For the majority of us, the COVID-19 situation is a major inconvenience, largely because of the CB measures. However, considering the many uncertainties ahead, it is also important for us to pay a little more attention to our finances during this period.
For those whose income has been affected especially, it’s time to take a step back and look at ways to improve your finances. So here are some practical tips to help you get started amid the current global crisis.
Think of the CB as a pause button for you to revisit how you use your money. The best way to start is to list down all your estimated monthly expenses.
Look at how much you’re spending in categories like food, clothing, travel, entertainment, monthly subscriptions, loan repayments, or even the allowance you give your parents. And yes, while this may seem like what an insurance agent would tell you to do, it’s a handy way to break down your expenses and it gives you a better understanding of where you can cut back on.
At the same time, make sure that you have a ‘rainy day fund’ that you can access easily. Most financial planners would advise to have at least 6 to 12 months worth of your salary in your emergency fund. This is particularly apt in the current situation, as some of us may have lost our source of income because of COVID-19. Having this pool of funds ensures that we have enough money to survive through such situations.
Once you’ve detailed your monthly expenditures, you will find yourself with several fixed expenses which may take a significant chunk off of your income. These include any loans and insurance policies you may have.
To help free up your cash flow, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched measures that allows you to defer debt obligations. You can apply to defer premium payments on your life and health insurance for up to six months. If you are paying off your housing loans, you can also apply to defer your mortgage loans until the end of the year.
Many banks have also rolled out initiatives to further help their customers tide through this challenging period. For example, CIMB Singapore is offering deferments on its renovation and education loans, and OCBC is automatically reducing the minimum payments for its credit card to 1% of their statement balance.
If you are still struggling to juggle your daily expenses, find out if you qualify for any government relief and assistance here.
You may also want to consider a personal loan just to tide you through this period. There are several options available in the market, each with its range of benefits. For example, Standard Chartered offers a CashOne Personal Loan starting from an interest rate of 3.88% (EIR 7.67% p.a), and you also get a 50% off your first month’s instalment amount. (Terms and conditions apply.)
Besides keeping tabs on your spending, review your health and medical policies. This is prime time to ensure that you are sufficiently protected as you wouldn’t want your savings wiped out from a medical bill.
Know what you are covered for. This includes the extended protection you may be getting from your insurers. Many insurance providers and banks are offering complimentary protection plans for their customers. Be aware of these benefits as it will be a tremendous help should you contract the virus.
SingSaver has very succinctly compiled the list of extended and complimentary coverage from all the insurance companies in Singapore, which you can find here.
This CB period is the best time for accumulating your savings. Staying home would mean that you are already going to be saving the money you would have spent on travel or night outs.
Many brands are also running attractive discounts and promotions, but remember to spend wisely. Do you really need a new pair of sneakers during this #StayHome period or do you need groceries?
Chances are, food is the main aspect that you will be spending on this period, followed by other household necessities like toilet paper. All the supermarket chains in Singapore and smaller online grocers offer free delivery with a minimum order.
There’s even a comparison of the different online grocers available in Singapore, which will satisfy the Singaporean in you to find the ‘cheapest and good-est’ deals for your necessities.
Take this chance to bank on the best deals, bulk order your groceries online and have them delivered for free, and start saving on food by prepping your own meals.
Here is a list of over 30 budget-friendly meal prep recipes you can get started on.
Alternatively, if you need to order food, you can find a list of ongoing food delivery promos here!
Being forced to stay home frees up extra pockets of time, which is a golden opportunity to pursue all those things you have been wanting to do but could never find the time to.
Work on your fitness goals: Gyms are closed and fitness classes are all halted, but there is now an influx of online fitness classes which you can follow at home. This also means that you can save on gym membership or the usual paid fitness classes.
For example, Nike and Adidas have launched free fitness videos which you can follow at home. Gyms like Evolve MMA have also been holding live classes on their Facebook and Youtube channel.
Here’s more online exercise classes you can try!
Or perhaps you have always wanted to learn Korean, or improve on your photography skills, there’s no better time to pursue all those goals.
Pick up a new language with Duolingo, or take advantage of free online courses to learn a new skill. If you haven’t got around to using your SkillsFuture credits (which is $500 sitting there, waiting for you), take this chance to sign up for a course here.
Being at home 24/7 can get really stifling and dreary, but as with free online classes, there are many ways to keep yourself entertained (and sane).
Stay connected with your friends and family with Zoom, or play games together with social apps like Houseparty and Psych!. You can even get the KTV experience with this Chinese karaoke app, <a href=" Party.
For existing Netflix subscribers, there’s a Netflix Party Chrome extension that allows you to watch Netflix remotely with friends. The tool synchronises video playback and there’s even a chat bar for you to chat as you watch!
You can even <a href=" the Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough if you want. There’s really an abundance of entertainment resources available online, and the best part is, all of these are completely free.
To help those who may need immediate help with their cash flow, SingSaver is also running an exclusive promotion with Standard Chartered regarding their CashOne Personal Loan. Each approved applicant will stand a chance to win a #cashcushion of up to S$10,000!
Simply apply for the Standard Chartered CashOne Personal Loan for a chance to win the cash cushion. The campaign runs from 6 Apr till 30 Jun and 3 winners will be picked every month.
Find out more about how you can win yourself a #cashcushion here!
(This article was written in collaboration with SingSaver.)
(Header Image Credit: Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash)
I am patient #347.
This is my story and how I would like to rally all young Singaporeans to take this pandemic situation seriously. Stay home and we will all tide this over together.
It’s been a month since I got tested positive. I’ve been warded at the hospital, taken a lot of different medications, shifted to an isolation facility, and done everything I can to keep myself healthy, but I still have the virus.
Being isolated and away from your loved ones for so long really gets to you, and every day, the only thing I can hope for is the day I get two negatives.
In order to be considered fully recovered and discharged, you have to be tested negative twice in a row, but I have never come close to that. After a while, this cycle of hoping for that and then being disappointed by the results takes a mental toll on you. What’s even scarier when you are a Covid-19 patient is that there is no cure for Covid-19. There’s nothing else you can do but hope your body is strong enough to fight the virus.
On 18th March, I came back from the UK with a sore throat, but it didn’t feel like just a normal kind of sore throat. I knew something wasn’t right so after a quick shower, I went straight to the hospital to get tested.
Everything was very organised there: I filled out forms, waited in a tent, did a chest X-ray and a nose swab test. The whole process took about three hours and by the time I got home, it was almost midnight. My throat was still sore, my bones were aching, I felt a fever coming, and I was just feeling generally very unwell.
By the time I woke up the next day, I got the call: I have Covid-19.
At that point, I remember thinking about how unreal it was because I never thought I would get the virus. And being told that you have it was like a harsh wake-up call.
It was then that I thought, “okay, this shit is real.”
Everything happened really quickly. I was first isolated in a single ward room at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). That first night there was horrible. I still felt really sick. I had a fever and my backbone was so painful that I had to numb it with panadol pills.
At the same time, I was really worried that I might have passed the virus on to my family, my colleagues, and my girlfriend–the people I had been in contact with for the past two weeks. I texted all of them and advised them to get tested as well.
Surprisingly, I woke up the next day feeling like I’ve fully recovered. My sore throat, runny nose, and fever were gone, but it wasn’t safe for me to be discharged yet. The doctor came and shared about how because there's no cure for this virus, they could only prescribe medicine like malaria medicine to boost our immune system for our body to fight the virus.
