Growing up, the thought of making money and becoming exorbitantly rich never really crossed my mind. And then those teenage years came and when I entered high school I was inducted to a world where my friends were being dropped off at school by their chauffeurs , where their parents were members of coveted golf clubs so we got to dine there at a great discounted price and where every girl I knew wanted to look like the girls that appear in the Seventeen magazine.
Sometime in Uni, determined not to bend to this delusional demands of the crazy society, I remembered telling myself that I will always do what I love, and the money will come. Do what I love, and the money will come. And so came my first job with a reputable bank, the money then to a young 21 year old seemed plenty, the bonus, jaw-dropping. Then again looking back, I’m convinced it was due to the novelty of going from a student who earns zero income to a 4 figure sum that suddenly appeared in my account one day.
But I came home crying to my parents, I remembered sitting in the living room and just balling my eyes out telling them how unhappy I was whilst the both of them look on with the most bemused expression on their faces. A year shy of employment, a partial scholarship offer from the University of Queensland and after a fateful meeting with R, then the Resident Representative for United Nations Development Program, I handed in my resignation letter.
Then came my second career path as public health consultant. The people were great, and I got paid what I had asked for. The job were various, and meaningful. I was even given free reign to construct and conduct my own social research. But I could never shake off the tinge of worry that perpetuated every time my mum brings up the fact that the employees I chose to work for is NOT a large, world renown MNC, hence how can I be possibly building a promising career track that will bring in recognition and status? On occasions relatives or family friends asked her where I work, I would always detect a tinge of embarrassment in her answer and quick diversion to a different topic .
2 years into it, and at a time when I began to questioned every single thing that forms my system of beliefs, I wrote my second resignation letter. This time to join a global consulting firm, at a 15% paycut and a slight demotion. Why? These days I believe it was mostly driven by the need to make my parents proud, so that they can answer with pride and a beam in their faces when someone asks them about their first born daughter. At that time though, I was driven by the need to learn, to achieve, to be someone. I was drawn by the 2 months bonus (which ended up having me tied down to the company for 2 years, a move that in hindsight always gets me shaking my head wondering why I was so gullible). I endured 2 years of long, gruelling hours that sometimes stretches beyond midnight, zooming down the Federal Highway because everyone else is already home and probably sound asleep in bed, being screamed at for a whole 2 hours in a glass room that obviously was NOT sound proof, and eventually finding refuge from a lookout point in a women’s toilet at a client’s site.
I am still here though. Enduring still, long hours and perpetual feeling of having completely no idea what I’m doing and why I’m doing it for. Just recently I had gotten the promotion that I felt I had sacrificed many mealtimes, shed many tears, and swallowed many antibiotics for. Never in the history of my career had I fallen sick so often. I have made the responsible, young adult decision that this is stability. This is safe. This will lead me to a house ownership and financial freedom. But will it? And at what expense?
Yesterday I wrote to my friend on BBM – “I always thought more money will mean a little bit more happiness. But I am SO unhappy right now. Why is this so??”
Last week our annual bonus was credited into our accounts. I took a look at the sum, and though for the first time I saw a 5 figure sum that actually wholly belonged to me, I felt nothing. Except perhaps a deep sense of dissatisfaction. Not because I am ungrateful for what I got and what I have, but because I felt what I had given up, is not being compensated as equally. My health, my sense of wellbeing and the confidence of being sure in what I am doing, how do you compensate any of that with a figure in your savings account?
And yet again I confided to my dad, that even with all this supposedly “good” things that are happening to my career, heading to work in the morning feels like a march towards my grave. I know what I want, and it is what I had felt while I was away in Koh Samui. It is what I feel now when I lead a yoga class with clarity and peace. It is true, that everything that shines will not always be gold. Sometimes it resides in the simplicity of just being in the moment.