Oh, the places you’ll go

It’s been a while. Writing doesn’t always come easy now as I write all day at work and just want to come home and absorb. It’s been nine full months of being a gainfully employed adult and that’s almost nine months of experiencing just three states of existence: working, sleeping and riding public transport. Far and few between are moments where I get to really sit back and examine what I’m doing. Gratification comes from work-related successes: pulling off a media event, getting coverage of my press release, being in a good place with my client, etc. It’s hardly cosmic, and these achievements will never matter beyond my sphere of work, but it’s something.

It’s interesting because one’s career is so important. What we do has become who we are. You’re a teacher. A banker. An engineer. An artist. We know full well it’s never the sum of a person, and yet we go around introducing ourselves as such. It’s the first thing we ask when we meet someone new. On some level, it is important – it’s understanding what a person spends most of their life doing and thinking about. And yet, who you become at the end of a 12-hour day when you’re tired and out of time for bullshit – perhaps that’s the most important version of you yet.

Who do I want to be? Who do you want to be?

I come home spent and ready to go to bed. Of course my working hours are not half as bad as some of my friends’, but work does take up most of my life. It’s been a good nine months, and I’m glad I still want to show up every day, but I also need to systematically build a life of something more. My goal for 2015 was to get to work, be financially independent, and gain experience. This will continue to be the bulk of my life for the rest of the year, but I also believe it’s time to get off my ass.

I need to exercise more. Start cooking again. Eat healthily. Actually be socially engaged. Go out more. Mingle more. Volunteer more. Donate more. Think more. Write more. Learn more. Read more. Reflect more. To become a full human being again ha. Not that I have work to blame for not being one.

It’s strange to be in a space where most of my friends are working. When we come together, that’s all we talk about. When I meet up with my fellow comms graduates, it’s like meeting a Singaporean when you’re overseas; you’re finally able to speak Singlish and someone will understand the nuances. We once spent an entire session listening to a girl unload about her communications job. It’s a pat on the back. It’s a reassuring nod. We get it. And that’s rare – for some groups, I can go on about my job, but they will never truly understand what I do and the mini battles of every day. And that’s the same of me for other fields. Will I ever truly truly understand banking? Or trading? Or forex? Shh, don’t tell my finance clients.

So many spheres of life. So many different paths. I love seeing where everyone is and where they’ll end up. There’s so much potential in youth and it’s just like that Dr. Seuss quote:

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.

But of course, at the end of the day, the places we’ll go is not merely about the employment paths we walk. It’s about choosing the kind of life you want to lead and the kind of person you wish to be. Make no mistake; it’s always a choice and we wake up every day making that choice. Just as we shouldn’t let our schooling get in the way of our education, we should not allow our success to get in the way of our greatness.

With each passing year, we are sure each year that it’s the time of our lives. And I think it always is. There’s always something. But now is truly the time we’re bursting with potential. Each of us a fruit. And I look forward to ripening and being remade.

P.S. Another few reading challenge posts coming up soon.

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Being gainfully employed

It’s a rare moment of quiet in what has been a rather insane month.

For the uninitiated, the new year really ushered in a new life for me as I’ve begun working! I thought I would write an update about how arduous and nerve-wracking the job hunt process would be, but I was privileged to have found a suitable job in a short amount of time.

I was ganchiong as always so I started searching passively around August. With each application, I dreamt up fantasy scenarios of loving that particular company and excelling at the job description publicised. But most media companies had to hire someone quickly and my graduation date was December. It was easy to lose steam when sending applications to most places was like sending letters using the British Royal Mail: you’d probably not get a reply (in the latter’s case because the other party has not received it and in the former’s the other party doesn’t care.) But I started gaining some momentum around mid October, went for a few interviews and tada secured a fantastic position! As I said, super super lucky.

I’ve always wanted to work in the media and its peripheral industries, and those were the sectors I went for in my job search. It’s weird really because I never tried outside of those industries, and barely even considered it. I’m not sure how and when I had such an affinity with the media. Tried publishing, social media, public relations and broadcast media, and they all had their perks and disincentives. They are all super different actually, but they have a low salary and terrible hours in common haha. But ended up back in PR.

It’s awfully strange to think about how 15 year-old me decided I wanted to pursue a career in journalism, and now I’ve ended up on the other side of it: public relations, the oft-enemy and sometimes friend of the journalist. My relationship with PR has been like that of a girl who first flat-out rejected a guy, eventually decided to give him a second look, made friends with him casually and then finally realised being with him could be infinitely challenging and rewarding.

I still don’t know if this guy is The One (but of course I don’t believe in that concept), but I’m very happy with my decision to try it out.

I think ultimately my decision to try this company and position out was fueled by the very same thing that has driven me these few years: a hunger to learn. So far, I really have been thrown into the deep end, and to tell you the truth, I’m loving it.

I’ve been put in a job where nitpicking on grammar and formatting is a company characteristic, and there’s a nice balance between writing alone at my desk, and being social with people and anticipating their needs. I fit in. Which is so great.

