With the 28th SEA Games that took our nation and our neighbouring countries by storm, this sporting event saw Singapore excelling in several sports and it was a splendid proud moment for all!
It was Singapore’s fourth time hosting the games, and the first since 1993, the games took place from 5 – 16 June this year which coincided with our local school holidays. Several families took this chance to have their kids soak in the national atmosphere of cheering and supporting our own teams – talk about national pride and unity!
This month, we are absolutely blessed to catch one of our SEA Gamers, who proudly represented Singapore in the mixed Wakeboard team, made up of 6 outstanding sportsmen who bagged a silver during the games!
Introducing Ms. Melanie Tan, who “fell in love with wakeboarding” at the most unlikely point in her life. After making the decision to focus on wakeboarding, this proved to be a turning point in her life and career, which took family and friends by surprise. Find out how she overcame physical challenges, bust her savings and saw her health took a turn for the better!
Thank you for taking time for this special interview, Melanie! Could you introduce yourself please?
Hi everyone! I’m Melanie Tan, 38 this year and a TruAge Lifestyle Coach.
Melanie, we are curious to know what led you to take on Wakeboarding as a hobby? And, why Wakeboarding?
I was on the search for something that I could love to do. I didn’t know, you see.
When I left my corporate job, 6 years ago, I left at the peak of my career. I was just not happy in the environment anymore. I left with confidence and without another job. This confidence prompted me to take my time in my job hunt. I felt like the world was my oyster and I had options aplenty. I wanted to find the ‘right’ job.
When I started job hunting, I realised that there were A LOT of options actually – the role, the industry, the company – how does one decide??! That’s when, for the first time ever, I started to wonder about my career; I started to question what I wanted to do with my life.
I started to think about how we spend a lot of our time at work… In fact, we spend MOST of our waking time at work, so shouldn’t we LOVE what we do? Like it’s not enough. I decided then that I wanted to be one of those… One who loves what they do. That got me started thinking about what I loved to do… And I couldn’t even think of one thing! Haha! I had no idea… At all! Which led me to take a step back to ask ‘What do I love?’
Immediately, the sea came to mind. I grew up with the sea. The decision to find a job by/with the sea was made. I started looking at jobs from that angle. Then I looked at my brother and he seemed to be doing well as a Wakeboarding instructor. He has been doing it for more than 10 years… Perhaps I could try doing what he does, I thought. I told him my idea and he said that I first needed to learn to wakeboard so that I can teach it. Of course, that made sense. He said it would take at least 6 months with no pay and I said okay….
What was the turning point that pushed you to do this on a professional and national level?
I fell in love :)
I fell in love with Wakeboarding. Wakeboarding made me come alive. Wakeboarding challenged me – it challenged the ideas I had about myself. Wakeboarding reminded me of my Essence; showed me who I am and who I could possibly be.
What were the challenges faced? Were there any tough nuts to crack like family, friends, work, physically etc.?
Challenges… Where do I start? Haha! Here are the top 3:
Physical: You must know that I hadn’t exercised since I left secondary school. I became a fast food lover, I could have that everyday. I smoked like a chimney and was one of those night owls… Slept late and woke up late. I was also everyone’s favourite party girl. Dancing in the club was the only exercise I did. I always knew I was unfit and unhealthy but I never knew what that really meant, until I progressed in Wakeboarding. As I got better, my body started to fall apart… My knees were aching, I had to stop wearing high heels. My back, shoulders and neck were constantly sore. I would be so tired after a training session, every week! Once, I even dropped my bike as I was trying to put it on its main stand. It wobbled and fell to the side but I had no strength to pull up against the fall! Now that I was using my body, I started to realise that I had actually been completely ignorant of my body; I had never really considered its ability, its condition and its capabilities.
