Background: How I knew my buddy Lim
I've known Lim since my teenage days during the early 90's when I was just 19 years old or so - when I didn't have to impose the regime of regular anti-oxidant and collagen intakes on myself to combat the aging effect on the skin. Ah, the convenience of youth. Lim and me have been staying in Ghim Moh and since that little estate is one of the smallest estates on the island, it was easy to make friends in the neighbourhood.
Being young lads, Lim and me and the friends we hung out with haunted the night - I would usually be studying under some block till the wee hours of the morning if I wasn't hunting for ghosts and adventure with my friends or just hanging out at the coffeeshops way past their closing time.
I happened to be studying at the void deck of this apartment block when my friend Joe suddenly came out of nowhere with Lim around 2 or 3a.m. and introduced Lim to me. That was how I knew Lim. It was possible making new friends even during such ungodly hours in Ghim Moh. Suddenly seeing friends appear after midnight was a common occurrence there, since it's a small estate and being hyper young men, me and my friends didn't like to sleep at night and this song happened to be sort of like our theme song back then:
Us as working adults
The years rolled by and I don't think I've even had the chance to blink and it's already 2013, which I can't help but arrive at the conclusion that the scribe and prophet who formulated the Mayan calender didn't deserve his pension. 2013 sees Lim and me no longer staying in Ghim Moh. In fact, we've moved further west and coincidentally, Lim's current estate is just behind mine within walking distance, separated only by the tail end of a highway. You can imagine that we still hang out with each other, usually at the one and only coffeeshop in his estate.
By the way, I had to add the word 'career' in the title of this blog post to avoid misunderstanding that a buddy of mine has passed on, yeesh. The subject of the matter at hand is that today is Lim's last working day with his current company which he has been working for for 15 years.
15 years. He started since 1998, imagine that. Not everyone could stick with the same job that long. Lim actually resigned on his own accord and I guess it takes a lot of shitty happenings to make an old veteran decide to leave the job he's been working for that long.
Lim told me about his decision weeks before but I forgot that today is his last working day when he has to report in for work for the final time. More accurately speaking, after today, he will start clearing his remaining annual paid leaves all the way till the end of August, so the last day of August is his official final day of employment and today is his last reporting day - which is as good as over.
When Lim sent me his text message just now, I got reminded that yeah, today is supposed to be his final reporting day. So he asked if I would like to meet him at the coffeeshop in his estate later in the early afternoon, since he can leave his workplace after he packs up and clears his cabinet. Yup, today is out-processing day for him, so he is allowed an early release. I immediately replied him yes, I will meet him. Why? Because I know how it feels like to leave a job you've enjoyed for years but still had to choose to leave in the end because of drastically changed circumstances that warrants you to move on.
I want to make sure that Lim will be ok and I want to give my buddy emotional support, since such a thing is never pleasant and it can affect you emotionally. 15 years is a duration you can't just shrug away and sever yourself from in just a moment. Besides his colleagues, I'm Lim's only friend who knows about his current situation. Not even his family members know about it, so I'm meeting my buddy to be there for him.
I'm here at the coffeeshop sipping coffee and Lim finally arrives with a big bag stuffed full with his belongings he has cleared from his work cabinet. The first thing I'm telling myself to observe first is his countenance. He is looking tired but there isn't any trace of depression or despondency, which is a good thing even though it might take some time for the weight of a given situation to sink into the mind sometimes.
"Well, this is it," Lim says as he sits himself down while dumping his bag at the empty chair right next to him. Funny how I said the same thing to myself at the end of my final reporting day during my previous job recently. Looking at Lim now, I see a superimposed version of myself from back then. Yup, I know exactly how it feels like.
Lim has not found a new job yet even though he has leads and his company will still give him a full month's pay for August, since his remaining annual leaves he will start clearing from tomorrow onwards till the end of August are paid leaves. Thing is, he can only start a new job from the 1st of September onwards or his company can litigate against him. Trouble is, he told his family that he will be clearing his leaves till mid-August. I suppose he will have to undergo some DIY Ninja training and learn to disappear from the house during work hours after the middle of August.
"Darn, you should have just told your family honestly about the truth so that you don't have to make the situation any harder for yourself, brother," I say to him but it's his choice and what's done is done. Lim is still single and he is staying with his dad and and one of his sisters, so I suppose he just wants to avoid complications and spare himself from some tiresome explanations and family drama. Lim happens to be the kind of guy who avoids the spotlight and hates getting himself right smack in the center of attention. Come to think of it, perhaps this explains why he has never had a Facebook account.
Digging into his bag, he pulls out a pile of file folders and says: "Here, wanna have a look at all the certificates I've obtained from all these 15 years of service?" Looking through the huge stash of certificates, I exclaim: "My goodness, that's a shitload of certificates you've collected in all these 15 years as a donkey, er, I mean in all these 15 long donkey years, man!" There are multiple long service awards, courses certificates and good service awards among others. Lim shrugs and replies: "They are nothing major, really. Those courses were just a few days long each."
Lim then tells me how happy he was working in the company during the first few years before everything deteriorated and went down the corporate crapper. He actually started contemplating leaving the company since some years ago but he held on, hoping for the best that things could take a turn for the better. Apparently, it didn't and the situation continued to slide deeper into misery and the tide finally went above his neck. How very familiar.
