'O' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison
The values that one believes in can come through education influence, or lead examples. They may change as one age, gain new experiences and have a different perspective. I believe in self-indulgence - that one should live happily each day and do as one pleases. I fully embrace the term, ‘you only live once’ and live accordingly. I started drinking at a young age and revel in it working in nightlife. Drinking with customers became a daily affair, and it seemed to be my life allotted role. I also believe that friends are important as we always hanging out together, doing stuff and having each other’s back.
Alas, the things I believe in derived primary out of naivety or simply of ignorance. There is a saying “you can’t be both young and wise’. Things can change in an instant and an event may permanently alter the course of your life.
While I was on a steady diet of alcoholic drinks, my tolerance level increased and I began to drink more and more without realising it. On one occasion, the heavy drinking that I indulged in led me to commit an alcohol-induced felony. I landed in jail in a sudden twist of fate and everything turned bleak as I hit rock bottom. I thrusted into an unfamiliar territory living in absolute dismay. Worst of all, is the loss of freedom. I was utterly dejected and could not see what my future holds. All my hope, belief and dream was suddenly yank out from under my seat. But, something happened that bought about a shift on the things I believe in.
During the initial phrase of my incarceration, a staff nurse conducted a brief interview with me. He asked about my health and job experiences in preparations for a psychiatric evaluation report. I related to him that I started working at the age of eighteen in a karaoke lounge. After that, I moved on and worked in a nightclub and mandopop club. As I ended my recount, this skilled nurse pointed his pen at the first entry of my past working experience and said, “so, this was when all your troubles started?”. He was just making a casual remark but I was momentarily stunned. This total stranger who barely knows me actually pointed out the root cause of my problem, all in five minutes! His words had the cold truth of a scalpel.
When I returned to my cell, I was still pondering on this revelation and I started to reflect on my past. A hay veil that was clouding my mind was lifted and I began to think clearly as the past all came rusting bush to me. All along my mother have been telling me to cut down on the drinking, as I have been arriving home in a dead drunk condition on numerous occasions. I dismissed her concerns and brushed it aside lightly. Only when I started to reflect did I realised how foolish and stubborn I was. Regrets set in and this was the pivotal moment where I decided to change my belief, that I should take life more seriously and abandon my old ways, which was unconstructive at bad, destructive at worst.
Shortly after, I met an inmate named Ah Hock. He suffered a major stroke while in prison and it affected his speech and rendered him a wheelchair. We strike up a conversion and he asked me in Chinese with great difficulty. “Did you…. put up… a … request to study?” I replied in the negative then out of a sudden, Ah Hock slammed his fist hard on the armrest of his wheelchair and declared loudly, “Go Study!” I was in a state of shock by his reaction. He had said it in a manner that leaves no room for discussion. I nodded in tepidities and thought, “why did this impaired person insist that I should go study?”
I have never place an emphasis on education as I believe that one could still suffered even without a higher education. People like Bill Gate, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg are all successful even though they did not complete college. After Ah Hock’s stern command, I was galvanised into piling up a book. I began to read voraciously and demand every book that I laid my hands on I soon realised that the above-mentioned people are the exception rather than the norms. Instead of believing in such rare instances of success, I should look at the majority of people and take a broaden stance. It occurred to me that a man who does not know how to choose a good read is no better than one who does not read.
Presently, I am pursuing an ‘O’ level as per Ah Huat’s directive and I have come to believe that education confers many benefits. It develops the intellect and enables one to discriminate between what is good and bad. The moment a person stops to search for information and self-knowledge is the moment ignorance sets in. There is so much to learn and much to be gained. Little is lost when acquiring knowledge. I also believe that there is a tiny voice in each of us that knows how to discern between right and wrong. This voice is there to guide us if only we would choose to heed it.
Sadly, sometimes it takes a tragic event to force us to think critically. The friends that I placed my beliefs in have vanished from the face of the earth. Ironically, my family whom I have placed on the bread butter, are the ones that supported me throughout the difficult times. I believe that I can and indeed I must alter the idiosyncrasy of mine, through the complete removal of my mind; I believe it when my psychiatric put these words into his report. “At the rate he is going, he is slowly killing himself by instalment.” I am now firm believer in sobriety.