Resisting the Impulse of Self-Optimization
As a Singaporean, I grew up immersed in a national culture defined by stress.
These instincts were arguably more learned than anything else—my Malaysian father and South Korean mother moved to the country from the United States in the 1990s. So much of how I grew up was shaped by the intensity of Singapore’s academic culture, shuttling between exam-heavy course loads, afterschool tutoring, and reams of practice papers to complete.
Different phases of my life would come to mirror this rhythm: spending hectic days in high school between writing long...