My Biggest Takeaway for 2017

Published on 26 November 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, some movers, shakers and newsmakers look back and reflect on the year’s biggest lessons and experiences.

By Pamela Ho


Photo: Kirsten Tan

I can’t deny 2017 has been a landmark year for me. From the moment Pop Aye opened at Sundance in January, it’s been a whirlwind of film-festival travelling, staying in each city for fewer than four days, doing press to promote the film, meeting a host of people before I’m off again! It’s exhilarating but at times, exhausting. Life is going at such a fast pace. I realise the only way to stay grounded is to not take all that attention too seriously, and to remember why I am here and why I make films. When I place myself below things that I believe in, I keep myself in check and that helps me focus on things that really matter.

KIRSTEN TAN Film-maker whose debut feature film, Pop Aye, won several awards at international film festivals, and was submitted by Singapore for the foreign-language category of the 2018 Oscars.


Photo: Red Roof Records

My takeaway is best summed up with a quote from Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s artwork, ‘Don’t Expect Anything Be Open To Everything’. It’s exactly the psychological mode that allowed me to take risks, in spite of my gnawing insecurities. My biggest victory this year isn’t getting to the finals of Sing! China, it’s that I was willing to even try in the first place. It took me years of un-learning to stop assessing my career as a success/failure dichotomy, but as an accumulation of experiences. Before, I would have been reluctant to put myself out there and risk a very public failure. But when I did, I was rewarded with a genuine enjoyment of the entire competition process.

JOANNA DONG Singaporean singer-actress who made it to the finals of 2017 Sing! China.


This was a bit of a crazy year in both good and bad ways. Having to shut down Lush 99.5FM at the same time as I was preparing to release new music was a real test of strength, both personally and professionally. I’m getting back to music full-time after a break and I’ve started my own label, Ownself Records. It’s been a learning process I’m thoroughly enjoying. My biggest takeaway has been learning that purpose and passion are linked with finding inner peace. It has helped me be more mindful of my choices, whether it’s projects I take on or people I work with, as well as making sure I find time to take care of myself.

VANESSA FERNANDEZ (AKA VANDETTA) Singer, radio presenter and former programme director of Mediacorp radio station, Lush 99.5FM, which ceased broadcasting in August this year.


Photo: Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay

The Esplanade is 15 years old this year, I turned 60, and I’ve served at the Esplanade for 19 years. Next year will be my 20th year, so milestones are stacking up! We announced our plan to open a new $30million 550-seat Waterfront Theatre by early 2021, and we have to fundraise $20million to build it. The second-generation team is coming together, ready to lead the Esplanade for the next generation. My takeaway is knowing that my succession plan is in place — something I’ve been obsessed with for the past five years. The next milestone is when they take over, but I’m not telling when just yet!

BENSON PUAH chief executive officer, The Esplanade Co Ltd.


Photo: National Arts Council

I moved to Singapore 15 years ago and I did not foresee myself staying long term. Looking back, I’m grateful for every individual who encouraged me to stay and push on because I’ve been tempted to quit many times due to a lack of confidence and focus. This year marks a very special year because I have reached another level of self-acceptance that allows me to find more peace in everything I’ve previously struggled with. I am Australian-born with Filipino roots, but I’ve resided in Singapore for half my life and always wanted a stronger sense of belonging here. Receiving the Young Artist Award this year is an affirmation of Singapore’s acceptance of me and my work.

YARRA ILETO Dancer-choreographer, who has worked with T.H.E Dance Company and The Arts Fission Company, and a recipient of the 2017 Young Artist Award.


Photo: Jeannie Ho

My takeaways from 2017 are important affirmations of lessons I learnt in the past. I’m reminded that nothing is impossible — it just takes courage and pure hard work to achieve what you want — and that joy is in the process. Throughout my journey with The O.P.E.N. and the Singapore International Festival of Arts, I was operating outside my comfort zone so often that without courage or determination, I would not have survived four years! Working with ingenious minds like [Ong] Keng Sen and Tay Tong also inspired me to up my game. I developed new skills, new ways of thinking, and I realised just how much scope I have to learn and grow.

NOORLINAH MOHAMED Actor-educator who helmed The O.P.E.N., the pre-festival of ideas of the Singapore International Festival of Arts under founding festival director, Ong Keng Sen.


It came to me at Sing Lit Body Slam [which combines poetry and wrestling], while dressed full Rafflesian, in colonial tail-jacket plus ruffled collar, spitting arrogant bars at a fellow poet dressed in the British military redcoat of William Farquhar, while my wrestler avatar executed a German suplex on another wrestler to the rhythm of our warring rhymes, as a max-capacity crowd chanted, ‘PO-E-TRY, PO-E-TRY’, that literature is strangely alive in Singapore! It lives with a real audience starving to hear stories told and songs sung that don’t taste as plastic in our mouths as a prosaic press release. They say poetry makes nothing happen, but something is happening in Singapore, and if anything, poetry has always been about altering definitions.

JOSHUA IP Award-winning poet, editor, co-founder of Sing Lit Station (a platform where readers and writers meet), and a recipient of the 2017 Young Artist Award.


Photo: Alvin Pang

This has been a crazy year with many highs and just as many terrible trials, including emergency surgeries and sleepless nights, when I kept writing fiction because I didn’t know what else to do to keep myself together. These experiences have taught me to value time, not in terms of output, but in terms of the moments we spend with our loved ones or in doing things that really matter to us. I nearly lost a dear family member this year. It has made me acutely aware of the impermanence of life. I end the year with a promise to live larger than life, laugh without restraint, love wholeheartedly, and make every moment — and every word I write henceforth — count.

KRISHNA UDAYASANKAR Author of The Aryavarta Chronicles, the rights of which were recently acquired by Bollywood actress, Sonam Kapoor.

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