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Down the Rabbit Hole…


Down the Rabbit Hole…

Monday morning, I wake up, take a shower and prepare for my 9am class.

Tuesday morning, I wake up, take a shower and prepare for my 9am class.

Oh, it’s already Friday morning (bless), I wake up,  take a shower and prepare for my 9am class.

It’s now Saturday morning.

I don’t set an alarm but I wake up at the usual 7:30am, as if I am on autopilot. Before I grab my phone, I already start mapping out my to-do list for the day at the top of my head. 

Wait, it’s the weekend. WHAT am I doing?

At some point, life feels like a complex rabbit hole with no end. As students, we set out our journey through the labyrinth with full-on passion, a burning desire to ‘take on the world’, but soon stumble upon the weight that follows – expectations, deadlines, and maybe – rejection. So, let’s take a closer look down this rabbit hole of what we like to call ‘the student life’ together. 

The Academic Bookworm

We first meet a little bookworm with its library of dictionaries, textbooks, essay samples, and exam questions.  

Our main responsibility as students is to learn. How hard can that get, right? We are far past our years of pressure of national examinations, a mere final-semester exam should be a piece of cake, no? 


We are expected to absorb mountains of information from reading material (and videos), prepare for in-class quizzes, meet project submission dates of several subjects simultaneously, while somehow remaining sane. This is not forgetting group presentations that were initially structured to train oneself on how to work in teams…but you often find yourself burning the midnight oil to ‘tidy up’ your inexistant groupmate(s) work that they have ‘kindly’ copy-and-pasted onto the presentation slides. 

“Take it easy, the struggle ends here, don’t worry,” says the little bookworm as he stacks on another textbook for you to read.

No, it doesn’t, you mumble. You need to maintain your grades (scholars with convertible loans, I’m looking right at you!) and you are under constant pressure to perform – if not better than others, then better than your previous self. 

And that is how you end up trading hours of precious sleep for the simple hope of getting one extra mark, towards the pursuit of knowledge, wondering if it’s all going to be worth it at the end of the day. Heck, if you are lucky, maybe your groupmate(s) would give you a halfhearted ‘thanks for the work’ Whatsapp message followed by a thumbs up emoji. 

You do not yell back at the bookworm. Instead, you pick up the reading material and stuff it into your backpack before proceeding further down the rabbit hole.

The Working Ants 

As you lug your backpack, you stumble upon ants. One…two…five…ten…oh so many in a row!

The working ants stop for a split second to look at you, but quickly proceed to get in line – bringing a piece of leaf away. They all seem so busy and couldn’t care less that you’ve been watching them for a good minute.

One (finally) stops to ask, “Are you here to inquire about your application to work with us?”

A lightbulb in your head goes off as you remember that you DID have an interview with HR to be part of the working ants about two weeks ago. “Oh! Yes I am! How is the recruitment process going, ma’am?

The working ant scoffs, while she briefly looks through your resume and well-written cover letter (you didn’t get it off ChatGPT, so this should showcase sincerity, or so you hope). She finally opens her mandibles and says, “Following our exchange the previous time, you’ve got what it takes,  definitely, but do these hundred other applicants…and YOU AREN’T SPECIAL,”

Another responsibility as a student is to gain working experience, which many of us look forward to! No one ever said it was easy, nor do you expect it to be simple. Students brave themselves anyway, and begin by submitting applications on a daily basis, taking certifications to boost their resume, and rewriting cover letters to tailor to each company. Yet, getting little to no responses, ghosted after the first interview, and perhaps being disappointed after opening a stream of rejection emails (without the chance to book the interview!).

Despite the amount of self-pity and questioning your own worth as a student, you are forced to pick yourself up, and submit another application with your fingers crossed. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, ma’am. Have a good day,” you say before walking away from the working ants, further down the rabbit hole.

The Social Guinea Pigs

While you are still recovering from the wounds of rejection, you stumble upon three social guinea pigs lazing in a little den, chewing on nuts and grub. 

“Hey, you! I’ve not seen you in awhile!” says the brown-white one. 

The one with the funky hairdo looks at you, “Oh, we worked in a team before! You cleaned up the slides well, you know? Thanks mate.” 

“Do you want to hang out with us? You seem so tense all the time,” invites the beige timid one.

You stand still contemplating if you should join them. Anyway, you did have a bad day from the workload and application rejection…maybe a few hours of hanging out for a while would do you some good. So you walk over, take a seat, and they offer you a drink and some chips.

They chat amongst themselves for most of the time, while you sit in your corner trying to keep up with the conversation. When they laugh, you laugh too but you are actually clueless on what is going on. Since you do not contribute much to the conversation, you munch all the chips and down your drink…at least eating is what you do best. 

Hours pass just ‘hanging out’, but you don’t feel relaxed or comforted from the let-down earlier in the day. You don’t even know this group of guinea pigs well! So you proceed to excuse yourself, “I need to go now, I’ve got stuff to do.” 

“Seriously? We were just going to hang out at the bar soon. Do join us!”

“Loosen up, mate, our  finals is three weeks away,” says funky-hairdo.

“You’re so rigid, you know? You gotta breathe a little,” 

“Hang out at the bar? Should I?” you think to yourself. Call it FOMO, or peer pressure, a challenge or whatever, but there is this unknown lump of ‘I-want-to-be-associated-with-them-too’ feeling building up. As much as you know the irony of building meaningful friendships with people you aren’t close to, you are much more attracted to the possibility to JUST FIT IN, oh gosh… maybe this one ‘hang out’ at the bar would quench your desire to stand out in this sea of connections and networking. Maybe not.

