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Letter to My Younger Self by Sarah Choo

Sarah Choo Jing, Multidisciplinary Fine Artist
Sarah Choo Jing, Multidisciplinary Fine Artist

Dear Sarah,

You were always adventurous.

Always fearless.

So put down the pen, shred the contract and walk away.

Do not take up the scholarship.

Do not leave for London.

Do not accept the placement at art school.

Do not leave family behind.

not at 16.

Stay; because mom and dad need you most now,

remember that your little brother looks up to you

- and he is learning from your actions everyday.

There will be other opportunities for you to create on your own.


You know how everyone thinks there will be flying cars by 2018 ?

Well, there aren’t.

But you sure as hell are capable of creating compelling artworks

that’ll stop people in their tracks

-and give wings for even trucks to fly.

Hell- ships and trains.

So listen carefully and trust me;

do not be afraid of the vivid nightly terrors.

Instead, memorize the glow of saturated hues

and let the musky odor linger awhile longer.

Be brave, and take it all in.

Do not struggle nor fight back-

it will all come to use

one day.

It is okay to struggle to find the right words.

Lapses in memory will occur.

But look towards colors, marks and shapes,

for Art does not solve problems;

rather,it makes us aware of their existence.

And when you finally make the decision to pursue an art practice,

follow your heart and don’t look back.

Use art as a language to express, process and communicate.

Share observations and narratives

from memory and experience.

When the occasional doubt sets in, remember to

‘do it with passion, or not at all.’


Despite the chiding and talk,

welcome dialogue with others who do not understand.

Talk about your goals and dreams.

For the words you speak become the house you live in.

Do not underestimate the power of language.

Tell mom and dad that you want to pursue Art as a career;

to really focus and compete at the highest level.

And at some point in your life, this will be your dream.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing

unless it means effort, pain and difficulty.

In the midst of pursuing challenges, you will need to embrace failure:

2.80 bucks in your bank account that one time before FYP shoot.

3 weeks filled with panic attacks and anxiety.

4 odd jobs per week will sustain some material costs.

50 bucks for you to part with your first artwork.

63 galleries will turn you down.

182 rejection emails will dampen your spirit.

300 bucks for your second artwork sale will wake you up.

423 reprimands from family to wake up and quit.

643 bucks for the cheapest flight ticket for your selection interview at the slade school of art in London.

748 hours of developing films in the dark room.

2682 days of silence before you get that one call.

People will keep talking and tell you that your works are ‘too dark’.

But use that. Use that for strength and motivation.

Use it to fight, Sarah.

Fight to prove everyone wrong

— everyone who thinks there is no place for you - for ‘girls like you’ - in the scene.

Fight against their prejudice.

Fight against the lack of support.

Fight against it all — the boys, the people who say you can’t.


Fight to be accepted.

Fight to make a change.

Universality was never your goal.

Longevity and creativity are.

So instead of letting this experience have a negative effect on your life,

turn it around and make something positive out of it.


With time, you will reach the top.

You will feel exhilaration and success and be on your way.

But there will be nights

where you find yourself on the floor.

You will secretly feel insecure and ashamed.

Now, know that those insecurities are what fuels you.

Keeping this secret makes you feel ashamed,

it makes you feel like you didn’t matter

— and that makes you want to better than everybody.

You will be immensely competitive.

You will hate to lose.

You will beat yourself up when you don’t win.

You will be your own harshest critic.

But, Sarah, always remember to humble yourself

or the universe will do it for you.

The world is much bigger than you and it doesn’t revolve around you.

The people you respect the most, including your mentors,

will the most unassuming people you’ll ever meet.

Your career will take off, but please,

please don’t get caught up.

Make family a priority.

Friendships and relationships take time and effort.

Make that effort.

Show up for family and friends.

It matters.

Even at 28, you will find yourself struggling;

you will face greater difficulties and challenges.

Accept the challenges so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.

Believe in yourself

and dig deep within to conquer your fears.

Remember that when we deny the story, it defines us.

Only when we own the story, can we write a brave new ending.

Continue to own your story, Sarah.


About the Author:

Sarah Choo Jing (b. 1990, Singapore) is known for her interdisciplinary approach to photography, video and installation. Her work depicts identifiable moments and characters within contemporary urban society suggesting a plethora of private and often solitary narratives. The artist is concerned with the gaze of the flaneur, voyeurism and the uncanny.

Choo lives and works in Singapore. She recently completed her MFA at the Slade School of Art in London last summer 2015. Choo has clinched the Gold Award in the 2016 PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Fine Art Category and been awarded First Place in the 2015 Moscow International Foto Awards. She was recently shortlisted as a Finalist in the Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2017 and was awarded the ICON De Martell Cordon Bleu Photography Award and Kwek Leng Joo Prize of Excellence in Still Photography Award in 2013.

The artist has since exhibited internationally at The Busan Museum of Art in Korea, the Daegu Photo Biennale in Korea, ArtParis at The Grand Palais in Paris, the START Art Fair at The Saatchi Gallery in London, Photo London 2015 at The Somerset House in London, and The Santa Fe International New Media Festival in New Mexico, USA. Her works are collected by both private individuals and public institutions; including the Singapore Art Museum, National Museum of Singapore and The Arts Club Permanent Art Collection in London.

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