Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Dear parents,

Happy New Year! May you have real peace of mind, lasting joy and steadfast love of family and friends the whole year through and many more years to come!

Many people stay up to count down to welcome the New Year, but I have stopped attending countdown parties for years and always wonder why people love the countdown.  Maybe it is the euphoria that drinks and partying bring; maybe it is the kindred spirits, goodwill and companionship; maybe it is the opportunity to start afresh and set goals not attained in the previous years.  Whatever the reason, the New Year seems to be a time that gives us high hopes and aspirations, a time to ponder and a time to endeavour. 

It seems ironic, however, that we never want to count down the days of our life.  Many of us live as if we will live forever whereas the harsh reality is that most of us are going to expire by 100 years, which is 36,500 days and 52,560,000 minutes. 52 million seems a big but in fact a finite number, and as I get older, I have mixed feelings of jubilation and melancholy on New Year’s Eve, for I know too well I am at least one percent closer to my finale when hopefully I shall be missed by my loved ones and people I have encountered in this life.

I am sorry if you feel intimidated by now as ‘death’ is always a taboo not to be mentioned or discussed, let alone at the beginning of a new year.   I would like to contend, on the other hand, that reminding ourselves of our ‘expiry date’ is the most positive way to live because we are likely to live with fewer regrets, less hatred and much more love.

Contrary to what fortune-tellers are telling us, one of the mysteries of life is that we can never foresee the future, which inevitably gives rise to many regrets and disappointments because most of us tend to take our achievements for granted and focus our attention on failures, missed opportunities and wrong decisions when looking back – more than 30% of married adults who have ended up in divorce might regret wedding their spouses; many more in Hong Kong might lament selling their flats but not buying another one when home prices have gone up for more than 4 times the last 15 years.  What if I had pursued another college degree or got into another career?  What if I had married the other man or woman?  What if I had sent my child to a different school?  What if I had bought or sold a particular stock? What if I had left or not returned to Hong Kong? Unfortunately, unlike a computer keyboard, we cannot undo our choices or decisions in most instances.

The Bible says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Admitting our mortality, be it 100 years or more, is to acknowledge our limitations and frailties, and to concede that things do not always go according to our plans, thereby we may feel less regretful of our failures or wistful of our friends’ successes. Very few of us will have realized all our dreams by the time this life comes to pass, but why does it really matter if none of us can take anything with us when we exit this world?

Acknowledging our finite, indeed brief, lifespan motivates us to make the most of it.  Fully appreciating our humanity also helps us to be compassionate towards one another, prompting us to forgive those who have hurt us as we may have knowingly or unknowingly inflicted pain on others.  Life is after all too short and dear to be spent on hatred and bitterness.

When we are on holiday in another country, we desire to have the most fruitful trip by planning our itinerary, so we do things that give us the most satisfaction and happiness.  Incongruously, we don’t apply the same attitude to our daily life.  We may have to toil in the workplace for many hours, but many of us also spend hours doing things that don’t really yield any real satisfaction – excessive hours of electronic games or TV, binge drinking, frequently checking the ‘likes’ of our posts on Facebook, just to name a few.  Maybe we should ask ourselves if these things are really indispensable if we are going to expire in a few days.  Would we rather spend time chatting with our spouse, visiting our parents or playing with our young kids before it is too late?

Make the most of your life journey.  Have a great year!

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan