sgBen

My story began as a kid who opted into EM1 stream but scored second last in class during PSLE. I later entered a neighbourhood secondary school and was badly bullied as I was outspoken. Along the way, I became an at-risk youth myself. During my graduation year, I focused on my academics and eventually surprised the school to become the overall top graduate of my secondary cohort, scoring the best in two subjects as well.

I later went on to achieve notable results, both academically and out of classroom in Republic Polytechnic. I was inducted twice in the Honours Roll and won several competitions such as Business Case Competition, Marketing and Economics. I also managed to secure an offer for an accelerated programme in Monash University, which ranked higher than NTU at that time, by maintaining a good GPA and completing three extra modules. On top of that, I took part in three overseas study trip and also won a silver medal in a mixed martial arts sparring competition. I was one of the shortlisted candidates for the Valedictorian. All these were done while working part-time to supplement my income.

I went on to achieve a good record during National Service. I enlisted in the obese category, lost 16kg during BMT and went on to achieve IPPT Gold. I also became the Best Trainee and commanded my Passing out Parade for over 200 recruits. However, after I was posted to OBS as an Officer Cadet, I did not understand the deeper meaning behind what we do. I felt that as an Officer to be, we must first and foremost be clear about our purpose and meaning before we can lead our men. Despite that it was a very painful decision, I highlighted that I am unsuitable for the role and was taken out. I spent the next year trying to find a place in the Army where I can do meaningful work, posted from place to place. There were many depressing and challenging moments where I question my decision and where I am to go next. I eventually anchored in OCS Mids Wing and through the support from my Officers, I can better understand the meaning of the word “service”. I completed NS with conduct and performance of “Outstanding” (Top 10%) and received a personal testimonial from Colonel Foong as Commanding Officer Mids Wing (who later went on to lead the Naval Diving Unit, one of the elite military group in Singapore). My experience during NS have taught me to be more grounded, humble and mature. It has also taught me resilience and perseverance (which is probably why I am still hanging onto my undergraduate studies after 8 years). It is regrettable that I did not attained Officership. But if I had gone on the journey without appreciating the deeper meaning behind that rank, I wouldn’t be a good Officer anyway.

I also managed to enter one of the top 3 University in Singapore, not without 9 applications over 3 years. It is defining for me as I once told a teacher that I would eventually enter University, during a time which it can hardly be imagined, especially with my blonde hair and long fringes.

During University, I struggled with my major as Computer Engineering is one of the toughest topics to pursue. However, as this was my only offer due to the competitive nature of Singapore Universities. Only top polytechnic graduates are given a seat in local universities at that time. I was not allowed to change my major despite various attempts. Hence, I decided to pursue my interest as a minor and took up two additional minors in psychology and entrepreneurship. During University, I left to start a social enterprise catering to youth at risk. I eventually returned back to University but left again due to financial reasons where I worked for a short stint in Drew and Napier, one of the top law firm in Singapore. I crashed and burned. I was straightforward, eager to perform and learnt some lessons the hard way. The experience struck me hard, especially during a time where I was questioned and doubted for my ability as the life partner to be for then girlfriend who later became my wife.

My ego was bruised and I wanted time to myself so that I can rediscover who I am. During that period of time, I chanced upon a recruitment for Outward Bound Instructor. I applied, as I wanted some time away, unknowingly signing up for a crazy three days two nights selection. During the rest time, I cried silently in the tent. I was just so tired with everything and I asked myself what I am doing here. But I stayed on – because I did not want my fiancée to laugh at me when I get back. Perhaps due to my natural inclination to perform in certain situations, I was selected and OBS slowly revealed itself to be a role meaningful for my time and I committed myself to a three-year bond. The months of training were tough, especially at times when I felt that I didn’t fit in. I also questioned if this is the life that I want – long hours, tough conditions. Eventually I realised that if I cannot even complete this, then I should not even think about Officership (I have always been thinking of returning to the uniform service to serve as I felt that I owe my country my best). Months passed and I cleared my assessment on the first attempt.

Halfway through my employment contract, University informed that they will not extend my Leave of Absence, despite informing them that I am under an employment contract and have an upcoming baby to manage (somehow, amongst the crazy schedule of an Instructor, I still managed to get married). Eventually after all appeals, I returned to University paying full tuition fee but enrolling in half the academic load, juggling between a full time studies and a full time career that requires me to conduct outdoor courses over 5 days, sleeping at 11 and waking up at 5 on a typical course day.

Today, I am a father of a super adorable baby girl, an Outward-Bound Instructor, a full time undergraduate and occasionally, a chauffeur. Most importantly, I am a fellow human being just like you.