I remember when I started out at my current workplace, I thought to myself that I had better not personalise my office space as I was not sure how long I would be here for and what a pain it would be to tear down again my inspirational posters, the photos of people I cherish and silly decorative items that make me smile. Colleagues did ask. But I had my doubts about making this place my second home. (Then again, I am slightly skeptical as to whether our workplace should be our second home.)
One year experimenting as a public servant and it turned out my gut feeling was right. I was not designed for the bureaucracy and nature of government jobs. A part of me does not care less for politics, even though I learnt I can fake it pretty well and become sort of good at what I need to do. But what does it mean for me to be good at something that I dislike? What does it mean for me to wear a mask when I value authenticity and transparency?
One thing I was uncomfortable with was that the nature of this job required all of us to be available on some weeknights and weekends. I value work-life balance in a way that meant I get to go home at 6pm and make my own after-work or weekend plans without worrying if I had to cancel on anyone. I also mentioned in a previous post that not having the time to pursue other interests and passions on the side would be one of the deal breakers for a job. Writing slowly became a thing of the past, again.
Yet strangely, it felt like I was the only one who finds it disturbing that a workplace would embrace work-life integration and accept it as a norm for staff to stay late hours almost on a daily basis including weekends. Or perhaps like me, it is a pain to speak up about the need for balance and self-care when such a culture has been so ingrained that you know change will not happen overnight so you jolly well find a way to cope with it or run along with it silently.
The daily incongruence was almost too much to bear. The struggle was real. After a year of service, I knew it was time for me to get out and move on. I needed to be somewhere else that shares similar values, purpose and mission in life. I tried asking the questions I needed to ask during interviews and pre-employment orientation to get a sensing of the culture and nature of the job at my next workplace. Will the next job be it? Can I finally settle down in a job for a longer period of time? Honestly, does it really matter? I am only optimistic that this change is a good change, and hopefully what I need to grow in a way that resonates closer to my heart.
Having said all that, there are also a number of things that I am grateful for about this job:
- Bosses who have been open, supportive and trusting of their team to get the work done (at our own time own target)
- Team-work is strong and if you ask for help or advice, you will almost always get it without hesitation
- Makan Kakis or colleagues that somehow came together and bonded over food because we enjoyed eating out and eating cheap
- A stable income that has paid the bills, cleared the credit debts and allowed me to travel to Perhentian Islands, Bangkok and most importantly Nepal for my solo trip in 2016
- A better understanding and appreciation of how the big G connects and relates with the people on the ground (this will help me consider my next vote)
- I learnt that I can be hardworking and resilient even in the face of things that I do not care about. I persevered and chose to ride through the storms and take my leave only when the water has calmed down
- By doing the things I do not like or do not find meaning in, it has helped me to re-define what a fulfilling job means and what I need in my next job
- I have learnt to be more grounded and am better able to say “no” to others without feeling as guilty whenever I have to prioritise self-love.
Thank you for all the things I have learnt and taken away from this job, whether I am aware of it yet or not.
I leave you in peace and with no regrets.
Credits for gif to https://m.popkey.co/bd2d59/DYgDx.gif