Chapter 9.3: Becoming famous once again (Part One)
Without single steps, a journey of a thousand miles cannot be achieved, without small streams, an ocean cannot be formed.
Everyone wants to ‘achieve a thousand miles and become an ocean’. However, when the steps and the small streams become something to accomplish 365 days a year and turn into a dull repeat, all the aspirations and ideals become a joke.
You can only rely on willpower and daily perseverance, but, does perseverance mean that you definitely will succeed?
Not necessarily, but without perseverance, you definitely won’t succeed.
After military training ended, we truly became first years at No. 1 High School. Following the usual practice, we were going to receive uniforms.
I don’t know if the high school students now are luckier than we were back then with uniforms but back in the year, our uniforms were really so ugly you wouldn’t be able to look at it twice.
There is one thing that I’ve never understood- how come the uniforms for Japanese middle school students can look so good? How come the uniforms for us Chinese students are always so outdated it’s pitiful?
As the past two years of students all grouped together to complain that the uniforms were very ugly, when it was our year, the school decided to accept the complaints of the students and change the style of the uniform. To display the quality education at No. 1 High School, the Headmaster decided that the students could design the uniform themselves. A third year female student’s design plan was selected by the teachers as the best.
The students who saw the design all said that it was very pretty and looked as pretty as the uniforms in mangas and Japanese dramas. Pretty much all the girls in the class and even a lot of the boys were filled with anticipation. Uniforms were worn often and whether or not it looked good was too important to everyone as we were at the age where we were the most self conscious and the most careful of our appearance.
Under everyone’s anticipation, we finally received the uniforms. When everyone collected the uniform, I believe that even the prettiest and least prettiest people in our year definitely all had tears rolling in their eyes.
How can I describe this uniform set?
It was as if someone went to counterfeit a high quality, custom made, designer piece of clothing but they got the colour scheme wrong, were frugal with fabric so they used the cheapest fabric and made it sloppily too. What comes out is nondescript, even a normal sports set is better.
Basically, it really was too ugly. It was so ugly that no matter if it was a beautiful girl or handsome boy, when they wore it, their disposition turned into dirt.
The school probably also realised that this uniform that was produced by one of the school master’s relatives wasn’t very good so they didn’t require everyone to wear it everyday. Apart from school activities, normally, we were only required to wear it every Monday during the flag raising ceremony.
However, even just wearing it once a week was too much for the students to beat. Very quickly, everyone created a battle plan. Every Monday, they would wear their normal clothing and bring the uniform to school in a plastic bag. When it was time for the flag raising ceremony, they would change into the uniform and afterwards, they would immediately go to the bathroom to change back. No matter boy or girl, pretty much everyone used this plan. The only exception to this was me. Not only would I wear it on Mondays, I would also wear it on Tuesday, Wednesdays and so on.
The reason why I walked around in the uniform all day was the same reason why the students all refused to wear it- it was too ugly!
With such an ugly uniform, you wouldn’t care at all about it. If the table was dirty, you can directly clean it with your sleeve, when you’re tired and want to read a book, you can sit wherever you are. I didn’t have to be like other girls who wore sleeve protectors and worried over getting their pretty clothes dirty. It was so convenient, environmentally friendly, economical, thrifty…
Of course, the main reason was because I was too lazy. I was too lazy to take two sets of clothes to change and too lazy to spent effort and time on my appearance. Of course, my classmates didn’t know that I was only wearing it due to laziness.
Because this outstanding uniform made me a chicken among cranes, I quickly became the most infamous person in our year.
It was truly so sad! My fame in the high school department wasn’t because of my grades or my personality, it was because of the ugly uniform. Compared to this, I would rather becoming famous through standing on the table tennis tables.
I don’t know if it was if I was too successful in repulsing Song Peng but despite saying that he was going to get me, he never did anything again.
When I bumped into him in the corridors, he would only look at me and smile, to the extent that I no longer felt angry towards him.
Actually, although I wasn’t being intentional, inside, it felt like I was secretly hoping that something would really happen between Song Peng and I. Hence, I acted so impulsively, embarrassing him by returning the love letter and sunscreen. His brother Song Jie was a famous figure in the city so if Song Peng really wanted to deal with me all he had to do was get his brother to say the word and I’d be doomed.
At that time, when Xiao Bo is the only one who’d be able to save me, would he really watch and do nothing?
However, I know that this is only wishful thinking! If Song Jie was such an immature person, he wouldn’t have been part of the group who were the first to become wealthy under Deng Xiao Ping when he was only 20 something years of age.
Plus, I also didn’t want Xiao Bo to look down on me so I could only secretly think about it while controlling my impulsiveness.
