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Some kind of good

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.

Creativity and crap

The thing I love about being an educator is that more often than not, I end up learning something new myself.

I don’t have any lofty ideals about teaching, I don’t see myself as some paragon of knowledge. I’ve always been frank and upfront with my kids: I’m not perfect, I don’t know everything so please, do challenge me. And it’s true. I don’t know everything.

During my first lesson with them yesterday, I perched myself onto the table (why stand when you can sit?) and chatted to them about creativity. I told them that in order to be good at whatever they do, be it photography or writing, they need to expose themselves to a variety of influences and practise, practise, practise. That they will start out producing crap at first but then the crap will slowly turn into gold one day if they work hard enough.

And then I realised that this is sort of how life has been for me.

In the early days of my career, I was confused and trying to find my direction in life. I dabbled at different vocations and left when I felt I had reached the learning ceiling or when it stopped feeling right. My family members tsk-ed at me and labelled me flighty, unreliable – I didn’t bother justifying myself. But I figured that since I am spending a good part of my day at work, I had better be enjoying what I do or I’ll be a most mentally unhealthy person. Of course, I went through a lot of emotional struggle back then, trying to do what was right but at the end of the day, I realised that my sanity was what mattered most.

So yes, there was quite a fair bit of crap involved back then.

But look at me now. I’m doing something that I enjoy. Those various stints that I did in different industries? I gained all that knowledge in so many areas and the experiences have made me valuable in this organisation. I now teach a range of subjects in the school, my supervisors look at me and see versatility and adaptability.

My career has turned into gold.

If I could speak to the me of then, I would say: go forth and explore. Don’t worry about what others are saying behind your back, just listen to your gut instinct. It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to be crap. Because you never know where the failures and the crap will lead you.

(The whole talk about producing crap was inspired by the following video from Ira Glass)

The work/family dilemma

Officially, my maternity leave ended on Sunday and I should have been back at work on Monday. But at the point in time when I was making a decision regarding work, I chose to take an additional two weeks off to spend with my little man.

Initially, I was toying with the idea of resigning and caring for him full-time, or work part-time. Like many mothers who work, I was loathed to place my son with caregivers five days a week while I worked. I wanted more time to spend with my baby, I wanted to be with him, I wanted the opportunity to watch him grow and develop. It was especially poignant to me because given our circumstances and our difficulty-ridden journey to become parents, I felt that this could be my one and only chance to spend time with perhaps my one and only child.

I may never have the chance to baby another baby.

And yet, I was torn. I love Aidan, don’t get me wrong, he is the light and joy in my life. But I also enjoy what I do. I like interacting with the kids, I like having adult conversation with someone other than my husband on a daily basis. Plus, part-time work would mean half the pay with the same workload. And more importantly, I was doing well and I know that this was a role I could grow in.

In the end, practicality won out and I made the decision to go back to work full-time. It was a no-brainer, really: we needed that full income; Aidan would be in good hands; I wanted to give myself the chance to see if this is a career I can shine in. And I know that I will be a better and happier mother by continuing to work full-time.

But a part of me feels…sad. I wish I could be there for Aidan when he flips or crawls for the first time, or takes his first step, or says his first word. I know that my heart will die a little when his caregivers share with me about his milestones that happened while I am at work. I know that this perennial debate between family and work will rear its head every now and then. I know that I will question my decision each and every time Aidan does something new.

Looking on the bright side though, I’m glad that I have a job that allows me to leave on time. That means I can be home with Aidan before seven every weekday, a luxury many working parents don’t have. We can have our own routines in the mornings and at nights, and there are always weekends to spend with my little family.

And even if I can’t be there with him for his milestones first, we can create our very own firsts.

The first time he swims. The first time he tastes chocolate. The first time he calls me mama. The first time he plays with sand. The first time he takes the plane. The first time he sees the beautiful sunrise. The first time he kisses me. The first time he plays with the cats.

There are endless firsts that we can have together as a family and I am looking forward to making these memories. As a working mother. For now.

To have heart

The first week of work has gone by quietly. The new semester hasn’t started and my colleagues are busy winding down the previous semester. As such, I’m left pretty much on my own most of the time.

To say that the environment is vastly from the Agency is an understatement. Back at the Agency, things are always happening and there’s a buzz in the air. Here, I’m sitting in my 1980s-ish cubicle with high walls and it can get deathly quiet at times.

I am not complaining though. As with every new job, adjustments need to be made and expectations changed. There is no rush and time is needed for me to get used to the way things are run here. Best of all, I have friends like miss ene and darthycdious to ease me into the system.

But that is not the point of this post. Within my first week, I was asked to attend a session that discussed all about the passion of teaching – what’s constructive and destructive passion, how we can sustain our passion etc. Two things that struck me: first, some of my colleagues were honest to me about how they are in this line not for the passion but for the stability it brings; and second, how many educators love their jobs but detest their admin load and the institution.

