, not when you miss three in a row because you had inexplicable ‘personal reasons’ or worse, no reason at all. If you genuinely had issues, you could at least briefly discuss it with another person in the group so the rest can make the accommodations to cover for you. That’s basic respect. Nobody will blame you for circumstances beyond your control. That’s just an asshole move. But we will blame if you just can’t be bothered. It is disgraceful.
I’m no saint myself. I have done my share of social loafing before, though I should mention not often (? maybe others think otherwise?) – and virtually never for my degree’s subjects. I can’t afford that, and I can’t imagine who would think they could afford to. If I take an elective that I plan to S/U, I go out of my way to look for modules that don’t have group work components so I don’t implicate others with my lack of effort. Too bad the thought isn’t reciprocated, it seems. I know there are at least a few people who wouldn’t enjoy working with me. But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t tired of carrying people who take me for granted all the time. We are not here to cover your asses, and you should be ashamed of yourself.
I don’t know if this post comes off as elitist or entitled. I’ll admit that studying (and working on group projects) comes easily to me because I possess privileges that enable me to focus on my academics without having to be worried by other things. Not everyone has that privilege. Yet I’ve met people who have fought against the odds and made it. They, unsurprisingly, seem to think like me. Still, I may have made a few implicit/overly idealistic assumptions, so feel free to check me on those. Also note that this post is not directed at anyone in particular, but if the shoe fits…?
I have my flaws too, mainly for being uncompromising and pushy. And arrogant, possibly. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Case in point: I repeatedly requested, almost begged (except that I would never, because i’m too egoistic), an ex-teammate to use a script that I wrote for her for a presentation. Why? Because she didn’t write her own, which was because I did most of her slides for her, which was in turn because she didn’t have a good grasp of the article we were assigned to analyse. She refused to use a script at all, because she – I paraphrase – ‘didn’t do scripts’. She panicked during the presentation, overran her allocated time, and because I was after her, I had to shorten mine. We don’t acknowledge each other now.
But in the end, that’s just part and parcel of things, huh?
– This post is dedicated to all my teammates, past and present, who managed to put up with me… and who put in effort, of course 🙂