Thankfully, I’ve been in a stable condition since then. I was transferred to a shared ward on the third day, where I spent a week at before being transferred to an isolation facility at D’Resort, where I am at now.
I’m lucky to have only had very mild symptoms, save for the bad pain in my backbone, but the emotional and mental pain, and the homesickness is very real.
Being taken away from your family so suddenly and not knowing when you can see them again gets to you. And when you are in a shared ward where people around you are all sick, coughing, and puking, it makes it hard for you to stay positive as a Covid-19 patient. I didn't have any motivation to do anything.
“I wasn’t in a right state of mind there at all.”
The doctors and nurses gave us utmost care, but in that environment where you don’t get sunlight and fresh air, it can get really stifling. All of us in that ward were just there, waiting for time to pass, waiting to be tested, and waiting for the day we can get out. It was very, very depressing.
Every day, I was just hoping to get a negative. I had that thing up my nose more than six times in the hospital and I tested positive for every single one. And the funny thing about this virus is that the other patients in my ward who were vomiting and showing more symptoms than I had got tested negative first before me.
I'm doing a lot better now. Here at the isolation facility at D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris, I have my laptop, my own personal space and toilet, and a view of the beach and the park. I have a roommate around my age as well, so it feels just Iike NS.
Time actually passes fast here but you do lose track of the days here. I’m lucky to have very supportive family, friends, and a girlfriend who have kept me sane through messages, video calls, and care packages.
I've been trying to be healthier as well, eating more vegetables, working out a lot, and taking a lot of vitamin pills that my mum has been sending me. I've been drinking a lot of water, drinking a lot of green tea, and pretty much doing everything I can with the hope that it can flush out the virus. Nothing seems to work so far.
All of us here are just hoping to get that two negatives, and it gets mentally draining and depressing when you get tested positive again and again.
I just want to go home.
With that said, I’m very grateful for the quality of care I’ve been receiving right from the start. All the healthcare workers at KTPH who have made my recovery process a lot easier, keeping me calm and always checking in on me to make sure I am fine mentally. The professionalism, attentiveness, and warmth have given me a lot of comfort and the confidence that I was in safe hands, and the human contact and affection that they gave is just top-notch.
Compared to other countries, our country is doing such a great job at making sure that we are being cared for.
There may be a few Singaporeans breaking the Circuit Breaker measures, but I'm very happy to see that the majority of youths are actually abiding by them. And it’s heartening to know that in a recent poll, the National Youth Council found that over 70% of youths want to do their part to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Personally, I’ve seen how a lot of young Singaporeans are finding little ways to help make this Stay Home period a little better for friends and family, be it through ‘Zoom parties’ or sharing content to help each other cope with cabin fever. We can also do more to help educate those who may not be as aware of the severity of the situation.
This virus is not something that should be taken lightly. Europe and America are in disaster but we are not in that state of panic because we are lucky to have a government that had plans in place to handle the situation. Which is why I sincerely hope that Singaporeans will continue to do their part as well. We should continue to care for one another during these challenging times and not perpetuate any racist or xenophobic sentiments.
Please don't break the Circuit Breaker measures. I overlooked some of the measures and I got the virus, and still have it. This is so important because you never know if or when you are going to get it.
Majority of people who have it don’t even show any symptoms. I haven’t shown symptoms for a while now and I’m still being tested positive, so the only way to not get this virus is to practice safe distancing, wear your mask, stay home, and abide by the measures. As a young Singaporean, I can understand the inconvenience, but as someone who has the virus, I’d do anything to be healthy now. The quicker we follow the rules, the quicker we'll go back to normal.
This story is written by Millennials of Singapore, as told to us by the featured individual. The individual has since been discharged on 22nd April.
"Prove to the others out there that Youth can do this, and do it well too. Show them that despite your years, you are tenacious and determined. There will be a few bad hats here and there, but we know from our polls that the majority of youth want to do the right thing and be counted in a time of crisis like we have never faced before. So stay home, stay safe and make us proud!" - National Youth Council Chief David Chua
Looking to try something new during this circuit breaker period?
You’re not alone! Visit MehGoWhere.sg, an interactive site that's been created to help keep you entertained during the Covid-19 period!
Get all the latest info and resources while having fun at the same time! It’s impossible to be bored with engaging videos and stories as you #StayHomeForSG with MehGoWhere <a href="
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Youth Council.)
Growing up, John Paul’s family was unlike most of ours. Their family dinners were at the coffee shop tables where his dad peddled their famous beef noodles, and John pretty much grew up there.
“I was that small boy at Siglap who carried like three, four bowls of hot soup all at once.”
At 11 years old, John was already known by regulars as “Gubak Kia” (Hokkien for “beef boy”), an endearing nickname for the son of ‘Gubak’, which is what they called John’s dad.
It was a name that John hated, but grew to embrace as he continued helping out at his father’s stall. In fact, this name now brands the hawker stall John runs at Timbre+, where he sells the same traditional bowls of Empress Place Teochew Beef Kway Teow along with his modern creations.
Now 25, John is a full-time hawker. But this was not exactly his plan at the start.
As someone who always wanted to be out-and-about, John had lofty dreams of making a living off travel photography and writing. This led him to pursue a Mass Communication course in Kaplan.
However, the more he helped at his dad’s stall, the more he felt pulled into the trade. He began observing the way his dad prepared orders, noting details like how long his dad would cook the kuay teow for or how to portion the meat.
His first attempts at cooking came about when his dad left him alone at the stall.
“I started making my own bowls of noodles when my dad went on breaks. Then, my dad would tell me what I did right or wrong when he came back.”
With time and practice, John developed a better understanding of cooking, and this sparked his deeper interest in the culinary world.
John’s ‘big break’ came when the boss of Wolf Burgers saw his resume on a job portal. In disbelief that a 19-year-old kid could have nine years of hawker experience, he paid a visit to the stall covertly.
“He came with his wife, ordered a bowl, sat outside and watched me,” John recalled.
That day, John was offered a job in the Wolf Burgers kitchen. It was a golden opportunity, but John hesitated.
“I was really scared that I would mess up, because I had never worked in a professional kitchen or had any proper training,”
He gave it a shot in the end, and it was also through this stint that John realised his true passion in cooking. He went on to work at Camp Kilo and Kilo Lounge, where he was trained in more diverse types of cooking and cuisines.
Then, his dad got into an incident.
“I saw how bad my dad’s hand injury was. I also saw that he was getting older, and I knew I had to do something.”
Coming full circle, John brought years of culinary expertise in different kitchens and cuisines back to the beef noodle stall.
He started experimenting with the various ingredients he could find around the stall during lull periods.
As luck would have it, he met an old friend, Lincoln, who saw the potential in the beef noodles and John’s desire to build the brand. The duo drew up business plans and sought investors, but “who in the world would entrust such a big amount of money to two 24-year-olds to run a shop?”
Instead of giving up, the pair took the leap themselves. Lincoln forked out the capital and with some help from John’s former boss, their stall Gubak Kia came to fruition in May 2019.
In a way, Gubak Kia is John’s homage to his family legacy, which traces back to his great-grandfather’s time at Hock Lam street in 1921. Despite this history, John’s dad never asked for John or his siblings to take over. But for John, he naturally saw it as his duty to preserve their name.
