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Rahayu Mahzam, politician and practising lawyer

Rahayu graduated from the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2003. She is currently a Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, and an Associate Director at Heng, Leong & Srinivasan LLC specialising in matrimonial and probate matters. Rahayu was formerly a Deputy Registrar of the Syariah Court from 2013 to 2015. She is also an accredited Associate Mediator with the Singapore Mediation Centre. This Letter is addressed to her younger self on the last day of Orientation Week, 1999 (before the first year of law school begins).

Dear Rahayu,

There is a welcome address and talk this morning. It marks the end of the Orientation Week and the start to the formal school year. It is an exciting period but you have been so nervous and scared this whole week. None of your close friends are taking law and you feel lonely. You have made some new friends this week; they are really awesome people but it is taking you a while to get comfortable. (One of your course-mates introduced himself to you today. He will turn out to be one of your best friends and colleague, so hold on tight to that friendship.) I know that today you are feeling very uncertain about the future and I thought it would be a good time to drop you this note.

I thought long and hard about what to tell you. I (you) am such a great believer of serendipity – that things happen for a reason. But I also believe that your happiness is a consequence of your personal action. There may be a lot of things you cannot control, but there are also many things you can do to make your life and those of others around you better. So in the hope that you will have a better experience in law school, I would like to give you a glimpse of what is to come and some tips as you journey through this phase of your life.

Connect with people, deepen your relationships

You have and will make new friends but you should always keep trying to know more people and build on your friendships. You are a bit of an introvert right now. Not unfriendly, but a little shy and afraid of what people will think of you. You will change in time; and it will become second nature for you to want to meet and get to know new people. For now though, the changes are making you a little uncomfortable and you just feel like retreating into your shell. Just know that many of your course mates are probably feeling the same.

Reach out to different people and share your thoughts and views. You have much to learn from the people around you and can gain inspiration from their stories. You also have much to offer as you are a compassionate and caring person. So go on, take that effort to build on the relationships with the people in law school. These friendships will help you through the tough times in law school and even when you go out to work later.

Be confident and trust yourself

You always doubt yourself and think very little of your abilities. There will be certain things you choose not to do because you think you are not good enough. Snap out of it! You are actually much better than you think. Yes, you are not perfect, we know that already. But there’s a lot that you are capable of achieving if you stay focussed and stop whining.

In particular, you may find some subjects in law school a little challenging. You may think it is because you are less intelligent. You decided early in law school that you are probably not a good student. Don’t do that. You may need to hit those books and notes a little longer than others, but that is alright. You just learn differently. Forgive yourself for your weaknesses but keep working on being better. Have faith in your own strengths.

You will eventually find that confidence but I think it would help if you find it sooner, rather than later.

Expect the unexpected – And embrace them

Several unexpected things will happen in your life. Do not be afraid. Embrace these surprises for although you will feel some uncertainty and discomfort, these events will bring great meaning to your life.

For one, you will meet the love of your life while in law school. He is not your “type” and you are also not his “type”. If I tell you now you will marry this gentleman, you will not believe me. Both of you will remember the first time you saw each other; silently acknowledging each other’s presence without even saying a word. It was not love at first sight and it will not be till after you both have started working that the friendship blossomed into romance. But my dear, this man will rock your world. He will make you challenge your assumptions, think about different perspectives and make you always want to be a better person.

In addition, at some point in your life, you will embark on a “career” path that you did not expect to be in. It is not an easy path and you will find yourself stretching your limits, challenging yourself and sometimes asking what you got yourself into. Fret not, for you will be doing something very meaningful and be of service to the community. You will meet many people, learn new skills and have the good fortune of making a difference in people’s lives, every single day.

So, go ahead now. Come out of that hall with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Be confident and excited about the possibilities ahead. There is much to live for and you definitely have much to give to the people around you.

Love,

Rahayu Mahzam

2016

Benny Tan, law lecturer

A letter from the Editors