Nowhere to go but up: Nicole Seah

Nowhere to go but up: Nicole Seah

In an emotional Facebook post last November, opposition party member Nicole Seah, 28, spoke of a year filled with self-doubt, physical exhaustion and death threats.

She tells Ankita Varma how it took a major meltdown for her to love herself again.


A friend once told me that your 20s are like walking in the wilderness. You have enough idealism for ambition but not enough experience to know right from wrong.

That statement couldn't be more true of the last four years of my life. My walk in the wilderness is more poignant only because, for years, everyone around me assumed I had my life all figured out.

Perhaps it's because I got into politics at 24. You would assume I have stellar academic records and a successful career, right?

In fact, I have none of these things. I was a mediocre B-average student throughout my school years. When I graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS), I got a job at a public relations consultancy only after a six-month internship, during which I bought office supplies and made coffee runs.

Most surprisingly, I was apathetic about local politics until I enrolled at NUS.

Politics wasn't actively discussed in my household. I only knew that my parents had always supported the opposition. My mother had been against the government's Graduate Mother Scheme in the 1980s, having raised three well-educated children despite being a non-graduate herself. (Editor's note: This scheme provided financial benefits for mothers who were university graduates and school enrolment privileges for their children.)

The seeds of my political awakening were planted when I edited an independent online newspaper in NUS called The Campus Observer. I wrote about controversial topics like student complaints about private dormitory housing and the xenophobia foreign students faced. I was struck by how students remained apathetic to such issues and did not rally for change. It sparked a new consciousness in me. 

Shortly after graduating, I joined the Reform Party, where I stayed for two years before leaving to join the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

"You look like a mei-mei"

I worked largely behind the scenes at the NSP. Having studied communications at NUS, I advised the party on how to deal with the media.

But when the party heads offered me the opportunity to run in the 2011 general elections, I gave it serious thought. My family was concerned about how it would impact my life and career. Still I decided to go for it.

Somehow, the idea of campaigning in Marine Parade - a constituency that hadn't been contested since 1992 - appealed to me.

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