“If it stops at my dad, I don’t know if I can live with that.”
“I love the food,” he explained, “and if I don’t cook it, I won’t get to eat it ever again.”
Starting Gubak Kia is also John’s way of showing appreciation to his dad.
“My dad toiled so hard to build this name up, and I don’t want to see it go to waste.”
While John retains most of the foundations of his dad’s dishes, he also creates modern twists to these traditional dishes, like introducing Beef Short Ribs to their classic bowls of Beef Kway Teow, and Gubak Bao.
No doubt, being a young hawker has its challenges. Whether it’s the worry of an inconsistent cash flow or the physical strain of working in a hawker kitchen, these are all part of pursuing a business venture or an unconventional career. But for John, the food always comes first.
“I don't really care about the money part as much, I just hope that we can make rent. The only important thing is that people are happy with the food, and they know about my father, about Empress Place.”
“It’s tiring but fun,” John mused. After all, the kitchen is where he comes alive. The best part of it all is that he toils, knowing that people will get to eat what he loves.
Reflecting on his journey, John talked about many fears he had, but his persistence and determination paid off.
“If you know you’re working towards something and you are humble about it, there will always be a way to make it work.”
Like Gubak Kia and many others, we all have dreams we wished we were brave enough to pursue.
Check out a series of workshops done in collaboration with Spark The Next here for more inspirational passion stories, and how you can chart your own path to success!
(This article was written in collaboration with Spark The Next by the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth.)
“Faster, what colour, what colour!”
This is something that many of us are familiar with: The ‘pinching game’. For the uninitiated, this ‘game’ is initiated when one spots a man with a turban in the vicinity. One will then pinch our friend(s) and continue pinching them until they tell us the colour of the turban.
When we were younger, this ‘pinching game’ was just some harmless fun with friends. We were naively unaware of how racist the game is. We knew very little about the meaning of a turban or the people who wear one and to us, we were just poking fun at something that was unfamiliar.
However, we have grown up, both individually and as a society, to be a lot more careful around topics of race and religion. We have emphasised on the importance of respecting the Malays, Indians, even the Chinese group, and the different religions in Singapore.
There is one minority group, however, who has often gotten sidelined in our society: The Sikhs.
We see them around, but most of us have hardly mingled with a Sikh before, much less know anything about the Sikh culture. The average Singaporean would have only noticed the turban and the bearing of ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’ in their names, but what else?
I first stepped into a gurdwara (Sikh temple) last week, where I met the founder of Sikhs of Singapore, Perinder Kaur, to learn about the Sikh way of life.
Midway through the tour around the Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road (Silat Road Sikh Temple), we also got to speak with Harjit Kaur, the Vice Chair of the Sikh Centre at the temple, and Baljit Singh, the President of Central Sikh Gurdwara Board, who gave us insights into what it means to be a Sikh in Singapore.
As an agnostic, what stuck out the most to me is how authentic Sikhism, the faith of a Sikh person, is. The beliefs and teachings of Sikhism are largely centered around being a good person.
In fact, in the words of the trio, being a Sikh is to be “a student of life.”
Baljit explained, “we are all on a journey, between now and the end point, and one of the things I’ve learnt [in Sikhism] is that you want to attain Mukti, salvation in your living life,” and for him, attaining salvation is simply being able to be a good person and leading a truthful life.
Teachings like the three tenets of Sikhism, act as a guideline and a conscious reminder for Sikhs to be a good person.
Sikhs believe in one God and follow the scriptures laid out by their Gurus, and it is up to every Sikh individual to interpret and follow the teachings. As such, Sikhism is a very personal journey for every Sikh.
“Each of us is on a journey at a different pace, and the accountability is in each of us to answer to the one supreme Lord.”
Interesting, although Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, Sikhs do not pray to a definite form of God. Rather, their God is an abstract interpretation of a higher force.
Thus, if you were to visit any gurdwaras, you will not find any effigies like you would at churches (Jesus Christ) or Buddhist temples (Buddha), for example. Instead, Sikhs pray to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scripture, which contains the teachings of the Sikh religion.
The 1430-page holy scripture is so highly-revered that one does not simply buy it off the shelf at a bookstore. It is meticulously transported from India to Singapore with assistance from authorities at Changi Airport and even our local police.
“It’s almost like you’re welcoming God into your home,” Perinder mused, on bringing the holy scripture to a new home.
Like Christianity, Sikhism has its version of baptism as well. The Amrit Sanchaar, or Amrit for short, can be taken by a Sikh anytime, but once undertaken, it is a pledge to lead the Sikh way of life.
Besides the believe in one eternal God and the 10 Gurus and to follow the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, this commitment includes a firm promise to live by the 3 tenets of Sikhism, The Five Ks, and the rules of the Four Taboos and Five Vices.
The Five Ks
The Five Ks are five articles of faith worn by Sikhs and are symbolic of the Sikh culture
The Kara, is an iron bangle that a Sikh has to wear at all times, irrespective of gender. There are multiple interpretations to the meaning of the Kara. One of it propounds that the circular shape of the bangle signifies eternity, which also means that there is no beginning and end to the almighty.
The Kesh represents hair, which Sikhs believe is a gift of God and Sikhs keep their hair as a form of respect. This is why many Sikhs have a long beard or long hair.
One of the reasons why Sikhs wear turbans is also to honour this gift (of hair), and to keep it clean and neat. A turban is also part of the ‘uniform code’ and has become an identity for Sikhs. And because a turban has become a form of identity for the Sikhs, making fun of a Sikh’s turban is akin to making fun of an Indian for having ‘brown skin’, for example.
Then, there is the Kanga, a small comb that Sikhs keep in the hair (within the turban). Likewise, it signifies discipline and cleanliness.
Sikhs also carry a Kirpan around, which is a dagger and a symbol of the Sikh’s sovereignty, pride and dignity. It also signifies a Sikh’s duty to defend the weak and helpless from any injustice. In Singapore, there are regulations in place for safety, such as a limitation to the size of the dagger (up to six inches long).
Lastly, the Kashera, which is a pair of ‘baggy shorts’ that signifies ‘self-restraint’ and falls in line with one of the Four Taboos (adultery).
The Four Taboos & Five Vices
In Sikhism, Sikhs are supposed to steer clear of the four taboos and five vices.
The four taboos in Sikhism are: No adultery, no cutting hair, no intoxication (cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol), and no consumption of meat that is slaughtered or prepared in a religious manner.
Lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego makes up the five vices.
Although these are taboos and vices laid out by the faith, almost all of these (besides the one about hair and meat) are temptations that all of us face in life. These ‘rules’ are pretty much guidelines to help one become a better human being.
With that said, what I respected the most is how honest and real Harjit was when she spoke about these commitments.
“Having said that, it's not like you have taken Amrit (baptism) and you've become perfect, It's a promise. I have taken Amrit but I can still get angry. It is something that I'm still working on.”
Besides those core teachings, there is another prominent trait of Sikhs, which is their concept of Sewa (selfless service).
It is mentioned in Gurbani, that Seva (service) can be done by “tan, man, dhan,” which breaks Seva into three types: “Physical service, mental service, and monetary service.”
This ethos is so strong among Sikhs that it is literally what keeps the gurdwara running.
