The organised chaos, Werk

Hey hey hey

The course is finally over. Eight weeks of blood, sweat and toil, topped by the last week of frantic work, frayed nerves and determined solidarity.

We worked our asses off for the final presentation, all 25 of us. Staying back at the office till 1230am, 4am, 5am etc. on consecutive nights and still pulling in our weight at our day jobs – surely that has to count for something.

I’m glad we didn’t go into the final round hoping to win. All we wanted to prove was that we could do a good job, to show that we tried our darnest. And prove we did, because we eventually beat our peers and was named the best team overall, no mean feat because everyone was so amazingly talented and intelligent. We shone in front of the management, was celebrated by the entire agency and grew that much taller in the process.

What a journey.

The win almost made all the early mornings and late nights worth it. I say almost because today, I realised that victory came at a cost.

I missed out on helping a dear friend with her wedding. I was so tired at their ceremony today that I could barely keep my eyelids open. They have so sweetly requested for me to give a speech at their luncheon tomorrow and I have barely had time to think about it. Seeing them married made me smile with joy, but it was a smile tinged with exhaustion.

And going back to my mom’s place today, it suddenly struck me just how little time I have spent with her over the past eight weeks. I hardly called her because I was so spent at the end of every work day, and my Sundays were spent recuperating. Seeing her at home made me realise how lonely she was. Would I want to be my own daughter? I think not.

I’m such a poor excuse of a daughter.

So yes, I showed that I am an asset to the company in front of the bosses. They thought I was a confident presenter, and I am now part of a winning team. It felt good. But it is not without some guilt and self-reflection.

I need to step up.

(On the morning of the presentation, I had this song on repeat mode and it made me feel self-assured and confident. It made me feel like I could conquer the world. What an amazing feeling!)


The final hurdle

No need to call the cops, I am still alive and kicking.

I’ve been stricken with flu for the past week and it has since morphed into suspected sinusitis. All this frustrates me greatly – my health has been literally in the pits since the year has started. Urghs. I hate being sick, hate having to build up my health, hate having to build up my fitness.

It doesn’t help that this is the final week of my training course and we have to prepare for a BIG presentation this coming Friday. The process has been fun and illuminating, the bad health not so.

But seriously, as much as I moan and groan about not having enough time and sleep, I am grateful for this opportunity. I never thought I could come up with a pitch, let alone present in front of the big bosses. But here I am, almost at the end of the journey and feeling immensely proud of myself and my teammates. This company may have many, many bad points (intense politicking and huge egos being two of them) but when it comes to training, it definitely ranks as one of the best I have seen so far.

I’m definitely not great at coming up with ideas but I think (hope, really) that I bring a sense of logic to the table. I find myself asking why? how? very often, hoping to make some sense of what we are doing.

And at the end of the day, it helps to be able to come home to know that somebody has taken care of the chores and is babying the kittens while I work. Husband is just awesome (even if he leaves the kitchen lights on and breadcrumbs on the countertop).

The organised chaos, Werk

Getting to know me

I’ve been on a training course for the past six weeks, spending both my Fridays and Saturdays in a room learning about the business and leadership skills.

It’s been tough, admittedly, especially when I have to wake up before 7am on Saturday mornings. I don’t sleep well on week days and love sleeping in on weekends, so by Sunday night, I feel flat and tired.

But besides the fatigue and excessive imbibing of caffeine, it’s been a great ride so far. I’ve acquired knowledge, made great friends and more importantly, I’ve gained insights about me along the way.

During our first session, we did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. I first did the test when I was 16 and unsurprisingly, my results were the same – I remain an Introvert iNtuition Feeling Perceiving. Basically, it means that I internalise my thoughts, prefer to add context and meaning to things, look at human emotions and feeling when making decisions, and am open to changes and options.

But what really helped was seeing how my preferences (that’s what they call it – preferences rather than personality) has affected the way I handle situations. I’m not very easy to get to know, I don’t give myself credit (I see everything good that I do as “accidental”) and I tend to get emotionally blackmailed into doing things I don’t wish to do, a chronic weakness of mine. Now that I understand how and why I do the things I do, it makes it so much easier to wield my weaker arm and learn to approach situations differently.

When we were discussing career goals in another session, my immediate reaction was, I have ZERO ambition. I had no clue where I wanted to go. I only knew that climbing the corporate ladder was not my objective in life. I wrote that I wanted to be happy with my work, whatever I was doing. I had no idea what whatever was.

But during the session, when we were forced to think hard about it again, I wrote down the following: To become a yoga teacher. Or write a children’s book. To be a better photographer. And then I realised that yoga, writing and photography were the three things that I had repeated quite constantly when talking about what I liked and wanted to do.

It was like a light had suddenly shone on my cobwebby mind!

Now all through my adult life, I have hated my speaking voice. I CANNOT listen to my voice on my voicemail without cringing (which is why I no longer record voicemail messages). It didn’t help that when I was 17, I found a note with a handwritten exchange between two choir mates bitching about how crappy my voice was.

But today, as we were forced to stand in front of the class and speak at length, my instructor and coursemates told me how nice I sounded. That I had a musical tone to my voice. That it carried across the room effortlessly. That I had a voice like an announcer’s. That I was such a convincing presenter that they wanted to sign up for yoga classes (my topic) IMMEDIATELY.

You wouldn’t believe how that made me go WOW? REALLY?

Just goes to show how little I think of myself sometimes. I shouldn’t even be surprised at how good at something I am.

Light rays shining through

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.


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) life)!:
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.