Singaporeans share their personal stories from 2019 and they’re like what movies are made of

By December 28, 2019People, The Dive

TL;DR – The beginning may be rough but hey, all’s well that ends well.

The Dive is our new weekend feature where we bring you in-depth news, interesting insights and different perspectives on the latest trends or issues that matter.

In just a few days, we will usher in a brand new year. I know, right, where did all the time go?

I was just sitting here thinking, 2020 sounds like such an important, definitive year where surely we all would have achieved something because back, maybe, a decade ago, we might have said we wanted to save a million bucks come 2020. Or yet closer, a year ago, we might have said we wanted to find our one true love come 2020.

And I am also old enough to remember that when Dr Mahathir was the PM for Malaysia the first time around, he even set a Wawasan 2020 vision that Malaysia was to become a fully developed country by 2020.

Bet you thought 2020 would never really roll along. But yup, here it is. It’s time to do some self-reflection and soul-searching. Let’s start with something lighter, easier and more recent – 2019.

So, how was 2019 for you?

All the world over, there’s really quite a lot going on, with politics, geo-politics, deglobalisation and many countries facing the challenges of ageing population, shrinking working age population and yes, how industrialisation and human greed have created and aggravated the phenomenon of diminishing natural resources.

Locally, there are also challenges like the decreasing level trust in the ruling party, economy and jobs, fake news, growing divide between the haves and have-nots, etc.

So many problems.

While we may have negligible influence over the ways of the world, we do have direct control over what’s happening in our lives. So at the very least, we should consciously and conscientiously be better people and lead better lives today than yesterday.

At the personal level, what have you achieved in 2019? And what is the one thing, event or person that changed your life in 2019? And even if the year did not kick off fabulously for you, you had 365 days to turn it around. So did it turn around?

The beginning may be rough,

or you have no control over how the year started,

but hey, all’s well that ends well.

For this Saturday’s edition of The Dive, we spoke to four fellow Singaporeans about their year and came away feeling extremely reinvigorated and hopeful.

First cancer, then an unknown disease: one lady’s journey

Yvonne’s 2019 story

Yvonne suffered from poor eyesight since birth.Then at 21, lymphoma cancer crept up on her, translating into therapy and radiotherapy which affected her spine, worsened her eyesight. It even affected her womb and hence, her chances of starting a family. In her marriage, she suffered from multiple miscarriages and finally had a miracle baby in her daughter Chloe.

Yvonne with her miracle baby, 5-year-old Chloe


But in 2019, yet another illness struck. It took months before she was eventually diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is responsible for carrying sensations from your face to your brain and a slight stimulation to the face when you have this condition can trigger jolts of excruciating pain. 

Vvonne had gone through so much and experienced so much pain that the 2019 almost saw her giving up on herself. Thankfully, she had mettle and she had grit. And she soldiered on with the love and support from her loved ones. She shared some precious advice,

“Treasure our time with family as you don’t know when you will just fall. I fell and I’m glad I can still type this message and still be breathing. I’m thankful my life is not taken away. Living with pain is really tough. But I rather be alive then dead. Thankful for more time with family.”

Life has not been really kind to Yvonne and it just keeps testing her, challenge after challenge. But I guess there is truth in the saying, Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So in spite of the pain and having to juggle family, check-ups and lotsa medication, Yvonne runs two(!!) businesses!

Know what? We really have no excuse for not pushing ourselves more. So the next time we feel like complaining and giving up on doing something just because it feels too hard, think of Yvonne.

The Man Who Used Emotional Intelligence To Change His Life

Jones’ 2019 story

What a storyful year this gentleman had! So Jones lost money (in the 6 digit range GASP!) and he also lost the love of his life in the year 2019.

Not only that, he was also scammed by a friend, saw the collapse of a four-year-old business he was running, and he also over-estimated the potential incoming revenue of some projects. He ended up with just an income of a couple of dollars over a few months.

Whoa. And you’d think these things only happened in the movies.

I believe Jones when he said his self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom in the year 2019 and it was easily the lowest point of his life. He doubted everything about himself, and he wiltered under the harsh eyes of others who saw him as a major failure. And of course, one of the hardest things to take was guilt he felt for making his loved ones worry endlessly for him. Especially his dear mother.