Harjit shared: “[The gurdwara runs] totally on the basis of sharing, hundred percent. With everything, the building, the food, the provisions for Langar (food), the upkeep of the place. Anytime we want to change the carpets or the lights, people donate wholeheartedly. Everything.”
Considering how expensive it must be to run a temple and how small the community is in terms of numbers, I was surprised to learn that all seven gurdwaras in Singapore are fully supported by donations. This takes into account the supply of free meals at their Langar hall every day, which is open to anyone and everyone regardless of race or religion.
“The people that you see in the kitchen are all volunteers who come down to cut the vegetables and prepare the rations for the day so that the community kitchen is kept running. This is basically the essence of the religion, to serve without any inhibitions.”
There are also many regular volunteers who do different types of Sewa for the temple and the community. Even Baljit and Harjit, who both hold positions of authority in the gurdwara, are volunteers themselves.
In fact, the temple board faces a ‘happy problem’ of regular volunteers refusing to accept plaques for their years of service, because “they said they don’t do the service for any sort of appreciation or recognition.”
There are about 12,000 to 15,000 Sikhs in Singapore today, which makes up only 0.26% of our population of about 5.8 million. That possibly makes Sikhs a minority among the groups of minorities in Singapore.
Despite the size of the community, I have, through the two hours spent at the gurdwara, realise how much they have to offer to our society. For example, in the recent incident where local influencer Sheena Phua called two Sikh men “obstructions”, the Sikh community could have easily hit back with criticisms. But the youth from the Young Sikh Association invited Sheena to the Gurdwara, showed her around and shared the beliefs of Sikh faith with her.
Perinder explained, “But you look at the bigger picture: What do you want to do? Do you want to stay angry or, moving forward, do you look at it as an opportunity for you to actually engage? As a community, we took a very important stand that we would not react with anger. Rather, educate, not hate.”
This is where a platform like Sikhs of Singapore comes in to raise awareness and bridge the gap, through sharing stories of the everyday Sikh and to address common misconceptions among Singaporeans.
In a country like ours where we are so multiracial and multicultural, this is so important: The empathy and patience in being able to take a step back to re-evaluate how we deal with or even react to any racially or religiously sensitive situation.
It’s hard in practice of course, but as with the teachings of Sikhism, it is something that will do all of us good to strive for.
Baljit shared that 550 years ago, their first Guru made a very apt comment about how there is no separation between different races or religions, because at the end of the day, we are all the same. It’s all about humanity.
“We don’t identify people by their faiths, we identify that every person is a human being."
Also read: He Became A Monk At 23: What It’s Like Living By 227 Rules.
Kiasu, competitive, impatient, and grouchy. These are traits that are often associated with being a Singaporean.
Despite this negative perception of our society, I truly believe that Singaporeans are highly compassionate people. We have had multiple awards celebrating the good that Singaporeans have done, and we have heard so many stories of the people who have dedicated their time and energy into building cities of good, where we give our best for others.
Just last year alone, people in Singapore had donated about S$30 million to one-stop giving online platform, Giving.sg, with $12.2 million raised during the Giving Week season. This is just one of the many examples of how Singaporeans are actually altruistic at heart. We just tend to be too self-critical to realise it, and it’s not in us to accept credit for being model citizens.
For some of us, it may even come as a surprise to know that Singapore is one of the top 10 most generous countries in the world. This is because on the surface, it seems like a lot of us barely do anything to give back to our society.
We’ve all had the mandatory CIP modules in school. Many of us have also gone on field trips or did personal projects where we headed out and interacted with the beneficiaries. We’ve experienced the sense of fulfillment and contentment from being able to make a difference in someone else’s life, especially someone less well-off than we are.
The same sense of gratification from giving is something that so many in our millennial generation seek for in life—meaning. The majority of us have an innate desire to give or contribute to making our society better.
According to the Individual Giving Study (IGS) 2018 by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) on individual giving habits and motivations of people in Singapore, they found that most people in Singapore have the intention to volunteer or donate in the future.
In fact, 9/10 people in Singapore have the intention to donate in the future and 7/10 have the intention to volunteer in the future.
Through the course of creating content for our (MOSG) platform, I am often surprised by the amount of public-spirited reactions on our posts.
When we ran a feature of Rahman, a migrant worker who suffered severe burns, we were so heartened by the number of people who left comments on their wish to help him. Private messages also came in enquiring on ways in which they could extend various forms of help to the individuals we’ve featured.
Despite our altruistic views towards giving however, many of us still feel that we are not doing enough to help the society, and we often feel bad about it.
In an article Vulcan Post wrote about five millennials’ track record in volunteering, almost all of them revealed that they are not proud of how little they volunteer in recent years. The reasons for that largely revolve around one issue, which is the lack of time.
Singaporeans are inherently pragmatic. As an independent adult, there are so many commitments in our life to worry about. When you only have 24 hours to make a living, spend time with family and friends, and to pursue any other personal projects or hobbies, you are forced to prioritise. And chances are, the priority will be for self before strangers.
Furthermore, we associate giving with having to plan and to put in hours into volunteering at an event or with an organisation. This will seem like a big commitment amidst our perpetually filled schedules and more often than not, we put it off simply because it seems like too much work. It doesn’t help that most of us find it intimidating or are too paiseh to volunteer alone.
The other kind of giving we usually think of is monetary donations.
In the same IGS study, Director of Knowledge, Marketing & Advocacy with NVPC, Mr Jeffrey Tan shared that financial security is among the top three life priorities for Singaporeans, so “in times of perceived economic uncertainty, more Singaporeans may hold back on cash giving.”
However, while there is that, and there is still a stigma against donating money for fear of it being exploited by fundraisers, we have also seen so much generosity from Singaporeans on the many fundraising campaigns on platforms like Giving.sg.
A friend of mine told me about how she used to actively volunteer at an elderly home. She eventually stopped volunteering due to the emotional toll of having to witness the sufferings of the beneficiaries, and the painful realisation that there were a lot more that needed to be done for them, but there just weren’t enough resources.
There’s also the question of whether one’s action does any good for the beneficiaries. In fact, besides the aforementioned reasons, the 2018 study found that 25% of former volunteers stopped volunteering because they found that the activity they engaged in created little impact or meaning.
The desire to make a difference is something that is growing on many Singaporeans. As mentioned above, we are constantly seeking meaning in what we do, and it can be very difficult for us to engage in something if it doesn’t seem to be making a notable difference.
With all that said, the spirit of giving certainly isn’t lost on Singaporeans. We just need to be more conscious of how we can give.
Giving really shouldn’t be something that is difficult as it is merely something that comes from one’s heart. It can be as simple as giving up our seat on the MRT or returning our food trays at hawker centres. These spontaneous acts may seem insignificant as we are already so used to doing this in our daily lives, but I take heart in knowing that these are micro-giving behaviours that make a difference and sets the foundation for a giving heart. This is in fact, the ethos of Giving Week’s belief: where little acts, multiplied by millions, can make a world of difference.
There are also plenty of other avenues in which we can contribute to charitable causes, especially during Giving Week 2019. For example, there are many events that are held in conjunction with non-profit organisations, and companies that have corporate social responsibility programmes, and supporting these events or companies are also ways to help.
From 1 - 7 Dec, be part of the Giving Week movement and join us at The Good Hubs and The Good Life as we celebrate the spirit of giving. Show your support by checking out the carnivals and flea markets held by various organisations at The Good Hubs here!
