About two months ago, I quietly crossed the five-year mark of being in the organisation. I actually forgot all about it until the HR department informed me that I was getting a “long-service” award.
Wow. Has it been that long?
This is by far the job that I have stayed longest in, I can be considered what you call a serial job-hopper. Or a reformed job-hopper, anyway. Not that I am embarrassed about my job-hopping days – I see it as trying out everything that life and companies have to offer until I find something that fits my soul. Sounds dramatic but it is true, I am simply not someone who can work for the sake of working, I have to actually love what I do.
But when you stay in a job long enough, you start wondering if this is going to be it. Or at least, I do. I have an itchy foot, I am always looking out towards the horizon. There was a point in time when I was all ready to hand in my resignation, as troubled as I was about the bureaucracy and lack of progression in the organisation. I don’t like stagnating, one of the greatest thing about life, I think, is picking up new skills, new knowledge.
(Which is why I need to work, to keep my brains moving.)
I took a cursory glance at the options available to me, at the environment around me, and always, always, I go back to thinking, But I really enjoy teaching.
So I think, in a way, this is me for life. Not merely as an educator, but someone in the public sector.
As idealistic as it sounds, I feel like my career is fulfilling because I know that somewhere, somehow, I am doing good. The pay may suck, the progression is bogged down by red tape and archaic rules, and the lack of flexibility can kill. But when you see the kids growing, progressing through life, there is a gentle sense of satisfaction and you turn to the current cohort, hoping to mould them to be stronger, more resilient and more creative.
When I was in school, I swore that I would never join the civil service. I didn’t have the grades for it and bah, who wants to work for the government anyway when there are more hip and awesome places to go. I am eating my words now, although I will say that I am not working for the government but for the people. In my own little way, I am contributing to the little red dot that I call home.
So after five years, what next? I don’t know. This isn’t the time for me to move on yet, I still have no idea what my next steps will be. I don’t know if I am still relevant or sharp or clever enough for the private sector, heh. And there is more to be done, I just need to find out where and how I am needed.
It’s been more than two weeks since my left eye started failing on me. Ever since I received the right diagnosis, everyday has been a relief. Frankly, I don’t know how I lived through that week when it was mis-diagnosed. That had been hell.
But I am ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.
I had been solo parenting for two weeks and congratulating myself on doing fine so far. The Tuesday after the haze, my left eye turned red but since I was prone to dry eyes, I chalked it up as an after effect of the haze and left it as such.
By Sunday, it was clear that something was wrong. My eye was red and weepy, and I was feeling poorly. I stayed home alone with my littles, and managed to do all the cooking, washing up, playing, reading, napping etc. Thank god they were cooperative!
When I got to the GP on Monday morning, I was diagnosed with conjunctivitis and prescribed antibiotics, both oral and in the form of eye drops. By then I was in a lot of discomfort. The eye was swollen, so much so that I was unable to open it, and it hurt so much. I crawled home to hide under the covers in my darkened bedroom and slept the day away, rousing only to drive to pick up my children.
I went back to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, and there was a mountain of, well, crap to clear. There were scripts to be read and re-marked, and meetings to be met.
Those two days were awful. It felt like someone was drilling inside my eye socket and my head felt like it was going to explode. My eye was still swollen, weepy and red. My vision was blurred and light hurt my head. In the evenings, after I had fed, bathed, read and put the boys to bed, I would collapse in my own bed, grateful to finally rest. As I shut my eyes each night in exhaustion and pain, I prayed that I would wake up with clear vision.
By Thursday, it was apparent that the medicines had absolutely zero impact on my condition. I went back to the GP, who prescribed a second round of antibiotics and eye drops. He told me that if I didn’t get better over the long public holiday weekend, he would refer me to a specialist.
I was anxiety-ridden and fearful by then. Why didn’t the medicines work? Was I housing some kind of mutant super bug? Was my eye going blind? How long more can I hold out, doing this all on my own? What would happen to my kids?
Friday morning, I woke up to the husband kissing me hello. He was home! I almost cried in relief, it felt like I didn’t have to shoulder this physical burden on my own anymore. As I debated between going to see a specialist and waiting it out, I received a text from a concerned colleague.
“I will see how it goes after the weekend, if the new meds work,” I wrote.
Her reply came quick: “I don’t think you should wait.”
And suddenly it felt as if the cobwebs had been shaken off. Yes, why the hell was I waiting?
I went back to the GP for the third time, this time blessedly with the husband in tow. He took one look at my eye and said, “It is not getting better huh.”
The sweet clinic assistant made some calls on his behalf. The nearest public hospital was full, unfortunately, and the earliest appointment was the next week. Singapore National Eye Clinic could see us, but it would be on walk-in basis and the waiting time was estimated to be between three to four hours.
I panicked. By that time, I had hit the edge of my tolerance level, I just wanted the pain and the swelling to be fixed. Did I want to wait? NO.
A quick search on Facebook yielded Dr Leo Seo Wei’s name – fellow parents recommended her as being good with kids. Hell, if she was good with kids, she’d definitely be good with me. I placed the call and mercifully, she had an open slot at 2pm.
When we got there, the assistants ran some standard eye tests for me. They could barely get any reading out of my left eye, it was so swollen. After almost two hours of testing and waiting to see if my pupil would dilate and testing and waiting, it was my turn. Finally, the ophthalmologist sat me down behind her sophisticated and complicated gizmo and peered into my eye.
“You do not have conjunctivitis,” she declared. “You have what we call uveitis. Your eye is inflamed.”
I gasped audibly.
In that moment, I felt alive again. I had a diagnosis. It wasn’t conjunctivitis, I wasn’t housing some potent bug, no wonder the antibiotics didn’t work.
In a nutshell, uveitis is a rare condition where the eye is inflamed. The scans showed a cloudy eye, so swollen that nothing could be seen. It’s considered an ophthalmic emergency. It was infinitely WORSE than having conjunctivitis but I was just so happy that someone finally knew what was going on.
The doctor was worried that the inflammation had gone on for so long that it would compromise my sight. After another two rounds of scans (because the eye was just so swollen that it could not open wide enough), she finally determined that the inflammation was contained and I would likely get my sight back. But because it had gone on for so long, the recovery was likely to be a slow one. There was no way the GP could have diagnosed this for they did not have the tools to examine the eye like she did.
She prescribed a series of steroids drops for me and scheduled a review the next day. And after faithfully dosing my eye every hour with the drops, she said the meds were working when I saw her again on Saturday. I was given oral steroids for a few days and told to see her again on Tuesday.
Since then, I have had and will be having weekly reviews with her until the inflammation clears up. It is costing me a lot of money, but I’d gladly pay. Because my eye is saved. I know what I am suffering from and there is a cure. The recovery will be long but I know I will get there. I no longer live in the dark, both literally and metaphorically. That week of pain and darkness was truly awful – and it was dreadful to be going through it alone. Thank goodness for kind colleagues, who asked about me every day.
But the scary thing, really, is how it struck me. According to the doctor, there can be no particular reason but if it recurs, then it could be a sign of an autoimmune disorder. I am taking it one step at a time and praying that my sight will be restored.
Right now, my sight is still hazy, like there is a white film over it. It’s still sensitive to light and I get a headache from the imbalanced vision sometimes. But I am so, so, so thankful that I made the decision to see a specialist. It probably saved my left eye and a whole lot of heartache.
To my love,
Happy eight! Believe me when I say that I am simply amazed that we have survived eight years of being married to each other. Some days are harder than others, it’s true. I know that there have been moments when I would have gladly stabbed you with a blunt fork. But okay, that’s not really a tactful thing to tell you on our anniversary.
At the end of the day though, it’s always been you. No matter how hard I tried, nobody else makes me laugh the way you do. Nobody hugs me right the way you do. Nobody lets me poke fun at him the way you do. Nobody gets my crazy obsessions the way you do. Nobody feeds me the way you do.
Most importantly, nobody gets me the way you do.
(And also, nobody infuriates me the way you do. It must be true love.)
Thank you for having the foresight those years ago to see that we can be a possibility. You were always the smart one for marrying a smarter woman. We may be completely clueless about what may happen tomorrow but I am sure as hell glad that I am doing this with you.
Happy anniversary! I love you like crazy.
The husband flew off a couple of weeks ago and needless to say, I have been solo parenting.
It hasn’t been too bad, really, I am enjoying my time spent with the littles. They have been rather generous in proclaiming their love and adoration for me over the past weeks and I will gladly take all of that. Bad moments, yes, there have been some raised voices and frayed tempers, but generally these come and go and are easily resolved.
I am lucky in that sense, these two are rather good-natured and love their mummy so.
What really struck me, over the course of the past two weeks, was just how much Aidan has grown.
