Becoming a performer, writer, and educator would not be possible if not for a single interest: reading.
When I was young, my mother would take me on outings during the weekend. During the long bus or train ride, she would always hand me a book to read. While her main hope was that I would be academically inclined, I later found out that it was also a convenient way to keep me occupied for an hour or so.
Back then, I thought nothing of it and did as I was told.
Soon, the rides on public transport felt shorter as I took parallel trips—from the wacky adventures of the Bookworm Gang to tackling crime with the Internet Detectives. I was engrossed and began to love stories and where they took me.
From Loving Stories to Puppy Love
For many writers, progressing from reading to writing seems like a natural progression. But it would take an endearing detour for me to discover that I could write.
This started in primary school when I had a crush on a girl. As I was deciding how I should woo her, the eight-year-old me was trying to come up with the most romantic thing a man can do. Somehow, that boy settled on writing a poem.
I had no idea what a poem was or how to start. The only rule I set for myself was that it should not begin with “Roses are red / Violets are blue”.
Well, gentle reader, I did it.
I managed to come up with a poem that I thought was decent (it wasn’t), and this kickstarted a series of scribbles on all sorts of things. Slowly but surely, I grew more confident in expressing myself on paper.
Luxuriating in Words
While my romantic gestures failed to impress, my dalliance with poetry prepared me for a life-long relationship with the arts the moment I encountered literature in secondary school.
No longer was I simply swept away by a story, but I began to appreciate the power of words and the different shades of meaning they bring.
From commiserating with William Blake’s The Schoolboy to being reverently silent as I walked to the beat of W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues, I marvelled at how the writers managed to convey feelings into words that resonated strongly with me.
As a writer, that is what I strive to do regardless of it being a commercial, artistic, or personal project.
Plunging into Performing
It is also around this time that a couple of happy coïncidences that led me down the path of performing.
In her efforts to furnish the school choir with male singers, my music teacher used a regular music lesson as a covert voice audition and I unwittingly found myself being part of the school choir.
Despite being outraged by the ruse, I decided to stay by the third session and was one of the few boys who remained.
Choir taught me the basics of using my voice and being disciplined as a performer; something that I will continuously revisit as I tread further down the performer’s path.
Coupled with mandatory drama enrichment classes and attending live performances, I discovered the thrill of performing and witnessing a live performance.
Similar to reading and writing, I was in awe of how a performance has the ability to connect you with someone else or a world that is beyond the one that you inhabit.
What About Teaching?
My first teaching stint was being a peer mentor at 12 years old. I was tasked to teach two juniors how to read. When the teacher-in-charge came into my class to asked for volunteers, my hand shot up without hesitation.
Why would I volunteer to be in school an hour early, especially when I am going to sit for my Primary School Leaving Examination?
I cannot speak for my 12-year-old self. But with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect that I cannot imagine someone not being able to experience the joy that I got from reading and learning.
Since then, I realised that I have always come back to teaching in one form or another at various points in my life.
In sum, articulation and connection are the aims of everything I do.
Why do I perform and write? Through articulation—be it words or movements—I want to connect my readers and audiences to something beyond themselves.
Why do I teach? I want to equip people with the skills to speak for themselves and connect with others.