Behold, Ami’s inspirational story.
Field Hockey is truly my first love. I met Field Hockey when I was 13, but our relationship only really began when I was 17 and in Junior College in Singapore. We’ve been together ever since, because through loving Field Hockey I began to love myself. Our relationship began at a crucial point in my life, having crawled out of secondary school and not being entirely sure of what I’d been through the past four years. It was (and still can be) pretty disorientating for me, thinking back.
At age 13, I was still this kid who loved the world deeply. I thought there was no limit to what I could achieve if I applied myself. I was a geography freak and I had memorised the capitals of the world by age 11. I loved reading Red Data lists for different countries, would read my older brother’s history textbooks and even read dictionaries for fun. I loved stumbling upon a word I didn’t know.
I was on the plump side and it wasn’t really an issue for me initially. I was also very outspoken and enthusiastic about class and learning in general. I thought that secondary school would be so much more exciting since I was no longer in the academic Little League.
By age 15, I was a different person.
I no longer loved anything, including myself. Having been ostracised for two years over how I looked and labelled a teacher’s pet because I consistently did well in English, life was horrible. I had nowhere to turn to and my self-esteem and confidence was in tatters. Being in a boys’ school was tough when I didn’t have confidence, because being confident is such a manly thing, right? The narrow construct of masculinity was suffocating for me because I was different.
Relatively speaking, I am more sensitive than the “average guy” – an archetype that I reject because there is no normal way of being a man (I totally detest the idea of taking hegemonic masculinity as the only way for a man to be a man). Also, unlike other guys, I just didn’t really feel the need to howl like a wolf every time I saw an attractive girl. Sure, the girl might have been attractive but I just thought I could keep that to myself. Basically, the display and constant social ingraining of hegemonic masculinity disgusted me because it was what made me feel so inadequate.
I remember how it felt to hate myself. To grab at my fat and want to cut it off with a knife. To question why I was made this way, and why I couldn’t be like the confident guys in school. I would look at myself in the mirror and wish I didn’t look like what I did. I was out of shape and I just didn’t look happy enough. I even considered harming myself in more ways than you could imagine.
Field Hockey changed everything for me.
From barely knowing how to play the sport, I quickly picked it up. I was determined to. Trainings whipped me into shape, and was almost too effective because I dropped 19 kilograms in my first year of hockey life. I gained some back, of course. Other that the physical rigour that I loved and that gave me confidence, my determination to master the skills of the sport (and my relative success, yes it’s a hairflip moment) also translated into greater self-confidence and self-esteem. Being in a team sport also forced me to learn how to be confident socially and communicate with people, instead of always running away and retracting into my quiet shell like I used to. On the pitch with my hockey team, I feel like a lion with his pride. Yes, hope you picked up the pun because it’s a very meaningful one.
What does my love for Field Hockey have to do with my life, other than the confidence it has helped me get back? Everything. It is disturbing that I used to hate myself. I am no longer afraid of pursuing what I want in life, and I love myself enough to know that I deserve love. The life choices I make are always self-affirming. I had the confidence to choose Yale-NUS – considered experimental as I was not sure what career prospects could be had out of a Liberal Arts education – even though I could have chosen the Law school route that society deems as paved with certainty and success stories. This mirrored my experience of choosing to love myself and not give in to societal pressure. Choosing the unconvential route required confidence, as well as self-esteem on my part. One year into Yale-NUS, and I have never been more content in life. Being in this school is like being on that hockey pitch. I relish every moment of it. I chose it, like how I chose myself.
At first glance, the world of sport does not seem to be that relevant to many other aspects of one’s life. In reality, it is so relevant on an individual level. Sport is pro-life and is always there for you to find yourself whenever you feel lost. I will always love my sport for what it has taught and given me.