Werk

It’s not you, it’s me

Despite the change in title at work, I am suddenly left with the epiphany that no, this is not the right job for me at all. I love magazines, I love flipping through their glossy pages, I love looking at the wonderful art direction of the pictures. But somehow, I am not enamoured of the magazines produced by my company nor do I enjoy what really goes on behind the scenes of these so-called glamourous rags.

I dislike the hierarchical chain of rule that’s practised and encouraged here. I hate the businesslike and cold approach we take to the magazines. I hate how I have to schedule my leave according to the magazine’s timeline. I hate how taking leave and public holidays have become such dreaded events because it means my work will pile up to astronomical heights. I don’t understand how my superiors can say things like, “Do you really need to take leave for two days? I’m worried about the deadline” when it’s my first day joining the team and they have already assigned me three feature stories to be completed in a week. It’s obvious that in times of recession, they will cut down on expenses like freelancers, which means that the employees will have a heavier workload.

I came in, a year ago, feeling optimistic and overjoyed that my dream job was a reality. To write! For a magazine! Yay! But I soon realise quickly that this is nothing more than a factory churning out pictures, words and pages at chop chop speed. What’s more, everything has to be new! Refreshing! Surprising! Unpredictable!

Perhaps, to sum it up succinctly, I lack the passion to stay in the company. I don’t love beauty products enough to wax lyrical about the newest long lasting lipsticks for many moons. My love for fashion goes the way of Nylon and Frankie, not Louis Vuitton or Fendi. I like irreverence, self-deprecation, emotional connection and cheekiness in my writing, none of which is really found in these rags. And I have absolutely no desire, wish or ambition to become anything more than a writer, having seen how much an editor can change and has to sacrifice. (I also do not have the patience to stay for years, hoping to be promoted.)

What’s more, I don’t take my company’s magazines seriously because I know that most of the content is driven by advertising dollars anyway. And while fashion and beauty are great institutions, when the world comes to an end, I am not likely to go, “Oh damn, I wished I have that Chanel 2.55 purse to bring to the grave with me.”

So where does that leave me? I don’t know. I don’t have to be a professional writer to write, I can still earn a (better-paid) living elsewhere and still write on the side. All I want is to have a better work-life balance where I can take days off and chill without feeling pressured by what I will face when I return. A life where I can go to the gym after the work or go home and cook for my little family of two.

A life where I can, ultimately, stay at home and watch my children grow up without missing out on their key moments.

Werk

Everyday musings

Almost everyday, I wake up in bed and ask myself, “What do I want to do with my life?”

You know, when I was a kid, I thought that life would fall neatly into place when I grow up. I would get a job, get married, have a house, have children and just sail through life. But things aren’t that simple. The family and marriage part is coming along nicely – it’s the part about career which worries me.

I am not an ambitious person. I strive to be happy in what I do and to earn a comfortable living. So what if I don’t become an editor, so what if I can’t afford to buy that Prada purse? It’s not that big a deal to me. All I aim for in life is to be happy and have enough time for myself and my family. But the problem is, as much as I don’t want to be a career ladder climber, these days, my job shapes my mood and my feelings.

I don’t know when exactly it was that I started losing confidence in my writing here. Somewhere along the way, I became worried that I am not suitable for the job and it has lingered. And now, I am faced with a problem: I don’t know what I want to do, or can do. If I stay on, which I want to for a while more, am I able to deliver? Can I work with my boss, who, although very nice, drives me up the wall with her inefficiencies and disorganisation? If I go, where am I to go, especially with the economy looking like such a miserable cow? What do I do – stick with writing, or a writing-related job (like editing), or completely abandon the writing ship and jump to be a corporate executive?

In my dream scenario, I would be sitting at home, writing up a storm and earning my keep from freelance work. But with my name unfamiliar to commercial entities (where all the money really is), it’s going to take a huge leap of faith for me to do the unthinkable.

And so, invariably, I ask myself, “What do I want to do with my life?”

The organised chaos, Werk

What’s next?