As we gradually got used to the high school life, without realizing, it was time for the mid-semester exams.
After entering high school, every time there was a big exam, the school would publicly announce the scoreboards to show that we weren’t just competing against our classmates, we were competing against the entire school, the entire city, the entire province.
On the day when the scores were announced, I was a bit nervous because for the half of this semester, I had truly worked hard studying and revising.
On the scoreboard, I was ranked fourth in the class and fortieth in the year. Guan He was ranked second in the class and twelfth in the year. Zhang Jun was eighth in his class and seventieth in the year.
My mom and dad were very gratified and grinned from ear to ear. The head teacher also specially praised me to them but I felt like I received a serious blow. Fortieth in the year wasn’t the result I had wanted!
If this was the result of me studying at the last minute, I would be very happy. However, ever since the first day of school started, when most of my classmates were still immersed in excitement over high school, I had been studying hard.
If this was the result of my hard work, was it that I would only be able to be a student ranked fortieth in the year?
I paced up and down in the school’s forest but I couldn’t find the answer.
When I returned to the class, I saw that Yang Jun, who was ranked second in our class, was sitting next to Lin Yi Ran who came first in the class and looking at her test scripts in detail.
Lin Yi Ran sat in front of me. As our class average was low, although she was ranked first in the class, she didn’t even enter the top ten and was only ranked thirteenth in the year.
I wanted to go over and also look at her test script but I was also embarrassed, not knowing if she would let me. Yang Jun saw me and immediately said, “Luo Qi Qi, can you show me your test paper for physics? I just asked the physics teacher and the teacher said that you were ranked first in the year for physics. Let me have a look, and if possible, lend me the scripts for your other subjects too. Please!” Yang Jun was a boy with bushy eyebrows and big eyes. His appearance was very upright, especially his bright and piercing eyes.
I found my script and handed it to him. Yang Jun and Lin Yi Ran huddled over my physics script. I smiled and asked, “Can you guys show me your scripts too?”
Yang Jun handed me a pile of scripts, both his and Lin Yi Ran’s.
I quickly speed read my way through their scripts and started realising what the problem was. First, in English, Lin Yi Ran was pretty much a few points away from a full score but I had only achieved seventy something percent. Next was Chinese, then chemistry, history, politics. Although the errors seemed small, but when two three points accumulated together, I was naturally thrown far off. I thought that my memory was good but this was No. 1 High School, it was where the best students in the city, even the whole province came together. Naturally Lin Yi Ran couldn’t lose to my memory.
As Yang Jun studied my script, he suddenly shouted and said to Lin Yi Ran, “Did you notice? If only Luo Qi Qi’s three science subjects were counted then she’d be second in our class and only a few points below you. You’re in danger!”
I was a bit annoyed inside, why was he speaking like this? Lin Yi Ran laughed, “Yeah, her sciences is really good.”
Yang Jun scratched his head, “No, I have to change seats. I want to sit next to you two. In middle school, I was praised as being good at sciences but right now, I’m actually ranked lower than you two girls. I can’t take this.”
The little annoyance I felt inside dissipated, he was just an honest and sincere person and not as shrewd as I had thought.
Lin Yi Ran smiled. She was very gentle and quiet and didn’t attract attention to herself so I never knew that the girl sitting in front of me had such good grades.
Yang Jun did as he said and really switched seats. He pestered my desk mate, Ma Ti, to death about it and begged him every day. Ma Ti was annoyed and finally agreed to swap seats. Hence, filled with joy, Yang Jun moved beside me and started monitoring Lin Yi Ran and I, preparing to surpass us.
I was silent because I didn’t really care if he sat next to me. What I needed to think about was how to solve the problem in front of me and the problem inside of that was my English.
Because of Treasure Bowl, English became the reason of my insomnia. How would I be able to catch up to the level of these elites?
After looking through Lin Yi Ran and Yang Jun’s test scripts, one thing became clear to me. If my English wasn’t good, I would never reach number one in the class.
After the mid-semester exam, the high school department had an assembly compulsory for all the students from first year to third year. The speakers of this assembly was the top ten students from each year level. They would speak about how they studied and their experiences.
In the past, I hated these long and boring assemblies but this time, I was full of enthusiasm. However, when I listened to each one, I started feeling disappointed. Everyone’s speeches were different but the essence was the same. It was nothing more than preparing before each class, concentrating in class, revising after class, completing their homework, the homework that the teachers set out are all important so we must do our homework well……
I started wondering if everyone’s study methods were the same or, were they just being reserved about their actual methods?
