It feels just like yesterday, yet, It has been almost 2 years since I had been enlisted into the army for National Service (NS), I will be ORD (Operationally-Ready-Date), or in a better sense of the word, done with my national service in a months time.
Yet, a friend of mine will be starting his 2 years of national service in about a weeks time.
It felt like just yesterday that my sergeants were teaching me how to tie the laces on my boots into a ‘daisy chain’ . How to fold the sleeves to get a ‘smart four’ uniform. How to season my beret. Yet, I realized that the skills i just mentioned pale in comparison to the amount of intrinsic knowledge that I gained from national service.
Just before entering national service, I was pretty adamant that I would not gain anything from it and that I would not enjoy national service. Closing to the end, I was wrong on both counts. The friendships that I had formed during my National Service, the knowledge that I had picked up and the things that I had been exposed to had really opened up my eyes. Yes, sometimes life in the army was shit, but when everyone else around you is going through the same shit, that is when you see whom your true buddies are. However, it is not always that bad, as you get to meet people from all walks of life, enjoy a meal, or even a bedtime chat with each other.
An important lesson I learnt in National Service, is that if you want something, be it a negative or positive outcome, you would have to set aside your fears, worries and anxieties and systematically work towards achieving that which you want. That is an easy concept to picture, or to speak of, however it is an entirely different thing when you try to put it to practice. You would have to make what you want your life. That instance where you are willing to do anything just to achieve the goal, is a beautiful moment. Sometimes the goal itself might not be as savory as the journey towards it.
How Bad Do You Want to Succeed?
Another important lesson that I learnt is that if you were to approach a situation that is neutral in nature, a happening of sorts, approach it with a positive mindset, because you have not yet known what this situation entails and approaching it with a negative mindset often yields negative returns which further re-enforces that negative mindset.
‘If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life– an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.’
Viktor Frankl developed logotherapy, from his experience of being a prisoner of war and therapist to his fellow captives in the concentration camps.
The following list of tenets represents basic principles of logotherapy:
- Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
- Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
- We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.
I was not a prisoner definitely, however, I was conscripted for the 2 years that I was in National Service, bound by law to serve the nation. I developed a positive mindset after a few months; wherein the shock of enlisting wore off and the routines started. I found meaning even at the lowest point(s) in my NS Life, and these lessons that I learnt, especially at the lowest points, to me are priceless, they are lessons that would stick with me for life. I was perhaps lucky that I found a possible meaning in life for myself when I was in NS and I am fully determined to achieve what I had set out for myself. There are many people whom lose track of themselves in NS and eventually, they do not know what to do with themselves after their 2 years of service, even some whom have advanced placements in universities or a job waiting for them when they ORD. Some people in NS sometimes adopted self-destructive life styles that causes a liability to their self-worth as they ORD. Perhaps I was lucky to meet the “right” people in NS. However, to an extent I believe that individuals in NS should try their best to always look at things that they experienced in retrospect and take home some of the valuable lessons that their experiences have to offer.
This post is dedicated to The Sons of Singapore, to those whom have dutifully served and those who are currently in Service.