Tuesday, 21 July 2009


These words - with the question mark - came into my mind this morning as I walked to the hawker centre. I cannot remember exactly why now but it was related to work.

Perhaps a premonition, cos I got a lot of shit from emails when I logged on. And at 10.30 am, I sat in for some interviews with potential recruits. When the last interviewee started talking about work-life balance etc, I had a most awful thought: I hate my life.

This wasn't the first time I had this thought. But I would always catch myself and tell myself that no, I don't hate my life; I just hate work.

But this morning, it took me a while to rationalise my thoughts that what I really hated was my working life, not life itself.

I wrote that I felt like crying earlier due to work. It happened again a few months later and I succumbed. I'm now feeling like it's going to happen again if I'm not careful =(

We're headed for Hokkaido for a holiday next month - I'm looking forward to it but I also dread the accumulated emails waiting for me ever so patiently in my inbox..

Still remember my horror after a much needed two-week break in Japan in September 2007 - I had a good time in Japan away from work only to return to a mad house of work. My question: is the trade-off necessary? Shouldn't my leave be real leave?

Related this to Kel et al over dinner and drinks one day after that. Moh said I was hardworking; Kel said I wasn't - I just worked hard.. 知我者也! Of course if given a choice, I wouldn't be working hard hence I am not hardworking!!

This evening, I sms CY and Kel about hating my working life - glad they understood. And Kel said something funny, that usually he would send that kind of msg to me instead :p Threw up all my unhappiness about work to Yan over dinner too. And as I write this, I'm feeling better.. So let me continue..

Some time ago, I was trying to analyse such negative emotions - unhappiness, stress, feeling hassled, dissatisfaction, even resentment. I realised that I had lost motivation to work because I ceased to see meaning in it when my life was negatively affected by my work.

There was this time when I was asking a colleague for urgent inputs but she was away from office with her children - school holidays.

mf: Meeting is tomorrow am =(
She: And my kids will only be this age today and never again.

What could I say? I have no case. But that really hit home. Because I suddenly understood that for every day that I worked and worked, my every today has been lost. When I turned 28 last year, I realised that the previous year kind of just suddenly disappeared; déjà vu when I turned 29 this year - time flies when you're happy; time disappears when you're busy.

I still remember that for a very long time, before Sg Day 2007, I was still very enthusiastic about work. I would wake at 6.30am to reach office before 8am, and while I loved the weekends, I actually looked forward to getting work done during the workweek. After Sg Day 2007, I was tired out by the work trip and never fully recovered. Things just went downhill from there.

Now, I quite dread Mondays and throughout the workweek, I am just looking forward to the weekend and praying hard that there won't be a need to work over the weekend. In fact, during those really tough days last year, I went to work with only one thought: to finish work and head back to bed, hopefully earlier than 3am the previous night.

But at least it was meaningful work last year. There were concrete, visible deliverables. I downloaded our lovely campaign banners off CNA website, I cut out and kept the posters in newspaper - they are testament to my blood and sweat.

Now, my job scope has changed - the main thing is quantitative research and I really don't like crunching numbers, nevermind my degree!

I should really leave this job. What has it done to me? I want my life and family to be the top priority but I have realised that whenever I have work, I would feel so obliged to do it that I neglect my life, my real self. It's a bit scary, to be honest.

Actually, why do people work?

a) For survival;
b) To contribute to something;
c) For money / fame; or
d) No reason, just a natural thing to work when you have a degree?

Re (a), I'm in a way working to support myself and Mother. But I can do that with any job.

Re (b), contribute to what? I'm happy to be able to contribute to people around me - be a listening ear when they need me, bring joy and laughter to those around me. I don't need to contribute to bigger causes.

Re (c), is it worth working so hard to put your kids through the best college only to miss everything else about life? When I die, I want to remember times actually spent with my loved ones, not how I managed to provide for my loved ones albeit not being there.

Re (d), colleague was just saying how we could be bound by our degree. Cos of it, we aim to do something that does justice to it. Why can't I take a degree just for interest? Must it lead to work that justifies the learning?

I have been thinking about leaving my job. But there are various considerations. I do understand that these are not the worst working hours, compared to lawyers, bankers etc. While I also cannot compare remuneration with these jobs, mine is honestly sufficient to raise a family well if Sito and I continue working. And the benefits and flexibility are really good - I can take leave easily, accumulated work notwithstanding.

Practical things aside, I feel attached to the organisation cos I had a hand in setting it up - on paper and right down to the renovation! And I really like the people here. I have had fond memories of tough times when only team spirit and good cheer fuelled us. This place has also given me a lot of opportunities for professional and personal development. I have very good and understanding bosses. The leadership is strong and the way we work is, in my opinion, considerably more efficient than some other organisations I have heard of. It is overall a very good working environment.

I just cannot stand the work itself.

So, I was imagining, right there in the interview room, that I would be very sad to leave this place. But right there in the interview room, I finally came to the conclusion that I must leave. The question is when.

After the interviews, the first thing I did was to do a rough calculation of how much bond I had remaining - in monetary terms: about $10,000. Not a big sum but why should I pay to quit? :p And in any case, I had unfinished business - to record institutional knowledge so that I can leave with peace of mind.

In the meantime, I refuse to be a martyr to work! I will have a life that is not just work!!

Tomorrow, I am going to the gym at 6pm - not lest of office blackout (due to renovation) at that time..!


  1. Cheer up MF. Maybe you had a burn out since 2007 and never really had a good rest to recover. Work through the bond and then take a step back to reflect on what you really want out of your life.

    If family and children appeals to you, it is worthwhile to take a break from work and focus on that. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future, but if we miss that moment for the loved one, we cannot recover it.

    You can take up a hobby or do something that you enjoy while you are on a break. And if you do not mind working on something that there is no related to your degree or even suited for your status, then it is OK to quit when your bond is over. We only live once. If I have a choice, I do not wish that on my death bed I regretted not having enough time with family and friends.

    I am now thinking of quitting my job and join him in the states in Dec. Initally I wanted to stay, but I can't do it anymore. I will miss him and I will like to have a family. I will like to support my husband so that he can pursue his career without any worries. Sounds like a little woman talk - but in life it is hard to get a balance if both partners are pushing for career. In the end, the family and children will suffer. At one stage, we will both working very hard, we had takeaways every night, house was in a mess. I thought to myself, this is not a life if we have children. Children needs love and comfort.


  2. Women r still women ultimately. We always put family 1st. I've resigned from my job a few yrs ago & never looked back. I'm a happier person now becos I'm spending more than with my family & enjoying it. If I've continued with my previous job, no doubt my pocket will b much thicker but the time lost with your closed ones..u'll never get it back.

    U r right in saying, y should u pay to quit? Just sit down & discuss stuff with Sito. I'm sure u both r wise enuf to know what r the needs & wants in the family. It'll really make things easier if u have the support of your loved one.

  3. Work half load, I have some frens who do that!!!

  4. pong ah!!!!

    Look forward to your "stay at home-mum to be" dream!
    Rem,i wan to be the god ma of your rabbit child..


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