'There is a wonderful life that awaits': Singapore artist creates comic inspired by Sun Xueling's letter to her younger self

PHOTO: Facebook/Sun Xueling, Facebook/Josef Lee

Inspired by MP for Punggol West SMC Sun Xueling's "letter" to her younger self, a local illustrator has created a series of comics to accompany her personal sharing.

The drawings, posted online on Thursday (Aug 12), have been well-received, capturing the attention of Sun herself, who thanked him for the artwork. 

Sun, 42, first made a post last month on Facebook, which detailed her struggles as a junior college student who harboured thoughts of self-harm.

Her personal story struck a chord in readers, with the post garnering more than 7,000 reactions. It was also shared more than 500 times on Facebook.

She wrote in one paragraph: "Having come through our education system myself, I know how it can be stressful for students. When I was in JC, I often thought of throwing myself on the XXX so that I can 'finally get some rest' … because I was so tired and I hated school."

Update at noon 27/7: I have been advised not to share specifically the mode of self harm I had previously listed. Thus I...

Posted by Sun Xueling on Monday, July 26, 2021

In a post-edited note, Sun mentioned that she had been "advised not to share the mode of self-harm" that she'd previously listed, and "replaced the words with XXX".

Sun also shared in the same post how her experience has influenced her role as a parent.

"Now as a parent myself, I told myself never to put academics ahead of my child's well-being and happiness. It's not worth it.

"Your child is a wonderful special being and a blessing in every way. Love your child for who he or she is. They will blossom in their own time, in their own way. Be there for them if they want to talk. Suspend judgment and listen.

"Be their safe harbour when they are hurt, a lighthouse beacon if they are lost and God will take care of the rest."

In a separate post two days later on July 28, Sun shared how some readers had wanted to find out how she overcame the difficulties mentioned.

In response, Sun wrote a "letter" to her younger herself. In the letter, she detailed what she would say to "me in 1996".

The lengthy prose touched on her difficult experience as a freshman in her JC, which she did not name. 

Sun wrote about how she often felt excluded by her schoolmates, who would "gather and talk in cliques", and how "strange and awkward" it was to have male classmates, after spending her secondary school years in a girls' school. According to reports, Sun had studied in CHIJ St Nicholas.

Sun also shared her difficulty with new subjects such as English literature, and how she was stung by a classmate's remark on her standard of English.

Several of you have written to me to ask me to share more about my last post and also about how I overcame the...

Posted by Sun Xueling on Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"You struggle with new subject combinations, in particular with English Lit since you did Chinese Lit previously and someone made a snide remark that your sentence construction resembled the English found on pencil boxes made in Japan.

Alluding to her deteriorating mental health, she added: "You grow quiet as a result. You withdraw. You are teary, tired and don’t sleep well."

But her advice to her younger self is in "finding or creating a culture that fits you", which includes finding people who are introverts, like herself. 

"The world seems to be made of loud people. People who are extroverted and popular. But there are also many like you, who are introverted and quiet. Seek them out, make new friends. There is a huge strength in those who are quiet, who go about their work and hobbies in an unassuming manner. Seek them out, befriend them. Don’t be swept away by all that glitters."

Sun advised her younger self to seek help from teachers, as well as from self-help books. "And you don’t have to worry that someone would know your secrets. Read and you will find that you are not alone."

Sun shared how one particular book has been an invaluable resource. "Many years later, you will come across the book 'How to stop worrying and start living,' and it will accompany you for life," she wrote.

Her letter ends on an inspiring note as she depicts a "wonderful life" that lies in wait.

"You will come across a man who will love you for who you are and you will have children whom you love to bits.

"How do you know? You ask me.

"Stay with us and you will find out, I say.

"There is a wonderful life that awaits. Don’t shortchange yourself. There are many who love you and who will love you and you will love back. Stay with us and you will find out."

In comments left on the post, many users thanked Sun for detailing her "meaningful" story and shared examples of their own struggles. 

'Invaluable encouragement'

Inspired by her intimate sharing, one Singaporean by the name of Josef Lee brought her story to life in a Facebook post on Thursday (Aug 12). 

Lee, who's a creative director at a design and animation studio, created a series of drawings illustrating the scenarios which Sun mentioned in her letter.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a posting from MP Sun Xueling who penned a "letter" to her younger self in 1996. As a...

Posted by Josef Lee on Thursday, August 12, 2021

The 41-year-old also wrote how her words of advice to overcome a difficult period in her life are "invaluable encouragement that many of our students need to hear".

Lee's comic has so far received many words of appreciation from readers online. 

In a response to a compliment from one commenter, he wrote how "it wasn't that difficult to pair the words with illustrations", as "the original letter was already very beautifully written to begin with".

His artwork also prompted another commenter to ask if "there's a GoFundMe page" set up for its print and distribution.

Sun herself has shared the post, thanking Lee for his "beautiful drawings".

SINGAPORE HELPLINES

  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1-767
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
  • Shan You Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 6741-0078
  • Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: www.eC2.sg
  • Tinkle Friend (for primary school children): 1800-2744-788

candicecai@asiaone.com