Category Archives: ‘Then and Now’ Series

“I am more than my mistakes.”

Flipping through my diary of 2007 is a strange, strange experience. The stories are familiar, but it almost feels as if I’m reading about someone else’s life. I turn the pages past flyers, Neoprints, birthday cards, newspaper cuttings and little romantic notes from my very first boyfriend; I recognise them but they seem to be from another time, another world so far removed from me, and who I am now.

I was 18 for most of 2007, only turning 19 in November. I had just moved to New Zealand – a country I had always admired but where I knew not a soul – in the second half of 2006, and was just getting used to really having to stand on my own two feet.

The list of things I didn’t know was long. Very long.

I didn’t know how to cook – I didn’t even know how to turn the oven on. I didn’t know how to drive (not even in theory, as I do now). I didn’t know how to clear a clogged shower drain. I didn’t know how to deal with overly eager men who tried to put on my shoes for me (long story). I didn’t even know about the specific chilly bin in refrigerators that you had to keep the veggies in.

But most importantly of all: I didn’t know who I was.

I knew that I was a teenager, that I was a bit nerdy and that I was genetically incapable of any athletic activities, but beyond that I lacked a real sense of self.

I had no idea what I really believed in, besides the “true love” of romantic comedies and that “there must be a God… probably”. I was useless in any sort of intellectual debate because I was simply incapable of taking a stand. My fear of confrontations meant that I would bend over backwards to avoid disagreeing with anyone. I didn’t believe in myself, or trust myself to know what was right or what was wrong.

Skip forward to 2010 and I surprise even myself with how much I have changed. The 2007 version of me would never have believed it.

In 2007, all I wanted for my future was to get along somehow, keeping my head down and eating biscuits. I wasn’t even interested in ever coming back home to Singapore. Now I have fallen in love with my home country all over again, and find it important to speak up for what I believe is right, because I believe that my Singapore is capable of so much more. And so I’ve started volunteering, blogging (about Singaporean issues) and also participating in campaigns such as this one.

In three short years my life has changed directions and taken on a trajectory neither I, my friends or my family would ever have expected. And although my past experiences will always be a part of me, it is impossible to define me according to anything I did or thought at the age of 18 or 19.

I am more than my mistakes, and I have so much more to live for, so much more to contribute.

Just like Yong Vui Kong.

Written by: Kirsten Han

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This piece was written as part of We Believe In Second Chances’ Then And Now series, where people share their personal experiences and reflect on how they have changed from when they were young (or younger), or how second chances have helped them.

If you would like to share your own story, please do. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live or how “boring” you think your life is – everyone has his or her own experience and everyone has a story. There is no word limit, and don’t worry about your language/writing skills – this is not a composition test!

Please send in your pieces to webelieveinsecondchances@gmail.com.

“I can’t imagine how much I would lose if my life is going to end right now.”

Thinking back, I have gone a long way since my teenage years. When I was 15 to 16, I lost interest in my studies. I did not do well for a few subjects and was even made to drop one. I managed to pull through my ‘O’ levels with an average score. Design was something I would love to go into as a polytechnic course. Yet, my parents did not approve of me studying it. Eventually, I landed in a food technology course. With encouragement from my friends, I managed to complete my polytechnic course smoothly. I then went on to join a food technology degree course, which was supposedly quite tough. Moreover, it was a condensed version – an originally 4-year course which we were expected to complete in 2 years. It definitely wasn’t easy for someone like me who did not have much interest in this area. Nevertheless, I did not give up and I am about to graduate soon.

Right now at age 22, I find that I have accomplished much and I still have the chance of doing something I like in the future. I believe things do change even within a few years. I find the past me not determined enough and I did not set clear-cut goals for myself. Procrastination was also a serious problem during my Secondary school days. Experiencing different events and looking at different people have inspired me much and shaped my determination over the years. As long as I am alive, I do not want to give up on my interests! I can’t imagine how much I would lose if my life is going to end right now. No longer can I pursue my dream and aspirations. And no longer can I see my dearest family and friends again.

Written by: Goh Huibing

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This piece was written as part of We Believe In Second Chances’ Then And Now series, where people share their personal experiences and reflect on how they have changed from when they were young (or younger), or how second chances have helped them.

If you would like to share your own story, please do. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live or how “boring” you think your life is – everyone has his or her own experience and everyone has a story. There is no word limit, and don’t worry about your language/writing skills – this is not a composition test!

Please send in your pieces to webelieveinsecondchances@gmail.com.

“Human beings are all fallible.”

When I was 19… Wow, that was a long time ago! As I remember, when I was 19, life was such a bore. I was waiting to complete my National Service. I was keenly looking forward to University and excited about my entire life ahead of me. What a contrast with Vui Kong, whose life now hangs in the balance!

While I was also from a family of humble means, I was not really deprived. No hardships interfered with my schooling and my life was worry-free and varied and thoroughly enjoyable. True misery and deprivation I only tasted when I entered the army. But there was always the bright light at the end of tunnel: ROD! So there was always hope.

During my schooldays, I had my share of mischief. When I was 17, I fell in for a while with a rowdy bunch of boys. We had a charismatic leader who taught us lock-picking and shoplifting. We went around stealing some petty stuff, breaking and entering into offices in school, and even attempted to peek into the girls’ toilet! It was all done for thrills and we were smart enough not to get caught and also to know when things were getting out of hand. The group soon broke up after an argument with our leader.

The thing is, I faced no terrible hardships or challenges. And yet, in the folly of youth, ventured into petty crimes for the sake of thrills. Under more compelling circumstances, what else might I have done?

Human beings are all fallible. Youth all the more so. As a fallible person to another, we should extend sympathy and compassion. Thus, I firmly oppose capital punishment. I wish Vui Kong good luck in the fight for his life. I wish M. Ravi success in his valiant and noble campaign. And I hope this sad story will have a happy ending: that Vui Kong will have a chance to live to teach other young people of how he erred in his youth and made good of a second chance extended to him, and how Singapore and its legal officers finally found mercy in their heart to let him live.

Written by: Jonathan Teo

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This piece was written as part of We Believe In Second Chances’ Then And Now series, where people share their personal experiences and reflect on how they have changed from when they were young (or younger), or how second chances have helped them.

If you would like to share your own story, please do. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live or how “boring” you think your life is – everyone has his or her own experience and everyone has a story. There is no word limit, and don’t worry about your language/writing skills – this is not a composition test!

Please send in your pieces to webelieveinsecondchances@gmail.com.