Friday, 24 January 2020

Organisation with a heart ♡

How would one describe the public sector? Some would say 'a heart of service', 'welfare' or 'compassionate'; while other would say 'inefficient', 'bureaucratic' or 'uncompromising'. I guess it all depends on whether you are looking outwards or inwards. To its beneficiaries, the public sector shows compassion and kindness, or at least attempts to put on such a facade. But to its workers, it tends to appear cold, harsh, and even heartless at times (and I am speaking with the perspective of someone who works in the public sector).

At the birth of an organisation, the vision, roles, rules and relationships (what we call the V3R framework) are being set. However, as human beings, we tend to have different interpretations of the same vision, role, rule or relationship; and hence, problems and conflicts arise. To remove ambiguity and ensure that everyone is 'on the same page', standard operating procedures (SOPs in short) are written and are expected to be abided to at all cost. And as more problems arise, more areas of ambiguity are uncovered and more SOPs are written.

Over time, before every action or decision is made, one has to go through a series of SOPs to ensure that there are no negative repercussions for him or her. As a result, the room for individual discretion narrows significantly and any diversion from the norm warrants an investigation or some form of punishment. As someone who values freedom and kindness above everything else, I believe that while it is necessary to have a set of guidelines on how we should act and make decision, we should learn to take it with a pinch of salt. It is not the law; and even the law requires some level of human discretion. Furthermore, just as the law is not timeless, SOPs need to be reviewed, and challenged, over and over again to ensure that they keep up with the times.

I think my point is, we cannot and should not dehumanise the organisation. We cannot remove human agency from the organisation. While setting SOPs do indeed help to remove ambiguity and improve efficiency in certain situations, they should be practised with kindness and, frankly speaking, some common sense. The organisation is not a building, or a set of rules. It is the people who make up the organisation, no matter how big it may be. And so, it is absolutely possible to have an organisation with a heart.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Travel Haikus

Rows of wooden casks.
The scent of roasted barley.
Best pint of Guinness.
-Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

Drunk and angry fans,
"Take me home, United Road."
Full time whistle blows.
-Old Trafford, Manchester

A cold, silent night.
Glitter spilled across the sky.
The fire that burns.
-Sahara Desert, Morocco

Frozen in the night.
Green hues dancing above head.
My heart skips a beat.
-Reykjavik, Iceland

Latin inscriptions.
I still hear the ancient cries,
and tourist chatters.
-Colosseum, Rome

Sea of white and blue - 
that is where my heart belongs.
And my regrets, too.
-Santorini, Greece

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

My New Year resolution is to stay alive and well

2019 has been a tough year, the toughest thus far I must say. And because I'm extremely exhausted - imagine a person who has just completed a full marathon without prior training - I will cut to the chase.

I came back from the UK in August 2018 after completing my masters and by the end of the year, I was already worn by the change in pace of life, expectations from others and my own ambitions. On 1 Jan 2019, I wrote about how I was tired of putting on a facade that I've got everything under control and wanted to be true to myself.

2019 has come and gone and the truth is, I think I've walked a full circle and am back at the exact same spot where I started. I'm not talking about my career and personal development - these are things that I have invested a lot of time and effort in and while it has paid off, I realised they do not define the core of who I am as a person. The fact that I'm still as bewildered as before attests to that.

Instead, I think I'm talking about finding myself. How can I be 'true to myself' when I don't know what it means to 'be myself'? For some people, it is clear as sky. They know exactly what they want in life. Perhaps it is starting a family, or owning a successful business, or fighting for a cause that they passionately believe in. For me, truth be told, I really do not have a clue. And I think many other young people are experiencing the same thing as I am, and why mental health has been such a prevalent topic these days.

While one's career and personal development are important, I have found that they are peripheral in one's pursuit of happiness. According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, once safety and security, and a healthy self-esteem that stems from personal accomplishments, are attained, a human being would strive for self-actualisation, which is to achieve one's full potential. At the end of day, what gives life meaning, I believe, is the ability to be the best versions of ourselves. And that varies from person to person, be it being the best mother you can be to your child, the best soldier to your country, the best partner to your spouse or someone who chooses to live for him or herself.

Reflecting on 2019 has made me realise what our issue is. We spend all our time investing in our careers and personal development, and trying to achieve 'self-actualisation' without ever pausing to think what it is that truly makes us happy who we are. The result is that we spend an entire life fighting for something we have never really wanted.

While I pledge to continue doing my best for my country, my organisation, the people around me and myself, I hope that I, and everyone else who is reading this, will not compromise on constantly finding yourself in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life. And keep reflecting on whether what you're fighting for is indeed worth it, especially if it is taking a toll on your mental well-being.

So, instead of announcing all the lofty aspirations that I (inevitably) might have, I'm proud to say that my ultimate New Year resolution for 2020 is to stay alive and well!

Sunday, 29 December 2019

The walk home

Twelve minutes.
Just give me twelve minutes a day
from the train station back home to

not be okay.
tear up when nobody's watching.
ruminate about the mistakes I've made.
be in touch with my soul,
my sad little soul

so that I may

brave the rest of the one thousand, four hundred and twenty eight minutes.
be the responsible human being I ought to be.
chase my dreams.
eat, drink and be merry.
realise that I'm actually
okay. Okay?

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Maturity or bleakness?

My little sister collected her examination results today and didn't do as well as she had expected. I brought her out for dinner and for the entire evening, she couldn't stop talking about how disappointed she felt. She shared about how she brawled her eyes out the moment she saw her grades (although we are all very proud of her nonetheless).

The very first thought that came to mind was that this girl sure hasn't experienced what true disappointment really is. And then, I remembered that she was only sixteen. And I remembered that I, even when I was eighteen receiving my A Level results, couldn't stop crying for two days straight.

I remembered aiming for straight As.
I remembered holding on to the hope that I would meet the academic conditions of my scholarship, in spite of knowing that I messed up my History and Economics papers.
I remembered feeling like the world had collapsed on me, that God that given up on me, when I saw what was written on the results slip.

Those feelings feel so foreign to the 25-year-old me today. The 25-year-old me wouldn't let myself dream of achieving something that seems so improbable. The 25-year-old me isn't too sure if "waiting upon the Lord" to "soar on wings like eagles" is the right thing to do. The 25-year-old me knows what disappointment feels like, but chooses to approach it with an "oh, again?" attitude rather than an it's-the-end-of-the-world attitude. The 25-year-old me is too tired to cry my heart out (perhaps except when I've had a bit too much to drink). The 25-year-old me wouldn't - no, couldn't - hopelessly fall in love with someone. The 25-year-old me is too lethargic to invest in friendships that I foresee cannot go very far. The 25-year-old me lives life day by day. The 25-year-old me just hopes to make the best out of my current situation. The 25-year-old me understands that a penny saved is a penny earned, and that good things don't come by to those who sit around and wait hope.

The question then is, have I become more mature? Or have I just become bleaker in my outlook of life?

Or maybe, the slow death of that (irrational) positivity that we all had as kids is just a part of growing up. Or perhaps, adulting involves some form of cowardice.
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