LIFE = Attitude + Resilience + Dreams + Support

By May Liang

Dear Children,

I met with one of Singapore’s most inspiring woman of your time. Her name is Yip Pin Xiu and she is a double 2016 Paralympic champion in Swimming! The Rio Paralympic Games in Brazil ran from 7th to 18th September right after Olympics and it saw through 528 events including canoeing and triathlon for the first time. I was in awe. Her [all the Paralympians’] courage and dedication are beyond many and to think she broke World Records despite her disability made me look at life differently.

Do you know that Pin Xiu 姐姐*, who has muscular dystrophy, would have experienced her greatest downturn when she could no longer walk at 13 years of age? Muscular dystrophy is a muscle disease that weakens the muscles over time and Pin Xiu 姐姐 was born with it. She probably sat and sulked for a bit but her achievements epitomised her will to stand up again and no one else can bring her to where she is today except herself. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out but that grain of sand in your shoe. OBSTACLES are real and you being able-bodied with a healthy mind would have crossed the hurdle a lot easier than our special needs friends. How much effort is put into training for the Paralympic Games? No lesser than the Olympians. How many times have Pin Xiu 姐姐 fell short of her own achievements before succeeding? Countless. Prevail my children. In whatever stands in your way because you may unfailingly reach your goals.

My mother loved singing me to sleep with this Chinese folklore:








媚媚 is my name. The song tells you not to be afraid when you fall because look! If you do not stand up, you would have never seen that beautiful mountain filled with flowers that are blooming just for you. Remember to rise again when you fall.

“Do not worry about things you cannot control. We cannot control tomorrow. The only thing we should focus on is Today, the present. Only through your own efforts will you be able to live each day fully. Live the Moment.” – Yip Pin Xiu [2016]

Oh I know. You are gong to say that this is easier said than done. It takes a lot of wisdom and tenacity to Live The Moment. Yet, this is the most beautiful manner to live; to enjoy; to appreciate.

THE RIGHT ATTITUDE will bring you far in life. Pin Xiu 姐姐 says she breathes in Positivity and exhale away the Negatives. I hear her. Our attitudes will make or break us. I learnt about self-fulfilling prophecy in school while doing Psychology and what is this about? To put it mildly, less the jargons, “If you believe it is going to be a good day, your day will turn out great or better!” Our brain will start looking for anything that supports our beliefs which is what our attitude will become if we hold it long enough.

“I do not harp on negativity. I am sure there are many things I cannot do but I just change my focus to something else that I can do! I put a lot more energy on that so that I can do it really well. It becomes my priority and that is where I get the most satisfaction out of from life.” – Yip Pin Xiu [2016]

Yet, FEAR gets the better of us. It will be that one thing that pulls you away from your dreams. But always remember how I spoke about having the right attitude to help you in life’s challenges. I asked Pin Xiu 姐姐 what was her greatest fear and she took a little longer than usual with her response. She said “My greatest fear would be to plateau in my timings.” I was thinking in the line of “flying cockroaches” because well, nobody likes flying cockroaches or “losing my sight” because she also has a nerve condition that is affecting her eyesight. Her reply was an insight even for mommy. She is trying to convey the message that you are your your greatest asset and biggest competitor. Constant comparison of yourself to the next person will make you lose focus and distract you from your goals. That said, do not let your fears get in your way. When you come face to face with Fear, how do you overcome it? Ironically, Face It.

There will always be dejections in life as well. Bad things happen and if they don’t, you really wouldn’t know how Goodness tastes like. If there is only one thing to impart to you siblings, I would choose to bring you up in the name of RESILIENCE. When you get knocked down by life, you come back up Stronger! That is what Resilience is about. If you are currently going through a really rough patch as you read this, think Yip Pin Xiu. What has life given her? Not that terrible disease? Not the difficulties she has to overcome being wheelchair bound? Oh she is far from being bound because of her tenacity and resilience! As I write, she is now holidaying in the United Kingdom with just her wheelchair, a luggage, a gracious heart and living it just like any typical young adult. She swam her way to clinch medals after medals against all odds and walked out of her introverted self to become the confident woman she is today. It hadn’t been easy being scoffed at in school when children know none the better but to tease. It definitely hadn’t been easy to hear from the doctors that all is uncertain with regards to her physical body. So what has life given her? The beauty of wisdom.

