Alden Boon

Life after Prison: Stervey Lim on Finding Purpose, Letting His Past Go and Creating a New Life

16/04/2018

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Finding Buddhism

Besides work, one thing that got Stervey through prison was getting to attend his weekly religious classes on Sundays, another privilege he earned for his good behaviour. He spent the months before his sentencing studying Buddhism and searching for the person he really is. Understanding the scriptures proved to be a herculean task, for his Mandarin proficiency was poor, but in prison he had a senior who would distil the teachings using simple words. He then jotted down his reflections and thoughts in English on two pieces of paper the prison periodically issued.

We learnt when we were young to seek pleasure, and to ask for external validation. I learnt to look inward, and ask myself: “Who am I as a person?”

He became aware of his sensory thoughts, and learnt how to ground himself — to live in the present moment, connect energetically with the Earth and feel centred. Like many inmates, he worried about his nebulous future: What was he going to do upon release? How was he going to turn his life around? “When you don’t build a foundation for a new life, nothing will ever work. That is why grounding yourself is very important. Contrary to what I believed when I was younger, I am not a successful leader in the corporate world whom people have to kowtow to. I am merely an individual who has the ability to empower the people that I talk to. That has since become my purpose.

Finding your purpose is not easy. But it is a gut feeling. It is a magnetic pull; it tells you where you are supposed to go. It is something you just know is right for you. Listen to it. Work towards it. You don’t have to make a drastic one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. Take one step. Make a one-degree shift. That way, when you deviate from your true path, it is easy to jump back on track. Before you realise it, you have already made a ninety-degree turn.”

Making something for himself

When Stervey became eligible for parole, he toyed with the idea of becoming a life coach. He took a psychometric assessment, the results of which reaffirmed him that coaching was indeed a right métier for him. Upon his release, he took up an entry-level job, and also signed up for a five-month curriculum development course under the Workfare Training Support Scheme. This small undertaking became his one-degree shift: The knowledge of how teaching works anchored his next foray into the education industry.

It is just like playing a role-playing game. You start off with no inventory. You have to build your armoury and get resources to become a stronger character. Identify what are the resources you need to survive. Take whatever you can get, even if it’s not something you wanted. Use it as a stepping stone to become better.

It was not always peachy. The spectre of his past still haunted him, and this brake of fear, the fear that his ship had long sailed, often dashed his hope. Stervey has since learnt one lesson: When reshaping your life, that pot of gold is not filled with one single breakthrough. Instead, it brims with the small successes that come your way. “In the past few months, I had people approaching me to share my life story. After I had done that, they came up to me, shook my hand and thanked me. It gave me that confidence to believe that perhaps I just might have what it takes to achieve my dream of becoming a life coach.”

Today, life is no longer about chasing a six-figure pay cheque for Stervey. It is about being able to conduct workshops, motivate as well as serve people. He also goes on outreach programmes and work with the youths at the boys’ and girls’ homes.

Read: Dr Siew Tuck Wah on Breaking the Poverty Cycle, Saving Singapore’s Street Dogs and Finding Buddhism

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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