“In my blue uniform, standing outside the gate of my primary school, I looked down at my white pair of shoes. My vision blurry, my hands cold, and with my heart thumping, I quivered, “Where am I?”
I had just turned 11 and the frequent travelling – flying between Singapore and China for my intensive training, and competitions in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries – had already become a way of life. My body suffered from the injuries I got from training, while my mind was confused as to which part of the world I was in. I also felt a pain in my heart as I felt lost in a world so huge, feeling insecure in it as a child would.” - An excerpt from the book I authored, Teach a Life, for Life.
Eileen Chai, Teach a Life, for Life Founder
My career began as a teacher with the Ministry of Education. I moved on to become a Sports Performance Manager with the sports associations; Venue and Event Manager at the Asian Youth Games, Singapore Youth Olympic Games and the former ESPN; and Media Relations and Strategic Communications Manager.
Now, I'm a violin teacher and performer. The experiences that I've gained through my working life is now helping me in my work—to organise performances, to prepare traditional and new media communications, and to teach with a heart.
WHY I do
The phrase, "Teach a Life, for Life" came about after I left the Ministry of Education (MOE). I was the form teacher of the normal technical class at the school that I was teaching in. Towards the end of my 3- year bond with the MOE,an invitationcame for me to work at the then Singapore Sports Council, to help organise the Asian Youth Games and to be a Sports Performance Manager. It was a tough decision to make as I've developed good relationship with my form class. Eventually, I made a decision and left, but with a sense of guilt. I vowed to myself then that if I ever return to education, I would teach a life, for life.
As a violin teacher...
After being employed for 7 years, I came to another crossroad in my life - what's next? I could not see where I was going in my career. Teaching crept back into my radar when my boyfriend then, husband now, suggested for me to return to teaching. I took the plunge and started to teach the violin, earning less than $100 a month. Savings dwindled, a friend recommended me to become an insurance agent, took the exams, received my coding, and then friends kicked me in the butt and said, "You left your iron rice bowl for nothing." The rest is history.
As a violin performer...
For many years, since my early 20s, I've always imagined myself singing and performing on my violin as I chat and share with the audience about life. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but my thoughts gave me an impression that I've already done it. After I started to teach the violin full-time, I slowly weaved this dream into reality. Now I live loop on my violin, playing and singing about life lessons learned. Next, the Vonder band, great music friends coming together to make music and sing about life lessons of people from all walks of life.
Enjoy the Ride:
At age 4, I picked up the violin, piano, chinese dance, ballet, art drawing and gymnastics. By 7 years old, I’ve dropped all activities and channeled all my energy into gymnastics. Ballet remained as it supplemented my training with more graceful movements in my gymnastic routines.
Everyday, my mom would drive me to my training venue, sometimes two—top floor of the Bras Basah Complex (where Popular is now), and the concrete space in front of the Kampung Glam Community Centre, CC (the empty grass patch in front of the CC now).
Tough training sessions, overseas travels and loneliness replaced fun lessons, family times and childhood gatherings. I stayed focused to my cause—to be able to fly, like Nadia Comaneci (YouTube).
Along the way at 11 years old, unfortunately, I got lost and confused, “Where am I”. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing anymore.
Injuries followed me like the darkest shadow, I could not fend it off. Alas, on my 4th SEA Games, with a fractured right elbow, I managed to win a bronze medal. It was a sweet moment of success when I finally got the metal, however, it was not enough to sustain me in the sport—psychologically, physiologically and emotionally drained.
Over the years, I reflected on my sporting events—I didn’t understand the importance of sports enjoyment that would have helped sustain my journey in sports. I’m learning to Enjoy the Ride.
WORDS OF WISDOM
To reach our goals, we do need to put in the time, effort and hardwork. However, we must remember to be in the moment and smell the flowers around us. History is yours to make.
TEACH A LIFE, FOR LIFE Book
For more “Teach a Life, for Life” life lessons, visit www.eileenchai.com. The Teach a Life, for Life book was one of the best sellers in Times in September 2014 and Kinokuniya in July 2014.
Enjoy the Ride
Lyrics by Ben Kranen
Music by Eileen Chai
Every night, every day
On the road, on the way
Push the boundaries of what I know
Feel excitement, feel the flow
The horizon, and beyond
To submerge in what I want
My own driver, my own guide
Remind myself, enjoy the ride