Sabbatical Reflections

It’s been 4 months since I left my job, the job that I held on to for the past 8.5 years.

Today, I look back and I feel glad, relieved and have no regrets of leaving that job. During the days before I decided to quit, I had many sleepless nights, thinking to myself, weighing the pros and cons. A part of me wanted to stay because of the financial security and the priceless freedom I have been enjoying all these years. Another side of me though was silently weeping and longing for self-fulfillment, which my ex-job was not able to provide.

Eventually, my heart ruled and reminded me…We all have one life to live. Listen to your heart’s desires because the more you suppress it, the more it will bother you until you take action. We should pursue our bucket list because we cannot guarantee what tomorrow will bring. We only have today so we should make it count.

I had a heavy heart for a few days after I decided to leave because I knew I might not have the opportunity to go back and live and work overseas again, a priceless experience that I will forever hold dear to my heart.

Within this four month period, I took time to rest, recharge, travel for a month and spend time with family. I am very grateful for this rare opportunity. I know not everyone can afford to bum around for awhile. At first, I had difficulties accepting the fact that my bank account was not receiving any income monthly and I will have to spend wisely from now on. I also had to accept weaknesses on how things work back in my home country. Despite all these, I had peace of mind, something which I havent felt for so long. I am so happy to have spent time with my parents most of all. To this day, I do not regret my decision despite the mixed reactions and noise from family and acquaintances.

Today, when an old colleague told me that the retired former head of the division I left behind discovered my recent job prospect, I was surprised and caught off guard. News travels fast. Initially, I got worried about her impression of me and my motivations of quitting.

However, my heart gave me a pat on the back saying, you do not owe anyone an explanation. This is your life. You are in charge. You are the driver. Do not be affected by other people’s comments even if they sound negative. You have one life to live so do the things you enjoy while you can. Life is too short to be worrying.

Next week, I am meant to get an update on my job prospect. I will take it as a sign that if it pushes through, it is meant for me but if not, something better is in store and that I have to persevere no matter what.

I wish that my next job would bring me peace of mind and a sense of fulfillment.

I hope to find and be in that flow again, where I dont feel forced to work for the sake of earning money.

I have a long way to go but someday, I hope to discover my talent and purpose and share it with the world. As the priest lectured during homily yesterday, use your blessings wisely.

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Trekking at Igidae Park, Busan

As I clear my camera of old photos today, I look back at the fond memories of Busan.  It was my first time to visit last Easter and I can say that it was a very memorable trip.  Since I arrived very early in the morning, I deliberately researched and went trekking alone for the first time in an unfamiliar place.  I figured I could kill time this way while waiting for my family to arrive late evening and at the same time, I can enjoy the scenery, sun and fresh air.

My first trekking experience did not disappoint.  I was so happy completing the trek despite having to walk for 4 hours under the sun and breezy weather.  I completed the trek past the estimated time since I stopped multiple times to take photos, rest and just savor the scenery in all its glory.  After all, I wanted to make the most of what I can do now while I am healthy and can still walk.

These photos do not do justice to the beauty I witnessed at Igidae Park.  I walked from one end to the other until I reached Oryokudo Skywalk.

Things that made this adventure unforgettable:

  1. I took a bus alone from another district (after having lunch) to get to the starting point. The bus and bus stop didn’t have any English signs so I simply followed my instincts despite having initial fears of getting lost and traveling the wrong direction.
  2. There were 3 old ladies inside the bus. I followed them out as they alighted since they appeared to be going for a picnic.  They were wearing hats and carried yoga mats.  I was very fortunate that they were also going in the same direction as where I was headed.  I remember the bus alighted across an eyeglass shop.
  3. The weather was sunny, cool and windy.
  4. The breathtaking scenery was very different from the harbour views from my Hong Kong balcony window.
  5. The trail was mostly paved.  There were some paths where I had to climb and I managed it fairly well despite my old knee injury.  This was my first time so I didn’t know I could have brought a stick with me.
  6. I was impressed by the local senior citizens who I bumped into while trekking.  Even if they were way older than me, they were strong enough to walk a long distance.  At one point, I wished I could fly to reach Oryokudo Skywalk.
  7. Walking a long distance was tiring even if I took breaks in between.  However, once I reached Oryudo Skywalk, I felt a sense of relief and fulfillment that I completed the trek and enjoyed the views without having to rush and meet a certain deadline.
  8. Adventures like this are priceless and I hope I get to live several more years being able to enjoy the outdoors.

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Why Person X, Y and Z?

Sometimes I wonder,  why did I meet person x, y and z? There must be a reason.

Looking back at the people I worked with previously, there were many lessons learned. Some even gave me a slap on the face figuratively. Though the experience is not 100% pleasant and I would rather forget the memory completely, it has made me appreciate more the people I have met now. I still havent figured the reason why I have met some of them but I know that they are reminding me constantly to:

1. Choose my battles

2. Be patient and not to give up

3. Forgive myself for the past mistakes

4. Be kind to myself

5. Just live in the moment and let go. There are many things beyond my control.

6. No matter what happens, things will work out. Worrying is a waste of energy.

Someday, it will make sense.

8 Things I Learned from Working in the Corporate World

November 2008 was the year I took the leap to work overseas. I told myself I will try for a year. I had many days when I wanted to give up because of the pressure and the stress. Flash forward to today, it now has been 8 years. I survived and thrived. Here are the 8 things I wish I knew when I started this work adventure.

1. No matter how late you stay in the office to finish your work, work will still find you the next day. Therefore, it is okay to go home and call it a day. The long hours and the stress are NOT worth it.