One reason why I never, ever considered teaching in our primary/secondary/junior college system was because I had seen first-hand how friends loved what they did but left because of politics and administrative work. This is not dissimilar to the private sector – love the job but hate the company or boss. But, and that’s a huge BUT, I always wondered why our teachers are made to take on so much admin work when their primary function is to EDUCATE.

It seems like this is a problem even at tertiary level and while I didn’t think that teachers at my level are free from handling paperwork and “extra curricular activities”, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the actual amount. And during that session, it was clear that many of them felt that the balance between teaching and administrative work is tipping in the wrong direction.

And I don’t know why this would come as a shock – I certainly was guilty of it at the Agency – but I was taken aback when someone hiunted broadly to me that she was here not because she genuinely enjoyed what she did but because of the job stability and relatively easy hours (hardly anyone stays beyond 6pm).

I have always associated teaching as a job that requires passion. I mean, I don’t have to be passionate about advertising in order to produce a fantastic press release but you certainly need to have a lot of heart in order to be a good teacher. And if your heart is not in it, it shows in your teaching. Just think back to the days when you were in school: I can definitely identify the teachers who had shaped my life and those who simply recited from the textbook and didn’t care if I was snoozing in class or not.

Right now, I cannot say that I have a passion for teaching simply because I haven’t started. But I am here because I am genuinely interested in this vocation. I don’t know if I will be any good but I do know, through my Masterclass sessions, that people enjoyed listening to my presentations and that I am quite believable when I am passionate about my subject. And I hope that this will come across when I start teaching proper.

This argument between earning my keep and doing something that I love has been raging in my career for a long time now. Some may call me a job-hopper but most of the time, I leave because I feel that I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank to sustain me for longer and I honestly don’t feel much for the job. It’s quite clear to me, then, that passion rules over practical issues in the long run. I cannot remain in a job because it pays the bills, I need to enjoy and love my job.

Call me idealistic but I am willing to take a risk (and a huge paycut) to try. And that in itself says a lot.

The sun is out

The weather has been so fickle today: the skies turned grey and dumped a truckload of rain on us, and I buttoned my jacket and rubbed my hands together for warmth. And then suddenly, the torrential rain stopped and the sun chased away the clouds. We are bathed in its glorious, golden light once again.

It reminded me, once again, of the school anthem of my beloved alma mater. After the sun, the rain. After the rain, the sun.

And that’s how it is, that’s how Life is. A new day, a new beginning.

As I serve out the last two weeks of my employment, I am grateful for the support of my wonderful boss. The workload has been light these days. The agency has been kind to me, really, it has, in comparison to some of my colleagues. One of the agency’s strengths is in its training programmes and I have learnt so much in my 2.5 years here. My stint here was a step towards greater things and I leave knowing that I have done my best, that my boss believes in me.

Despite all that frustration and anger in dealing with the messy politics, I leave with a lighter heart.

And so I begin my journey out of the corporate world. Yes, it entails a hefty pay cut. Yes, I am giving up my career. Yes, I know that I will never be able to chase the material dream again. Yes, I get apprehensive at times, wondering if I will be good at what I am going to do. Yes, I will be throwing myself out of the comfort zone and into a whole new world.

But you know what, I am completely comfortable with my decision. The pay cut doesn’t even bother me as much as I thought it would. I’ve never been one to hanker after the top of the ladder and my ambition in life is to be happy at what I do. Not much of an ambition, is it?

Thankfully, I am getting heaps and heaps of reassurance from the girlfriends who are in the same industry. And really, what would I do without them? I would never have gotten the courage to take the leap if it hadn’t been for them.

So yes, the rain has stopped and the sun is out. I’m ready for a fresh, new start. Wish me luck!

Halo

Straw that broke the camel’s back

This email just came in and – oh my God – it makes me so mad.
And so ready to throw in my resignation letter.
Because I am so pissed off with the way people behave in this industry and I think we can all do with a bit of kindness and courtesy.

Hi,
This probably hasn’t been communicated to you but XX Magazine is now a team of 4.

Can you include everybody in this email on future press releases please?
(what if I died or was in the labour ward? What will happen to your stories you want to tell the world?)

Just some scenarios. Hope you like the humour.

Editor

My ideal reply:

Dear Editor,
Oh my goodness! Really, there are four of you now? I never knew!

I’m sure that if you were hit by a bus and pinned under, or if you were flattened by a falling piano a la George Clooney in that Nespresso ad, you wouldn’t be as irresponsible as to ignore my email.

Because you know that we are only the LARGEST agency in town. And your pathetic little gossip rag would die without our content.

Corp Comms Manager

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