They say you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. When I look back at my secondary school days, I’m surprised to find that more than a decade has passed since I graduated.
But I am more surprised to find that there are many things that I miss and that I will sadly, never get to experience them again.
Here are some of my best takeaways from my secondary school days. Some of which the youth of today may not be able to understand because times have really changed!
1. MSN Messenger
Before WhatsApp happened, our alternative way to communicate with our friends then was to log on to MSN Messenger from our computer the instant that we were home.
Short of sending SMSes and calling our friends with our home landline, MSN Messenger was the way we communicated with each other regularly.
I remember being able to send files and emojis across and everyone had very fancy online statuses that we curated for ourselves.
They were usually complete with some words, symbols, emojis and sometimes, song lyrics that we were able to relate to. It was really the coolest thing ever.
2. Almost everyone had a Blog!
While the teens of today express themselves through the very viral video-making app, Tiktok, we were only just getting used to putting ourselves out there.
A blog was a personal online diary where we used to dump all our written thoughts and pictures on to express who we were inside.
Cue background music which was usually the song of the season, as well as a tagboard for your friends or strangers to drop you comments!
Some of us became quite proficient at HTML coding because we wanted to customise our own unique templates for our page. It was self-learning at its best!
While teenagers today may find our generation strange because we may appear to have been oversharing our inner thoughts and emotions, we find that their generation today seem to have a lot more self-confidence than us!
I cannot imagine dancing or acting and posting it up for everyone to see! Maybe we have a lot to learn from each other about the dangers of the internet...
A teenager just asked me what a neoprint was, and I assured him it wasn’t a political movement.
Walk through the curtains of an overly lit instant-photo booth, and you will be transported to the multi-sensory world of Neoprints.
Some may consider it as the colourful precursor to the we-fie, but others hold the Neoprint experience much closer to their hearts as never did you and your closest friends (and perhaps your crush) have so much fun in a confined space.
Neoprints used to be very popular during my secondary school days. Situated at most malls, we would spend $6-$12 per session just to take cute photo stickers together.
For the more fancy machines, the backdrop can be changed and some of them have their own beauty filters to make you look kawaii! Things that our phones were not capable of doing at that time.
After the photo taking happens in the brightly lighted booth (think studio lightings), we would then proceed to the back of the machine to edit and customise our photos with cute stickers or writings digitally before it is printed out for us to keep in our wallets, frame it up or paste into our diaries. It was popular among friends as well as couples for keepsake!
With smartphones now and its plethora of photo editing apps, it seems like this trend will never be revived.
4. Simpler lingos
Every generation has their own lingo commonly used during their youth. For us, it was terms like GG (good game), LOL (laughing out loud) and FTW (for the win).
I know youths these days have a lot more lingos than people my generation ever have! Terms like YP (young punk), catfishing, lit and shook are being used on the daily along with the other older lingos that we once used!
5. The fashion then
The fashion then was simple. We were decked in clothes from Bugis street or This Fashion, had Crumpler bags for our school bags, Adidas or Converse sneakers for our school shoes and complete with those squeezy Nike water bottles.
6. Eating cup noodles on the floor in 7-11
I remember the good old days of sitting on the floor of 7-11 and eating cup noodles with my friends. The staff were always nice enough to not chase us away and we would always have to move whenever people wanted to reach for something on the shelves or fridge behind us.
I think we were annoying to the adults then but we didn’t have a care for anything else other than enjoying our food and having a good laugh together.
7. Handphones then
The handphone brands dominating the market now are namely Apple, Samsung and Huawei. Back then it was Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Motorola and Samsung.
Our phones were mainly used for calls and regular text messages. We were not able to connect to the internet with our phones so it was really basic.
I also distinctly remember that the best phone camera then had 12 megapixels and only our rich classmates could afford those.
Flip phones were also all the rage then because we could end our phone calls or text messages with a flourish by flipping it shut loudly.
Our phones were really hardy and we didn’t need an external power bank for the battery life to survive through the day! Oh, how i miss those days!
8. Texting under the desk with one hand
Back then, touchscreen phones did not exist, and the only screens that allowed you to touch them were on ATMs. Our phones then, however, came with their own advantages: they had buttons!
This meant that it was fairly easy to feel the buttons and send text messages to our friends under the desk without having to look at the screen.
Most of us were able to do so with one hand while the other hand rests on the desk so the teacher would be completely oblivious and unsuspecting of us not paying attention in class!
I strongly suspect handphone confiscations are much more of a commonplace these days, unless of course the modern delinquent has found innovative ways to escape scrutiny.
9. Writing letters
I still keep a stash of handwritten notes and letters that were written and exchanged with my friends throughout my years in secondary school.
Some came in fancy cards, some were handmade and folded in different ways, and others were written and torn out of a sheet of foolscap paper meant for homework.
The memories from reading those notes is something that I am sure we all hold dearly in our hearts.
Even though some of us may have gone our separate ways now, reading it always brings back such good memories of the friendship and bond we once shared with each other.
10. Stalking our crushes
Stalking today can be done online by following all your crush’s social media or even his friend’s social media just so that you can catch a glimpse of his life.
Stalking for us back then was done in quite the literal sense! We followed them around the school or sometimes hung out at the places that we knew they frequented.
The furthest stalking we could do on social media then, was on Friendster. Even so, the pages were usually not updated and all you could see were testimonials left by his friends to determine if he was really the person you expected him to be. Talk about mysterious!
11. Listening to music on our MP3’s
We had to download songs (it was usually done illegally, oops!) from the internet and transfer it to that tiny gadget and sometimes the songs were frustratingly titled wrongly or were in the wrong format and we would have to change it.
12. Autograph books
Autograph books were popular especially amongst the girls. We would exchange our dedicated autograph books with friends and acquaintances as a way to know them better and for future memories.
It included basic biography such as birthdates, milestones, crushes (celebrity or otherwise) and most importantly, horoscopes. As we reflected on how true it was that the planetary alignment had determined our characters, we signed off our entries basking in transient pseudo superstardom.
We would also write about who our best friends were (after much comtemplation), as well as our hobbies and the more creative people would usually furnish their page with fancy drawings and stickers to make it stand out.
13. Hanging out after school
When we had no CCA or supplementary classes after school, we would usually hang out together at the malls!
I remember that a lot of those times involve us having MacDonald’s or Long John Silvers for lunch and then either continue sitting there to study or have prolonged conversations over french fries.
As I sit here and reminisce my younger days, I find a wave of nostalgia taking over.
This feeling is bittersweet because I think that I had really lived the best of my teenage years then, yet I am sad to know that I can never rewind time and relive those days again.
However, I am thankful that I will always have fond memories to look back on, and forged friendships that will last a lifetime. Now, its time to look for those elusive Neoprints.