The tattoos on my hand and ankles are reminders of a painful, not-so-distant past that I want to leave behind.
I was a bright child and did very well in my studies when I was in primary school. But things changed when my parents got a divorce – I was very effected emotionally, neglected my studies, joined a gang and wasted my life away.
When I started National Service, I was referred to a counsellor at the Institute of Mental Health for depression. That helped me get my life back on track.
As a medic in the Singapore Civil Defence Forces, I attended to recruits who were injured or sick. When recruits thanked me for my care, I felt valued and appreciated, something I had not experienced in a long time.
That led me to my decision to apply for a nursing course at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East. With hard work and perseverance, I scored 3.95 out of 4 for my grade-point average (GPA) and even got onto the Director’s List, an accolade for the top 10 percent of the cohort, a couple of times!
I shared my experience with Channel NewsAsia in December 2017 in hopes to encourage others in similar situations. I was surprised and touched to receive help from the public to fund my school and living expenses, accommodation and even tattoo removal.
One of the offers of help I received was from a doctor who offered to remove my tattoos. It was something I had been saving money to do. Despite the pain and discomfort, I was determined to remove them and leave my past demons behind.
I graduated from ITE College East in February 2018 and began my Diploma in Nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic in October 2018. I hope to continue advancing my knowledge in nursing and eventually obtain a degree. Just like how my ITE lecturers inspired me, I aspire to be an ITE nurse educator in the future to impart my nursing knowledge to nurses-to-be.
I know life is not easy for all of us. If you, like me before, are trying to find your place in life, I hope that you will take the first steps to define your journey and do not giving up in working towards your goal.