From shoplifting to graduating university: this NUS graduate’s heartfelt story inspires netizens

On the Facebook page, NUSWhispers, which is usually filled with a variety of confessions from current and former NUS students that are often negative about relationship problems to insecurities and even the occasional troll, one post stood out.

Confession #69443 was submitted by a former NUS student who shared a heartfelt story of how they struggled through some truly difficult moments in life and seemed poised to take the wrong turn, but managed to push through the pain and eventually graduate from university.

The author of the confession wrote they wanted to share something ‘positive and hopefully encouraging’.

Growing up in a single-parent family with just their mother and young sister, the author said they “did well” in school and CCAs and that while the family wasn’t rich, they “survived just fine”.

Unfortunately, in secondary school, the author’s life took a turn for the worse as their mother was diagnosed with cancer. The author said, “From then on, my life started to go downhill. I started skipping school, my grades suffered, mixed around with the wrong company, and committed petty crimes.”

The author said their mother didn’t know what was going on as she was usually in the hospital getting treatment and teachers didn’t want to burden her with more bad news.

Eventually, the author was arrested for shoplifting. “I could never forget the look on her face when I saw her while she was bailing me out. Beneath the wrinkles, paleness and tiredness on her face, her disappointment was apparent. She was weak, in a wheelchair and was supposed to go for her usual check-up that day. But she missed it because of me.”

The author said they realised they were being “selfish”.

That was a turning point. The author scored well enough in the N Levels to take the O Levels. The mother’s condition was improving and the author was making better choices and working hard to get into a good junior college.

Just as things seemed hopeful, the author was dealt another blow just after taking their second last O Levels paper – their mother had died. The author said, “My whole came crashing down again.”

Unable to focus on their last paper, the author’s O Level results didn’t turn out well enough for a junior college, so they went to a polytechnic instead.

“My life, once again, went downhill. It felt pointless to keep trying. It felt like I tried my best to be good, yet life just was not fair towards me. And with my mom gone, I did not have the motivation to study anymore.”

The author said they even contemplated suicide in those dark times.

One night as they entered their sister’s room to leave a note, the author heard their sister crying.

“You see, my sister never cried or showed much emotions. During my mom’s funeral, there was no expression on her face. But that day, hearing her cry, I realised that she was hurting just as much as I am,” they wrote.

“And if I were to die, the pain I experienced would not just end with me. It’s be transferred to my sister, and that was the most selfish thing I could do.”

After that, the author found new motivation. They pulled through polytechnic while juggling a part-time job and managed to score well enough to be accepted into NUS.

The author described how difficult it is for them and their sister even with some help from relatives. Having to sacrifice their social life as well as they were unable to afford going out with friends.

The bright side, of course, were the few friends who understood the author’s situation.

“They always opt for budget options, or insisted on paying for me. One of them had a sibling who was studying in the same secondary school as my sister and was a year older, and he gave me his sibling’s old textbooks, supplies and even school uniform.”

The author continued, “There were times when I felt like I was going downhill again, but when I looked back at how far I came, I find the courage to continue on. From someone who was arrested for shoplifting, to someone studying at NUS.”

The author then recounted how they didn’t attend their graduation ceremony, but instead went to the place where their mother’s urn was kept and stayed there in their graduation gown during the duration of the ceremony.

“That day was the closest I’ve ever felt to my mom. She always told me her biggest regret in life was not getting an education and did not want her children to meet with the same regret. I hope that wherever she is, she’d be proud.”

An outpouring of support

This heartfelt post touched many netizens with words of support and praise flooding the comments sections. Many expressed that they felt inspired by the author’s story and commended the author for picking themselves up again and again and pushing forward despite the challenges.


One person shared a similar experience they had in losing their mother a week before the O Levels examination.

There were also several people who reached out to the author to offer a listening ear. One person even offered them help in securing a job.

In a sea of tumultuous negativity and an overbearing sense of hopelessness whether personally or in the world at large, it is inspiring to hear a story like this where despair and pain can be overcome with grace.