After a brief stint as a trainee lawyer in a local law firm, and teaching and researching the law with the National University of Singapore, Samuel left the legal industry to train to be a pastor. Samuel now spends time teaching the Bible to university students as part of his job.
This Letter is addressed to his 21-year-old self, who has just started at the Australian National University College of Law in Canberra, Australia.
At some point during your first year in Canberra, you will face a major crossroads. I know you desire to be a change-maker and you have poured countless hours weighing up the pros and cons of psychology and sociology, economics and social work. Let me tell you a secret (if that doesn’t derail the rules of time travel/communication): you will change your degree! Somehow you find the study of the social sciences frustratingly “fuzzy”, and you will opt to study the law. You assume it’s a bit more systematic and grounded and you don’t care that lots of the rules you will study don’t actually apply to Singapore.
But boy was that the right decision! You didn’t find the study of law dry and boring, like how many would assume. Instead you were given new eyes, taught to look into why societies have rules the way they do, and how we can change them to make the world safer, fairer, and better. Intellectually you were stretched to question assumptions, read critically, weigh up alternative opinions and form your own independent view on the world and its underlying legal structures. You learnt that you could one day take over new land through adverse possession, examined the tension between law and mercy in Les Misérables, and even wrote a paper suggesting how a theoretical aspect of the law could enact real change in cleaning up corruption in Indonesia. You got to be a paralegal at a legal clinic for less privileged youth (for credit if I may add), and even flew to the USA to do a comparative course on race and the law. Granted your legal studies will be incredibly hard work and you will be surprised by the number of all-nighters you had to pull off to complete your assignments or study for your exams; but what an adventure!
Crucially (and this is really important), I urge you to look at your journey in the law with a bit of perspective. Your teachers and peers will persuade you to be ambitious. They will urge you to pursue a prestigious career with the government or the Big 4. They say that maximising your potential in this way is the key to a good, satisfying life. Well, think again! By now you would have gotten yourself involved in a church and a Christian campus group. They teach you that Jesus alone offers the satisfying, fulfilling life. You would have heard of Jesus by now, who died on the cross for the sins of many. And that’s exactly how Jesus turns us from enemies to friends with the living God. Getting to know this God who loves you is but just the start of the truly good life. Yes, the law may offer exciting prospects, but some day the glamour of the law will fade away. The next decade of your life has flown past in a blink, and I can imagine how the rest of your life will flash by just as quickly. Invest your life, your time, and your energy in what matters most. You will do well to spend time in the Bible – on your own and with your friends – to know this Jesus more and more.
Samuel from 2018