2. I can accomplish so much more when I feel well-rested. It is useless to force ourselves to finish more than what our body can do for the day. 

3. Work involves a give and take relationship. You have to build relationships early on by proving to those around you that you are reliable and capable to deliver good quality work. Once they realize you can be trusted, you will get the help that you need. 

4. You dont need to do all the work yourself. As they say, it is all about time management. Learn to delegate. 

5. Prepare a list of people in your network who can help you and engage them as and  when needed. Also, prepare a list of not-so-helpful people and troublemakers so that you know who to avoid. You dont want to be distracted.

6. Working in the corporate world is also like starring in a drama. There are good guys and bad guys. The good guys will help you get by roadblocks to reach milestones. The bad guys are the troublemakers – those that give you unnecessary work that you wish you could run away from but dont have an option to. There are also extras and superstars, those that are good at projecting themselves and presentation but know nothing about details or execution yet still survive and are able to climb up the corporate ladder. There are also noisemakers who always try to get attention in order for their requests to be prioritized and completed asap. Job titles are just labels with a big bowtie. They may sound prestigious but it doesnt necessarily mean that the person deserves his title. Some get by working along with the politics.

7. When you work in the corporate world, your time is not your own no matter how much you try to manage it. You will have to follow orders all the time. 

8. No matter how much I dread going to work, there are things to be grateful for — money to enjoy a comfortable life and the limited few people out there who are kind enough to help me survive. 

Years ago, I vividly remember others told me I can never make it or join this industry given my lack of prior experience. Yet here I am now, 8-year mark completed and telling myself, it’s almost time…

I know fresh graduates would probably want to be where I am working now. The brand name is what used to matter. However, it doesnt matter as much now. When I was still an outsider, I used to think the grass must be greener out there. Now that I am part of it, I realized, it is not really as great as I wished it would be.

We will never really know what it is like until we experience it ourselves.

Lost 2.0

I have been thinking deeply about when to quit, when to give up.

The glass is almost full and enough is enough. While there are days I tell myself to hold on, my heart knows that this is not giving me any joy, meaning, purpose and sense of fulfillment since inception.

Years ago, my goal was to earn money and grow my savings. Status now – check!

Back then, I wanted freedom and to learn to be independent, doing chores all by myself without any helpers. Status now – check!

I also wanted to have a ‘career’. Status now – can’t tell, which means probably I am not at the level that I targeted myself to be but I forgive myself.

After all these years, I realized there is more to life than spending at least 10 hours in the office working like a slave. The prestigious job title doesnt matter. Some of those with prestigious job titles were just talented enough to work their way around the politics. They do not know the details nor the groundwork involved. They excel at communication even if they dont know anything.

They say patience is a virtue but I guess dragging yourself into a situation or condition where you feel forced, helpless, taken advantage of or ‘exploited’ for months or even years must come to an end. We all have our own tolerance levels.

Time is gold and we should spend it finding our purpose, working on meaningful projects regardless of financial return and spending it with the people who matter to us the most. Life is short so we should live it in such a way that when we look back, we wont regret the things that we did not pursue.

I have yet to find a hobby and a project that I can turn into my passion. I wonder how others found theirs. When I quit, I envision an invisible thorn melting away from my heart but I know that there will also be a degree of uneasiness since I dont have any definite plans for the near future except for volunteering for WWOF Korea (assuming i get accepted). There will be roadblocks for sure but I should not fear. I am positive I am going in the right direction, finding my purpose.

I have learned from mistakes. I am wiser now than back then and hope that I can get some footing on the path that I am meant to live.

Being Successful

People define success differently.

Some, including myself years ago, view it as working for a prestigious firm, earning $$$. However, this year, after reading a few books, like The Art of Non-Conformity and $100 startup, it changed the way I defined success and made me reflect on where I am now and what I want to do in the near future.

Success does not always have to mean that we will work for a global firm, that everyone hears about from the news. For me, it now means finding fulfillment and sense of purpose in what you do daily regardless of the setting – corporate and otherwise. As others coin it, it is working on what you enjoy the most without feeling dragged, forced or pressured to meet other people’s expectations.

Reminders to Self

1. Listen to your gut. Almost always, it knows what is right and what will make you happy. When you don’t listen to it, there is always a voice deep down saying “I told you so…”

2. Choose your battles. Do not always try to save the world.

3. Life is short. Spend your time in meaningful pursuits.

4. Aim for good health and peace of mind because without good health, it is hard to win future battles.

I am happy when…

I am out of the office!

I took a half day off from work today. I didnt really make plans well in advance but I wanted to use the time wisely and productively.

I treated myself to comfort wholesome food – zucchini soup, quinoa chicken fried rice with coconut cream and blueberry cheesecake. 

I went to see my physiotherapist and did a more intense strengthening exercise today compared to our past sessions.

I went to a yin yoga class and spent one hour lying down, stretching and holding every pose while struggling to quiet my mind.

It was a half day well spent as compared to staying full day at work.

I know this is the ultimate sign that I have to work doubletime to find the job that I love and will require me to do things that I enjoy.

My gut tells me it is time to move on, now or soon.

How many people are in the same boat as me? Wanting to escape from corporate prison yet stuck because we need to make a living to pay bills. 

Everyday my heart tells me, I need to find my passion and my purpose. The above are some of the things I enjoy but I still have to find a hobby that I can turn into my fulltime project and that will make me lose awareness of time.

I definitely know what I dont want to do but have yet to enumerate and discover the things that I enjoy doing.

I know I am not in the right place now but someday I will.