The last one on the stage was ranked number one in third year, Chen Jing. The school clearly required everyone to speak for three to five minutes but he only spoke for a minute. The content was to listen well, do homework well etcetera. I shook my head sighing.
After the assembly ended, everyone started walking out of the auditorium. Chen Jing walked along. Based on his competition results, he could have directly been recommended for admission to Peking University but he gave up on it and chose to participate in gaokao. No one knew what he was thinking. He had already become some kind of weird genius in everyone’s eyes.
I wanted to chat to him about my predicament but I was also embarrassed. Back in the year, I played it cool too much, when I walked past him, I wouldn’t greet him and now, I was tasting the consequence. On second thoughts though, heck! If worst be worst, he’d be cold towards me, what was there to be afraid of?
He turned back and looked at me, surprised.
I walked to him and discovered that I was now a head shorter than him. Without realising, he had growing so much taller.
I stammered, “I want to ask your advice for something, is that okay?”
He was good tempered and without the slightest arrogance, smiled and said, “Please say it.”
I relaxed, “My English and Chinese aren’t good, what solutions are there to improve it?”
“Your Chinese isn’t good?” He was quite surprised.
“Go look at other people’s test scripts and then analyse your own. See which parts you’ve lost the most marks at. If you want to solve the problem, first you have to analyse the problem.”
“I analysed it already. The main thing is that my essay isn’t good.”
He laughed,” After entering high school, the way the teachers mark essays is completely based on gaokao criteria. The gaokao essay is similar to the eight part essay from the Ming dynasty*. It likes to smother creativity and imagination. If you want to receive high marks, you should first see how people who get high marks are writing theirs. No matter how good your thoughts are, you shouldn’t rashly jump out of the square. You may think that your writing is good but the teacher who is marking may not.”
*[The eight part essay was the imperial civil exam known for its rigid form and lack of creativity and ideas.]
I nodded, “What else?”
“Actually, your Chinese should be better than everyone else’s. Chinese is still fundamentally a language and it relies on accumulation. I’ve heard your debating competitions before, your reading ability is huge and your memory is also very good. I don’t think there’s anyone in your year that can surpass you in terms of accumulation.
These praises were coming from the mouth of a genius so I felt embarrassed by his praises, “But, my results aren’t good.”
“What you need to do now is connect your accumulated knowledge with the gaokao script questions. I can’t help you on this one. Everyone’s way of thinking and ideas are different.”
I didn’t have the slightest idea how I would do so but I felt like I was suddenly seeing the light, “Thanks. Then how about English?”
He lowered his head laughing, “If you knew what was going to happen today then back then on the table tennis tables, you should have been reading English books. English isn’t a subject that you can solve with just some brains.”
“Yes, I already know that my fundamentals is terrible yet the people I need to chase up to are the best students in the city. I study everyday but so is everyone else; I improve everyday but so is everyone else. I need to find the study method that is most suited to me because it’s already been half a semester less to gaokao. I don’t have the time or energy to waste.”
Seeing how serious I was, Chen Jing was surprised. He looked at me then lowered his head in thought.
We had nearly reached the building for third years. “My situation is different from yours. When I was little, my dad would teach me English songs. When I was in primary, I already knew over a thousand English words. However, you only started touching English in middle school. Plus you haven’t studied it properly. My belief that language is something you learn through accumulation doesn’t suit you. You have to find the study method that suits you the best. However, I think that you should first catch up on your vocabulary. It’s just like how to study Chinese, you need to first know the words. It has nothing to do with being smart or dumb, it’s completely based on effort.”
“Okay. Thanks so much.”
“No worries, what is important is your persistence. I hope that one year later, you can still be as determined as you are today.” He stopped then said with deep meaning, “In these three buildings in the high school department, there are many people everyday who set resolutions to study hard. But there are also people everyday who can’t reach it. Setting heart is an easy thing but persisting is very hard.”
I smiled, “The thing I’ve decided on is to persist.”
On the way home, all I thought about was Chen Jing’s words.
After I got home, I found my English book from middle school and decided to copy ten words every day. The way to and from school took an hour so I would memorise them on the way.
Then, I made a new decision: every morning, I would wake up half an hour earlier to memorise English texts. However, my method would be different to the one Chen Jing gave to Xiao Bo. I didn’t decide to chase after some illusory feel for the language, but my goal was to be able to recite it fluently.
In the future, what was important wasn’t how many hours I spent on English a day but in the 365 days of the year, if I would be able to wake up half an hour earlier everyday to memorise English; if I would be able to persist in memorising ten words a day.
From today until the day of gaokao, if my English results still don’t improve, then I will resign myself to fate!