Raffles Place was as dazzling as always, with lights beaming from skyscrapers filled the district. But looking at one of the best business district in Asia from the windows of Esplanade Library, I realised that you can only see the beauty of it, if you’re not sitting inside those well lit offices at 9 p.m. at night.
It was different four years ago, when I first came to Singapore. I stood right in the middle of the grass yard of Raffles Place, and scream “I wanna be here!” The 18-year-old girl who came to this bustling city, knew nothing better but to measure her success with private condos, career at a multinational company, wearing business suits for global meetings, sitting at an office facing Singapore River. And Raffles Place had become an icon for a successful professional life, a promise of a financial security and a ticket to enter social élite scene.
With the same kind of excitement I embarked on a 6 months internship with Ernst & Young Sales & Marketing team, one of the largest global auditing companies with glossy office at One Raffles Quay. But what was supposed to be a training of my daily future life turned out to be daily torture. On my third day working, I had already altered my dream; maybe being a housewife is a more attainable and happier dream.
Five days a week from 8.30 to midnight, I immersed myself with asset liquidations, internal auditing scheme and sometimes, actuarial science; things that literally alien for a girl with little passion on business like me. Daily interactions with ambitious auditors whose main passion is to prove that they worth the promotion by staying in the office till 3 a.m.; creating almost identical and rigid proposals and presentations and a no-other-life-but-work superiors had made even the designer office and Marina Bay view became mundane. While some people do have passion for stock market, I found no enjoyment in it. And by end of the fifth month, I was left with kidney and liver infections.
And that 6 months internship had taught me the most precious lesson, the importance to do what I like for life. I promised never to get back to that environment that almost risks my life and soul. For the same reason I refused to apply for any sales job. Or to consider returning back to my internship company, this time as a full time, and forever staff, as nightmares.
But that promise only stayed for one and a half year. I started to wonder if being idealistic may cost me too much.
When we were a child, we were told to hang our dream on the sky. And we let ourselves dream to be a movie star, singer, painter, journalist, comedian, doctor, architect, dancer, scientist, astronaut. Once we entered high school, we started to realise that some of those dreams aren’t just visible. So we negotiated our wish and set a much more realistic dream. Once we entered uni, full with passion, we then realised that even our realistic dream was not that nice either. The pay is terrible; there’re just too many competitors, the training is just too long, or my creativity is just not enough to excel in such and such industry.
And once we graduated, we said let’s go for money first, then once we have established good life, let’s leave everything and pursue our dream. Sometimes, it just never happened. A good life has seldom been achieved and it takes more than just courage to break through a life with secured financial. And I could clearly see myself following that vicious circle. The question is: if this circle is rather right at the end of the day. If it’s just too much to live your dream for too long.
Some people may always think that numbers are sexy and there’s nothing more tantalising than ensuring all the balance are correctly entered. Some may feel truly from the bottom of their heart that joining an economic consultancy group is the most enriching experience he could ever gain. Some, but not all. But everyone would agree that being a management trainee in investment banking with a salary of S $7000 per month is indeed cool and successful.
While I was not part of the some, I joined the mainstream thought; enforce myself to dream and reach career at banking and finance; sales or marketing or consultant. And judging from the miserable dead faces seen on Raffles Place MRT station right after office hour, I doubted if I were the only one; who are not part of the some, yet adhere to everyone.