This article about Mohammad Syafiq Mohammad Suhaini appeared on my Facebook feed the other day. Maybe you have seen it too?
Underdogs who beat the odds: Charting his own course (Credit: Straits Times)
I was inspired by it. I shared it with a WhatsApp chat of which I was apart and received a reply that I’ll paraphrase here.
“He is merely an anomaly. A small drop in a big bucket. There are millions who didn’t make it in the system.”
Fellow hikers, let me see your hands. Have you ever been called an anomaly before?
Sure. You probably didn’t have someone come up to you and say, “Hey! You’re an anomaly!”
If you’re like me, you have been asked questions that imply that this is what you are. Here are some recent examples that I’ve encountered which may feel more familiar to you.
“Why do you opt to sleep in a tent and suffer?”
“Won’t the extreme temperatures kill you?”
“Why do you pay so much money to do something that isn’t any fun?”
Or my personal favourite: “Have you got nothing better to do?”
What I find so bothersome about the response to the Straits Times article and the questions or comments we all receive is that being an anomaly is a “bad” thing. Instead of congratulating the shiny star that has conquered all odds and done something fantastic, society attempts to tear down the accomplishments.
Because one person stands out, it makes everyone else look inferior. Rather than striving to find their own definition of greatness, a preference of misery, which loves company, becomes the focus of existence.
Anomalies wish to do more. To be more. To see places where only our feet can take us.
To take the next step.
I remember bringing Nicolas on the Gosiankunda Lake trek after his PSLE exams. The trip was laden with challenges. We experienced some AMS. There was a stomach virus passed around. The facilities were far from ideal and the remoteness of the trek meant accessing help was beyond difficult.
It also taught us lessons about resilience. Life lessons about moving beyond the habits that once defined toward the final frontier where we all seek to embrace the perfection each moment offers.
Friends of mine take their children on treks big and small all over the world. Although it may be difficult, there is no greater joy for me than to see the realization in my son’s eyes that life extends beyond our common routines.
I highly encourage parents to bring their kids on at least one challenging adventure every year. In doing so, we create more anomalies.
Mr. Syafig said it better than I ever could.
“What I’ve learnt is that no one can force you to make choices. You have to make your own way in life.”
Take pride in being an anomaly. Embrace the criticism because it shows the divide between you and them. Just don’t let it stop there. Invite those who have never experienced the joy of being an anomaly to begin the hard work that is necessary to become the next bright and shining star.
Become a mentor. Celebrate diversity. Stay true to who you are. In doing so, we will show our children, grandchildren, and future generations that it really is possible to change the world for the better every day.