letters to my younger self

This Kid is Still Dreaming

I can’t come up with a good title but lately, with all the subtle hullabaloo at work, I wanted to make a comparison with the early twenties me versus the late twenties me on work principles.

I think I’ve been babbling it everywhere and to anyone who would listen to me – I’ve been realising I am not made for corporate life. I can survive it now because I still have that thought that I would eventually escape this but if you tell me that this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life – then maybe I might just impulsively hand the white envelope to prove you wrong.

Of course I cannot say exactly what is going to happen in the future – I might just eat my words by then (I hope NOT!), you can say that maybe I’m still dreaming and that I still can’t get it through my thick head that the corporate life is the only way I’m going to afford the fixed expenses I’m having and will be having in the future but I daresay I will find another way – I know – I still don’t want to succumb into that reality because my mind is still in the clouds and if I am going to learn the hard way then let it be because I want to be able to say that “at least I tried” or “I did my best, I did not lose heart”. Those words that you can only get from a passionate person. Darn I want to be able to say that.

so yes, this is me writing regularly, in the words of Natsu from Fairy Tail: “Moete Kita Zo” or Echizen from Prince of Tennis: “Mada Mada Dane!”

What made me think about it? Well early this year I keep on unconsciously thinking about escape plans, whether it be teaching english in Japan, or studying Interior Design so I can have an alternate career, or applying in artist-in-residency anywhere who would take me or saving up a year’s expenses so I can just not work for a year and do what my heart feels it wants to make.

This is where my heart is taking my mind and I don’t know why – but it suddenly dawned on me that this is the idea that I have ever since I passed the board exam – the idea that I don’t want to be in corporate – the idea that I don’t want to be ordinary – the idea that somehow I can make a difference. Oh, what a thing to ponder on! This idea that I think will fade away through the span of seven years has come out now – bigger and brighter than before and it’s claiming that it can no longer take a backseat at my life and I still don’t know what to do with it. And I feel silly when I’m picturing out this idea having its own body form and arguing with me in my not lucid intervals. Haha 🙂

So, yeah I’m drifting further away from what I wanted to write. But that is the idea that made me come up with how I view work lately. How?

When I was in my early twenties, working in an auditing firm BUT working in tax – with this hefty amount of work – no one tells you to do overtime, in fact overtime is normalised. Overtime is the norm and if you don’t do overtime, you’re weird. I used to think that people who does all the work and extends are the most responsible people of all time. They don’t let unfinished work lying around. If you can do the impossible it was applauded. I remember during busy season all of us will stay at work until 4am and go back to the office at 11am. I used to scoff at new hires when they get out of office at 12am and come to work the next day at 4pm – I vividly remember that instance and thought to myself, “How unprofessional!”. Yes, not my proudest moment – I remember sometime again doing overtime with my associate and then we were still there when our colleagues will come at work in the morning – they have gone home, slept, woke up and go to the office while we stayed there – working. Still.

I know that’s how it is in auditing firms. Or in other fields where overtime is expected to be part of the norm. But what I’d like to say is how my thinking shifted.

I got away from the firm life after almost four years – I feel accomplished that I stayed in that industry for a long time but I feel it eating away my dreams and I’m not having any of that. I was grateful for those years – it built up my character, my flaws and that is where I developed my dreams and realised a LOT of what I wanted to do but I cannot do while I’m still there. And also there is where I met some of the realest friends that you could ever have. I remember thinking that time that maybe in my next work I won’t have this kind of friendship with people there but I’ll be fine as long as I have them. 🙂

So there. I moved on from the firm life and entered a private corporation.

So where am I going with this? I still got that kind of principle – that those who do overtime to finish work were professionals and I pride in being one of them. Slowly, things shifted. I learned to value my life more than my work. You see, the problem is our mindset. I began separating my life from my work. I began loving my life more than my work. To the scariest degree. The problem was when I started – I tend to make my work my life in which it is not.

So here, I realised that my life means more that what I am assigned to do for a specific time. I realised that I matter more than the work that I do.

And the very thing that really shifted is that I am not paid to finish my work by doing overtime. This can be a case to case basis but in my case, I am paid to do my work WITHIN the allotted time for me to work. Eight hours. You can’t get any more than that.

I realised we’re both losing when we meddle with overtime. Me and the company I work for. I am losing my time for my life, energy and rest. The company is wasting away paying me off on overtime work and utilities and it risks its own work-life balance culture.

I figured out that the only way we both can win is if I value my personal time more and treat the work only as work.

So yes I realised lately that I am really not going to do overtime unless urgent – that’s where you can say it was professional. I have to value my time outside the office more and that means I have to stay productive outside work.

I guess that’s it. The late twenties me learned a lot throughout the years and I’m sure I still have a lot to learn in the future.

This is what it means to work smart NOT work hard.

So if you’re just starting out in working, just remember YOU are greater than your work and that means you should value yourself more than your work. Screw the norm – we’re made to break the status quo. 🙂

Note: Title is actually inspired by the yet unreleased single of Cheats, These Kids Were Only Dreaming – they played it in their intimate session in Satchmi last September. 🙂

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