GOING FROM 2015 TO 2016

Looking back

Actress Syirah Jusni, 26.
Actress Syirah Jusni, 26.PHOTOS: MEDIACORP, THA ARTIST, ARTISTE NETWORKS, BLISS-OUT 2015, MARCUS MOK, LAU FOOK KONG, COURTESY OF BELINDA LEE, WILLIN LOW, SYIRAH JUSNI, TAY SIEW POH, NUR HIDAYAH SUMARTI, JOYCELYN YEO, LIU LINGLING
Actress Joanne Peh, 32.
Actress Joanne Peh, 32.
Indie singer Inch Chua , 27.
Indie singer Inch Chua , 27.
Singer Taufik Batisah, 34.
Singer Taufik Batisah, 34.
Rapper Kevin Lester, aka TheLionCityBoy, 31.
Rapper Kevin Lester, aka TheLionCityBoy, 31.
Host-actress Belinda Lee, 38.
Host-actress Belinda Lee, 38.
Chef Willin Low, 43.
Chef Willin Low, 43.
Retiree Tay Siew Poh, 84.
Retiree Tay Siew Poh, 84.
Human resources executive Nur Hidayah Sumarti, 28.
Human resources executive Nur Hidayah Sumarti, 28.
Retired company director Joycelyn Yeo, 62.
Retired company director Joycelyn Yeo, 62.
Writer-director Jonathan Lim, 40.
Writer-director Jonathan Lim, 40.
Veteran getai singer Liu Ling Ling, 51.
Veteran getai singer Liu Ling Ling, 51.
Fresh graduate Jonathan Liautrakul, 26.
Fresh graduate Jonathan Liautrakul, 26.
Ms Ranganayaki Thangavelu, 47, deputy executive director at a social service agency.
Ms Ranganayaki Thangavelu, 47, deputy executive director at a social service agency. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Retired school teacher David Ng, 69.
Retired school teacher David Ng, 69. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Jenny Wee with her husband Kevin Teo, 43, and their children (from left) Ashley, nine, Isaac, seven and James, 12.
Jenny Wee with her husband Kevin Teo, 43, and their children (from left) Ashley, nine, Isaac, seven and James, 12. PHOTO: COURTESY OF JENNY WEE
Families for Life council member Anita Fam (far left) with her husband Goh Eck Kheng, 60, and their children Gillian, 16 and Timothy, 14.
Families for Life council member Anita Fam (far left) with her husband Goh Eck Kheng, 60, and their children Gillian, 16 and Timothy, 14. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANITA FAM
Mr Koh Yan Aun with his grandchildren (from left) Adam Chim, 13, Koh Jing Xuan, one, and Andrew Chim, eight.
Mr Koh Yan Aun with his grandchildren (from left) Adam Chim, 13, Koh Jing Xuan, one, and Andrew Chim, eight. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KOH YAN AUN
Ms Theresa Tan with her husband Kevin Ng, 48, and their children (from left) Bethany, 14, Becca, nine, and Bruce, 16.
Ms Theresa Tan with her husband Kevin Ng, 48, and their children (from left) Bethany, 14, Becca, nine, and Bruce, 16. PHOTO: ST FILE
Film-maker Kelvin Tong with his wife Xueying and daughter Kei An.
Film-maker Kelvin Tong with his wife Xueying and daughter Kei An. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KELVIN TONG

On the last day of the year, Lea Wee talks to 20 people about what they wish they had done differently and what they hope to do differently in 2016

Actress Syirah Jusni, 26

I wish I'd spared more time for the people I love and shown and told them enough how much I love them. I am not referring specifically to my late boyfriend Ashmi Roslan, who died after a heart attack in June, but it's probably his passing which made me realise I may have taken a lot of things for granted.

For instance, I spend too much time at work, go home tired and don't spend enough time with my family. I always think I have time to spend with them the next day or the day after, not realising that life is short and every second is precious.

In the new year, I want to take in the good and ditch the bad. I want to love and spend time with the people close to me as much as I can and spend each day like it's my last. I want to spend my days off with my family. I also want to spend time with my friends too, even if it is just over a quick lunch. And even if I am busy, I want to send a text to the people I care for. I want to be able to extend my love every day to the people close to my heart, in whatever way possible.


Actress Joanne Peh, 32

This year was special because it marked the birth of my first child. I had a natural birth which I wanted, hosted Baby Steps, a variety programme I could identify with, and went for a holiday to Japan with baby in tow. I would not have done any of that differently.

In the coming year, I would like to watch my daughter hit her major milestones. I would also like to reconnect with my literary side and read more fiction and write more screenplays. Reading and writing have always been my passion, but as I grow older, I start to read and write with a purpose rather than for leisure and freedom of expression.

I want to read more fiction to fuel my imagination. I've also written a pilot episode for a police drama which only a select few have read. I hope to be able to write something I can produce and direct one day.