I’ve always believed that we should make our passions our careers. That’s 15-year-old Ning speaking with the idealism of a doe. And I still believe in that; I’ve been accused more than once of being idealistic. But I think passion is a tricky thing to pin down. There are few passions in the world, and humans are really so much more complex than being in pursuit of one thing. It’s also, of course, a highly privileged concept – that we can choose what we wanna do in our lives. So, while believing in the importance of passion, and believing in liking your work, I also believe that you don’t have to make your passion your career.

But I’m very glad that ultimately, I am liking my work. I want to be there everyday, and I now think that’s the one criterion you should use when you’re searching for work or deciding whether you wish to stay in a job. Do you want to be there the next day?

Other than the content of my work, I’m just so happy to be gainfully employed, to be earning money, to contribute to the household, and to start saving for my future. Money is an awfully empowering thing. Don’t trust anyone who says otherwise.

The month has also been busy because I’m still working on The Swan Project with my very lovely project mates from last semester, and we have a lot of exciting stuff going on. I’m sometimes sad that I haven’t been able to fully participate in their work because of my schedule, but I’m so glad I’m still a part of this team. The Swan Project is a movement to help transmen and transwomen in Singapore. I’ve learnt so much and made so many great friends on this journey, and I hope more people in Singapore gets to see how lovely these human beings are from my project and elsewhere.

As I transition into working life, I am so so aware of how busy and tired people get. I am trying, as best I can, to hold on to the other things in life. To make sure I am being productive and reflective outside of the context of work. Because, as much as money is awesome like I mentioned, it is also not enough.

One needs to expose themselves to worlds outside of their own; if not, we could become so narrow-minded and self-absorbed. We need to always remember to live a closely examined life and remember that the world doesn’t end at your doorstep.

PS. Speaking of which, I am also trying my best to continue reading (cue The Reading Challenge 2015). Next review coming right up!

Transitions

The first week of school has come and gone, and I’m officially in my 4th year of university. It’s (almost) my last year and it feels entirely surreal that I’ve been through so many different modules, programmes, experiences, social activities, etc. that are so very Singaporean and also very much my own (cos I’ve always believed myself to be the maker of my college experience). It’s weird because when you’re actually learning a particular subject and working on a project, it feels like nothing can be more important, and that finishing the work would take so much of you. But then when you look back with the distance of months or years, it always seems so easy. And short-lived. Our relationship with time is strange–it’s definitely more of a timey wimey wibbly wobbly mess. 

In any case, being back in school was just all-round weird after so many months of work. I absolutely can’t wait to learn and absorb and think critically and engage with the world on that level again. But it’s also odd because my working experience was so fulfilling and its coming to an end was nothing short of surreal. 

I remember thinking sometime in the middle of work that when I finish my short-term relationship with public relations that I’m going to write a list of things I find hilarious in PR language and basically the style I’ve adopted for the last few months. But as I reached the end, I only felt sentimental and pre-nostalgic, like I was going to miss everything, even when I was still there. And that it would have been judgmental and terrible of me to make fun of the very things I did and the very person I had become in those months. 

The truth is, I can say all I want about the principles of PR and how I could never love it long-term because of the self-serving nature of the profession (and how it definitely involves some neocolonial elements in our local context). But it all boils down to the people. I ended up bonding with my boss, liking my colleagues and caring for my clients. It’s all about the people, and I loved the people. And, so, I guess my experience taught me a lesson: to never base my decisions and loves on generalisations and abstract principles. An industry can be like this, a profession can be like that, but ultimately it’s about the people you work with. And it’s about holding yourself up to a high quality of work because you respect both yourself and the people who hired you. 

While I gained an immense amount of satisfaction and became rather good at my job, I still wonder about the PR profession. I’m certain its effects on my personality were not permanent, and that’s great because I’m not ready to fix myself yet (in more ways than one.)

Work was tiring in an everyday kind of way; the weight it bears on you seems imperceptible and rather possible to take on at first, but once you realise it is a marathon you’re carrying that weight into, you’re too late to get out. Sounds very pessimistic, but I guess that’s just the way it structures modern life now, and which is why I believe it is very important that the weight is borne out of something you love, or at least becomes a part of you. I hope that in 1.5 years’ time, I can come back to this platform (or another one) and let you know that I’ve found a few of those weights I would carry to the ends of the earth (you know, both in terms of work and my personal life.)

But, back to the mechanics of life… Because I had basically no break between work and school, I have been trying to reclaim my life as a couch potato by breaking my laptop (and eyesight) with too much TV and comics. My brain had been rejecting any active creative thought, and I think I need to get on that horse again soon. So this post is a reminder to myself. 

Every day I marvel at the fact that I’m probably already an adult. It’s odd because I’ve felt responsible and sensible my whole life, but just as I’m rounding the corner on adulthood, there’s never been a time where I’ve wanted it the least.