Release myself

“Release us!”

“I hold your oath fulfilled. Go, be at peace.”

Sometimes, I wish HR managers are as humorous.

* * *

As the world mourns on the 10th anniversary of Sept 11, I heaved my own psychological sigh of relief.

I admit, it’s quite hard to hold a grudge against someone in the system, when no one in the machinery has stepped up to be the face of this historically significant talent grab policy. The mental visual has always been myself in indentured servitude, the public reason has always been “because I can’t take Singapore’s pressure cooker style education” (which is b/s – I survived HCJC!)

I had a thought: from now on, I will not take up another scholarship in my life again. Unless it’s purely a recognition. In fact, I will put any offer on the table through the rigorous biz case analysis that I acquired over the years of doing business, and then laugh out loud.

In life, we occasionally give too much weight on some matters, because we refuse to put it into perspective. My property loans from the bank is set to exceed the peak of the scholarship value (in nominal terms at least) thanks to the never cooling condo market. And yet, the scholarship bugged me more.

I remember one of my surety requesting that her name be changed because she couldn’t live with the stress that someday I might drop the ball, and the formidable government will come after her for half a million dollars.

And for that I must publicly thank both my sureties for staying with me till the end (won’t name them). They aren’t even related to me, and yet the put their life in jeopardy for making such irrational commitment.

I also had another thought: there couldn’t be another way out, because I didn’t “deserve” this. The money came from taxes (always nice to romanticize a bit) paid by hard working nation builders on this island, so the least I could do is to help their children (which is my generation) do some work and hopefully succeed.

If the entire scholarship ‘biz case’ was governed purely economically, which was an argument put forth by a younger version of myself in university, then I have made 6 years of economic mistakes. Depending on where life would have otherwise brought me, the mistake can be as negligible as earning enough to scrap through (perhaps owing more monies to families), or as big as some of the most ridiculous IPOs in history of tech start-ups.

Instead, I attended quite a number of weddings, funerals, full moons, etc. I wrote music that students want to play, and I met the love of my life.

* * *

I recall reading Yu-Mei Balasingamchow’s blog post Once Bonded, published on my birthday 2 years back. Hers was $264,000. Mine was $484,000, which was later revised with inflation and other hidden cost to a rounded $500,000. She had to do 8 years, I had 6, she did in purely in govt, I did mine in both private and public, and various other nuances where the system has been tweaked over the years (hers was 1993, mine 2000).

But as an excellent writer, she articulated such a familiar story that to me it’s eerie. Here’re some quotes which might make more sense if you read her full post.

I did my time dutifully and I tried not to think about other opportunities that I had missed, forever.

I witnessed a lot of people doing things for the sake of doing them or to keep the bosses happy, or doing them the way they’d always been done, just because.

So when my scholarship bond ended, what mattered was not that I quit (because I didn’t, not immediately), but knowing that I could.

It was a precious, precious feeling.

* * *

Into the 8th year of my “career”, I certainly found it difficult to “go back where I started” (走回来时路) – those who might still give me a reference for software development work probably haven’t met me for half a decade.

While putting together a family and settling down is certainly the right direction, it might also mean that I have to thread very carefully to keep myself afloat, lest you see me busking on the streets daily to make ends meet.

But it’s a precious precious feeling – it’s awesome now that I get to choose which shit I want to get into. It feels even more awesome going to work – I’m working now, because I choose to!

And I will make many choices this coming year.

And I will make them with my all my heart: only logically and emotionally sound choices. The decision should feel good over time, in addition to making sense over time.

Hopefully then, I will be at peace.

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6 Responses

  1. You make me feel like I take my freedom to job hop for granted. But there are many of us (in my line) who would like to be “bonded” to our employer for 6 years, haha!)


  2. When I completed my bond last year, the feeling of “freedom” to me was more like a sudden rush of empowerment. My perspectives about work became more about building a life-long career rather than serving any particular organisation. Ask what the organisation can contribute towards your personal goals (and I did ask my boss about it).

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