Businesses across Singapore will also be running special promotions and campaigns under The Good Life! Shop, dine, and live for good when you support the businesses here.
Every bit counts when it comes to doing good, so head on over to givingweek.sg for more information on the events and how you can share your time, talent, and voice to the people who need it. Together, let’s build a City of Good!
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, organiser of Giving Week.)
(Header Image Credit: GivingWeekSG)
It’s a snide remark that Alan has gotten a lot of since young. It is not that he had anything against non-heterosexuals. It was simply a societal expectation to fit into the mould of a typical guy who'd do sports, enjoy computer games, and talk about the hottest girls in class, but he wasn’t that kind of person. And when you don’t fit into what society deems as ‘normal’ for your gender, it can be quite agonising as a young person trying to find a place in the world.
Growing up in a female-dominated family rubbed off of him because his mannerisms have always been quite effeminate. This, in addition to how soft-spoken and shy he is in new environments, yet expressive and overly-enthusiastic around friends, has often caused Alan to be mistaken as gay.
For the longest time, ‘gay’ has been a common label that people use to categorise guys who are too soft or feminine. For most men however, being called gay is an insult, not because it’s degrading, but because it’s a stab at their masculinity.
Despite the progressive and liberal beliefs that we are increasingly adopting, we still subconsciously subscribe to traditional traits that identify men and women. Men have always been expected to be masculine.
Masculinity and femininity has long been associated with men and women respectively. Femininity checks out for women, because the associated traits grant us the ability to be empowered and to be celebrated for our strength (as we are supposedly gentle and weaker creatures).
Masculinity, however, is a concept that has caused many men to feel the stress of living up to expectations.
Women are expected to uphold traditionally feminine values like being gentle, caring, sensitive, and nurturing. Men, on the other hand, are seen as the alphas. They are expected to be strong, dominant, and tough. These are all traits that we often expect of men, and they are also traits that we see as attractive and desirable in men.
And therein lies the problem, because the need to be masculine will easily become toxic for men.
For Alan, he has gotten so used to being mistaken as gay that it has become second nature to joke about it. Nonetheless, growing up with bullies picking on him for his ‘girly behaviour’ left a mark.
“Being mistaken for something that I’m not affected the way I think of myself as I grow older.”
The way his mother reacted to him contributed to his insecurity. Once, when Alan was watching Winx Club in the living room with his sister, their mother said:
“Can you guys change the channel? This is why your brother’s turning gay.”
Alan’s mother would also often make comments like “Can you be tougher,” and “Can you don’t move like that?” These made him feel embarrassed and ashamed of himself. All these experiences in his childhood have often made him mask it with boyish behaviours like spiking his hair or even cursing.
Over time, it caused him to question his identity. It took a long time before he finally got comfortable being himself. He is just a guy who is softer and more expressive than most guys.
However, Alan’s story is one of the many of our men have but hide, because toxic masculinity is just not something that men talk about.
As defined by Wikipedia, toxic masculinity is when we restrict boys and men to only expressing certain kinds of emotions, “including social expectations that men seek to be dominant, and when we expect them to conform to “certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.”
Whether it’s the need to suppress emotions or to maintain a mask of toughness, these are all beliefs that I believe many of our men have dealt with, as with what Alan had gone through.
We just aren’t aware of their struggles, because men don’t talk about it—how could they?
Besides Alan, I’ve had openly gay friends who have told me about how they have been told by family members to stop being so “娘” (loosely translates to mean girly). “They always tell me things like ‘men must learn to drive manual, not auto, and must learn to do DIY homefix nonsense cos next time you will be the man of your house, etc.”
Beyond mannerisms, there’s also a very real pressure for men to be a leader and provider, or the ‘man of the house’.
We may not always explicitly say it to our men, but it doesn’t take away the fact that men have always been expected to provide, whether it is for their ageing parents, partner, or children. And the stress of having to live up to these obligations can often be suffocating.
For 32-year-old George, the stress built up when he lost his father. As an only son, he saw it as his duty to takeover his dad’s role in the family in looking after his mother and looking out for his sister. At the same time, he also had a duty to his newly wedded wife and her parents. The pressure of having to be that manly figure to all his loved ones, while juggling his own obligations at work, led him to feeling exhausted.
People don’t expect men to be weak, but when you are at your lowest, it can be very easy to feel inadequate, which was what crept up on George. Men aren’t expected to openly reveal their fears and insecurities, which was why despite feeling lost in his struggle to be that manly figure to his loved ones, George felt the need to suppress the fragile side of him. Moreover, it is his duty to protect them instead, not weigh them down with his problems.
Likewise for 27-year-old Lester, the pressure to be masculine was always present. When he was growing up, he “had a hard time trying to look cool or be cool in school, which in my head, was synonymous with being manly.”
Although Lester no longer sees the need to intentionally portray masculinity, these ‘expectations’ will always return. For instance, he will be more cautious in front of his girlfriend's parents, because “there's a chance that they would think I’m not ‘man’ enough for their daughter, whether it's my job position or mannerisms.”
There’s also the pressure to excel professionally. 29-year-old John added, “in society, there's a lot of expectations for men to be more successful than their female counterparts and I think it's what's holding up a lot of norms that are seemingly out of place in the 21st century.”
He explained, “for example, if a couple needs to decide who to stay home for the child, chances are it is usually the girl. People get that it's unfair for women, but it is also unfair for men because we also have to deal with the expectations of others besides that of your spouse.”
This year, the Samaritans of Singapore reported a 10% increase in total suicides in Singapore. More importantly, suicide is more prevalent among young men.
There’s been articles written about how toxic masculinity triggers suicidal tendencies in men, and while I cannot speak for the men, I can imagine how difficult it must be to have to mask emotions and put on the front of a tough guy just because it is what society expects of you.
I can only imagine the kind of pressure that my male friends and family have faced or are facing. I only know their woes through the stories they are willing to reveal to me. However, judging by the stories I’ve heard and read, I’m pretty sure many Singaporean men have had similar predicaments at some point. They just aren’t as vocal about it because society doesn't expect them to ‘whine’.
We’ve always encouraged our empowered our ladies to speak up and celebrated women, but we often neglect our men. In light of International Men’s Day today, let us turn our attention to our men, and be a little more empathetic about the struggles that they face, and to also celebrate them for being the pillar of unwavering strength.
From a Singaporean female to our guys, kudos to those who have managed to fight the pressure of toxic masculinity, and to have emerged more self-confident. However, if you are still struggling with inadequacy or insecurity, do not be afraid to seek help. And like what’s been preached in the many movements and causes for women: Don’t be afraid to speak up just because you are male.
Also read: I Became A Dad At 22 – Our Parents Opposed But We Kept The Baby.
(Header Image Credit: TheHealthSite)
Greta Thunberg has got balls.
At 16 years old, this Swedish girl had, in her 4.5 minute speech in front of hundreds of world leaders, not only managed to admonish them, she highlighted their incompetency.
She’d gained the respect of people all over the world (and possibly said leaders as well) in doing so. But even as she’s gained a following for speaking up about the current climate change situation, she’s gotten her share of criticisms.
Ever since her speech at the U.N. Climate Summit on Monday went viral, I’ve seen people on social media mocking her for being melodramatic and overly idealistic.
Which got me thinking: Why?