We were strolling along the airport this evening – one of our favourite haunts because aeroplanes! Food! Caffeine! – and as he walked next to me while I pushed Zac in the stroller, I suddenly realised that he’s a bona fide boy. He’s mature and rational and logical (MOSTLY) and I can reason with him. He’s going to be in kindergarten next year.
But his growth is not just measured in numbers.
Last week, his school celebrated teachers’ day and I prepared some gifts for his teachers. For the past few weeks, the school has been hosting some polytechnic interns and he has been interacting with one of them in particular.
As I was packing the presents, he suddenly asked, “Do we have a present for Teacher Edward (the intern)?”
I said no, we didn’t because he had not joined the school when I was purchasing the gifts.
“Can we get something for him? Otherwise, he will be sad,” he said. “Mummy, can we give him something?”
Earlier today, we had lunch at my in-laws’. On the drive back, Zac fell asleep in the car and I gingerly carried him back to the flat with Aidan following close behind.
As I moved swiftly into the boys’ bedroom, I instructed Aidan to stay outside so that I can transfer Zac to the floor bed. To my surprise, he continued following me into the room. I was all ready to raise my voice at him when he dashed into the room and said, “Mummy let me help you.”
He then proceeded to position the mattress in the right way, and he even arranged the pillows all around the bed, the way I usually do. All this while, I was standing in the room with a sleeping Zac in my arms. Once done, he zipped quietly out of the room and closed the door gently.
When did he grow up into this thoughtful boy without my noticing?
All those times when I wished for him to grow up and out of that horrible infancy period, when he woke up a million times at night and I cried in frustration, when he clung to me as he drifted off to sleep – that’s all gone now and in its place is a little boy armed with his future in his hands and a long road ahead of him. Right now he is walking hand in hand with me but I know that it won’t be long before he lets go and goes off without me.
It makes my heart swell with pride and yet there is a tinge of sadness at all that has come and gone. While each moment had felt so long and never-ending, it’s really been just a blink of an eye.
Another year, another birthday for you, my beloved homeland.
We watched the parade in the comforts of our own home. This time, Aidan is old enough to be captivated by the proceedings while Zac dozed off midway through the parade. While I can’t say that I cared much for the legend of Badang storyline, I will admit that it’s always the same old things that bring a tear to my eye – the patriotic songs of yesteryear, the enthusiastic performances by all the participants, the pride clearly shown in the spectators and the gorgeous fireworks bursting in the night sky.
This year, however, something else made me almost weep with pride. And that is the inclusion of the special needs Singaporeans in the parade, as well as the signing of our favourite National Day songs. There was something electrifying in that segment, something heart warming. It made me feel like we are taking a huge step forward in becoming an inclusive society.
And yet, I could not help but feel resigned that this took 51 years in the making.
But as I’ve said before, life in Singapore can feel like a complicated cha-cha. We move one step forward and then three steps back. A whirl and a turn later, we are back on track. It can be immensely frustrating and yet hopeful at the same time.
Hopeful. Not quite a word I would use on 2016, frankly. It’s been crazy and weird and downright depressing. Sometimes, I wonder what the hell we are doing and what kind of world we are leaving behind for the children.
But it is precisely the children who gives us hope. Who makes us feel like giving it our all even if we are not sure our best is good enough.
On Monday, the school that the littles go to had a National Day celebration and the parents were invited. Amid the various activities and shows and games, there was one thing that stood out: the simple, pure joy and enthusiasm of the children.
They sang this year’s theme song, Tomorrow’s Here Today (a rather catchy and fun tune, I really love it!) with much happiness, were loud and proud when reciting the pledge, and belted out the national anthem with gusto. There was so much love for the celebrations, for the country. And as the proud parents watched them do their thing, we couldn’t help but feel inspired by and smile at their positivity.
At some point in time, they will lose this simplicity. They will lose all the sense of wonder that they have for their country. They will be critical – and rightly so too. But at that moment of watching them take their pledge seriously, that was when I came to the realisation that the children are our future. And how they will be in time to come will be the results of the seeds that we sow today.
And that’s why the segment with our special needs people is important. It may have taken 51 years for us to get here but it isn’t too late. We still have time and hope. We cannot give up, we must not. We have to do our best today to lay the foundations for our children, to ensure that the future for them is an inclusive, gracious, open one.
Happy birthday, my birth country. I am proud of how far we have come but there is still much to be done. I don’t know if I will be here when you celebrate 100 years of existence but I do know that we can weather the storms of today to build a home that we will be prouder of for our children.