Indie singer Inch Chua , 27

My best friend, canine companion and fifth family member, Mr Ricky, died recently of old age. He was with me during most of my 20s and had been through break-ups with me. He slept with me every night.

I was with him in his last moments. I wish I had spent more time with him, but I had to be in Pulau Ubin. I lived there for four months earlier this year to write and record my new EP, Letters To Ubin. I couldn't take Ricky because his health was deteriorating.

Next year, I hope to travel more. I travelled very little this year. I'd like to go to Japan for a two-week hike in the mountains and to Iceland to see the Northern Lights.


Singer Taufik Batisah, 34

It's been a pretty busy and eventful year. I have been blessed workwise to have the opportunity to venture into new areas such as television and film. One particular project which I did recently - a collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information on my song Izinkanku for pioneers - connected rather strongly.

It dawned on me that I have not been spending as much time with my family as I would have liked. So in 2016, my brothers and I are making plans for a short family trip to Krabi in Thailand. I cannot recall the last time I went on a trip with my whole family, so it's something I am looking forward to.


Rapper Kevin Lester, aka TheLionCityBoy, 31

I've been a long-time supporter of Singapore football talent. After working on a project with LionsXII, they became my team. I was in their closed Facebook fan groups.

When I learnt that the team was dropped from the Malaysia Super League, I wished I had attended more of their matches. I was there only four to five times. Now there's no chance to.

Next year, I want to try to understand the business of digital media better. Everything I've learnt so far has been from the point of view of an artist. If possible, I hope to educate myself in digital music. As much as I love being a creative person, there's new energy in me that drives me to be more enterprising. I am keen to explore different possibilities and see which fits me the best.


Host-actress Belinda Lee, 38

This is the only year I can say I have spent with no regrets. I am not much of a planner, so usually by the end of the year, I would reproach myself for having wasted my time and not done this or that.

But this year, I managed to come up with a book about the inspiring people I met while filming my travel shows. It was something I had been working on for the last two years and it was published last month. I felt like I had finally given birth.

In the new year, I will be busy with a long-form drama and giving motivational talks related to my book. But I would also like to make time to start dating seriously. I was so busy in the past year that I had been rejecting dates. I have been single for the last 41/2 years and have enjoyed it, but now I feel I am ready to have a relationship.

I feel complete as a person, such that I am able to ask, what can I do to make another person happy, instead of asking what the person can do to make me happy.


Chef Willin Low, 43

In the past year, I wanted to understand and emulate the Japanese spirit of perfection, especially in cuisine-related fields. I am fascinated by their spirit of doing well in everything and paying attention to detail. I want to know what drives this spirit in every strata in Japan and why it is not as prevalent in Singapore.

I signed up for weekly Japanese lessons and went to Japan four times. I was there every season because I wanted to appreciate the seasonality of fresh produce there. I met artisanal craftsmen, sake brewers and tea masters.

My biggest regret is not spending more time on my Japanese language classes, which limited my ability to communicate. I missed about a third of the classes due to work. My Japanese is fluent enough for me to only order beer and ask for directions.

In the coming year, I wish to continue to broaden my horizons by meeting more artisanal craftsmen in Singapore or abroad. Meeting creative people with passion motivates me to do better in my own restaurants. If work allows, I also hope to continue my weekly Japanese classes.


Retiree Tay Siew Poh, 84

To this day, I regret not spending more time with my four sons when they were younger. They are now aged 43 to 55. My late husband, who was a contract worker, and I had to work long hours to earn a living. My children were largely raised by babysitters, teachers at childcare centres and neighbours.

My husband and I got to see them only at night when we brought them home after work. I feel that because I wasn't always there to push them, they were not able to do so well in their studies and achieve more in life. My oldest started work after Primary 5. My youngest didn't manage to finish secondary school, and only my second and third sons managed to.

The older two are now married, while the younger two live with me. I have lost touch with my oldest son, but am still close to my other sons, who are working as a taxi driver, designer and an events organiser.

In the new year, I don't wish to do anything differently. I just hope I can continue to be healthy so I can take part in singing and other wellness activities for seniors at the Residents' Committee centre and in church.


Human resources executive Nur Hidayah Sumarti, 28

I got hooked on Korean dramas about two to three years ago. Every day after work, and even on weekends, unless I had some social event to go to, I would watch the dramas for about two to three hours at night after dinner. Sometimes, I would watch till midnight.

They are a great way for me to destress. I love the romantic comedies, especially those starring Kim Soo Hyun.

The thing is, I like to snack while watching dramas. I feel that this is the main reason why I have gained about 10kg in the past year.

In 2016, I want to watch fewer of these serials and squeeze in some time for exercise after dinner. I want to start with brisk walking for about half an hour and then maybe proceed to jogging.


