LIFE is a journey. And we mark the milestones in our own way. Some are good at keeping diaries and scrapbooks, but I believe most of us just store these moments into our memory banks.
For close to half a million young Malaysians, the release of the SPM results on March 20 is one such milestone. And for their parents as well, surely.
A total of 559 (0.12%) of 468,808 students scored straight A+ compared to 363 (0.08%) straight A+ scorers in 2010.
And we are told that the overall achievement of students for last year's examinations was the best recorded in five years.
The thing about numbers is that they cannot tell the real stories.
And neither can the newspapers. Though stories of the top students are regularly featured, we will never know what their next milestone will be like.
It has been ages since I had to wait anxiously for my public examination results.
But I continue to be captivated by what I see, year after year, even if the script runs pretty much the same.
Every year, without fail, each time the public examination results are announced, there will be the usual stories about the top achievers.
They will share the secrets of their success, as their proud parents bask in their glory. Then there will be the usual complaints about scholarships and places in public universities.
Parents will write to the press to vent their frustrations. The politicians will step in.
But if we look at things in the proper perspective, the life of a budding teenager, or a young adult, is not determined at this point, whatever the examination results.
Statistically speaking, super-duper achievers are very much in the minority and many people do bloom and reach their full potential much later on in life.
I still keep in touch with many of my teachers and the ones I truly admire are not those who drive us to score, but those who understand that their mission is not simply to teach, but to educate.
One of them, who is such a dear friend, has truly touched many lives.
She has helped produce her fair share of multiple-A students but she also knew that the ordinary students without the A's can go on to lead meaningful, rich lives, if they are well-rounded caring individuals who recognise that results are not the be-all and end-all of the school journey.
I always see her face light up each time she shares about meeting a student, often from the lower classes, who has done well.
And so, today, I wish all students who have just collected the SPM results, by all means rejoice in your distinctions, but do not despair over your credits and passes.
Life is a journey, and the SPM is just a little stop along the way for you to pause and reflect, and to move on.
And to parents, remember too that the best we can do for our children is to be alongside them at this stage of their life. For there will come a time when we reach a crossroad and they will have to go their own way.
I reckon that if we have done right with them, they will always make the right choices and carry on crossing their own milestones in life.
Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin will always remember that the hit song at the time his HSC (now STPM) results were announced was the Bee Gees' Tragedy. His grades were tragic indeed, but he has done okay despite that.