A love story and union that always went against the grain, against immense objections and against the odds will celebrate its 10th Anniversary in a week’s time. Join us on an epic journey that led to our grand tour and The Odd Life Blog.
I was lucky she didn’t run away
Debra and I met 18 years ago in church in the most unlikely of circumstances. We weren’t in the same small group or zone groupings but somehow we were always randomly paired to lead youth camp groups for 4-5 years consecutively. We hated each other’s guts in those early years but somehow enjoyed chatting on the now defunct MSN messenger. She was someone I would look forward to talking to after a long day of training in the Army or a stressful day in school. She was there chatting with me in the long cold winter nights despite the time difference in the UK. I think we shared many positive feelings for each other but I never saw it beyond a great friend. We never went out but this went on for 7 years.
We were both fresh out of school and at the crossroads of our lives when somehow magic happened and we discussed the possibility of dating. The most romantic thing wasn’t flowers which Debra hates (lucky me!). What’s romantic was our desire not to waste time in a relationship that would not have the best chance at lasting and bearing fruit. We discussed extensively our plans, goals, careers, the possibility of a long distance relationship, opportunity costs of marriage etc. I must be the luckiest man on earth that she didn’t run away. We eventually decided to date and it is the most incredible feeling to be with someone who had been a constant friend for 7 years. Unpretentious and so comfortably familiar.
It rained brimstones and hail
Several months into dating, a series of extraordinary events happened. I was invited to her family Christmas party but was told to not come at the last minute. It was baffling. This was almost like a premonition of what was to come. As the time progressed, we started having random people in church telling us we shouldn’t be together. We should reconsider etc. We were young adults at that point who had a vision for our relationship, with plans to buy a HDB flat and to work towards marriage a couple of years later. But that was not what her parents and the church community had in mind. The more they pressed us to leave each other, the more we pressed on. I proposed and Debra said yes. Almost a year passed and this culminated in an orchestrated storm of brimstones and hail from all corners. I was man-handled and almost punched by a supposed leader I defied for holding my fiancé hands in the service. Obey or leave, that was my ultimatum. It came to the point I had to make a police report for my own safety and threaten to sue. Debra was forced to a corner. Leave me or leave home.
I did nothing to deserve what Debra chose. She left home.
We never intended to be on our own. We thought we had two years to build our way for a nice wedding, a marriage that our families celebrated.
We chose love and commitment
It was a point of no return. It was the point we chose for ourselves. 10 years ago on August 3rd 2012, we were joined in matrimony in small ceremony at the ROM with no fanfare. Debra cried sad tears because among the guests were her fuming parents who stormed out shortly after we signed. Why they chose to subject us to such trauma is still a mystery. But we, and by we I mean Debra, myself and my parents, chose love and commitment. My parents accepted Debra and loved her like their own. That’s something I will always be grateful for.
My parents made it a point to always give us good counsel and reminded us to honour our parents. Mummy would tell us “no matter what, they are still her parents and raised her”. They reminded us about forgiveness.
Fixing what went wrong
It took an entire year to find our footing in our faith again before we returned to my childhood church. We were newly married and struggled though what most couples struggle with as we learnt to make marriage work. The last thing we wanted was a wedding ceremony to relive all the turmoil we had to experience at ROM. Eventually though my mum persuaded me to not short change Debra for her wedding dress moment and for God and His people to bless our marriage. We had a small church wedding ceremony to celebrate our marriage a year later so our families could come together and make right what went awry. It was not without its problems but we pressed on. We put our past behind and took our first steps toward normality in our relationship and marriage.
We committed to marriage at 22 and 25. That’s pretty young by today’s standards.That also meant we had less resources than most couples who choose marriage a whole 5 to 10 years later. We pressed on hard to build our careers but we were clear we wanted to raise children while we are young. We had Matthias 1.5 years into our marriage and Gwyneth came 3 years after Matt. The severe lack of sleep, long hours and stress of being a new parent eventually broke me. I battled physical and mental illnesses for years.
Choosing the path less travelled
Debra was supportive when I decided to quit a stable and well paying job to be home with Matthias until I could find a job. Debra had her own battles at work that led her to quit eventually. We just couldn’t find jobs that fit. With the last thousand dollars in my bank, we bought a sewing machine in faith. That was how Hiro & Jack Co. started. We definitely don’t recommend starting a business on your last thousand dollars from scratch. There were many moments that the bills, loans and commitments broke us. I’m very thankful it didn’t break our marriage or family. We had very very little money, long nights of work while we raised our children. There were days we only had just enough coins left to buy economic rice.
Homeschooling the children was yet another massive commitment we chose over sending them to school. There is a heavy price to pay for our personal conviction to raise little ones the way we deem healthy and afford them the autonomy to learn at their own pace.
Thank You Lord for your blessings on us
We didn’t build an empire or a business that raked in millions. We recovered our investment and my dad’s kind seed money that he very kindly gifted us. Still we didn’t have a lot because everything went into raising the children and growing the business. There were many moments we wanted to give up. We cried tears and we raised our voices in frustration.
But there is so much that we are grateful for in the past 6 years building a marriage, a home and a business together. We always had a roof above us, food on the table, shoes on our feet, the love of my parents and God.
Death, grief and what really matters
It has always been our dream to travel and perhaps settle somewhere that didn’t cost us so much personally and financially to live a slower life. The pandemic had other ideas for two whole years. Life had other ideas too. Dad was diagnosed with cancer just 2-3 years post retirement. He worked all his life and it was only deserving he enjoyed his golden years with my mom and the grandchildren he loved to bits. It was being self employed and a homeschooling parent that gave me the opportunity to be with my dad a lot more than I would be allowed if I had a regular job. It is also because I had a capable wife who held the fort when I had to be there for my dad at short notice. She cooked, cared for the kids and worked on products/designs.
When dad’s cancer turned aggressive, he left us just 2-3 weeks after that. It broke all of our hearts. 69 is too young to go. As I’ve mentioned several times, his last words were "enjoy life as much as possible, be grateful”. He worked so hard for the family and his retirement but never got the opportunity to savour it for a few more years. That opened our eyes to what really mattered at the end of the day.
We sold everything
Many may think we’ve probably got a big bunch of cash and a rich family backing that allows us this privilege to build the life we want on our own terms. We don’t. We really don’t. We sold our flat and gave up our car. I think we have 5 small barley loaves, 2 fishes and a tiny bit of faith in our hearts?
People have called us foolish, reckless and irresponsible. There will be more who will mock us for how “little” we have and will have.
When Debra and I decided to marry, we didn’t marry for a flat, a car or a fat juicy bank account. When we chose to take this incredible journey in pursuit of happiness and a well-lived life on our terms.
We paid dearly for our choices but I can say we don’t regret it one bit.
We have also reaped the rewards of having each other’s love and company every day. We grow as a couple and with our kids. We walked the last years with our beloved dad.
Potest Qui Vult
This latin phrase means “He who wills, can”. As we look forward to the journeys ahead, we know that if we are tenacious and have faith, God will make a way for us.
Our 10 years of marriage has been absolutely mental. A younger me wouldn’t believe that we could have survived this journey together. There were so many moments that could stop us from making it so far.
I can only thank God for giving me a wife whose aspirations are so aligned with mine. I am so thankful that Debra is so hardy, so brave and loves me despite the really rough journey we’ve had. We are so thankful for His grace in our lives.
We hope our journey has inspired you. Through our writing, photography and art, we hope that our audience can find love, peace, faith, courage in your own journeys.
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Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.
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