Mistakes are inevitable in life. But the mistakes committed by some people are more severe than others, and so, too, the consequences.
They may be shunned by society as a result, with not many willing to give them a second chance. Sometimes, all they need is for someone to trust them enough to allow them to get back on the right track.
Jake Tan, a 23-year-old professional mover with a troubled past, showed that a person is capable of changing when given the support to do so.
The story about the Prestige Moving Services employee finding $50,000 cash while on the job and returning the sum to its owner has already been well circulated. And Jake has received plenty of praise for his honesty.
“For any human being, if the money is in your hands, would you be tempted to take it? This kind of thing, it will definitely go through your mind,” Jake told The Pride.
“Ultimately, it’s the choice that you make that will define you.”
The incident has propelled Jake into somewhat of a mini celebrity after a Facebook post about his deed went viral.
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“I didn’t expect that it would become this viral… I’m still quite shocked,” Jake said. “When I was in the gym working out, a few people came up to me and asked if I was the guy who found the $50,000.
“But I wouldn’t say that I am a celebrity now. I still feel normal.”
For Jake, whose arms are covered with tattoos, “normal” would have had a very different meaning just 12 months ago. Then, he was serving a one-year sentence in prison for rioting, a culmination of his troubles in the past.
At 14, an age where most would be focused on their studies, Jake got inked for the first time while he was a student at Northland Secondary School.
“I got it because I was being rebellious at that point of time,” Jake explained, his voice tinged with regret. “My parents weren’t OK with (it)… they even wanted to disown me.”
Jake was later placed in the Singapore Boys’ Hostel for his troublemaking. At 15, he ran away from the hostel and was sent to the Singapore Boys’ Home, which led to his expulsion from school, too.
Even then, he continued his rebellious ways and eventually, he landed himself in jail in June 2017.
He was released a year later, but with little education – his highest qualification is the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) – there were few employment opportunities. He did apply for a job as a trainer at a fitness centre and was told they would “contact him soon”. The call never came.
Finally, the well-built Jake came across a job posting by Prestige on Facebook and was hired by the company’s boss, Kelvin Tan.
Kelvin, 37, said: “We had a shortage of manpower at that time and he asked for a job. He did say that he was still waiting for the gym to get back to him, and I told him to just try it out first.”
It wasn’t all rosy initially, though, said Kelvin. Jake had a group of friends with whom he would go drinking until late at night and there were occasions when he overslept.
That meant extra work not just for Kelvin, who had to put extra manpower on standby whenever Jake was rostered for a moving job, but also for colleagues who had to work more to cover for Jake. Kelvin even gave him a warning, and suspended him from work for a week.
Things, however, took a turn for the better after Jake met his girlfriend, 22-year-old June Lim, while on the job – Prestige was tasked to help Lim’s company to move to a new location.
The couple have been together since September last year, and Kelvin noticed the positive influence June has had on Jake’s life.
“Things have changed. I don’t need to wake him up (for work) now. When we need him, he will definitely be there punctually. I don’t even need to worry about him and I’m happy that he has changed,” said Kelvin, who shares a close relationship with Jake.
June admitted that she was a little bit bothered by Jake’s past initially, but decided not to hold it against him.
“He proved to me by his actions. He’s doing well, so I’m very proud of him and I told him that. I just don’t want him to make any more mistakes. Everyone learns from their mistakes,” she said.
“At the end of the day, you have to be accountable to yourself.”
That is a line that Jake intends to adhere to. He said that his aim now is to continue on the right track and ensure that he does not fall back into his old ways, so he can “live an honest life”. It would be unfair to his girlfriend otherwise.
“If I go (into prison again), she will have to come in and visit me every time and that will be unfair for her,” Jake explained.
While he feels the ship has sailed for him to achieve his N- or O-levels, he intends to go for specific courses to upgrade himself for a better future. More importantly, he wants to save up enough money so he can settle down.
And he hopes that his choices this time will be the ones that define him, and not the ones he made in the past.
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