Why are we so critical of the way she delivered her speech when it is far from what she was speaking about? Why are people so distracted with her emotions when the gravity of the issue that she spoke about is far more important than her imperious choice of tone and words.
If you trawled through Twitter comments, some even go as far to allege that Greta is being brainwashed by adults to make political arguments.
To put it simply, Greta Thunberg is like our mother scolding us when we refuse to go to bed early. We know it’s good for our body, but we get pissed off by her because we would rather stay up to watch TV or play video games.
Greta’s speech rubs some of us the wrong way because it feels like we’re being assaulted by her anger and emotions. “How dare you,” she had chided, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.”
This feeling of being ‘scolded’ is why some people react with so much resistance instead of trying to listen and understand what she’s trying to preach. It easier to find fault than to confront uncomfortable truths.
In some ways, the disbelief that a child can be so passionate about an environmental cause is also exactly what she’s talking about—We don't know the consequences of our everyday life.
We think we know, but a lot of what we say is lip service because if we really knew how dire the consequences of climate change is as she had brought up—mass extinction—we wouldn’t be sitting here in our air-conditioned rooms criticising her for ‘over-exaggerating’ the matter.
On an individual level, we know that certain actions, like our using plastics or wasting water, are bad for our environment. But it is just easier not to confront the consequences of these actions because we do not see the larger consequences it has on Earth and life in 10, 20, or 30 years time.
It is also easier not to confront the issue of climate change because we know that it boils down to having to make sacrifices in our lifestyles.
“We’ve got to give something up to do something for a country in need, or the world, but humankind finds it just too hard,”
We know that if we really wanted to change, it's a sacrifice on our lifestyles.
In a long Facebook post, Principal Strategist at Sustainability Non-profit Forum for the Future, Jie Hui, wrote about the concept of materiality and how it can be applied to each of us as individuals.
She explained that a teacher’s most material contribution will be the knowledge and values s/he conveys to students and in shaping the next generation’s understanding of our environment. Similarly, a CEO’s most material contribution will be how s/he leads the company and people in achieving long-term success in business by contributing positively to society and the environment.
Likewise, she affirmed that anyone can tap on their most material contribution to make a difference, be it sharing environmental knowledge with friends and family, or mobilising the world to save the Earth—which is what Greta is doing.
Because the effects of climate change seem so intangible, we are unable to realise how crucial it is for us to act now. Furthermore, I’ve heard about how the older generations are indifferent because they do not think it’s going to be that bad.
Some of them think that their actions will not make a difference on the grand scale of ‘damage’. And as selfish as it sounds, there are also people who feel like climate change is not their problem because they will not need to face the consequences anyway.
The fact is that we are past the tipping point. But there is still time to mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change. Where we are now, radical change is needed to undo what has been done. However, the inconvenient truth is that most of us aren’t willing to make that radical change. Not you, not me, and certainly not our businesses, and our leaders—at least, that is the case so far.
Greta reminds me of Katniss Everdeen: A young lady who seem like a powerless individual, but who, in her dedication in fighting to put an end to a great evil, have mobilised an entire movement in support of her cause.
We can talk about how cringey she was, or how pompous, one-dimensional, or overly-idealistic she was. We can see it as a young kid throwing a tantrum and over-dramatising an issue. But if we were to stop and take a moment to objectively think about why she’s behaving like this, we would understand why.
She’s emotional because she sees the real consequences of climate change, and she’s genuinely fearful of the future if we were to not take any action now.
I highly doubt that she would go to the extreme of travelling by a yacht across the Atlantic, without a shower or toilet, instead of a plane, if she was at it for fame, glory, or attention. Neither would she have donated the “€25,000 prize money to four different organisations dedicated to climate justice” she won from the Prix Liberte award.
So yes, Greta Thunberg was being melodramatic in her speech but in the course of doing so, she has gotten people all over the world to turn their attention towards climate change, even those who usually wouldn’t give a damn about environment news.
She had managed to rally the entire world to discuss more about climate change than anyone has ever done so and through a short speech—that’s more than anything the majority of us have ever accomplished. And if being melodramatic is what it took for her to fight for our future, I’d say it’s a win nonetheless. Not just for her, but for all of us who will witness the changes our action (or inaction) will cause in years to come.
Also read: Monica Baey’s Case Is An Ugly Reminder Of S’pore Society’s Nonchalance Towards Sexual Misconduct.
(Header Image Credit: The Atlantic)
It’s terrifying to think about what would be in 10 or 20 years time.
In 10 years time, I would be my late thirties—an age where I can no longer pretend to pass off as a zeh zeh (older sister). I would also probably be constantly reminded of the youth I have lost as I play catch up to the energy of my children.
What’s even scarier is the realisation that my parents would be in their early seventies. That puts them in the ripe old age of retirement, with only slightly more than 10 years left, assuming that they live up to Singapore’s mortality age of 85.
Am I prepared for that? No. And I’m scared.
I’m scared because I don’t know if I can afford to support my parents through the financial perils of old age.
The Seedly Community conducted a survey early this year, where they found out that 81% of Singaporeans give their parents a monthly allowance. More importantly, the survey showed that out of 85 responses, 51 (60%) gave their parents less than 20% of their take-home pay.
There's no 'right' answer to this as it really depends on an individual's earning power, how much our parents need, and most of all, our individual priorities.
I’m glad that my parents never dictated the amount of allowance I have to give them every month, but I have always felt that I am not giving enough.
On one hand, it’s comforting to know that I measure up to most Singaporeans in terms of the monthly allowance I give to my parents (slightly above 10% my take-home pay). On the other hand, I feel guilty for not being good enough to afford the luxuries that my parents deserve.
Because I am only giving them what I can afford, there are often times I question myself if the few hundred dollars I give is enough and there’s always a small part of me that beats myself over not being able to give more.
A recent ad by NTUC Income perfectly encapsulates the predicament I, and possibly many young Singaporeans, am in.
Just like the NTUC Income’s ad, many of us turned out normal. We get by with hard work and discipline, but we struggle with having to make difficult decisions simply because we cannot afford The Best.
Coming from a middle-income family and having friends who come from both ends of the spectrum, I knew what were luxuries and what I should be grateful for. Most of all, I know my parents worked hard to provide.
I know I have been given the best that my parents can afford because I have never had to live a day on a hungry stomach, wear torn shoes to school, or borrow textbooks to study. We could even afford the occasional vacations.
There are so many other signs that I cannot possibly list. The fact that my parents are so still so readily available to be my safety net after 28 years is telling enough.
Because of all the love that they have poured into me, there's this unspoken sense of responsibility that goes behind me wanting to give them a cut of my salary every month, and in wanting to support them when they are, in my eyes, in a stage of their life where they should just enjoy life.
Knowing them, my parents are the kind of people who would rather carry the weight of supporting themselves on their shoulders than burden others (their children). But I see their livelihood in retirement a responsibility I hold myself accountable for.
Some call it filial piety, a virtue that has earned a pretty bad rep for causing a lot of guilt and unhappiness. But I want to be filial not because it's 'right' or because I'd feel guilty otherwise, but because I truly appreciate what they have done for me.
If anything, I feel guilty because as much as I want to be a filial daughter, I don’t know if my best will be enough.
Stressful is an understatement when you are sandwiched between having to care for ageing parents and the responsibility to contribute to the ever-decreasing fertility rates (having children), while juggling the pressure of working in an ultra-competitive working landscape, and living in a place that’s internationally recognised as one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world.