!(imgleft)http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3141/2644946165_62d26d7c20_m.jpg(Monochrome life)!:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/2644946165/
After waking up at 5am this morning for the race (no, I didn’t run because I am injured. But more on that later), I figured I would be tucked in bed right now. Instead, I made myself a cup of iced tea and browsed through fashion blogs and sites like a HDB lady of leisure.

Someone once asked me why I am not a fashion writer despite my obvious love for the F-word. Surprisingly, the thought of writing about the one thing that I love in my life is simply not enticing. Once something you love becomes your livelihood, it ceases to bring you amusement and excitement. Plus, as I had told my employers at the interview, I am not the fashion writer that they are looking for. Thrifting, budget shopping and street fashion are more my cup of tea, not going gaga over ridiculously over-priced, ugly monogram bags.

Maybe this is why, although the current topics that I write about interest me, I am just not interested in writing about them. A colleague summed it up best: “I felt a dilemma. I liked the camaraderie and cosiness of the team, I am interested in the topics but putting in so much effort to research for them made me not like them anymore.”

Seven months into the job, I am beginning to think that writing may not be the best career option for me. I am happiest when I am writing about everything and anything – sometimes it’s a movie that thrills me, or a song that’s playing on repeat mode (currently Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”) on Ingrid or a look that I am into at the moment. Tell me to speak to dietitians and doctors and I zone out immediately.

It’s infinitely scary because this has been what I wanted to do my whole life and now that I am living it, I am finding that the dreams I once had as a child are no longer dreams but sad realities. Many have told me that I am not cut out for the corporate world but I suppose I should not shut the door on something that I have never really tried before. Who knows, I may just be really good at corporate communications and the like.

Am I at a crossroads of some sort? Perhaps. I’ve been pretty lucky so far, when it comes to opportunities, so I am crossing my fingers that Lady Luck will carry on smiling benevolently on me.

The organised chaos, Werk

Faltering, faulty, flawed

Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

– J K Rowling, in her commencement speech to a group of over-achievers known as Harvard graduates.

It’s all too easy to dismiss Rowling’s words, really. Afterall, she is a millionaire many times over and is one of the world’s best-selling author. What does she know about poverty and hardship and life’s disappointments?

I’m cynical, and the older I get, the more jaded I become.

Today, I truly felt like a failure. After six months at this job, I wonder if I have become any better at it. Failure is not something I am used to in my career. In my past two jobs, my bosses have liked my work, they had great plans for my career and they tried to get me to stay on when I decided to leave. Three months into the job, I became proficient at what I was doing, such that they were contented to leave me to my own devices, knowing that I would produce the quality of work they had come to expect from me. They spoke of plans to groom me to be an editor, to run the show myself. And I gave it all up for a dream.

A dream that’s fast unravelling. Like Rowling, I am terrified of failure. That’s what poverty does to you. You grow an extra thick and long spine but you also develop a heightened fear of failure, of remaining poor.

What do I fear most in life? I fear not having enough money to give my children the life that I had and never had. I fear being apathetic, to the point that I can’t see love or passion in any of the things I do, encounter and feel. I fear losing my loved ones.

And most importantly, I fear that the problem lies with me. That it’s me who is never satisfied. That no matter how hard I look, it is never good enough. All I want is to do something that I genuinely enjoy, to know that my work is valued and appreciated by my superiors, a job that gives me healthy challenges and yet respects me enough to allow me to have the privacy of my “me” time, something that gives me profound job satisfaction.

Maybe being a failure, like Rowling says, is not a thing to be feared at all. Failure does force you sit down and strip away the layers of lies, excuses and reasons that you concoct to pull yourself through. And perhaps through this, I can find my way.

Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way

Jason Mraz is brilliant. I haven’t felt this way in a long, long while now.

Arts & Entertainment, Werk

A dash of pink and black

!(imgcenter)http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2033/2538308206_0e2646d898_m.jpg(Oh keep me sane)!:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/2538308206/
Almost four years since graduation, I realise that I have stopped decorating my workdesk. When I first started, I had cheery pictures of us in Hawaii and my nephew adorning the walls of my cubicle. These days, my desk is just that: a desk to aid my productivity so that I can bugger out of the office as quickly as possible.

