The Fate We Make – Book One: Heartbreak by Simone Warren is a powerful and vividly recounted story of survival, inner strength, and success against the odds.
With candour and eloquence, the Singapore-born author reveals how despite presenting an image of a high-achieving senior executive –working for multinational companies including Microsoft – her personal life was unravelling before her eyes. The scars of significant trauma including growing up in an environment marked by parental discord and pressures, an abusive marriage, and a lingering shadow of guilt cast for having to decide whether to abort an unplanned pregnancy as a teenager, left their mark. In her own words, Simone was a “high-functioning depressive” secretly plagued by insomnia, anxiety, alcohol dependence, and emotional self-sabotage.
The breakthrough only happened when she overcame the Asian tradition of ‘saving face’ to open up about her problems with others. Her hard-hitting yet inspirational new memoir, the first of three planned books, shares her experiences with the intention of helping others avoid the same pitfalls, showing that it is possible to persevere through hardship.
Q. Can you explain the significance of your memoir’s title, The Fate We Make?
A. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, even the really hard stuff. My maternal grandmother held the same ‘fatalistic’ views. It would be easy to think that we have no control over our own fate, but I’ve learned that we are the makers of our own fate through our choices. I’ve learned that I can’t control every event that I experience, but I can control how I react to it. With every decision we take, and consequence we face, we create a ripple effect of resulting circumstances and more choices to make, like dominos falling in succession when we push over the first at the beginning of the chain.
Q. Your life has been marked by severe personal trauma, yet you have been able to succeed professionally. How were you able to maintain your trajectory despite the significant emotional hurt, and at what cost?
A. I come from a long line of strong women who have endured much hardship including arranged marriages, domestic violence, child loss, grief, and infidelity. Therefore, from a young age, I realised that I had to grin and bear it, bury the pain, and carry on regardless. Being of Chinese descent, I believe in respecting tradition and always wanted to do as I was told and live up to what was expected of me. I subjugated my personal wants and needs for the greater good and to conform with familial and societal expectations.
This allowed me to rise above my personal struggles and focus on doing what was needed to become successful academically and professionally, but the cost of suffering in silence, putting on a ‘brave face’ and suppressing my feelings, has been immeasurably significant. I succumbed to substance addiction for years in order to numb the pain, caring so little about what happened to me that I put myself in dangerous situations. This continued until 2022, when I ended up in A&E with crisis-level high blood pressure and chest pains (often associated with the psychosomatic condition called ‘Broken Heart syndrome’).
Q. You write movingly about facing the nightmarish choice of either keeping or aborting an unplanned child when you were in your late teens. What are your views on the Pro Life vs Pro Choice debate?
A. My views are free from political, societal, and religious influences – I’ve had to work hard to arrive at my own conclusions. I understand the viewpoints of both Pro Life and Pro Choice camps, but I believe that every person has a right to make the decision that works out best for them when all things are considered. Ultimately, the decision to keep or abort an unborn child should be left to the individuals concerned because it is so deeply personal. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there should be acceptance and respect for someone’s views, even if we don’t personally agree with them. We can only live our own lives and should allow others to live theirs.
Q. The Fate We Make sets out your ordeal in an abusive relationship that lasted for many years before you managed to break free. What kept you in that relationship?
A. Low self-worth and the mistaken belief that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I also felt it was my fault that my partner was abusive towards me – that I deserved to be punished for saying the wrong things or by being insensitive to his needs. I felt for him because he had gone through a troubled childhood and emotionally traumatic experiences. I thought I could save him, believing him whenever he apologised and promised me he would try harder and that he wouldn’t do it again. Eventually, after the children were born, I became increasingly isolated in our nuclear family and cut off from the outside world. I felt I had no one to talk to and was also ashamed of the true nature of my dysfunctional relationship. I was always taught to keep my skeletons in the closet, something I had seen happen with my parents’ abusive marriage. In my specific situation, due to life-changing events in my troubled teenage years, I also felt I had to atone for past sins and earn the right to be happy.
Q. What advice can you give to other women who may, themselves, be in a similarly abusive relationship?
A. Seek help. Speak up about what is happening. There are so many people and organisations who can help you to escape to safety, to protect you and your children. It is NOT your fault. You deserve to be free from pain, stress, fear, and guilt. You deserve to feel safe and happy. Believe me when I reassure you from my own real life experience that your children will thrive once they are removed from the toxically abusive environment. Life is too short, so allow others to help you and your children to live your best lives.
Q. You state throughout your book that you believe that we are, in short, subject to intergenerational trauma, with the life experiences and expectations of our forebearers bearing down upon us. If so, how do we break this harmful cycle?
