You tried reconciling things with Boon, but were met with hostility when you told him you forgave him for not being there for you, and also cheating you of your money. What have you learnt about forgiving others?
That forgiveness is a choice: Between forgiving and forgetting, the former is an easier option. It is also a fine line between forgiveness and trust; many people grapple with the two. It does not mean that you have to trust the person again if you forgive him.
We often use forgiveness as a condition to impel someone to change. “Why should I forgive him? He would still be the same.” Forgiving a person who has wronged us is something we must do for ourselves. It is not just a one-off thing; it has to be a way of life. Forgiving is like exercising — in the beginning you hate it, it hurts like crazy, but you get better and stronger at it as you commit to doing it over time. It frees you.
Through it all, after all the sneaking about, dating men for the wrong reasons, the secret shame from the abortions, how did you manage to not only extricate yourself from the chaos but also make a new life for yourself?
One of the key things is learning to be accountable. As I got older, I made it a point to have at least one person in my life whom I’m very terrified to go to when I make a mistake. Terrified to face that look of disappointment. Yet this person loves me enough, and will protect me from my own stupidity. Not many people embrace this, because it means being very vulnerable. Building this support system of trusted companions is the best thing I have done for myself, other than building a family with my husband and daughter.
Find this someone. It could be a relative, friend, teacher or neighbour. There is definitely someone in your circle you can lean on.
Like a cactus that survives the harshest conditions, you became inured to your hardships, and now use your own experiences to reach out to girls and women in crises. What made you decide to embark on this path?
I had a father figure when I was younger; his name is Robert Yeoh. He and his wife were leaders in my church. I would rant to him about my endless problems, and he was always patient, and would always wear the same stoic expression.
He gave an analogy then that I still remember to this day. He used the example of Westin Stamford (now the Swissôtel The Stamford), billed at that time as the world’s tallest hotel. He said, “Jennifer, you’re currently on the 16th floor, whereas I am on the 50th floor. If a storm is coming, who do you think will see it first? From your perspective, everything still looks peachy and nice. We have been where you are; we see things from a much higher vantage.”
It made the arrogant teenager in me realise that there were in fact people who were wiser than I. His words never left me, and they became a form of protection. I truly believe that if not for Robert, I would have gone down worse paths in my life. I think many people are searching for their own Robert Yeohs — someone who would sit with them and wait out the storm. Through my work, I hope to be a Robert Yeoh for someone.