Hooray! The exams are over and you’re free! So now what do you do? Yeah, of course you can chill on the couch and go on a TV marathon, eat chips all day, or dye your hair neon pink if you so desire…but seriously, what are you going to do with all that free time on your hands?
There’s been a lot said on what to do after SPM – a search on many forums and blogs (including the one that we run over here, Recom) will offer you a plethora of suggestions on what to do. There’s even this book that chronicles stories of various SPM leavers like you and the choices they made after their exams. However, today I’m not going to simply list down stuff that you should do – because they’re countless and oft-repeated and because I’m also a school leaver just like you (albeit the second time) – but offer general suggestions on the mindsets and mistakes that I’ve learned from my first post-exam experience.
With freedom comes responsibility. An unproductive lifestyle during the next few months or so is not going to do you any mental or physical good – your brain may become rustier and you may gain some flab . Quick test – after leaving school for a month, how many percent of the stuff you learned for SPM is still there in your brain? Well, you don’t have to reread your SPM textbooks, but you do need to find ways to keep your mind and body alert and healthy. Plan your free time – a bit of a killjoy all right but worth it in the long run when you look back at this period of free time and can say that you did make the best use of it for both self-development and contribution to society, rather than regretting that you spent some months doing nothing other than going online all day – which I did after my SPM and refuse to repeat again.
Consider your capabilities and needs. Whether you decide to learn how to drive a motorized vehicle, work at the nearest fast-food joint or travel all around South East Asia, you have to consider whether a particular experience will be beneficial, needed, and convenient for you, because not everything can be done by everyone. Take learning to drive as an example. If your reason for driving is,for example, because your mom wants you to drive to college, be independent and learn how to be responsible with a vehicle, then go ahead- it’s what you need, and it’ll take a huge burden off your mom’s shoulder. But if the reason you want to learn driving is simply because every other SPM leaver is doing it, and you have no car or bike that is available for you to use, OR if you know that you’re simply not ready to drive yet, it’s OK to put off the lessons for the time being until the need arises for you to drive -go find something else that you need to do. There’s always public transport that’s cheaper if you need to go places. The same principle goes for all other post-SPM activities.
Consider ethics. Let’s face it: you’re no longer a little boy or little girl that needs Mom and Dad to tell you what is right and wrong. Technically, you may not be an adult yet but after SPM, you do have the opportunity to take on some adult responsibilities. When faced with a sticky situation, you get the chance to maturely decide for yourself what to do. For instance, if you are tempted to ‘curi tulang’ at the place you work or pay ‘under table’ money to pass your driving test, you have to think about the consequences of your decision and take responsibility for whatever that happens later. But if you don’t do such things, aren’t some people going to give you a hard time, you ask? Unfortunately, they may – it is so in the world out there where corruption is real and many people seek for their own gains, trampling others on their way up. But if you are the kind that wants to do the right thing regardless of what people say or do, it speaks volumes about the kind of person you’d become when you really become an adult later. You decide.
Be open to all options. Now that you’re wiser than when you just entered school a decade or so ago, learn to contemplate the options that are available for you. Many people have a one-track mind approach to certain activities as well as being opposed to them. Just like in our early teen years, what everyone says is good glitters like gold while what everyone else complains about seems like trash. It’s so tempting – and easier – to make general conclusions such as “so-and so college must be good because it’s big and famous” or “pursuing local tertiary education is a waste of time” but what people say may not hold true for everyone. So when considering, for example, whether you should pursue a certain program for your pre-university education, ask people who know about these methods, get second opinions (so that you can hear from more than one perspective), and ask the seniors who have ‘been there, done that’ to be able to make an informed decision – where you have carefully considered the pros and cons, as well as your own needs before deciding.
Be available to help those in need. This can come in many forms, both formally and informally. Formally, there are many places and societies where you can volunteer to help in that free time you have – shelters, neighborhood watches, charities and even in education centers, just to name a few. Informally, you can contribute to society by doing your job well (if you work) – people do appreciate good service, and good service is not always easy to be found in an individualistic society; as well as helping your family. Go ahead and plan that next family trip, or help that younger sibling of yours with her homework or hobby. Your family will most likely be grateful for it, and you get to spend time with them – after you start your tertiary education, time with family will get scarcer (i.e you don’t have the same holidays as them), so cherish those times you do have – like now.
Don’t get too stressed about the future. I know that there’s this rush on choosing just the right course to go after SPM – in popular words, so that you don’t have years of regret doing something you don’t like. Ah, the ‘follow your passion’ philosophy. Even though it’s true that you do not want to end up doing something that you cannot do in the future, relax. Many working adults end up doing the stuff that they didn’t study for in the first place. Of course, back then opportunities were scarcer and students had to take whatever was available. But that also happens because at that young age of 17 or 18 years, how are you supposed to know with 100% certainty what you want to do? We weren’t trained in school to be ready for this, and after SPM we all grapple with “The Big Q”. So ask your questions wisely but it’s okay if you do make some mistakes. Perhaps when studying something you can’t handle, you just may find out what you really want. And there may not be that bliss that comes with the line you choose if it “fits your passion” – there’s bound to be bumps and challenges along the way for every job and every field, but that’s no reason to be a quitter. As the saying goes, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
So to all you SPM (and STPM, and A-Level, and anyone who has that period of free time – you know what I mean) leavers out there, I hope that these points above will be considered when you plan on what to do with the few months of freedom. Plan wisely, and you just may have the best few months in your prime years – you have the energy, and the drive. You can do it!
CelineD just finished school the second time.