The pressure is suffocating if one were to look at all the numbers.
Take for instance this chart from Moneysmart, which budgeted the potential costs of living in Singapore per month.
Let’s assume that the accommodation costs for rental are costs for house bills (utilities, internet, etc.) and for insurance instead. A ‘cheapskate’ lifestyle will set you back at almost $1200 a month.
Assuming that you earn $3,000 a month, you will be taking home $2,400 after CPF deductions. After the monthly expenditures, you will be left with around $1,200.
If you were to set aside just 10% of your take-home pay as an allowance for your parents, that will take another $240 off, leaving you with $960.
At first glance, $960 seems like a considerable amount of savings a month, but we haven’t taken into consideration many other expenses. Food alone will easily take up another $100 to $300 for most average Singaporeans, depending on lifestyle.
We haven't included any travel expenses. Neither have we taken into consideration all the birthdays, weddings, housewarmings, and baby showers that we will probably spend more on as our generation edges into marriage and parenthood.
Even if one is highly disciplined in saving that $960 every month, that adds up to only about $11,500 a year. Which, if we look at the numbers that SmartParents put together, is enough to get us through a pregnancy with $3,500 to spare.
However, these are meagre sums compared to the amount of money you would need to spend on raising a child.
To put things in perspective, one would need to save diligently for 12 months just to comfortably afford giving birth to a child. Subsequently, the costs will continue to increase as the child grows, which by SmartParents’ estimation, will cost around $670,000 to raise one child in Singapore.
Of course, these are all estimates and in reality, whether it's the costs of a wedding, a new home or of having children would have been split between a couple. But these are all still very scary numbers.
Which brings me back to the pressure of providing. Especially when we are sandwiched between having enough to build a family of my own and supporting our ageing parents through their retirement.
Admittedly, I am sheltered, because my parents never bothered me with their retirement plans.
Nonetheless, I am concerned and wish to help.
However, I don’t even know where to start because I struggled to make sense of financial planning and of things like insurance myself. Even if I had that knowledge, it is such a difficult conversation to initiate.
Our culture isn’t one where we talk about difficult topics, like money. We don't have the vocabulary to discuss such topics and it is because of this history that makes it hard to go "mum/dad, let's talk about your retirement." It’s awkward and feels a little too heavy to talk about.
Another colleague faced a similar problem, where no matter how much he wants to help his mum plan for her retirement, she just don’t seem to be comfortable enough to be honest about what she had planned.
Even with persistent persuasion to find out more, his mum brushed him away whenever he asked, assuring him that she’s got it settled. This only makes him worry more because in the event that anything happens to her, it will still be his responsibility to be there and to support her.
“I don’t need to plan for her, but at least I can put in the figures and help her project into the future, then at least, we can start now and be better prepared for the future,” he explained.
It also doesn’t help when many of us struggle with making a decent living while trying to chase our passions.
Our generation is the generation that has been brought up to believe that the world is our oyster. Many of us are dreamers or at the very least, we are a generation who do not wish to ‘settle’. We prioritise job satisfaction and fulfillment over a high salary.
That is exactly how I have led my life for the most part: Going for jobs that I feel passionate about, not too concerned about the pay I get as long as I can get by.
I lived my life in that ‘passion bubble’ and I've spent my youth proudly announcing my pride in chasing passion. But it was the wedding and home ownership bills that made me realise how misguided I have been. The harsh reality is that at the end of the day, money is important.
Just ask around and you’ll realise how many young Singaporeans have become disenchanted by the reality of life in Singapore, not only because of the constant and consistent grind for money, but because we become increasingly aware of the pressure to live up to expectations; To provide.
I’ve seen how my mother had painstakingly saved up not just for herself and my dad, but also for my brother and I. And it is my mother’s financial prudence that I wish to emulate, but I don't know if I can when everything is so expensive.
I do not wish for my inability to earn, save, or plan to become a problem for my partner or children. And I certainly do not want my existence, should I become physically incapable of caring for myself, to become a financial burden for my loved ones in the future.
Although, looking at all the numbers that is required to support my parents, myself, and my future children, I worry about not being able to achieve that.
I want to be a filial daughter to my parents and a role model to my children. I want to give my loved ones the best that they deserve, but it's a constant struggle to know whether my best is enough.
Also read: Work To Live, Or Live To Work? Why So Many Singaporeans Feel Lost In Life.
(Header Image Credit: Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash)
I was lying on my bed alone with my thoughts, contemplating life and thinking about what the point of living even is.
There were often nights like this, where I would touch the window grilles in my room as I contemplate ending my life. I’ve also considered many other ways to take my own life, but on that particular night, the urge I had to really end it once and for all was beyond what I have ever felt.
This time, the compulsion to jump was stronger than ever. I sat up from my bed, which is right beside the window, and looked out. I could have easily stood up, opened the grilles, and jumped out.
I just wanted to end it so that I don’t have to be in pain anymore. And as I looked down, I could imagine seeing my body six storeys down, sprawled across the ground with my head smashed open.
I fought really hard to hold myself back from jumping out the window that night. For what felt like an eternity, I sat there, and if not for that faint inner voice that told me ‘maybe things will get better’, I would have been gone that night.
This happened more than two years ago, but I still remember it so clearly.
It was a very stressful period of my life as I was juggling a lot of responsibilities in school and at my polytechnic dance club, where we were gearing up for an upcoming concert.
Right around that time, I had also just broken up with my ex. My friendship with the two other people I was closest to had started to go sour as well. Everything began to fall apart, because these were three people who made up my only support systems ever since I fell out with my family when I came out to them.
Losing these support systems made me wonder: Is there really anyone there for me? It was the catalyst that drove me to turn to suicide, since it didn’t seem like anyone was going to care.
The pain of rejection and of not being understood by anyone barely scraps the top of the turmoil of emotion which I’ve tried to suppress for a long time, and it is suffocating.
In retrospect, it was also the culmination of all the emotional baggage that I have carried with me ever since my secondary school years.
Even back then, I remember being (on hindsight) a little dramatic as I texted my goodbyes to some friends in a group chat. I was still too young to have the guts to actually do anything, but I cried for a long time after that.
I remember two friends who empathised and asked if I needed help. Then, there were others in the group who started saying things like:
‘what the hell is wrong with you?’ and, ‘if you want to behave like this we should stop being friends’.
I remember trying to seek comfort from my parents, only for them to repeatedly tell me to stop crying. Their intentions meant well, but they just didn’t know how to deal with emotions. They didn’t understand the extent of why I was crying. They probably thought that I was just sad, and they swept that night right under the bus.
And I don't blame them for responding so passively, because that is just the way they, and a lot of us were brought up: We don't know how to talk about emotions.
It was a very dark period and every time I thought ‘wow, can things get any worse?’, things got worse. In that moment, it felt like there’s just no point to life. It also felt like whatever anyone said, nothing really got through to me.
Fortunately, I didn't jump that night.
I held on to that small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, things will be better.
In my mind, I kept trying to imagine better days. I thought about moments where I felt free and liberated, and I just tried to hold on to that. I tried to envision what could be in 10-20 years: The dream of being in my house with my partner, happy.
Those were both hopeful and depressing thoughts because of how bleak reality seemed at that point. But it helped me rationalise that maybe this is just a Low. Maybe life is just that way.