I've known Lim long enough to know that it takes a lot to break him and make him throw in the towel. He was a combat Infantryman and second in-charge in his platoon (both not by choice) from way way back before camouflaged uniforms started becoming standard issue halfway through his service and his army experiences he told me about would have been enough to make a mama's boy go AWOL or worse. Soldiers nowadays have it much much better than soldiers from days forgotten and that's a fact, since technology wasn't so advanced back then and they had to rely more on brute force.
Remember that if you are a guy about to enlist for National Service and you happen to be reading this. You won't even have to iron your number 4 unlike how the previous generation had to.
Even though Lim was a primary school drop-out who lost his mother when he was just a kid, there is a lot I respect about him. He may be middle-aged now and he may have lost the physical resilience he had during his younger soldiering days but a lifetime of developed mental resilience is not something you lose that easily. There are some qualities that are quite immune to the passage of time of which time itself can't erode easily. I know the man, he can take a lot of shit and setbacks and I've seen him smile and crack jokes through the pain. He will always be a soldier of life in my eyes.
"Well, it took you years to finally decide to leave," I say to him, "so you already tried but things didn't work out and the shit has hit the fan.. Multiple times too. You've held out long enough, buddy. Just march on, look forward and move on, troop. I really think you've earned the right to move on to better pastures.''
As we both reach his apartment block where we have to split and I continue walking back to my estate, I look back at Lim with his back towards me and walking towards the lift. I begin to utter a silent prayer that the good Lord will uphold, encourage and bless my buddy and watch over him and guide him to a better job where he can be happy working in.
Pursuit of Happiness
Major issues and decisions in life ought to be weighted, calculated and analyzed with one's mind but at the same time, one should also listen to one's heart. We are all capable of thought and we are all capable of denial and even self-hypnosis but ignoring how we truly feel towards the situation at hand, whatever it may happen to be and doing the contrary to how we truly feel will eventually lead to misery.
Misery is not a thought, misery is something you feel instead that eats you up from the inside of your being. Being true to oneself helps a lot in preventing oneself from falling into the dark abyss of the psyche and getting tortured in there by one's own hand. Yup, I do believe that fakey and plastic folks who put on fake fronts about themselves all the time are actually miserable inside. The saddest ones are the ones who try to hypnotize themselves into happiness that is never real. You can't make a forced entry into a castle in the clouds that's only a figment of your fake facade which is never there in reality.
Even if you have absolutely no choice but to do the contrary to what you feel is the right thing to do because circumstances Ieaves you with no choice, acknowledging the fact that you are going against how you truly feel instead of allowing denial to practice hypnosis on you is in its own way, being true to yourself too. Circumstances and people can dictate and control your actions but they cannot reach into you to rob you of how you are really feeling inside.
If you can control what you do next and your heart tells you that you've already done your best and now is the time you should be moving on, then you owe it to yourself to start making preparations to move on. A change in career is something that can demand a heck lot more considerations though. If you are young, you have it much easier: you may be able to afford quitting your job now, go for an overseas trip to rejuvenate yourself and broaden your mind (you should if you can) and then come back home and start looking for a new job.
If you are older, you need to dive into your bank account and CPF accounts and take on the role of hardcore accountant. Since career can, and ideally, be ideal enough to become a lifetime commitment, especially for an older person, if you are truly and utterly miserable in your job, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to continue to be miserable for the rest of your life until you can afford to retire. In such an unfortunate situation, it's better to start hunting for a new working environment while you endure your current situation and then haul yourself out of your misery once you've signed a new employment letter. There are some aspects in every career which are just as important as one's salary but which money just can't buy.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you quit your job just because of petty minor setbacks which you can actually triumph over with a little effort, woe be to the next employer who hires you and woe be to you when the employer fires you. There is no such thing as a perfect job with only ups and no downs.
If you have to go, go forth with the heart of a lion
A career change takes a lot of courage for the serious worker. If you seek change and are willing to leave the baggage of your current job and comfort zone behind and take only the lessons learnt and experience with you, humble yourself enough to embrace the new changes (and the new lower salary if that should happen to be the case) in the new job and are willing to learn and earn from scratch if you are heading towards a new industry, then, humility should open more doors for you.
Of course, if you have to accept a lower salary, make sure first that it can still allow you to survive and get by. Not having enough to survive adequately will only bring you right back to misery. I suppose it boils down to taking a long hard look between wants versus needs. But hey, you can persevere and excel in your new job and slowly work and earn your way up.
Change can be scary sometimes but not giving yourself a chance after you've expended your best efforts and sealing the door that will lead you out of your misery shut is even scarier. You know what they say about suicide and there is such a thing as career suicide.
So stay alive in the rat race and don't forget about your own happiness too. Wait, I better rephrase this:
So stay alive in the rat race and don't forget that there's no such thing as a 100% happy rat race. Even so, if misery far outweighs everything else, you owe it to yourself to tip the scale for better balance. Only when you decide to do something about it can happiness have a chance of gaining more ground and you know what they say about the happier worker.
Courage is the lethal weapon against misery and courage takes you places - including new ones.
-De Lion Speaks