Tears filled my eyes as I ascended upon the podium, feeling a wave of exultance sweep through my entire being. The flashbulbs went off like rockets as I held my trembling hands out to receive the award that I had not expected to attain. After all, the International Young Poet’s Award was only obtainable by the brightest and most inspiring young writers out there and I certainly was not expecting this to happen when I submitted my works in for the running.

I allowed a smile to grace my face, giving a small, humble bow as I did. The clapping never ceased-it was thunderous, coming from the audience of more than a thousand, all dressed up in their very best for this formal event. I, too, had tried to appear my best, though it did not come off very well. Still, it didn’t matter now. I felt neither self-conscious nor embarrassed, for this was my success, the many years of hard work toiled with seat and blood.

Wistfully, I reminisced about the past. Just like everyone else, I, too, had a tale to tell. Rome was not built in a day, and similarly, this success was not achieved in just a day itself.

I came from an English educated family and cultivated an interest of reading since young. However, as time went by, I baffled everyone not just with an extensive book collection-but also by having a passion for writing itself. While the people around me categorised themselves as the jocks, the geeks, or even the punks, I classified myself as someone who did not belong anywhere. When the girls complained about the rain messing up their hair, I immersed myself into the sweet, sensational feeling of it. Afterwards, I would be seen huddled in a corner, scribbling furiously into a notebook.

It was no wonder that I could not fit in easily-I was just so much different from others on terms of thinking. Words were the most beautiful thing to me-and should be used to express the second most beautiful thing that existed, which was the human soul. Feelings that were indescribable to others were describable to me with writing, and though I was admittedly not an Aristotle or a Socrates, I gradually found myself mixing the beauty of language with worldly philosophical thoughts.

Time marched on and everybody grew up. Universities and various institutions began visiting us, introducing the various courses, programs and career pathways available for us. The flurry of excitement become even more apparent as graduation day approached. Plans were carefully made, fees were being balanced, farewells were being made. While the indecisive ones were constantly on a debate with their inner selves on what to pursue in the future, many others had laid out paths for themselves-paths that were perfect and unblemished, whether it was to become a surgeon that would save the lives of others or a designer to showcase their artistic talents. One thing for sure, though-things were changing, minds were evolving; and life was definitely going to take a turn for many at this point.

My parents had hoped that amidst all the years of biological dissections,k chemical mixings and complex mathematical equations, I would pick up an interest in something scientific. Sadly, their hopes were crushed. Their daughter, a top scorer in Biology and the one that was always top ten in class, was more interested in her foolish little drabbles and her bizarre imaginations than pursuing something more commendable like a doctor’s degree. They then proceeded to introduce a whole line of Economics and Accounting subjects to me, hoping that I would at least take a course that would enable me a source of wealth, but I remained adamant on a Bachelors of Arts degree. To me, the future belonged to me and myself alone. It hurt me to see my parents being upset, but I knew I had to make them understand and see my reasonings. To pursue this was not a want, it was a heed, for language was the great well in which I drank to quench my thirst.

Finally, reasoning won through and I was in the overseas, New Zealand to be specific. I never had problems adapting to such a place of tranquil and serenity, in fact, I enjoyed to share ideas with others of different cultural backgrounds. Every new friend I made was a different experience, and I knew they felt the same curiosity towards me as I felt towards them. To top it all off, I enjoyed my courses immensely, and I often admitted it without shame. While others complained, wailed and whined about their uninterest in things like medical and dentistry, I would willingly stay up in the darkest hours of the night, pouring over Shakespeare and Robert Frost while venturing into a few works of my own.

Soon enough, I began to have thoughts on my work-I wanted them to be shared with others. I wanted others to not only read my works, but to feel them with their soul. I considered a piece of my work a success whenever it inspired someone out there. Hence, I volunteered at papers and magazines, writing articles on short stories on a part-time basis. Soon after obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, I decided to take a step further by obtaining a Master’s degree. Of course, life was always in a rush, never pausing for anything, not even for a weary soul. I took the these pent-up emotions and wrote them into the book I had decided to write, hoping for the best to happen.

Alas, it was not to be. The real challenge arrived after that, where I was unemployed for a long time. There were no vacancies at any newspaper or publishing entries and everywhere I looked, there were no positions available for someone of my degree. I fell short on my expenses and had to endure the teasings of friends and the scoffs of relatives, all of them saying “I told you so.” When the rain came or the nights were long, I would sink into a wave of despondence, feeling the despair wash through me, a battered being without a place to be. It reminded me of the past, an unwanted figure anywhere I went. Every day I would ask myself: was my passion not enough? Did I choose the wrong path? Perhaps if I had listened to others, perhaps I would not be in this state of exhaustion. Still, there was nothing I could do but to continue writing, even when I was rejected by countless publishers and newspaper firms.

The months went by and I completed my book-which I titled as “The Struggle”. It depicted the life of a city girl who was just too different in the place she lived in, and the mental hardships she endured as she grew up. I, however, felt no happiness when the book was finished, so I just decided to submit it in for the running of an award and be done with it. Then, perhaps, I would have to go back to the beginning-obtain a Science degree, push on and more importantly, to reset my mind. I had to tell myself that passion was useless in such a cruel world like this, that dreaming was a pointless thing to do. Why should I continue to dream on, anyway, and to have myself crushed over and over again?

However, as I stood in this current moment and felt the rush of mixed emotions wash through me, I realised that I had not made any mistakes at all. It was just one of life’s hardships that I had to face. What mattered the most was the person, him or herself. My face coloured slightly, for I knew that I had responded pathetically to that challenge-if I had not submitted my book in, I would never be able to stand at this precise location, an award cradled in my arms. I shook my head. Never would I react with such negativity ever again. If there was anything I had learnt from this experience, it was the resilience of the human soul.

As the emcee prodded me slightly to give a speech, I broke down completely, warm, salty tears spilling down my face. I scanned the crowd, knowing that my parents, relatives and friends were somewhere there, gazing up at me with strength and pride. I stood and embraced this particular moment once more, before taking hold of the microphone to tell everyone the story of The Struggle-the young girl’s struggle, which was mine.

Dreams could be fulfilled. Passions shouldn’t be ignored. Couple that with perseverance, and anyone could be the next one on the podium of success, experiencing the moment that they have been waiting for. I certainly experienced mine, and hope others would experience it too.