Event to help youth pursue their dreams off the beaten path
Dr May Ooi tells young people about sacrifices to achieve MMA dream
She walked away from her home and family and lived for two years in a gym while barely making ends meet, all because of her passion in pursuing a dream career.
Dr May Ooi also gave up a potentially lucrative career in medicine after practising for three years in her efforts to become a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.
Typical of most Singaporeans, her family and friends freaked out, but the former Olympic swimmer withstood their resistance to achieve a successful career in MMA.
Dr Ooi, 42, was one of several industry experts who conducted talks, workshops and sessions at the Shine Now conference yesterday, speaking to young people on pursuing their dreams.
More than half of the tertiary students interviewed in a recent survey had said they did not feel confident in pursuing their dream jobs, especially in industries outside of the traditionally recognised ones.
As part of a year-long engagement exercise by the National Youth Council (NYC), the survey of more than 100 tertiary students found that Singaporean youth still feel constrained by traditional definitions of success and are uncertain as to how and whether they can chart their own path in life.
To address such concerns, the NYC piloted Shine Now - a two-day conference organised in partnership with youth organisations to help young people overcome their fears and concerns by exposing them to individuals who have achieved success in various fields.
Today, Dr Ooi has gone from running a "small gym built on a dream" to scoring multiple wins in MMA, representing Singapore in various disciplines at major sporting events, and running her own Capoeira school.
She is also a motivational speaker and has been featured in the Singapore Tourism Board's campaign Passion Made Possible.
Dr Ooi, who retired as a professional fighter last year, said she has since mended ties with her family members, who now trust her decisions and know she will do her best in anything she chooses to do.
She said: "It's about knowing what you're good at and working hard at it. There is no shortcut, no app you can download, it is about consistency and patience.
"You have to be dogged about it, taking little steps forward no matter how many times you fail. Don't let negativity and people talk you out of it."
WHAT'S YOUR DREAM?
Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, the guest of honour at Shine Now, said he was stumped when his daughter asked him what his dream was when he was her age.
He later realised that he did not have one.
He told his audience, mainly people aged 18 to 26: "If I had asked my parents this, they would probably have said, 'What are you talking about? Go study.'
"I told my daughters that I don't think I dreamt or had a passion, but I was very serious about the journey I was taking."
He added that he did his best at each step of the way, never really thinking about a destination or what his passion was.
But he stressed this is no longer the case for today's generation - youth are no longer looking merely at survival or just the journey, but they want to pursue their dreams and passions.
He said: "Now there are many pathways, it is not like the past, where sometimes there is only one dominant pathway, which is often going to an institute of higher education, come out with a qualification, go to a company and apply for work.
"Today, there are many more pathways, some don't need a degree... so we don't need to follow the same traditional pathway."