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'Then and Now' Series, Yong Vui Kong

"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.

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