23 June 2024

The train of life

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By Nahrizul Adib Kadri

Imagine going on a train ride to a certain destination, filled with specific expectations. You picture the place to be idyllic, perfect for a picnic. You meticulously pack all the essentials for an ideal picnic, ready to enjoy a day in paradise. Imagine nasi-lemak-kopi-o kind of perfect. While sitting next to a cooling waterfall, no less.

However, when you arrive, the reality is far from your expectations. The place isn’t what you imagined, and even the weather isn’t favourable. Instead of nasi-lemak-kopi-o, you got a sloppy sandwich and cold tea, on a rainy day. Boohoo.

Disappointed, yes; but in this imagination you still have to catch the train to your subsequent destinations. While the destinations are made known to you, so that you can make the necessary preparation; the accompanying conditions are not. You just have to prepare, adapt and move on.

Life is much like this imagined train journey—a (very, very) long, winding path with innumerable stops along the way. Each stop marks significant milestones: the end of primary school, the conclusion of secondary school, graduation from university, the start of a career, the start of a marriage, and many others. Some of these stops will meet or even exceed our expectations, while others might disappoint. Some will bring you happiness and joy, some will bring you sadness and despair. Some reward you, some give you lessons to remember.

Each experience, be it positive or negative, equips us with the wisdom to face the future. The journey of life is relentless, and it is up to us to welcome each new beginnings with hope and determination. This constant forward momentum is the essence of life, and it constantly pushes us to stay prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Tomorrow, the SPM results will be released, a big moment for many secondary school students in Malaysia. These students, along with their parents, have certain expectations. Some may be hopeful, others anxious. But remember, no matter the outcome, that life goes on. The results are just one of those ‘stops’ in the journey of life, not the final destination. We must always look forward, ready to prepare for what comes next.

I have encountered students whose journeys didn’t follow the expected route but who found success nonetheless. One student I know scored 3As and 3Bs in her SPM, which was relatively modest compared to her peers here at UM. Initially a science stream student, she switched paths (with her parents’ blessings) and pursued a diploma in counselling after her SPM. Today, she is in her final year of her counselling degree, active in many co-curricular activities, and consistently making the Dean’s List each semester. Yes, she is slightly older than her classmates (2 years senior on average), but obviously she is having the time of her life, and already on her way preparing for her next phase of life as a counsellor.

This girl is a testament that success can come from unexpected paths, and at unexpected times too. You might need to change trains, and you might even arrive at different dates and times too. But it is your train, nonetheless.

To all students getting their SPM results: if you find yourself disheartened, remember to pick yourself up (with the help of others if you must) and move forward. Life is a series of destinations, each with its own lessons and opportunities. Your journey doesn’t end with the SPM; it’s merely another stop along the way. It’s not easy, but you just have to trust the train and its scheduled journey.

Time (and tide) waits for no man, they say. So, let’s hop on that train, and prepare for the next stop, shall we?

C’est la vie.


The author is an Associate Professor of biomedical engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Malaya. He got his first degree at the age of 26, after failing his medical school. He can be reached at nahrizuladib@um.edu.my for his other uplifting thoughts in life.