Shape of my Life

Felicia asked me today “What kind of environment do you want Elkan to grow up in?” I looked at Elkan, he gave me the same cheeky and happy expression. Like many kids today, Elkan is living in a digital era. Computers, iPAD, digital camera, PS3, Cable TV and iPhone aren’t foreign objects to him. Really, I have no answer. Perhaps, a happy environment where my son can explore new things and grow his talents.

Looking back, I wasn’t born gifted. In fact, I must thank my dad and mum for sending me to a private art school when I was only 7. It was quite an investment for them back in those days. We weren’t rich, just average class – but my dad continued to support me in the art classes till I was 12. (And I have also did them proud by bringing back those art trophies). My parents have certainly molded my life.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t just the art classes that made me “creative” today. It was the non-luxury depriving lifestyle that spurred me to be resourceful and creative. My parents were thrifty and they didn’t spoil me with a mountain of toys. LEGO was the best toy Dad got for me. I had limitless imagination and I started building little “make-believe” worlds for my characters. Later, I expanded these “worlds” by modifying discarded styrofoam and corrugated boxes. One of my most memorable and favorite “worlds” was the “ice island” I built. I found a big TV styrofoam box and I created tunnels and caves by burning through the foam. To create the snow effect, I emptied a bottle of body powder into the box. I built modern vehicles with LEGO and parked them inside these “secret tunnels”. There were also trap doors and secret passages for my characters.

My structures started to get bigger. Dad was a wood trader and he brought back a lot of scrap woods from his factory. (Auntie Amy also gave me a lot of tiled teak woods). During my school holidays, I went to Dad’s factory and picked up some basic carpentry skills from his co-colleagues. (In fact, I spent most of my school holidays in the factory with my dad – till the day it closed for good.) Armed with nails, wood glue and scrap materials, I came home and spent numerous days building my next toy world. One of my works caught the eyes of my Secondary School 2 form teacher. She commissioned me to build a multi-stories carpark for her son’s toy cars. I spent 1 week on that project and I managed to complete it before Christmas. It was a massive structure, 100% teak wood and it was good for at least 50 cars. My reward? She gave me an expensive dictionary which I keep till today.

One thing led to another. I soon found myself excelling  in art and design. (And of course, I was never keen in those algebra, chemicals and equations) Eventually, I pursued my diploma, degree and careers in creative. It has been a good 22 years since the day my dad enrolled me in the art school. And it was this unique childhood that shaped my life today.

Strangely, my parents have never tell me what they want me to be. They gave me a strong foundation and let me explore my talents on my own.

Maybe with all my gadgets and high-tech Apple toys, I really hope Elkan is the next “Steve Jobs” in the making. (That means, I just found the excuse to buy more gadgets!)

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