“It is also important to hang around with people who are positive.It is necessary to choose your friends wisely.” – Yip Pin Xiu [2016]

My son. We believe in letting you lead. Even though I like you to take up a certain sport of my choice or attend music lessons in hope you’d be the next Lang Lang, you are given the baton to make decisions of your own. Only with passion will you find success isn’t it? You started with a three wheel kick-scooter to two wheels by three years of age. At two and a half, you said you wanted to ride a bicycle! We got you a balance bike and you mastered it within the month. Then you went on to challenge yourself with a pedal bike with no training wheels and rode with confidence on your third try. We were very impressed and it exemplified further how Interest can make a big difference!

Then came swimming and we signed you up for weekly lessons with your friends when you were three and a half. You were a water baby ever since you were born, jumping off the ledge at 12 months old with no fear whatsoever. But you cried and fussed, refusing to go to swim class out of the blue. The only change was your favourite friend dropped out of class because her family was getting ready to relocate. I realised that Ella was your extrinsic motivation to attend swimming lessons! Your daddy insisted that we should stop you from lessons immediately since you did not like it but I, on the other hand, was worried about raising a quitter if we did that. Both of which are valid concerns. A little discussion on this mind-boggling parenting problem with Pin Xiu 姐姐 and we found the answer. It was a lightbulb moment albeit it being very simple.

We waited for a while more to access your sudden emotional outburst to quit as she had suggested. The result was most satisfying. You found friendship in your other teammates and developed an intrinsic motivation towards swimming! Of course, if you are no longer interested in the water then it will be the time to leave. But if it was an emotional friendship “break-up” that made you want to quit, it would be our duty to encourage you to press on. Especially when you always have so much fun at swim class. Yesterday, you eagerly shouted across the pool for me to watch you swim! An achievement you wanted to share with me that you was so proud of. I learnt to give us all time to work things together and you achieved a notch up your resilience scale from this episode.

I want you both to know that daddy and I will always be here if you need any kind of SUPPORT. But. Let us be your last resort. Only then will you be able to grow and gain the wisdom that is uniquely yours to call. As a young parent, very new to this job, I was keen to hear how Pin Xiu 姐姐’s parents supported her through the years. She shared how they took a step back and trusted her to do what she needed to do. They did not question her about her early morning swims and late night returns. Trust was the integral part of a good relationship and I shall endeavour to work towards that with you children. I do remember all I wanted from my mom was trust.

“But first, children will have to earn that trust.” – Yip Pin Xiu [2016]

There are also DREAMS in life and dreams may start to fade as we grow up. It is unfortunate that not everyone can live off passion [or dreams] or worst still, not being able to answer to the question, “What is your passion?” Pin Xiu 姐姐 is very lucky to have found hers in swimming. How many dreams can one have? As a child, you would shout, “A MILLION GAZILLION!” As an adult, you may think of just one or two and they aren’t always achievable. Do not ever lose that spark to dream because that would mean losing the excitement of possibilities. You can still have a million gazillion dreams as adults!

Pin Xiu 姐姐 is not only swimming. She is pursuing her degree in Social Science degree at SMU as well, majoring in Political Science. Now that’s a go-getter who never lost sight of her passion but will do something more to enrich herself further. Won’t you take this as an inspiration children? I wonder. Will you be watching her rally speech on TV in future!

Having someone to look up to gives you directions. I asked her if she had an idol. Her answer was one that is full of intelligence.

“Theresa Goh, my swimming buddy. Ang Peng Siong, my ex-swimming coach. Michelle Kwan, the figure skater

I looked up to them at different parts of my life. Now, I choose to look up to the old me.” – Yip Pin Xiu [2016]

Pin Xiu 姐姐 chose to look up to the 16 year old her when she was full of energy. She was at her peak where she could handle studies and swimming trainings without feeling tired. She wants to relish in that fervent desire to succeed; multi-tasking in many responsibilities at the same time.

My daughter. I see how focused you are at everything you do and how adamant you are at wanting things to go the way you want them to be. You are only two. I cannot wait to see where life brings you. Oh wait. I cannot wait to see what magic you have hidden in your pockets to bring out life’s wonders.

Loving you always,


*姐姐 [pronounced as jie jie], a form of respect to greet an elder sister in the Chinese culture

This interview was first published over at the Sendhelper blog on 21 October 2016. It is reproduced with permission.


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