Monday, 11 February 2019

Any Dream Will Do

Just last week, I completed the recently concluded drama My Strange Hero, which, like most school dramas, was about a bunch of misfits with no life ambition who somehow get entangled with three adults with the mentality of high schoolers as they all navigate the politics and deceptions within a highly competitive Korean high school.

Though I am never shy about my obsession with K-dramas, I always find it difficult to explain what a well-educated, well-read and fully functioning adult with family responsibilities finds in them. Because most often it isn't really the plot or lack thereof that pulls me in as much as the execution, the beautiful faces and the occasional question or two that I get to reflect upon.

In our modern world that revels on success stories of people who have made it against all odds, plastered in social media for everyone to see, what becomes of the countless others who are not quite living the dream or who, long after becoming adults, never really found their dreams?

When I first met John in Gibraltar, the first question I asked from him was about his choice of becoming a male nurse. It wasn't a career choice I have expected from someone who has grown up in a middle class Western family and besides, it is a job that many Filipinos take on abroad because of the shortage of supply in the local job market.

He admitted that he thought nursing would let him live his dream, of escaping cold and dreary England to live in a warmer place, preferably Spain, where the pace of life is slower but people are a little bit more happier.

In the end he couldn't quite live the life he has longed for but his noble vocation gives him plenty of opportunities to save lives and make a positive impact in the community. The fact that it offers a decent pay, an NHS pension and job stability were added bonus.

How people choose their professions have always fascinated me. In this politically correct world, it is often considered rude to ask somebody about their occupation but behind my interest was always my curiosity as to how they have come to make such a life-defining decision.

When people ask me what I do, I say that I sit in front of two computer screens all day. When my work colleague wrote on his annual review "I find my job very exciting", I wondered if we were talking about the same post.

Though exciting is a bit of a stretch, it is safe to say that our work does not involve stress, time management and recurring deadlines. All that is required of us is to find flaws in an application, nag the people wrote the program and occasionally write some codes to automate the work. We rarely need to communicate with each other - in tech companies people tend to avoid looking each other in the eye - so we could all survive a 7-hour work day not saying anything to our colleagues. We can also work from home, take as many coffee breaks as we want and never have to deal with an office phone.

It does sound dull on paper but I wouldn’t be one to jump ship soon. Not when I go home with a decent pay check, a generous pension, an annual bonus and many perks that comes with the job. It helps that I get bragging rights that I'm working with some of the world's leading pharmaceutical research scientists who are contributing to the discovery of new drugs that could save humanity. And these are the people I get to talk to on our bright and spacious kitchen, exchanging fascination about each other's cultures, crazy presidents and uncertainties over Brexit.

But working with such impressive colleagues sometimes bring up the occasional FOMO. I once told John that I admire people who have found jobs that they are passionate about with a single-minded drive that would take them up the top of their game. Because I do not have that aspiration - to be anything, to be anyone - and at the moment I do not feel any desire to change that.

People who have known me in school would probably be surprised to hear that. When I was a student, I was very good at studying and juggling everything else - organising club activities, running the school publication, winning medals in competitions and managing a busy social life. But I don't think I ever really had a dream.

In high school, I fancied becoming a writer but it was the sort of job that only children from rich families could pursue. I wasn't prepared to embrace my perceived poverty in pursuit of an exciting job in an industry known for being fiercely competitive and unstable. So I gave up a place I worked hard to gain at the country's top state university for a scholarship in a local college to complete a degree in accountancy because other than playing with words, solving analytical problems was something that came naturally to me.

Yet while I was a good Accountancy student, I found the workplace rather a fast and empty rat race I couldn’t catch up with. Of the three years I was working for one of the top global accountancy firms in the world, my biggest achievements were in successfully organising our department's Christmas parties, team building activities and welcome dinners; creating a magazine and producing a Christmas video that ten years later we all still remember.

I realised that although I was good at what I did, I didn't have the drive or direction to move up the career ladder so instead of running faster, I decided to go slower and eventually found a different path altogether. In over a decade of employment (with a few months of unemployment in-between), I never quite achieved any kind of success in the workplace in the form of a promotion or a surprise pay rise and I'm pretty sure I never would.

It would be a lie to say that it never bothers me. As women, as working mothers, we are only well aware of the pressures of "having it all" that when we meet these impressive figures, in real life or in social media, it is easy to feel that by comparison with such lives, ours seem inconsequential. Occasionally but not often, I would allow myself to wallow in insecurity but not for long. Because I have come to learn that the many ordinary and unexceptional things I have done were not nothing, at least for the little boy who demands a first-to-score-five penalty shootouts "to cheer me up, Mummy" before bedtime and for his dad who is always grateful for a hot meal and a warm hug that takes away all the tiredness of his day. And the parallel lives of the make-believe world of Korean dramas have only reinforced that.

For many people this was their greatest ambition: to have a partner and a child, to live a domestic life, but I never thought it would be enough for me. Yet it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...