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All it takes is that first step - by M.Y.

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'N' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison

Consolation Prize


I believe in the proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” My first step came rather late but I believe it is not too late.

I was ambitious at a very young age. Growing up lonely, where my parents were divorced, my mother being the sole-bread winner, and my brother was always busy with friends, I always expressed my thought and feeling through drawings and paintings. Arts was my life. I was an ambitious and competitive artist. I won several neighbourhood art competitions. But this ambition did not serve me well.

I found myself hanging around with friends that were older than I was. Their bad activities became a part of my life. I began experimenting with cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. It was drugs that got a hold of me. By the time I was about to turn eighteen, I was already a habitual drug abuser. I got destructive and socializing had become a problem for me. I did not life what was happening to me and I wanted to change and change was what I got.

I was arrested for drug consumption and trafficking. I told myself, it was the end of my life, my future and ambition. I cried realising where I was. Four walls and a metal door with no key for me to access. I turned to god for help but all I could do was to only pray. Still, there was no way out for me. I had to face my reality. So I prayed to god to bestow upon me what I could do to feel that is was not the end of my future, and my prayer was answered. It was education.

Growing up loving art, I was weak in my academics. I wanted to have a useful knowledge, and with my personal supervisor’s help, I was introduced to prison school. I applied and was given the chance to become a student. Since the first day of my learning journey, I found that learning was so much fun and it also showed me how to think carefully when deciding on and answer. I soon learned that education can and do shape someone.

What got me so interested in learning are subjects like combined humanities. Through Social Studies, I realised I have my rights and responsibilities as a citizen and also I need to participate in public affairs. All those while I grew up not knowing my rights and responsibilities, I thought I was living just to waste time. I was so wrong. I was so ashamed.

I also got interested in geography, all my life I thought this earth I was on, existed just like that, mountains and rift valleys developed instantly by God’s will, and again I was wrong. God created it through time gradually without us realising it. That it was so magnificent of god and also the beauty of Geography. Then I started to fall in love with myself because I now know that I am not stupid but actually smart.

I learned that in our body, there are cells called phagocytes and lymphocytes that help to fight against diseases to help us stay healthy and alive. For many years, I had poisoned my body with harmful drugs and felt pity for my own body. I also thank my body for working hard to keep me alive. Biology changed the way I think of my body. I am grateful to my body. 

The subjects I learned are part of what had shaped me. It is the learning journey that had actually benefit me. Once I thought it was the end of my life turned out to be a new beginning of a fruitful life. Now I am looking forwards to a brighter and promising future. During my student’s life, motivational speakers came on the school stage to inspire us and they truly did with their inspirational speeches. I came to believe that one day I want to be like them.

I know that my journey in prison school does not end here, I still wish to continue this journey out there where I can explore more. I want to hold a degree one day, give speeches to younger students, inspire and help others who are longing and willing to change. I believe in the power of my dreams, because the future belong to those who believe in the power of their dreams. Today I am writing an essay, who knows, one day I might be writing a motivational book about my journey. All it takes is - that first step.

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