The Things Your Dad Does

Chasing Dreams

Dear Xander,

By this point in reading you may have realized your dad kind of likes to write. The truth is, as with all hobbies, I never thought I could make a living out of it.

In Primary Three, I won a composition contest in school for writing about a dog I didn’t have. I won a small paperback novel with the A-Team on the cover which I never read, and I never thought about it again until I was in the tail end of secondary school. Back then, my mother wanted me to be a doctor. Back then, I just wanted a dog.

I also mentioned my secondary school journal that kick-started my foray into writing. Back then, I never took it as a sign that wordsmithing was a viable career path. Back then, I just wanted to play guitar and charm the pants off girls.

I got influenced by the legal industry when I was a fledgling young adult doing transcription work for the Supreme Court of Singapore. The work required correcting grammar whilst ensuring the meaning of witness testimonials and cross-examinations by lawyers and judges alike were kept intact. Back then, the job didn’t scream out at me that I was good at writing; back then I was just paid to be a grammar Nazi.

I did a Mass Communications diploma and did exceptionally well at my Written Communication module. The lecturer of the day awarded me my distinction and subsequently an academic book prize for top scorer on the module, on the basis that I had a good head on my shoulders, a good heart and a penchant for leadership. When I quizzed him as an aside as to why he would consider me for such an honour, he told me that by my words, I held the power to change the world. I suspected he barely read what I was writing. Back then, my achievement was suspect to me; back then, I turned into my own biggest critic and repressed my own ambition.

Since graduating with diploma in hand, I took on marketing work, business development work, logistics work, computer work, human resources work, renovation work (interestingly, all in the same job and company), and subsequently went back to legal administration work. Everything I did had an element of requiring good writing, but none substantial enough for me to consider doing it exclusively. Back then, I tried everything, gained a lot of experience and led a very fulfilling career. Back then, I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t know why.

It took a simple couple of sentences from your mother, repeated about 2-3 times over the course of the last 3 years (since you were born, actually) to make me get off my arse and find out exactly what was causing this rut that I had been in. She said to me, “I would rather you be well-fed and happy than hungry and angry. When you’re happy, Xan and I are happy; that is the simple truth.”

I traced back her words, and tried to find out what really made me happy. I was always happiest just being your dad, but in the situation your mother and I were in career-wise, being a full-time dad wasn’t going to pay the bills.

Then I thought, what if it did? What if I could find a way to be a dad, and get paid for doing it as well?

When we found out your mum was preggers with you, we bought a lot of books, magazines, scoured through websites that ran content from parenting experts and parents that gave good advice. It took me another year after you were born to realize that all this reading material we were devouring in an effort to find out how to raise you, was produced by people who get paid to write about how to raise you.

I tried it. In a bid to find my voice, I started to write again, first with my own personal blog. I wanted to see if I was good enough to get published, so I started writing freelance for some publications. I wanted to share my writing with you, so I started writing letters to you. Then I wanted to share my experience and research in raising you with others, so I came up with my own parenting blog for fathers. Finally, I looked for a way to get paid for it, and did the only thing guys like me know what to do when they want to get paid for something – I sent out resumes.

It took a good two years of trial and error, carrying the stress of changing jobs, running the risk of unemployment and further unhappiness while doing it, learning from mistakes and training to be patient, but come August, I will be a writer who can feed his family and still talk all day about you.

It’s a dream that took 21 years to compose, draft, edit, redraft, re-edit and finally publish. It’s a dream that took 10 years to chase and 2 years to bring into reality. Most importantly, it’s a dream that had to be chased, because for all the times I never tried something because I was too scared to fail, this dream has taught me that expecting, confronting and experiencing failure is essential to any meaningful endeavour, and MUST be expected, confronted and experience to succeed.

I’m telling you all this because I know at some point, you will be pondering your ambition, and in the process, you will be wondering about your dream. As far as your parents are able, we will help you through anything you want to do, but you have to be happy doing it. And if it means chasing a dream not thought possible – not even by your mother and I – show your conviction and commitment to your cause and no army in the world can stand between you and the life you want to lead.



Note: I do apologies for the slight lack of updates and photos recently; the past 3 weeks, I found out that changing jobs takes up quite a massive amount of time.


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