A lesson finds that the common denominator and links us all together, like a chain. At the end of the change dangles a clock, and on the face of the clock the passing of time is registered. We hear it, the hushed tick- tock sound that breaks any silence, and we often see it, but often we don’t feel it. Each second makes its mark on every single person’s life; comes and then goes, quietly disappearing into a fanfare, evaporating into air like steam from a piping hot Christmas pudding. Enough time leaves us warm; when our time is gone, it too leaves us cold. Time is more precious than gold, more precious than diamonds, more precious than oil or any valuable treasures. It is time that we do not have enough of; it is time that causes the war within our hearts, and so we must spend it wisely. Time cannot be packaged and ribboned and left under trees for Christmas morning. Time can’t be given, but it can be shared.
- Cecilia Ahern in ‘The Gift’ -
A week ago, I picked up this book and decided to read it for the first time ever. The book has been on the shelf for quite some time, but I have yet to read it until now since I was always so busy doing something. Never a free time left for leisure reading anymore. It just so happens, that I chose to pick up this book at the point in time where I made a life-changing decision for myself. A decision that took me weeks to finally make, leaving me at a crossroad in the meantime. And it just so happens, that when I have finally made my choice, I picked up this book and in it, is a lesson that reflects my very recent epiphany. What an ironic coincidence.
The Gift, is a story of Lou Suffern, a guy who is always busy, always rushing, always being in two places at one time (in mind) and never fully exist in any moment as he was always distracted, all for the sake of his career. He ignored his wife, kids, parents, denied himself of quality time, all for his hunger to achieve his ambition. To always rise higher, faster, no matter what. One day, he stopped by and talked to a homeless man, whom he later gave a job. Now this wise man, is more insightful than one might think, and he gave Lou a bottle of pills, that when eaten, allows Lou to physically be in two places at once and fully experience what he goes through, and tomorrow combine back into one person. The homeless man called these pills a ‘Gift’. Lou never understood what he meant. But little by little, since he took the pill, he started realizing that he has been neglecting his loved ones for a long time, and how important they are as compared to his career. One night, the homeless man told him it’s important to spend time with his family and let them know that he loves them before something happens. Lou thought that something would happen to his family, and so he rushed over to them, driving too fast on the icy road in the cold winter, leading to an accident. While he is dying, he asked the police to please give him another one of the pill so that he could go and spend precious time with his family, one last time, before it is time for him to die. At which point, only did he start understanding, that it was him who was running out of time, and the homeless man has given him the gift of time, the most precious gift of all. Time to make up for all the mistakes and hurt he has caused his family, time to spend with them, time to make sure they remember that during his lifetime he loves them to his deepest core and they are the best thing that has ever happened to him.
Upon reading this I realized that it is so closely related to me. Guys, lately I have made a life- changing decision to switch to another job. I know that a lot of people would think so what, it’s normal, a lot of people do that, it’s just from a job to another. But a job has never been just a job for me. The job that I have now is one of the jobs that I have always dreamt of. It would be my biggest stepping stone, my biggest career leap. I have always lived my life planning and executing my goal for the next 5 years, and for the next 10 years. My initial plan was to stay on this job until I finish my Professional Papers and become Manager (which would take about 5 years more or less) and then move on to another job for a higher managerial position. A few months down the road though, with all the hours put in, the no- life, the stress and all, I started to lose my enthusiasm. But I still told myself to stay positive and to hang on. But when I got another offer, I start to seriously think about whether I really wanna stay here. I took a step back, and asked myself these questions, “Have I enjoyed my life for these past few months? Is this what I wanna do for years to come? And if I die tomorrow, would I die in regret?”
The answer to the first one, I do enjoy my work, I like this job, but I haven’t really been enjoying my life, haven’t really been living my life to the fullest, or at least at all lately. I have also lost the ‘fun’ part in me, and I know I am becoming someone different from I was before. I was always stressed, cranky, I don’t talk so much to my loved ones anymore, I don’t spend enough time with my family, I don’t even see my friends, and whenever I’m not at office or a client’s, I’ll be at home in my room working from home. Always rushing and working because I have so many things on my plate and all to be delivered before a tight deadline. To top it all off, I’m literally becoming sick due to the stress, my specialist even advised me to not stress a lot and to slow down a bit. This, in my line of work, is impossible.
The answer to the second question then, if this is how I am living now, in another year, or even years to come, in time, as I progress and escalate up the ladder in the firm, my workload is going to increase and the cycle will never end. So I’m not really sure that this is still what I wanna do for years to come.
Comes in the answer for the third question, if I die tomorrow, will I die in regret. For that, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Because, in the end of the day, work should only be a part of life, not my whole life. Life should be filled with so many other things, like trying new things, going places, spending quality time doing something you enjoy, and the most important part, to spend it with my friends and family, and also to do enough good deeds as a Muslim. And if I die tomorrow, with my life as now, which only revolves around work, ambition and career alone, I would regret it. I want my life to be filled with so much more than just that. I want there to be balance in my life. And for once in my life, I actually wanna stop feeling guilty whenever I go back early (7 or 8 p.m, mind you), and not feel guilty for not working from home when I get back home later. And honestly, I actually feel tired, exhausted even. Not only for working like this for months but also for always having push myself like this for my whole life.
My whole life has always been about chasing after my ambitions. Ever since I was little, I have always had plans and had always worked to achieve it. Even since primary school I was always the overachiever who scores As and collects 30, 40 co-curricular activities certificates. I went through the same cycle too in secondary and university. And in semester breaks, I was always out on part-time job to gain experience for my resume. I don’t hate being that person, and I don’t regret that, coz that person made me who I am right now. But my whole life has always been about me living for tomorrow, the next 5 years, and the next 10 years. It has never been just about today. It has never been just about getting through it but it was always about being the best, being perfect, being great, being extraordinary. It’s never been just about enjoying the moment and relaxing. So I keep thinking, in the end of the day, what good is it all if I have never really lived my life to the fullest. Coz in the end of the day, money, career, position, is not something I can bring to the grave. And even with it all, if I don’t fully live my life, I would still not be happy. So in the end I made the decision to leave my current job and grab the new one.
I know that among the supportive words from a lot of people, there are several who whispers negative thoughts like I’ll progress slower there, and higher bureaucracy there, and I’ll get bored of the job, and the workload is equally as bad too and all sorts of stuff. And I know that no one can guarantee me that I can have a better work life balance there. But then, at least by taking this leap, I’m trying. I’m giving myself the chance and the opportunity to find that. As opposed to just sitting here and gritting my teeth while I’m not happy and doing nothing to change the situation. This is what it is about; it is about me, giving myself a chance to balance it all out. In the end of the day, what matters is that I’m happy. Not how much money I earn and how fast I climb the corporate ladder. And this is why I chose this road.
As Cecelia Ahern said, “Time is more precious than gold, more precious than diamonds, more precious than oil or any valuable treasures. It is time that we do not have enough of; it is time that causes the war within our hearts, and so we must spend it wisely”. I used to think that because time is precious, that is why I have to always be in a rush to chase after my ambition. But now I realize that because it is precious, that is why we shouldn’t waste time only chasing after tomorrow without living in the moment today. What I wanna be, my ambitions, my career goals, I’ll get there someday. Maybe a little later than planned, but I’ll still get there. For now, I wanna make sure that while I’m trying to get there, I don’t forget to also live my life and fill it with precious memories and experiences.