It’s a bad day, but it’s not a bad life.
This comes from Kimmy Schmidt: Take it 10 seconds at a time. If you can get through 10s, then you can get through another 10s and the next 10s, and the next.
Don’t let anyone put a label on how much pain you are feeling. Sometimes people will say things that undermine the pain you are feeling but know that whatever you are feeling is valid.
As much as it hurts, always hold on to the silver lining and always know that they are people around you who love you. I’ve come to realise this from a video that has saved my life.
It took me awhile to figure this out, but everything happens for a reason.
Good times will come again. It’s very hard to see it and I completely understand, but take it slow. And don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to find professional help.
This story is written by Millennials of Singapore, as told to us by the featured individual.
In line with the Suicide Prevention Week, the Millennials of Singapore team would like to show our support to everyone out there who are fighting battles with mental health. Let us #HopeThroughTheNight as we fight against suicide.
If you are struggling, there are many resources available to help tide you through. Never be afraid to talk about your struggles, and if you ever need someone to share your troubles with at any point of time, you can always reach out to @samaritansofsingapore or call 1800-221-4444 for emotional or crisis-support. There are people available there for you 24/7.
(Header Image Credit: Entrepreneur India)
Remember when our value was tied to how well we fared in exams? To the A’s or B’s that we got in our subjects? Well this is all going to change for our children.
In an unprecedented move, our Ministry of Education had announced that they will be making several changes to exams and assessments in school. Some of these changes include removing weighted assessments (including class tests, group projects) and exams for Primary 1 and 2 students. Mid-year exams will also be removed for Primary 3 and 5, as well as Secondary 1 and 3 students.
These are bold changes, as Singaporeans have long questioned the effectiveness of our education system and the emphasis we seem to place on academic grades.
It’s a move welcomed by many, but along with these changes are several other concerns. For one, when we take away one of the major means of gauging a students understanding and proficiency of a subject, what yardstick are we going to assess them with moving forward?
Speaking at a recent forum with parents and students, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung posed the question back to parents: What is the yardstick that they will use to measure their success as a parent?
It’s a difficult question to answer, because all our life up till the point where we start working, we have been measured by the A’s, B’s, or C’s from our performance on test and exam papers. These grades have inadvertently transformed into something our society uses to define our worth. It is why we have a society that deems students in the ‘normal’ stream as of a lower calibre than those in the ‘express’ stream.
These cliched perspectives are so deeply entrenched in our society that it is hard for us to envisage how else we can measure the success of a student if it is not through exams and grades.
In a quick poll I did on Instagram, 33 out of 41 respondents actually voted that exams are good for students.
These are the same group of people who, through my understanding of our generation, have complained about how we have wasted so much time in our earlier years learning and being tested in subjects that have no relevance to our lives today.
However, 80% of them maintained that exams are still important, because it helps to assess a student’s grasp of a subject.
“Exams provide feedback. Its replacement must still critique a student.”
It is because of the kiasu culture we have in Singapore that have turned it into a competition of grades rather than a way to assess a student’s progress, as parents want their kids to ace exams to get into better schools, which they believe will give their child a better shot at success.
This is further egged on by the disparity in which we judge and treat people of different academic backgrounds. It lies in the way scholars are said to enjoy a faster career progression, and in the way some we tend to compare the quality of students based on their alma mater.
Even if you and I don’t judge people by their academic level, the society will. We still compare schools and we still regard graduates from esteemed schools, like Harvard, with higher respect.
The purpose of removing exams is to reduce the emphasis on academic results, but more importantly, what are we replacing it with?
One 27-year-old, Vic, explained that it’s less of abolishing exams than changing our perspectives: “I think students’ education or knowledge can still be measured with tests but the stigma of failing a test should be abolished. What I'm proposing is a mindset change.”
She also proposed for an abolishment of a grading system, which is one of the changes implemented by MOE, where details like grades and class position will be removed from end-of-year assessments. Secondary school students will also be streamed according to subjects instead of the ‘Express’ or ‘Normal’ streams that we had in our time.
In this case, the changes are also a way to free up time for students to pursue non-academic interests. In order to get there, however, schools and teachers need to be able to create a wholesome environment that enables students to achieve that.
On the aspect of achieving academic rigour, suggestions I got from respondents include challenging students with problem-based assignments to cultivate in them analytical and critical thinking abilities which will help them in the future.
Other suggestions include group projects or learning trips that allow students to explore a broader range of non-academic interests. These are alternatives that will help expose students to both academic and non-academic areas of interest.
Unsurprisingly, most of the (serious) suggestions given were centered around the idea that a student should be prepared to handle the intricacies of real-world and work situations, more so than acing exam papers.
The problem lies in our obsession with the ten-year series, which is characteristic of students who are more preoccupied with learning how to ace exams than learning the concept of what’s being taught in each subject.
One respondent, who’s currently assisting her father in running her family’s F&B chain, said: “A lot of students just learn how to deal with exam questions, instead of understanding the concept of how the content or solution work. Knowing and understanding how things work goes a longer way than knowing how to score in exams.”
At some point, all of us would have talked about how there are many things we learnt in school that have absolutely no relevance to our lives today. I, for one, have no idea how to apply pythagoras theorem to my life or line of work—not that I can even remember the concept today.
With that said, it was my decision to pursue a career that does not require proficiency in math. There are plenty of other professions that requires one to apply maths at work, like engineers.
Subjects like maths or history will not necessarily help us in our jobs, nonetheless, I see them as a foundation that sets the base for us to further pursue our preferred vocations in our tertiary years. If anything, these valuable general knowledge help us form a more well-rounded view and understanding of the World. Let’s not forget that Singapore’s education system is seen by outsiders as one of the best in the world, and perhaps it is for these knowledge we are armed with that makes us ‘superior students’ to the rest of the world.
Though, arguably, having to study all those ‘foundational subjects’ means a longer route to success. In comparison, Koreans (for instance) can start training in K Pop from as young as 11. Then, at 17 or 18 where an average Singaporean would have just gotten the opportunity to start pursuing vocational studies, these K Pop trainees would have already made their debut in the industry.
Which brings us back to the question of whether Singapore, as a whole, is capable of embracing students with non-academic passions.
If a student wishes to pursue career paths in performing arts or culinary arts, will schools and educators be able to offer resources to nurture this student in those areas?
Should there already be programmes and resources in place, will parents and by extension, our society, be able to accept and encourage a child to pursue such non-conventional pathways at the tender age of 11?
At the end of the day, this all depends on what we, Singaporeans, want to place value in: In achieving academic excellence before attempting a vocation, or in embracing a more progressive education that not only allows, but encourages students to explore beyond the English, Math, and Sciences, from a young age.
Regardless, these changes are a work in progress, and whether our children in the future reaps the benefits of this system is heavily dependent on how we, as future parents, react to the changes that MOE has rolled out.
For as long as we have kiasu parents around, the competition to be The Best will always be there.
At the end of the day, it boils down to what we want to instil in our 15, 10, or even 3-year-olds. If grades are not the way forward, what do we want to teach and assess our kids with?
With qualities like kindness and compassion? With communication skills like speaking and presenting? Or with a mix of soft and vocational skills to help them navigate the complexities of the world?
Also read: Is There A Need For Better Sex Education That’s More Than STDs And Abstinence?.(Header Image Credit: Wikipedia)
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