Hello… it’s hard to believe that I’m here, back here, writing.
I think it’s been a year-plus since I last wrote? Life happened. Correction: it’s still happening and really, it’s the reason I’m back. I just wanted to write down some thoughts and lots of feelings off my chest. Where do I begin? Let’s jump right in.
I’m in a good space with life right this moment – work continues to be an emotional and time-consuming ride but recently or more accurately, with my current project, I’m loving it. Loving my core team too and excited to see our project through when we move to the offshore execution in Aug-Sept. This feeling of love – what a privilege. My vendor was a nightmare to deal with initially – after 8 long, tedious month of tendering – but I held a 3-day workshop last week which they attended and I thought I gained some respect; we communicate on the same page now despite how obvious and apparent it is that I’m young (not incompetent). The other day, I found myself almost writing ‘vocation’ to the word ‘work’ and this has been on my mind since, especially cos I’ve been on a career dilemma since I started work 3.5 years ago. Do I want to stay in the project space and continue to grow as a Project Engineer, perhaps eventually a Project Manager, or get off that track and onboard the one I’d always wanted – ‘yearning‘ is a word that’s sometimes used towards me – which is environmental, the field I was academically trained in and grew a passion for. I find the clock ticking these days because this year is a transitional one – I’m on the lookout for new opportunities and keeping all options open. I spent the second half of last year in a dark, terrible space work-wise: overworked; frustrated with office politics bullshit; feeling stuck and small; knocking on doors but constantly turned down… I eventually did some leg work. I applied outside. I spoke to lots of people internally and externally until I didn’t want to speak to people forever. I even considered going back to school, another master, for a break.
I was in such a dark space late last year I pushed many friends away cos I was becoming increasingly negative and unhappy, and it wasn’t long before being by myself was painful too. I don’t know how I got out of it – I don’t remember – but I know now that it was an important and necessary episode. Sometimes it feels like it was just like those days in Stanford all over again; I’m an overachiever who catapults at just the notion of failure that my crash often feels devastating and my bouncing back revelatory. Under the light of a new year, I looked back to 2018, a growing year especially work-wise, and concluded that maybe I was impatient. Simply put, it wasn’t my time yet – the learning isn’t complete… I’ve yet to come full circle with where I am now, figuratively and physically.
So I entered 2019 with some goals, mainly focused on personal life: reclaiming my time and mental health; taking things in stride and holding on to God’s timing; being present and 200%, as I always have, in my present whatever and wherever that is. I’m making the best of what I have while remaining open to whatever may be ahead.
I remind myself often of God’s timing because it is something that both puzzles and amazes me; I am powerless against so many things in my life and at 28, sometimes this saddens me immensely. I think of this lesson as an adulthood heartbreak – my first. I can work crazy damn hard for what I want but does it mean I will get it? No. I can like and love so many people, but will they stay in my life and reciprocate my feelings? No. I can wish for whatever I want, but will they materialize and be mine? No.
But sometimes… every once in awhile… light breaks through.
I’m now in that space and what a surprise – a month ago, nothing was happening.
This weekend is the weekend before a decision of whether I’m successful in an application for an opportunity that I desperately, eagerly, and sincerely want. A temporary break; a fresh new change; a stepping stone; a win-win of personal and professional aspirations; a yearning finally answered; an opportunity earned.
I’m reminding myself that even if it turns out I am unsuccessful, all is not lost. People were right: you create your path. I create mine. The journey is indeed more important than the destination. The process of going through the application has opened me to potential alternatives – Plan B, Plan C etc. As one door closes, others open – it’s true. I might not be successful with my alternative plans but I have always liked having options. I like keeping the flow open; I think I’m in that space right now. It feels good. After 3.5 years of working crazy damn hard too, I am realizing my strengths, both professional and personally. For instance, my credibility – the acknowledgment of this. It’s no longer “She tries” but “She knows her stuff.” The surprising look people often have of me because they think I’m a pushover – until they realize how bullish and bossy I am to get work done. I remain soft and principled and I have stopped apologizing for being both. In fact, it’s the total opposite – I’m proud of the fact that I remain steadfast against corporate bullshit and voices of those warning me that I won’t make it far if I remain ‘inflexible’.