Retired company director Joycelyn Yeo, 62

I have been involved in volunteer work for more than 10 years and was in as many as 10 voluntary welfare organisations at one stage. But a conversation with a respected community leader two months ago made me realise I had been too diversified in my volunteer activities.

I was helping families to resolve disputes, teaching low-income women to be more financially independent and lead a healthy lifestyle, and was involved in the hospitals' health programmes as a facilitator. Whenever people said they needed help, I would try to offer it. But I found that I was not effective as a volunteer.

In the new year, I want to be more focused. To help me find my focus, I plan to do a course on mindfulness and get certified as a mindfulness instructor. I also want to focus on helping seniors to age successfully. This is an issue close to my heart as I am ageing myself.


Writer-director Jonathan Lim, 40

I had told myself that I would spend the Jubilee year reflecting on our country's past, to better appreciate what it means to be Singaporean.

To some degree, I succeeded. For instance, I did a Singapore River history tour for the Asian Civilisations Museum and completed an SG50 project, a treasure hunt game app that revives interest in Haw Par Villa.

However, I wish I'd spent more of the year visiting the relics of our past, talking to the folks who lived it and falling in love with our country all over again through its history.

I also have a growing fascination with archaeology. I started this year with a long-awaited adventure in Angkor, Cambodia, but was too busy for any other trips.

Next year, I will not procrastinate about travelling. There are so many ancient sites I dream of exploring, such as the newly discovered ancient city of Mahendraparvata in Cambodia. There are also many cities such as Pyongyang and Moscow that I saw as a kid and long to revisit with adult eyes.


Veteran getai singer Liu Ling Ling, 51

I chanced upon a book called Cai Liao (vegetable therapy) at a bookshop last month and regretted not coming across it earlier. It talks about the benefits of vegetables from the traditional Chinese medicine point of view and contains many healthy and delicious recipes.

I have tried some of them, such as pumpkin porridge, on my twoyear-old son. He used to hate his food - he was on a vegetarian diet because he was allergic to meat - but he now looks forward to his meals. I have also shared some of the recipes with my friends and my younger sister, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer two years ago and is now in remission. I wish I knew about the book earlier so I could have helped these people.

In the new year, I want to share with new mothers insights I gained in my parenting journey, such as the benefits of tai jiao (pre-natal education). I started practising tai jiao when I was four months pregnant. Every day, I would read my son a short educational passage. I find him to be more mature than other babies.


Fresh graduate Jonathan Liautrakul, 26

The pursuit of good grades in school overshadowed the fact that I could have done so much more in varsity life. I was in the arts and social sciences faculty at the National University of Singapore and graduated in June.

I wish I had committed more time to building relationships with my friends and been more involved in group activities. It was only on commencement day that it struck me that I would probably not see many of my course mates again. We had been in the same course for four years. I had made four to five close friends and wish I had known more of my course mates better.

In the new year, I hope to settle into a new job as soon as possible. I have sent out 30 to 40 applications. Hopefully, I can end up with a job in academic research, learn to manage my work-life balance and be more tactful with the people around me.


Ms Ranganayaki Thangavelu, 47, deputy executive director at a social service agency

In the past year, I felt myself reaching a point of having nothing to say and having no meaningful opinion, probably because I allowed myself to be dumped with too many things.

My mind was cluttered with trivia I read on social media and news of events happening around me. My days were filled with meetings, workshops, dinners, gatherings and wedding invites. Sometimes, I was caught up in other people's dramas or difficulties. There was hardly any sliver of space to take in anything else, to just breathe.

In the new year, I resolve to hesitate before jumping into things headfirst. I will hesitate before I pick up my mobile phone in the morning to dump the daily news into my mind when it is not yet fully awake. I will hesitate to fix appointments that overlap. The list goes on. I will hesitate so I can infuse some space into my life and enjoy the depth it creates. I know this will make me more available to myself and others.


Retired school teacher David Ng, 69

I wish I had eaten less in the last year. I realised only recently that I had gained 11kg in less than two years. I had pain in my shoulder joint and went to the polyclinic for a check-up in late September. When they weighed me, I had a shock. My weight, which has always been 61 or 62kg, had gone up to 73.5kg and my BMI was in the unhealthy zone.

I realised I had developed a sweet tooth in recent years and would take a sweet snack after almost every meal. I noticed that my pants were tighter, but I thought it was due to age. I am still very active. I teach inline skating.

In the coming year, I want to cut down on sweet snacks and eat more wisely and healthily. I have started doing this since September and combined it with exercises such as brisk walking and interval training. I have since lost about 5kg.

I also plan to do more skating next year to burn away some fat. I hope that by next year, I will be back to my original weight.


