Un-institutionalizing myself

Now that college occupations like homework, classroom performance, exams and extracurricular responsibilities are out of my way, I’ve had time to rummage through the big crate I’d brought home from school.

I admit that the departure from that routine in KTJ has been difficult, especially as I’m one of the handful who didn’t fly away to university after collecting my results. It’s strange how I believed I had an independent mind, but after spending a few years in boarding school I:

  • Can’t help but feel hungry every time I hear a bell ring, as though it signalled a mealtime of some sort;
  • Am overcome with feelings of dread when I hear a fire siren, because in my lightning-prone school this was sounded nearly every day before a thunderstorm. My fear of thunderstorms aside, though, I’m not dismissing the significant role ‘Silent Hill’ may have had on these triggered feelings of dread;
  • Try to get something productive done from 8 to 9.15 every night, because that was when all were made to sit down at their desks in the dormitories;
  • Cannot look at a white hibiscus-flower without getting the urge to meander.

While on my DVD spree last week, I happened upon one particular film that never fails to send shivers of awe and other strong emotions down my spine: The Shawshank Redemption. Now, one would think that what chills me about this movie would be Andy Dufresne’s calm and quiet ingenuity, or the typical Morgan Freeman narration, or the scene where he runs into the rain (putting it vaguely so I don’t spoil it for anyone). But no, it’s none of those, though they all contribute to the film’s legendary status. It is the relatively short story of Brooks, the sweet old man, who gets … you know. (I’m being very considerate here. Thank me.)

Anyway, the reason his story moved me so deeply was because, as with all people, it was a reflection of the self – of myself. My difficulty in accepting the change that came last July, what with having to leave school. There is only one difference between my story and that of Brooks; however, the difference here is vital.

My time in KTJ (or KTJail, as it was called by more than half the student body) was great, undoubtedly. But rediscovering that crate I’d packed up so sadly last June, I realized yet another thing.

It made me realize a remarkable thing about having been a boarding school student: that after coming “home” from the secluded, peaceful place where I lived nine months a year, for 4 years, and it seems like that wonderful life will never return to me – waking up to friends’ voices, greeting my teachers at breakfast in the mornings, stopping to admire the cassia trees in full bloom in March and the flame-of-the-forests blazing up from the ground in June, hearing the gravel crunch beneath my shoes on solitary walks just after rainfall – all of that is not gone, it’s still in my memories and all I need is a box full of mementoes to bring it all rushing back to me. I can deal with this change. I can. School grooms you to grow fond of it, and then to be ready to leave it. And I can fulfill that goal.

Sure, the morning showers are never as refreshing as those I took in KTJ, for some reason. Sure, the supply of Maldivian tuna’s gone from my life (though not the Maldivians – one of them in particular). Sure, I have less people to talk to everyday. But you know what makes up for all of that? You know what the one thing that makes it all okay is?

Mirror-writing 'Good morning'

Everything I have now, and everything I will ever have in future.

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