Monetary: I ended up losing all my savings in an investment company that closed down for fraud about 9 months after I started Wakeboarding. My ‘2 year financially safe’ plan went down the drain. Life then became really, really tough. Do I leave the path I had just gotten on or do I go back to the one I KNOW will solve the ‘problem’? I was in two minds for a while and kept broaching the subject with the boyfriend who eventually got fed up with me and told me to just make up my mind and stick with it! I can’t be doing something and thinking about something else. Money can always be made, he said.
Parents: Early this year, my father was giving me grief about me getting a job with a ‘steady income’. He also always gave me grief about what I was doing… wasting my time Wakeboarding. The first couple of years, my mum let me be then she started with the, ‘when are you going to get a proper job?’ To which I always replied, ‘What is a proper job, Mummy?’ Hehe. She hasn’t given me a satisfactory response.
Sounds like a grueling start to this dream. What is a typical training day like?
I just turn up and wakeboard for about half an hour. Haha! Having said that, there are other activities I do to support me in being a stronger wakeboarder… In my week, I try to schedule yoga at least twice and a day of cycling.
Wakeboarding sure is tough work! Are you on any special diet to keep lean and fit for the strenuous fitness routine?
My intention is never about how I look. My physique is a result of my daily activities. I don’t work out. I don’t diet.
I believe in habits. It is our habits that influence the choices we make. My habits have changed gradually over the years according to my lifestyle (I guess) and so I don’t seek out fast food anymore. I eat a lot more fresh vegetables and whole foods. This change was not intentional. I didn’t say to myself, ‘From today onwards, I will stop eating McDonald’s.’ Just natural progression, I guess. I feel that as I become more educated and more aware, my choices just become different. And there’s no internal battle.
As you prepared for the major turn, what was it like training for the SEA games?
It was fun! I usually ride (wakeboard) by myself but this time, there was a team to ride with. The encouragement and support from others cannot be underestimated. I was riding the best I had ever ridden while training for the SEA Games.
I was also riding a lot more which took a toll on my body. I was not listening to my body and pushed myself too hard. I actually injured myself 3 weeks to competition date – Grade 2 sprain of the MCL…This posed a whole new set of challenges ;)
Oh gosh! Sports injuries are no joke. Pain aside, what was it like to be able to represent Singapore as a national sportsman?
The reality of it did not sink in till the opening ceremony. My place in the team was so precarious… One minute I was in, one minute I may not be in, then confirm I’m in, then maybe not in (because of my injury). This whole experience was an emotional rollercoaster, like some sort of test for me. At the end of the day though, there was no other option for me but to ride for the SEA games ;)
It’s like a responsibility. A responsibility taken on by choice so, there’s no shaking it off just because things get tough. It’s one that I’m happy and proud to undertake. The sense of national pride is undeniable. And being able to compete on homeground made it all the more exciting.
How do you think you have grown as a person after investing so much in sports and being able to be where you are?
Never in my life did I think I would be where I am today! Competing for my country was my dream when I was a teenager, which I forgot about after I got kicked out of the track team.
Wakeboarding is the catalyst to my life’s transformation. The lifestyle I live now is worlds apart from where I used to be. I have several hobbies, I am inspired and I am healthy.
My perspective on life and even on myself has changed and continues to change. I now live life with awareness and purpose. And with an inner confidence!
It’s indeed inspiring to hear how your life has gone through an (almost) complete transformation and you emerging as a better self! Do share 3 tips with those who are gunning to excel in sports in their life.
– be kind to yourself. Make your mental and physical health a priority
– be best friends with discipline
– be prepared to lose
Thank you, Melanie, for sharing an insightful piece from your personal experience. It’s true – sometimes in life, we do need a “wake up call” at some point so we take some time to ponder over what we truly want. Work can be draining, zapping life out of a person day in, day out, just clocking in the hours and going through the motions in helping others’ reach their objectives. At the end of the day, we live for ourselves, and should think about how we want our lives to be, and what we’d like to do. Happiness and personal satisfaction are essential in keeping going – who else is with me on this?? :P