Entrepreneur Jenny Wee, 39

I regretted planning 2015 around my son's PSLE. I neglected my youngest, who just started primary school. I was there physically, but often not emotionally. I didn't know his classmates as well or check his homework as much as I did for my other kids. Thankfully, he adjusted quite well.

By focusing so much on the PSLE, I forgot that I am also a boss, a daughter and a wife. I didn't do much to develop my businesses. I hung out less with my parents and I felt bad for my husband, because he was often the last of my priorities.

This year will be the big 40 for me. It's the age when you start hearing people tell you that your chance of getting cancer is higher. It's a wake-up call that I need to start a regular exercise regime and make health a priority.

Besides running my own businesses, I am also an active volunteer at my children's school and in the community. I cannot give up any of these, but I want to fit at least 15 minutes of exercise into my schedule. Maybe I will join my two elder children in fencing, or sign up for gym classes at the community club nearby.

I also want to try to sleep earlier. I usually sleep at 2am as I am most productive at night. That's when I finish up the housework and my work. My key performance indicator next year is to try to sleep at least 30 minutes earlier for a start.


Families for Life council member Anita Fam, 52

My 89-year-old mother moved in with us in February shortly after my father died late last year. Although she showed signs of memory loss in the past year, none of her doctors then gave any indication of there being anything sinister. I did not appreciate the gravity of the situation and the speed with which she would deteriorate. It was only recently that she was diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer's.

In the time she has been living with us, I am no longer her daughter. In her eyes, I am her late sister Joyce. It is not easy seeing the mother I knew "disappear". I often wonder whether I should have been more assertive in getting a diagnosis earlier so we would have been better prepared. Perhaps it would have given my mother and I the opportunity to say "goodbye".

This year, my son will turn 15 and my daughter will be 17. I've told myself it's time for me to protect them less and allow them to grow up. I need to stop worrying about our 1.82m-tall son in a 1.52m-deep pool.


SBS Transit senior bus captain Koh Yan Aun, 65

I tend to eat out a lot as I work shifts. I eat what I like and hardly exercise. My favourite foods include chwee kueh, loh mai kai, roti prata and carrot cake.

It was only after I attended a health talk that I realised careless eating habits without regular exercise can be harmful to my health. I already have high blood pressure. If I continue on this track, I cannot guarantee I will live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up.

I have four grandchildren aged one to 14. One lives in Canada with my daughter, the other three live with me and my wife on weekdays. I see them every day and take them out for meals. We are very close.

Next year, I want to live better by eating right, cutting down on my favourite foods and exercising to stay physically fit and alert. I have started taking walks with my grandchildren and hope to join them in their various sports, such as badminton. When I retire in 11/2 years, I will visit my daughter in Canada.


Ms Theresa Tan , 48, who runs her own writing agency

Since recovering from my mastectomy in 2010, it has been my yearly goal to stay active as part of a regime to eat better and stay healthy. This year, it was my goal to pick up a new sport, but time got the better of me, with work and three kids, and I let the year slip by without achieving it.

In the new year, I want to set my mind on a new sport and start on it by January. I am considering boxing as it will build stamina and strength and has an element of the unexpected. 

I would also like to spend 40 per cent less time on social media, especially Facebook. I tend to check messages on Facebook every spare pocket of time I have - before I sleep and when I wake up. It probably adds up to four to five hours a day. Quite a number of people message me on Facebook and once I am on it, I tend to get distracted reading posts.

Next year, I would like to spend much more time working on my next book, with a first draft completed by the year's end.


Film-maker Kelvin Tong, 43

My wife and I had our first child in March. And being the workaholic that I am, I took on two shoots. Both were SG50 projects and thus difficult to push away. I left Hong Kong, where we live, two weeks after Kei An was born. It was just for a week to film in Singapore and Malaysia. But the day I left, I regretted it.

The week I was away, I missed out on milestones in Kei An's life. Not the she-just-took-her-first-step kind of milestones, but the subtler her-fingers-are-curling-fully, that- stubborn-three-day-snot-finally- came-out sort. Those are not exactly Kodak moments, but they only happen once.

Looking back, I should have stayed within vomiting distance of her and savoured every moment of her messy, bawling, snotty early weeks in person instead of watching video replays of them ad nauseam on my mobile phone.

In the year ahead, I would like to reach back into my past. I am part of a WhatsApp group started by my secondary school classmates. I read messages, but rarely participate. Last year, one of them posted photos of our teenage years on the chat. Those photos jolted me. Our chins were sharp and our cheeks sunken then. The years had crept by so quickly and silently.

Friends are hard to come by and shared memories even rarer still. Instead of merely chortling at my former classmates' jokes on the chat, I shall attempt to tell a few lame ones. Better still, make an effort to swing by Singapore with my family and join one of their Whiskey Nights. It will be a blast reconnecting, sans sharp chin and sunken cheeks. At least none of us has curfews anymore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Looking back'. Print Edition | Subscribe