Defining One’s Identity – Shulin’s a Lawyer by Day and Comedian by Night

Self-identity – this was the theme TheHomeGround sought to explore entering February this year. What makes up your identity? How do you define it? What defines you?

These were all questions we had hoped to answer this month. 

Thus, when we encountered the profile of Tay Shulin, we were intrigued. 

Air Traffic Controller, legal counsel, stand-up comedian – you wouldn’t think these roles have anything in common but they’re all positions that Shulin have held, or are holding, in her lifetime.

But how do these vastly different roles co-exist in her world? Well, we spoke to Shulin, the senior legal counsel at financial start-up Revolut, to find out.

Getting to Know Shulin

I wasn’t sure what to expect of someone who has had illustrious careers in both the military and the legal industry, but enthusiasm and vibrancy were most definitely not at the top of my list. 

Very quickly, I realised that trying to summarise Shulin’s identity in a short sentence or two was going to be an impossible task. While introducing herself to me, she had rattled on about approximately five different roles and maybe 10 different interests. She’s a lawyer, an improvisation actor, a dog mum, and she enjoys reading, cycling, playing tennis, writing, so on, and so forth. 

“I’m like a little puppy,” she remarks, “always excitable [and] looking for new things to do.”

Shulin’s Penchant for Novelty

Indeed, her penchant for novelty is clear from her career choices. After a long tenure of nearly a decade as a Defence Policy Officer and Air Traffic Controller at the Ministry of Defence, Shulin made a 180 degree switch and enrolled herself into law school in the United States. 

Upon being called to the Bar, Shulin spent another six years working at finance multinational corporations (MNCs) in both the United States and Singapore before joining Revolut here in Singapore, a start-up looking to revolutionise the FinTech industry. 

Military, corporate, start-up – you would think Shulin has done it all but she has even more up her sleeves!

Aside from her day job as a legal counsel, Shulin is also an aspiring stand-up comedian and improvisation artist by night. 

Still on a mission to discover how Shulin defines her identity while carrying her many, many roles, I decided to delve deeper into her aspirations of being a stand-up comedian in hopes that if her career track record doesn’t, then surely her passion will give me some answers.

READ: Ellen Teo, Executive Director of Union Power, Thrives in a Men’s World

Discovering her Vulnerabilities Through Improvisation

Shulin has always had an interest in stand-up comedy but she didn’t quite know where or how to start, and she also lacked the courage to perform live.

Thus, Shulin decided to sign up for some improvisation classes to help build her confidence. Little did she know that she would fall in love with the creativity and spontaneity that comes with improv, leading her to form a group with several others, and put up over 30 shows in the course of two years. 

“[It] has made my life a lot more colourful”, she enthused. “It makes me more experimental in real life [and] be more audacious with my choices.”

Besides emboldening her, improvisation has also taught her to be more introspective and vulnerable. 

She shares, “I can be a bit unwilling to display weaknesses… In real life, I crack jokes to alleviate tension, but in shows, there are different characters. Sometimes, you are forced to embrace the vulnerabilities… [and to] explore relationships that you normally wouldn’t.” 

Undoubtedly, improvisation is a fairly significant part of Shulin’s life and played a vital role in helping her learn more about herself. But is it who she is? 

READ: What Happens When Your Self-Identity is Tied to Your Partner

When Reality and Dreams Diverge

While Shulin immensely enjoys improvisation and maintains her aspiration of being a stand-up comedian, reality doesn’t always paint a rosy picture. When COVID-19 hit, Shulin realised that “live shows can be taken away from you at any point in time”. 

“It gets stressful when your passion is your source of income,” she says, when asked about whether she would pursue stand-up comedy full-time. After some thought, she concluded, “I don’t think I’ll do full-time stand-up, I’ll combine it with other things that involve working with people [even though] I’m not sure what that entails.”

This gives me another insight – sometimes, who we want to be and what we want to do might be hindered by real world practicalities. We all have obligations to fulfil, monetary or otherwise, and they might not always coincide with what we want to be or do. In fact, they very often don’t. 

How can we then define our identity in a world so complex? Or more importantly, is there even a need to? 

I had one last question for Shulin. 

READ: How and Why Singlish Excludes Outsiders, Explained

What Defines Her?

“Whatever I’m passionate about at any one point of time,” she finally answered after a long pause. It’s not definitive, but this in itself is telling enough – maybe there is no clear answer. 

In a pragmatic world, we are all forced to don different hats and adopt varied roles to survive, but in her own free-spirited way, Shulin persistently chases her passions. In doing so, she is unapologetically herself, staying true to the multitude of facets that make up her identity.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Shulin, it’s this: we’re not just ‘one thing’; we’re not just a lawyer, or a writer, or anything of the sort. There is no set definition and no easy way to distil your entire self into one sentence, chapter, or even a full-length autobiography. We’re the sum of all our parts, and embracing that is, perhaps, the first step to discovering our identity. 

Join the conversations on THG’s Facebook and Instagram, and get the latest updates via Telegram.




Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest articles and insights right to your inbox!

You might like


Latest updates


Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Create New Account!

Fill the forms below to register

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Are you sure want to unlock this post?
Unlock left : 0
Are you sure want to cancel subscription?