But even then, a girl needs something to cheer her up when she is buried in work and when that antique Macintosh G3 machine throws a tantrum. My solution? A gorgeous poster of the new Sex and the City movie. I love the artwork – the elegant black and pink, the crystal-encrusted logo, her beautiful bustier dress, the air of class, girlishness and unbridled joy. It’s all marketing, of course, but my love for Carrie and SJP far exceeds my innate cynicism (which is exacerbated by the job, really).

I’ve got the soulful India.Arie song, The Heart of the Matter, on repeat mode now, the very song that drew my attention on the movie’s website and trailer. Thanks to the ed, a copy of the soundtrack landed on my desk and the combination of completing my work on time, the arrival of the weekend and the fact that I will be catching the most anticipated movie of the year soon really lifted my spirits.

Can’t wait to get to the cinema later to catch the movie with the girls. Happiness!

Oh, and I’ll be running my first 10km for the Sundown Marathon in 1.5 years since the 2006 Singapore Marathon before that. Wish me luck!

Werk

Buried, swamped, drowned

!(imgleft)http://farm1.static.flickr.com/96/214109901_b60b09f64f_m.jpg(Grumpy)!:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyliew/214109901/
Whatever the word you pick, it describes me now.

Friday is D-day – DEADLINE – and I’m sinking in piles of work. I have never been the sort to bring work home. I absolutely abhor working at home and I like to draw the line very, very clearly. But these days, I find myself checking email and writing stories from scratch on Ingrid and it’s just driving me a tad insane. In fact, I suspect Monday blues and stress were the causes of my two nights of insomnia before I finally hit the bed like a bag of bricks last night.

Every morning this week, I had felt like throwing in the towel. Until Corrinne May sang this into my ear this morning en route to the office:
“I feel like a little girl
Trying to conquer the whole wide world
Everybody wants a piece of me
And I just don’t know where to turn
I’ve got work piled up to my head
All I wanna do is jump into bed
And wash away my troubles with lemonade..”

Replace “lemonade” with “teh-si” and that’s me she’s singing about!

And somehow, the fog lifted. I went into the office, had a bit of a chat with the colleagues and I felt happier. It really helps to work with people whom you can trust, rely on and have a laugh with when the times get bad. And when I was facing a huge gap in my story which I just could not plug despite spending an afternoon walking from shop to shop, it was Trevor who came to my rescue. He found the solution for me and as I heaved a sigh of relief, I realised that I needed to take a step back and relax.

This job is stressful, true, and the crazy expectations and fluctuating moods of my boss can make me mad. But I need to accept the bads and learn to see that for a job that I like and enjoy (most times), it really isn’t too bad.

I just need to stay focused till the next stretch is over – the wedding is done and the east end is ready – before thinking real hard about our business plan and turning a dream into reality. And then I can decide on my next move again.

Werk

Muchas gracias

Just wanted to drop a line to thank those who had bought the March issue of the magazine to support me. 🙂 I’m very touched, especially when Dotz said that Mel’s army friends and him were devouring the magazine during their reservist stint last week. The idea of a few men in army fatigues reading a female magazine is quite hilarious!

The past week has been a crazy week of deadlines and stress – it was really quite scary walking from the office to Potong Pasir MRT station at 8pm. Two things have been helping me through the stress: Jay Chou and The Postal Service (awesome stuff!).

Here’s a fan-made video of the song that has been on repeat mode on my iPod for this blue, PMS-y Monday morning:

Werk

Hello, byline

My very first byline for the magazine has finally appeared in the March issue! I’m quite pleased because I have had two compliments about my stories – one from a fellow co-worker and the other from a sports doctor whom I had badgered incessantly for information and clarification.

The doc’s exact words were: “Just saw your article on VO2 testing. It’s beautifully written, amazing how you simplified it.”

Awww, so sweet of him. It made my day. 🙂