At the ripe old age of 30 (please don’t scoff, 30 seems old when you’re 30), I feel like I’ve experienced enough to expound on the topic of independence and adulthood.
From a young age, I was helping out at my parents’ food stall, and took great delight in chopping up vegetables. Until the day I found a worm. Then, I moved on to cashiering, delivering food orders, serving food and taking food orders. My childhood revolved around my parents’ work, because that’s where I would be and what I would do. I’d be up at 5am to go to the market with them before they sent me to school. After school, I’d be doing my homework at their little eatery while helping out. They paid me an hourly salary and I spent it all on books – at least one book a day. It got to the point where our house was bursting with books and the rental bookstores didn’t even want to buy books from me anymore because they’d bought too many. But I must thank the books, because…
My parents stopped paying for my education when I was 13 – I’d done well enough to earn full scholarships through secondary school, junior college and university. I stopped taking money from my parents in university, because my scholarship came with an allowance and because I worked part-time to supplement that. I started giving money to my parents after I graduated, because my scholarship bond meant that I went straight from studying to working.
I stayed at my first job for almost 7 years. In the first few years, I learnt the hard way that I had to spend within my means and not give in to the temptation of credit cards. I spent the fourth year clearing all the credit card debt that I had accumulated. The last three years were the best – I saved enough to be able to take a gamble and pursue a new passion – nails – as a career. I’d also amassed enough in my CPF account to pay off the remaining half of my mother’s housing loan.
Then, a year ago, I started my own business with a partner. Thanks to the little nest egg I’d built from my job, I was able to dip into my savings to continue providing for my parents and maintain my lifestyle while taking a drastic pay cut. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. It’s rough – you do a lot of crap work by yourself, and you pull crazy long hours, all while paying yourself a token salary because every bit of profit gets reinvested into the business.
Do I have any regrets? Sure. I applied to Brown University when I was 18, got accepted, but went to NUS instead because my family was too poor to pay for an overseas education and I was only offered a local scholarship. I also made a couple of stupid mistakes in my love life. But life goes on, and every hardship only makes you stronger. Looking back is only constructive if it spurs you on to do better with the rest of your life; if it causes you to wallow in self-pity and blinds you to everything that is good in your life, then just look ahead and move on.
Life is what you make of it. I don’t need diamonds, handbags or fast cars. I just want to be surrounded by positivity – love, friendship, happiness, etc – and weed out toxic elements.