A Story Of Success From Untold Small Efforts And Decisions

By Lam Yat Yee

To most, success is a word instantaneously equated with a person’s capability. Perfection. Prowess. And while such a notion may harbour a certain degree of truth, an element of oversimplification yet remains therein.

To Loong Dien-Min, or as her friends call her, Loong, this monotonous stereotype is, and has always been mundane.

As a high achiever who had scored 10 A+ on her SPM; Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia, a top scholar of AMC, and a recipient of a scholarship to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she truly is an all-rounder.

The star alumni of Ave Maria Convent is also a skilled clarinettist, having led the woodwind section of her school’s orchestra and conducted the AMC Band herself.

On top of all that, she is even an ex-weightlifter and the President of the Rock Climbing Club during her time as a student at the University of Nottingham.

But what lies beneath the shone and polished layer of accomplishments?

What does it all signify to Loong?

In every story, there are struggles and sacrifices encountered before one gets to that shiny point where they may finally be deemed ‘successful’. The fight before the freedom.

The underlying human factor that we tend to overlook.

Loong is a testament to the fact that the path to success is not always predetermined, for her success had been accumulative.

“I’ve been a workaholic most of my life. And in the end, it was driven by perfectionism and my inferiority complex. Being a workaholic, I imagine, also means to enjoy being busy most of the time.”

There may be efforts to confront the taboo that is mental health in the competitive academic community, but when success with its promise of wealth and validation clashes with concerns of health and wellbeing, where are the lines drawn?

She confessed that she had struggled with being satisfied with the way she was, stating;

“I think it’s time we destigmatize mental health. I surely have these sorts of problems, and because of that and because of these insecurities, it has driven me to seize every opportunity in front of me.”

Loong is not one to allow herself to be defined by her achievements. She has humbly expressed her gratitude that her journey had brought her to many who had provided her with valuable guidance along the way.

“When I was in Nottingham [University of Nottingham, Malaysia], I had no idea that there was this very renowned historian already working in the department. I applied to Nottingham only because I wanted to explore my options, and the degree which I took in Nottingham, which was International Relations with French, gave me the opportunity to explore.

“So, I would say that each step that I had used to get to where I am today is not purely my hard work. It’s not purely my discipline.

“It’s also pure luck.

“And also because I am sensitive to the balance of power in relations, I am very wary about saying things like, “Oh. It’s because of my work ethic. It’s because I’m ambitious and I know what I want in life.” Most of the time, it is just so because I happen to meet the right people at the right time.”

A maverick in this fast-paced, trend-run generation, Loong has confessed that the truth behind success is not always a healthy one. And this is a universal truth that applies to countless top scholars and everyday students alike.

She is also grateful that her mom, Joann, has never outrightly stopped or forbade her from taking up opportunities or trying out new things, but rather has only asked her, “Have you thought this through?”

Quote, “She doesn’t try to impose her thoughts upon me, and that is definitely a result of the relationship that we have been working on building.”

In the past, her mother had been worried that Loong would grow up to be too rebellious, and that she would harm her own self-esteem as her daughter had never been one to conform to societal expectations.

Despite their differences, Loong and her mother had and are learning to communicate and respect each other’s opinions.

The young scholar believes that the need to train the new generation to be leaders is highly overrated. Rather, she values freedom and individuality.

Loong aspires to be a historian who specialises in gender and sexuality in Southeast Asia.

“It’s quite niche. Gender and sexuality and Southeast Asia and both studies that are highly under-researched,” says she. But that is what makes it a necessary study, especially in the societal climate we are advancing in today.

Which is what makes Loong a trailblazer in her own, authentic, way, for she believes, and acts true to her word, that success should be motivated by passion rather than obligation.

Hence, to the youth of today, Loong advises;

“Give yourself a chance and explore.”

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