On the personal front, I remain alone; party of one; lonely – they mean the same thing really, just used depending on context. I’m alright with this and at peace, more than I have ever been but I remain a work-in-progress when I think of how others must think of me. “She gives her all to work cos she doesn’t have family of her own” “She works so much she doesn’t even have time to date it’s no wonder she’s never seeing anyone” “She’s already 28 and she’s still living like that” etc. I am a product of my life’s cards and while I love the life I have and how I live it, that I must justify it to others is annoying.
If I’m completely honest, what puzzles me isn’t that I’m constantly alone – this is my default state and something I genuinely love – but that I’ve no excuse to continue living a half-assed, unfulfilled life. What is stopping me? The realization that the immediate answer is myself is unacceptable. I devote so much of my hours to work for the last 3 years that I kept coming up empty with life outside of work. This realization broke me last year. When I tell people I barely have a life, it was the truth. My life was sht, really – it was work work work; the once-a-month weekend at home; lots of sleeping or trying to repay my sleep debt… too young to be living a half-life.
My life is still more or less that (unfortunately), but a mental model change helped. I am 200% present wherever I am – at work and off-work. At the end of a firefighting day where everything that could go wrong goes wrong, I tell myself, “This is just work” and call it a day. I reset and do what I can the next day. I am devoted to my work – something about myself that I’m proud of cos it speaks of my work ethics – but not consumed.
This new opportunity… might be a silver lining.
If I’m declined the opportunity, it is still a silver lining – of grasping my present. That things are what we make of them. That opportunity is everywhere and though it’s only a matter of whether it’s gonna be ours or not – the end is never the end because God is absolute. Sometimes a door takes a long time to open but it doesn’t mean it won’t. Struggles are necessary because I would not be me, still me, if not for them. Hindsight is 20/20 and could never be counted on however it is testament of how far I’ve come.
And I’ve come so far.
I remember being 23 and sorely disappointed at the person I’d turned out. I remember the young girl I once were who had so many hopes and dreams, believing the world was waiting for her to happen – when I placed my 23 year-old self beside her I’d feel inexplicably sad. This wasn’t the kind of person she’d in mind of herself. Successful, loved, globetrotting – I was clearly way influenced by media and other people.
I want to tell my teenage and 23 year-old self what I now understood and learned – all hard-earned – and it is to be patient with the process of becoming. That means to say, for instance, it turned out it wasn’t at 23 but 28 – I’m extremely proud of the individual I am now and for the life I live and how I choose to live it. 5 years delayed but that’s fine.
‘Successful’ ‘loved’ ‘globetrotting’ are all possible too – some scaling is required but they’re absolutely possible. I think I am successful – work-wise because I’ve made work something and in somewhere I never thought I would ever be in; personal-wise it is that I remain rooted and grounded in my principles, belief, and self-definitions. I’m alone but I’m loved deeply by my family, and I’ve a few friends I keep close by. Everything is fluid, even or especially people, that my friends may not be mine anymore tomorrow but I’m grateful and always aware what a blessing it is to be dearly loved. As for globetrotting… I am still traveling. Not as much as I used to because of work commitments, but as much as my heart and time can make room for in a year. I’m extremely proud of the fact that now I fund my own travels – I call the shots in my life and I am fully aware what a privilege it is to have choices and make my own decisions.
At 28, I am living what I think of as my best life. It is not at all perfect, neither is it grand – I’m an (project) engineer, that’s really just what I am – but it is an accumulation of my sweat, grit, tears and conscious decisions. All lived through, all hard-earned.
These days it feels like that silver lining is already here and I’m extremely grateful.