A. We break it by first reflecting on our forebearers’ life experiences and comparing them to our own. Ask your parents (and yourself) questions about what you’ve witnessed or what they’ve told you. Ask in order to recognise the pattern. Once you recognise that history could be repeating itself in your own life then act on the realisation. Confide in friends or organisations which can help you. Go for counselling so you can delve deeper into your motivations and how you are influenced by the generations who came before. Realise that you only live once, so you owe it to yourself to do what feels right for you. Repeat this cycle of reflecting, questioning, recognising, and realising because it will free you from your past, empower you to break the cycle, and forge your own destiny.
Q. A breakthrough moment in your path to healing was rejecting the traditional Asian attitude of saving face. Can you explain this concept and why it was harmful?
A. Most Asians will go to great lengths to put their ‘best face’ forward or to avoid publicly shaming themselves or someone else (especially an elder or superior). To save face means to avoid embarrassment or public exposure of anything that could be construed as shameful for yourself, your family, your employers, or society in general. This means that it is customary to hide or bury shameful secrets and one is expected to stay silent about anything which could cause embarrassment. There is tacit encouragement to even lie and pretend that things are going well even when they’re really not. It’s harmful because if you can’t talk about what is happening then you can’t check to see if it should be happening. Nor can you seek help or ask for support.
Q. Your memoir recounts in brief the lives of your female ancestors. What did you learn most from their own life stories?
A. My grandmother, mum, and aunts taught me that love conquers all; specifically, that finding the balance between selflessness and self-love should be the top priority for everyone. Women, in particular, have a tendency to put others’ needs before their own, because we often take on ‘nurturing’ and caring roles. Society conditions us to behave in certain ways – to be less outspoken for fear of being labelled pushy; to do as we’re told for fear of bringing shame upon our families. My female ancestors were strong, brave women who survived much hardship but never lost their capacity to love or hope for a better future.
Q. What is the greatest life lesson earned from your traumatic experiences?
A. On survival, to always be kind, to oneself and to others, because brave faces often hide broken hearts.
On success, dream big, start small. A journey of a thousand steps begins with your very first small step.
Q. Now that you have written The Fate We Make, what impact do you hope it has on readers, and how would you like them to view you?
A. I really hope that my memoir will inspire readers with the belief that it is possible to move beyond hardship and heartbreak and still find love and happiness. I hope they will accept how it’s okay not to be okay; that failure is what makes us all human, but it’s the only way we learn life lessons. I hope that they will view me as a fellow human being, without judgement, and recognise that I am sharing my story and those of my female forebears for their benefit.
The Fate We Make – Book One: Heartbreak by Simone Warren is out now on Amazon in paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats priced at £11.99 (paperback/audiobook) and £9.99 respectively. A limited-edition, signed hardcover version of the book is also available from the author’s website, priced £20. For more information, please visit www.thefatewemake.com.
Exclusive Extract From The Fate We Make – Book One: Heartbreak by Simone Warren
We share an exclusive extract from Simone Warren’s gripping new book The Fate We Make – Book One: Heartbreak. If you only read one memoir this year, make it this one.
As soon as the words leave my lips, I realise I’ve said the wrong thing. Dave’s eyes blaze brightly, a glacial shade of blue, as if he’s retreated behind a thick wall of ice and is no longer present, his pinprick pupils narrowing into black dots of angry aggression. His right fist connects with my left shoulder just above my heart, and the force of the blow is so brutal that I fall backwards and smash my head against the wall at the bottom of the stairs. He follows up with a viciously aimed kick to my ribs, so the air leaves my lungs and I’m unable to speak even if I wanted to. I feel his hands around my neck, squeezing hard in a desperate attempt to stop me from saying anything else. Mercifully, I pass out.
When I come round, I find Dave trying to resuscitate me with the kiss of life, his face wet with tears, eyes back to their normal shade of blue. He tells me how sorry he is as he cradles my head in his lap, how he can’t live without me, begging me to never leave him, how he only snapped because I said her name and made him feel guilty, how he just lashed out because he was too drunk and I just happened to be in the way. He starts punching his own chest to demonstrate that he would rather hurt himself than me. He knows I’m a good girl and he doesn’t deserve me, but he’ll kill himself if I leave him. He’s sorry and he’ll never do it again. But I have to stop making him do things he doesn’t mean to do; I have to stop expecting so much of him because he’s just a husk! It’s my fault for thinking he’s a better man than he is and for showing my disappointment when I realise that he’s not.
In a curious role reversal, I find myself hugging and cradling him, soothing away his tears with small kisses, feeling guilty about having triggered his emotional meltdown. I understand how it feels to be in so much pain that you would do anything to avoid thinking about the cause of that pain, drinking yourself into oblivion to numb all sensation, to drown out the accusing voice of Guilt. Drinking so much that you can’t think or remember anything. He tries to kiss me, to show love, but it just feels forced and awkward. I reflect on how I’ve ended up in a relationship with a chor-lang (ruffian) like Pa, and wonder if this is how Mum felt. I conclude that maybe it’s because this is all I deserve.