Lad who was arrested for shoplifting and lost mum to cancer finally graduates from NUS

I grew up in a single-parent family with my mom and little sister. Throughout primary school, I fared decently in both studies and CCAs. We weren't rich, but we survived just fine as a family.

Everything changed during secondary school when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. When I first heard the news, all I could think of was 'why me?'. It felt like god was being unfair towards me. I am not a saint, but I did my best to lead an honest, upright existence. Yet, this tragic state of affairs had to befall me. From then on, my life started to go downhill. I played truant, mixed around with the wrong company and committed petty crimes.

My mom had no idea at all about my wayward behaviour because she was largely in and out of the hospital; my teachers also did not want to further burden her by dishing out the disheartening updates. Eventually, I was arrested by the police for shoplifting. I could never forget the look on her face whilst she bailed me out. Beneath the wrinkles, fragile constitution and utter tiredness, her disappointment was apparent. Weak and wheelchair-bound, she missed a scheduled medical checkup because of me.

It suddenly dawned on me I was being selfish the whole time, that I was only thinking about myself, without even realising that my mom was the one who suffered most. Additionally, my sister became influenced by me as I learnt from her teacher that she had began skipping school without furnishing a medical certificate or parent's letter.

Deciding then and there to buck up, I attempted the 'N' Levels and scored well enough to move on to take the 'O' Levels. My mom's condition started to show signs of improvement. I stopped befriending them good for nothing punks, and my teachers helped by giving me tuition in their spare time. I was determined to make it to a good junior college.

My whole world however came crashing down when my mom passed away - a teacher approached me with the bad news after I finished sitting for my second last 'O' Level paper.

I ended up in a polytechnic instead of the JC of my choice. Things once again skidded off course. Despite me trying to put my best foot forward, life simply dealt me blow after blow. With my mom's passing, I was hopelessly unmotivated.

I subsequently endured an extremely dark phase, contemplating death every single day - some nights I was within a hair's breadth of actually carrying out my suicide plan.

On one particular occasion I quietly entered my sister's room to leave her a written note, and heard what sounded like sobbing. You see, my sister wasn't the emoting sort by nature. During my mom's funeral, she wore an expressionless face. But that day, hearing her cry so uncontrollably I knew she was hurting just as much as I was. And if I were to kill myself, the grief I experienced wouldn't just end with me. It will be heaped upon my sister, and how is she ever going to cope single-handedly henceforth?

For the sake of my sister I pulled through polytechnic, juggling with a part-time banquet job during weekends to make ends meet. We received financial assistance from our relatives, but these were never sufficient. My sister required school supplies, and I too needed textbooks as well as funds to pay off my tuition fees. I didn't really socialize, because I couldn't afford going on regular outings and eating pricier food. Fortunately, there were a few good buddies who understood my situation. They always opted for budget entertainment options, at times even insisting to pay on my behalf. One of them who had a sibling studying in the same secondary school (she was a year older than my sister) even donated old textbooks, supplies and school uniforms. After much perseverance, I secured good enough grades and managed to land myself a place in NUS.

This year, I finally graduated. I was far from being the best in my cohort academically, earning only a second-lower class honours, but it meant a lot given I went all the way without giving up and had something significant to show for my efforts.

I did not attend the commencement ceremony when it happened, instead I headed straight to the columbarium wearing my graduation gown (I hardly cared people were staring) and spent hours by her urn. It was the closest I've ever felt to being with my mom again. She always told me her biggest regret in life was not obtaining a proper education and therefore did not want her children to suffer the same fate. Wherever she is in the heavens, I hope she's proud.

Looking forward, I plan to pursue a Master's degree, perhaps even a PhD. But for now, my main priority is to seek gainful employment, because I want my sister to go through life a little more comfortably than I did. Someday, I shall strive to make my mom even prouder.

This post first appeared on NUS Whispers (Confession #69443). You may wish to share your thoughts with the anonymous soul who poured his heart out.


I studied under the candlelight and spent many nights taking care of my sick mum

Love is patient and kind... not demanding and nagging.

I signed a contract with my parents to continue staying in their house