Ronald holds an LLB from the National University of Singapore. He commenced his legal career at Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP, and now practises commercial litigation and arbitration as Associate Director at Covenant Chambers LLC. Ronald’s wealth of pro bono experience includes representing migrant workers and researching on human trafficking issues with HealthServe. He advocates for social justice in various platforms, and frequently authors academic and thought papers. Some of his works have been published in journals such as the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies. He used to, and still hopes to, write and produce plays.
This Letter is addressed to his 19-year-old self, serving his second year of full-time National Service and having just accepted the offer to read law at the National University of Singapore.
It may be rough for you right now, I know. You are struggling with intellectual skepticism of just about everything. There’s a gnawing void in your heart and soul. You messed up your application to Oxford. You have neither the funds nor a scholarship to go to any of the U.S. colleges offered to you. Your fanciful idea of becoming an investment banker and earning heaps of money so you can retire early seems out of reach. And you might feel disappointed about having to take up the offer from NUS Law. Everything doesn’t make sense to you now.
Believe me. Those things are some of the best things that will happen to you. Because it is in the ashes of those broken ambitions and the intellectual and emotional vacuum of fallen mental frameworks and fractured relationships that you will soon find purpose, meaning and community.
You will finally encounter in a metaphysical way the one through whom everything will become clear. You will find enjoyment not just in studying the law but also in the justice that undergirds it. You will experience a holy dissatisfaction with the conception of justice, or injustice, you will witness. And you will dig in ancient places for the justice which satisfies. Through that, you will find purpose and significance in the one who out of justice and mercy redeems you from the injustice you are complicit in, who calls you to pursue justice and mercy among those who are often left at the margins. This will be better than money or status or whatever idea of the good life you think you could have with your silly fanciful ambitions.
Don’t fuss about grades. Instead, work hard to receive a proper education. Learn as much as you can to be a good lawyer. And when it is time, you will have to make a difficult decision, a leap of faith, as it were, to follow through with the convictions which will brew inside you after the restlessness you will experience from the dissonance between purpose and reality. Uncertainty is the best place in which faith will reap much harvest. So don’t fear the dark. Go with what has been revealed in the light.
Pursuing the things which are good and right is tiring and difficult. Friendships and community and being are more valuable than activism and fighting and working. That will help you to be faithful to whatever you are called to.
And you will have joy. It’s not the ecstatic kind of joy. It’s a quiet joy. It will co-exist with the sehnsucht which will always simmer in your heart. It is both the joy and the yearning which will sustain you to carry on.
Don’t fear. Have faith. It will all be alright at the end of all things.