Poetry Speaks: Nicole Chui’s Selection

On Time
by Faye

New York is 3 hours ahead of California,
but it does not make California slow.
Someone graduated at the age of 22,
but waited 5 years before securing a good job!
Someone became a CEO at 25,
and died at 50.
While another became a CEO at 50,
and lived to 90 years.
Someone is still single,
while someone else got married.
Obama retires at 55,
but Trump starts at 70.
Absolutely everyone in this world works based on their Time Zone.
People around you might seem to go ahead of you,
some might seem to be behind you.
But everyone is running their own RACE, in their own TIME.
Don’t envy them or mock them.
They are in their TIME ZONE, and you are in yours!
Life is about waiting for the right moment to act.
So, RELAX.
You’re not LATE.
You’re not EARLY.
You are very much ON TIME, and in your TIME ZONE…

(Source of the poem.)

No one likes to fall behind and everyone desires to be “normal”. To ensure we are “normal”, we compare ourselves with others, as if others are the most objective standard. However, we often neglect the fact that others are humans just like ourselves with their own strengths and flaws. Who is to say there is a “correct” way of living? It is unfair to compare oneself with another person. Yes, most of us go to university at 18, most of us date at least one person before graduation, we have at least one internship experience, and might graduate and find a job at the same age, but we don’t vie for the same post, or always share the same hobbies, we don’t marry the same way, so the “majority” do not share a uniform life after all. If California is not slower than New York, why should we demand we catch up with others’ schedules?

We are told that we are unique, but we are also compared with others unknowingly as rankings exist—from primary and secondary schools to formal competitions and even scoreboards on video games. The term “below average” is somewhat alarming and our self-esteem is affected by the rankings. Such classifications and comparisons can sometimes be useful, but they are not the only way to evaluate ourselves. Age, scores and salaries can be quantified, but our personalities, which truly make us who we are, can never really be compared. 

But that is easier said than done. Most of us have already heard similar advice and are aware of the risks of comparison but still cannot help it, especially when social media every minute serves us up a never-ending feed of other people’s achievements. As a student who is still exploring herself and figuring out the future, I sometimes face such quandaries and also feel insecure. And I do not have the perfect solution for it, but I do find this poem comforting. So what I can do is share it with all of you. You are not alone if you feel you are lagging behind others. Let us join the author and focus only on our own time zones and enjoy our journeys at our own pace. Enjoy the unique scenery on those journeys while waiting patiently for the right moment, and we will eventually reach our destinations.     

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Nicole Chui is a final-year student, majoring in English Language and Literature and minoring in Translation. Her main area of interest is comparative literature and she is currently focusing on existentialism for her honours project. She believes in the value of real-life experience for literary studies and therefore is currently in Sweden on student exchange.

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