i am on a train again. i always seem to type out posts while commuting.
2016 has been an insanely long year for me despite it being only 4.5 months into the year. mid-february saw me going 100% independent from my immediate family, which entailed having a sudden urgency to find a source of income to pay for my daily living expenses, hostel bill and school bill. i was fortunate to have a family member graciously transfer me $5,000 to pay for my tuition fees as well as a portion for my hostel accommodation. but once that was paid for, the amount left in my bank account became a dismal number. although i borrowed from said family member, i wanted to earn my own keep to sustain my daily expenses because the ideal situation was that i didn’t need to borrow any money from anybody at all. so it began with taking on a f&b service crew part-time job at a rate of $7/hour which means that in a week, i needed to work minimal 8 hours because I needed to at least cover the $50 weekly expenditure on meals alone. however, after two weeks into the job, it was also clear that i should start sourcing for other sources of income (particularly ones that have better remuneration rates) because covering for just my meals alone were unrealistic. there were still looming bills to pay (phone bills, hostel bills for the next semester etc.) so i began looking for tuition jobs.
fast forward 2 months from then, i currently have 3 tutees (am tutoring primary school maths, science and english, as well as secondary 3 & 4 elementary and additional mathematics) and 2 f&b based part-time jobs. i juggle having 6-day work weeks (ie. i either work part-time at the f&b job or give tuition) with my academics and personal life etc.
i think of the state of anxiety that i was in 2 months ago when i had to fend for myself. and i remember how i resonated with the old adage of “Money makes the world go round” because it really mattered.
and i’m so thankful to God for giving me the strength and health (despite falling sick twice) to handle insane study and work schedules. the hell weeks this semester went by quickly without me feeling overwhelmed (as compared to the previous 5 semesters). of course, in retrospect, having to work every single day meant that i had to be even more disciplined in being more forward planning by starting on assignments a week earlier etc. but i know that God guided me through this madness and blessed with opportunities to find jobs. presently, my bank account is healthy and happy. any trace of anxiety or worry is honestly minimal. i am able to continue with my slated appointment at the national skin centre and order my monthly contacts. all by the grace of God. the best thing is that my first response was not to turn to Him – and yet, so much unfavored and undeserved grace.
actually the whole point of this post was not to share so much on the trial and tribulations that i had to go through. strangely enough, as the title suggests, i wanted to write about how i realized the importance of education and the opportunity to be educated.
i started working part-time at the second f&b company yesterday. during the lull period, one of the full-timers started a conversation with me and i found out that he has had a wealth of experience in the f&b line. it was also his first day at the company and he told me that prior to this, he worked at a supermarket, a japanese f&b chain, a crepe store and many other f&b related jobs. he was sharing with me how he actually went for interviews at the neighbouring f&b shops and i asked him if his pay at our job was the best (hence the reason why he chose this job over the others in the end). he told me that the pay was average and not fantastic but it was due to the job scope and having sundays off from work that cemented his decision. naively, i asked “is youe pay 3k?” and he replied that it was far from that – it was only at $1,254. and that’s when i got a shock while simultaneously kicking myself internally for even asking about the 3k since 3k is a starting pay for university graduates.. i thought of how i am currently earning about $800-$950 per month to meet my basic living needs (no shopping, all meals capped at $10 daily etc.) and i couldn’t even imagined how an adult could survive with $1,200 a month. it just seemed absurd considering how i expect an average of $3,200 – $3,500 salary upon graduation at my first job.
then he shared with me that his dream has always to be a make-up artist. he told me how he regretted not studying hard enough to go to the right polytechnic course that would open up doors for his ambitions. he shared with me that money was also a factor towards eliminating the possibility of this dream because attending make-up courses, getting professional certificates and investing in basic quality make-up tools were extremely costly – and he just didn’t have that amount of family support or monetary capability to fund his dream. of course, questions surfaced in my head such as “why didn’t you slowly save up to work towards your dream?” but i realised that perhaps he has his own difficulties (after all, his average $1,200 salary was before CPF deduction) and he may have decided that not pursuing his dream would be a better choice.
through this conversation, i felt as if things were put into perspective. while it has been a difficult two months juggling work and studies, i was still given the opportunity to continue studying. i didn’t have to quit school or put my studies on hold. and although this semester has been the best semester in terms of coping with the workload, being up to speed on assignments (with the exception of the B- i received earlier in the year for a 2,000 word assignment which i rushed out in 2 hours because of my lack of time management when i joined dance) and having enviable sleeping hours, i am reminded of how the past 5 semesters haven’t been the best in terms of managing my time, being prepared for classes and really understanding my seminars etc. i regret how i felt like i floated through my first year in university because i was seduced by the new found freedom after 19 years of living with strict curfews and lifestyle regulations. could i have been better at my accounting module? could i have actually excelled at my finance module? after all, i have always loved maths and i love tutoring the subject because of my genuine love for it. so many questions but it’s also a timely reminder to focus on the present and prevent past mistakes from happening again.
i don’t know if i went off tangent. but all i know was that after hearing his story, i felt… grateful and even empowered to be in the position where i could shape my future. there i was, feeling afraid of job prospects after graduating; will i get a job that is fulfilling? has a decent pay? career advancement opportunities? all these concerns whereas there are many others who have to content themselves with a $1,200+ monthly salary.
with only one more semester to go, and finals next week, i’m glad that i had that conversation because it was a timely awakening for me. it has been 16 years in a formal education system, and that was the very first time i thought “i am so fortunate to be educated.”