Alden Boon

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son: How Jimmy Ong Restarted His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom



The harsh judgement of society

Landing a job with his newfound stigma was an uphill climb. His interviews would go swimmingly, only to be torpedoed when the hiring managers realised Jimmy had declared bankruptcy. The vibe became that of an interrogation, a toxic curiosity about what he did wrongly. “Each and every one of us makes mistakes. Why must we harp on the past? In fact, a bankrupt is likely more driven than ever to want to work hard and do better. A bankrupt is someone who has life experience recovering from a huge mistake, and such a character is not moulded in school or the workplace.”

Other times, Jimmy could not articulate well enough when asked silly boilerplate questions, such as “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” Because he only had secondary-two qualifications, he could not take up professional careers as an insurance or real estate agent. Once a successful businessman who wielded clout and garnered respect, now Jimmy could not even get a job. Through a friend, he was finally able to get a job at a convenience store. The experience was humbling. An ex-client of his once came into his store, and Jimmy caught his incredulous gasp. “He asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ and I said, ‘I work here’. He was in such disbelief that he looked for hidden cameras — he thought I was filming a show! I was so embarrassed and hurt.” That day onwards, Jimmy was ever on guard, wary that he would spot a familiar face.

Inverted Comma

I know now that there is nothing wrong when you have to downgrade your life. In life, we have nothing to prove, but everything to improve.

Inverted Comma Bottom

As he worked the graveyard shift, Jimmy’s mornings were free. Wanting to better himself, he would head to a bookstore in town, and bury himself in self-help books. Two months into his job, there came a ray of light. Jimmy’s ex-boss reappeared in his life, and offered him a job opportunity. “My ex-clients all spoke well of me, and would ask about me during their conversations with my ex-boss. Back then, I worked even on the weekends. Rain or shine, I’d always be the person on site, ensuring that everything went smoothly.” One’s reputation, like strong roots of a tree, can outlast any storm. His self-improvement efforts also paid off, as he was well prepared to tackle the interview questions, and he knocked it out of the park. He was offered a job.  Things were finally looking up, or so he thought.

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son How Jimmy Ong Rebuilt His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom nedla

It all comes crumbling down

For all the setbacks he had been through and bounced back from, even losing his eldest sister whom he loved dearly to suicide, none could have prepared Jimmy for what came next. One evening in 2003, Shaun, his son, started convulsing. His face was twisted, his speech slurred, the sight horrific to behold. Night often blunts judgement and faculties, and so with their thoughts turned to the supernatural, Jimmy and his ex-wife believed Shaun had been possessed by a ghost, and immediately they engaged a Taoist medium. The sombre night closing about them, the air rank with smothering incense, they held rituals, kneeling, praying, submitting themselves entirely to the will of deities. The exorcism worked — Shaun returned to normalcy.

Little did they know that Shaun was in fact having a seizure, which for the moment had subsided. When he began foaming at the mouth and complaining of a splitting headache, the two panic-stricken parents rushed him to the hospital. After an agonising wait came the devastating diagnosis: last-stage brain cancer. Invading Shaun’s brain was a four-centimetre glioblastoma multiforme, deadliest of brain tumours, commonly affecting older patients aged fifty and up. At age ten, Shaun was only the doctor’s second-ever young patient in a long career. The prognosis was grim. A miracle would at best give Shaun five years to live; otherwise he was living on borrowed time of nine months.

A sapling, trampled just when he was learning to appreciate the pounding rain after the sun.

Read: By 19, Jennifer Heng Already Had Two Abortions. This Is Her Story of Secret Shame, Self-forgiveness and Triumph

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.