Students are always told to have work-life balance:

  • Study hard, but don’t forget to socialise too. 
  • Give the best presentations, but don’t stay up too late. 
  • Rest well, but don’t forget to participate in associations. 

Really, how does one balance two very different elements of the spectrum?? 

You can’t seem to figure out what is your limit of your comfort zone and identity in this complex web of social struggles, but if you were to choose to breathe with these guys, or ‘breathe a little’ alone, you’d choose the latter. They don’t smell too great anyway. 

I’ll pass,” you shrug as you head another step down the rabbit hole, leaving the three friends to their business.

The Financial Bottleneck

You now proceed walking down the rabbit hole alone. You let out a sigh of relief as your social battery was depleting from that insignificant get-together. The path seems to get narrower, but you walk on. 

Suddenly you hear a notification from your phone. It’s a notification from your bank. This can’t be good.

< You are reaching the limit of your expenditure >

What’s new? It’s the end of the month and you’ve been holding back from dining out and resorting to cooking at home. You’ve even braved cold nights, not turning on the heater in fear that the price of your warmth would be too much to bear. 

For many students, the financial burden can be the most distressing part of the journey. Rentals, bills, the online shopping cart that has not been checked out for months, and the basic cost of living can be a difficult hurdle we face (repetitively, if I may add). At least, lucky for many of us living off scholarship allowance, our burdens might not be as heavy. Thank goodness. 

The path down the rabbit hole is now tight. You can’t seem to squeeze through. 

Just one more week,” you tell yourself and make a mental note to not overspend the following month. 

You push through, wriggle, and force your way through the bottleneck. You persevere.

However, as you walk along, the devils of online shopping are always lingering. You click on an advertisement for sneakers that pops-up on your phone screen, conveniently redirecting you to the online shopping app.

< Add product to basket? > Yes/No.

You sigh before making your selection.

< Yes >

The Battle of Emotions 

As you continue the journey alone, your mind plays battles in your head. Anxiety, stress, and depression are all too common companions on this lonely journey. 

Am I not good enough?

Why am I still so tired?

When will this rat race end?

These thoughts start to fill up your head. It’s getting too loud, and you find it harder to breathe.  But your phone rings, and you snap out from the drowning thoughts. 


You choose to accept.

You are warmly greeted by a, “Hi my dear,” followed by a string of questions like, “How are you doing? Anything happened today? You eating well or not? Don’t always eat IndoMie ah, not good for your health. Don’t sleep so late, please. Later get eyebags ohh,”

You reply to each and every one of her inquiries, update her on the good but hide the bad news. “She does not need to worry herself over my little things.”

Her mothers-instinct kicks in as she senses your demotivated tone of voice. She finally asks, “Are you okay, my dear?” Ding! Ding! Ding! JACKPOT QUESTION. 

A surge of emotions fill your chest, as you feel tears welling up, forming a lump of outburst in your chest. 

Often, students hesitate to seek help, fearing this might be a sign of weakness (double that if you are a male). The stigma surrounding mental health in today’s society is warming up…but not everyone understands yet. Parents worry for their children who stay far from home, but in return, children do not want to add-on to that worry. Understandable. 

So what do you do? 

I am doing fine, mother,

You bottle it up. 

After saying goodbye, you fall to your knees. Screw this dumb rabbit hole. You don’t want to know what’s at the end…IF there’s an end in this. 

What if I’m not happy when I reach my destination? 

What if I study but still score below par? 

What if my worth is really just another resume in a pile? 

What if I am really studying my life away with no ‘social life’? 

What if I end up being a failure? 

Tears flow as you wail out all your feelings and frustrations from the previous weeks. You can’t help but feel sorry for being the crying mess that you are. You can’t help but wonder if this is the student life you wished for when you were younger. I wanted to be a doctor or a superstar or an Oprah Winfrey, for goodness sake! Not this crying mess!

The Little Gleam of Hope

As you wipe your tears away, you see a little light at the end of the tunnel. *Wipe wipe* The ray of light is still there! 

You grab your backpack and hurriedly walk towards the light. Upon reaching, you realise it’s the entrance to a couch and a table filled with warm food. The weather is warm, you can smell the grass, and hear the birds chirping happily. 

Despite the breakdown, you know that the journey of being a student is not without its rewards.

It’s a part and parcel of life, a path of personal resilience, growth and pursuit of dreams. As students we might wrestle and break down from challenges down the rabbit hole, but we are definitely not defined by them. View it as these struggles we face are building blocks of our future. As we fall deeper into this dark rabbit hole, uncertain and scared of what’s to come, we look forward to the joys in-between – a boba drink, playing sports, or just breathing in crisp morning air. It may sound cliche, but surely, the journey is far more meaningful and unique than the destination. 

And so to conclude, 

No, it does not mean you are stupid if you don’t score the best in class.

No, it does not make you any lesser than your peers if you receive rejection emails.

No, it does not mean that you are a loner with no social life if you don’t spend time at the bar.

You look back at the couch and the table of warm food (and tea!), you settle down comfortably, take a deep breath and a sip from the teacup. “Life is okay, it’s just a bad day,” you say out aloud. 

It’s nothing like Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter or a fancy tea time party, but it will do and you are content.

One rest day won’t hurt,” you think as you close your eyes.