Jones, with participants from one of his Emotions Run Wild, EQ-based Training Workshop. Photo by Jones Liew.


But humankind is something special. Our mind can be so strong. Jones bounced back in the same year and he is now on the path to recovery. As he found his faith, he started to gain more confidence and he saw the love from people who genuinely care about him, and he has now found his own identity and also renewed purpose. I like what he said here,

“… understand that each one of us has our own journey, and no one owes us a living. So, love others for who they are and most importantly, love ourselves for who we are.

Don’t underestimate the power of what our minds can do to our lives. If you think you can, you can.

How this man made his failing business great again

Ken’s 2019 story

Ken’s story is slightly different from Yvonne’s and Jones’, but nonetheless, it was still a frightfully eventful 2019 for the entrepreneur.

The year saw him struggle in many ways with his investor-partner and his horrible ways. Ken struggled financially as the investor-partner failed to bring in the promised sales leads. Ken also struggled work-wise as he slogged to work on the projects of his investor-partner’s other businesses which came he had to give deep discounts to.

That’s not all. The very toxic investor-partner of his also consistently abused Ken verbally. Over time, the hurt and the damage stuck and the recovery was not easy.

The negativity and hopelessness of it all pulled Ken down to the deepest pits. Not only was he not drawing salary, he was burning his own savings in the business. Yup, he worked terribly hard all the time but with nothing to show. It was so bad that he now still suffers from sleepless nights that was a residual effect from the insomnia he had experienced before he kicked his partner out.

Thankfully, Ken walked out of the toxic working relationship. He bought the partner out and moved out of the partner’s office. He is now striving and thriving in a brand new co-working environment with positive people he is starting to collaborate with.

More good news, Ken also found love in a hopeless place and situation. His current girlfriend was someone who was working in the old office previously.

Remember this: Leave toxic people at the door, and positive attracts positive.

Meet the Train Enthusiast who nicknamed a train Snow White, and even scored his dream job

Leonard’s 2019 story

For 23-year-old Leonard, 2019 has also been a milestone-year since this is the year that saw him complete his national service and join the workforce.

If there is one thing you need to know about this young man, then it has to be his love for trains or actually, the entire rail system. He has been fascinated by trains since he was a young boy following his mother around on train rides. He’d shared,

“When I was little, my mother would take me around Singapore in trains, and I remember how as a little boy, I would be so mesmerized by the colourful advertisements on the interior and exterior of the trains.

And of course, I absolutely loved the scenic views outside the trains’ windows when they’re above ground.

I also found myself attracted to the accelerating and braking sounds of the trains.”

Little Leonard at the train station


What could be more beautiful if you could turn your passion into something that can pay the bills too, right? So Leonard was incredibly focused in his job search and he secured interviews for a few positions within the rail industry via NTUC’s e2i job fair. Guess what? He’s now working as a Train Service Controller!

Yes, this young man scored his dream job right after NS! Anyway, in sharing his 2019 story with us, he also shared how knowledge gained from his days in Polytechnic is already outdated even though he didn’t graduate that long ago. You see,  new railway system is now in place. Some wise words from this young man,

“In this day and age, technology is ever-changing and is changing very quickly. The next thing you know, whatever you’ve learned before may not be relevant anymore. So, it is important to continuously upgrade ourselves and keep ourselves updated.”

“Put it in another way, when a job is taken away or automated by technology, there will also be another job that will be created for humans. For instance, someone to manage the technology or automation process. So we just need to continue to upskill ourselves and learn how to operate these machines so that we can use them to make our work easier.”

I hope 2019 has treated you well. But if it has been a challenging year, I hope these real life stories about the strength of the human spirit will bring you some cheer and fight.

Happy 2020, everyone!


Stories of how fellow Singaporeans’ lives took a drastic turn in 2019

Read Yvonne’s story: First cancer, then an unknown disease: one lady’s journey
Read Jones’ story: The man who used Emotional Intelligence to change his life
Read Ken’s story: How this man made his failing business great again
Read Leonard’s story: Meet the train enthusiast who nicknamed a train Snow White and even scored his dream job


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

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