All’s well that ends well

My first work day started with a virtual trip to Australia. For one, at the train station I was surrounded by people pulling their trolley luggage around. Then I sat next to a couple on the train, who had just returned from a three week holiday to Australia. We exchanged travel stories and I was reminded of the wonderful things we had done on our trip in 2010.

 

Things even got better. Since I was too early, I decided to buy buns for breakfast at a supermarket close to the company. Strangely the single open cashier had a long queue of people with full shopping carts. After seeing that I had only one item, the lady standing in front of me in the queue let me overtake her. The same thing happened again and again and I was in front of the line in no time at all. Everyone has super friendly to me today.

 

I ended yesterday with terrible backaches and a nagging fear I would oversleep. After taking a bath and a pain killer, I went to bed feeling extremely tired. However my nagging fear did not leave me alone and I dreamt that I had overslept. I woke up all nervous and looked at the alarm clock. The time was 4:48 am – way too early for me to wake up. But I couldn’t fall asleep again being all revved up as I was. I took my time getting ready and before I knew it, it was time to leave the apartment and I had to skip my breakfast. 😦 Not a healthy way to start a working day. However given how the day proceeded, I have to admit I couldn’t have had a better first working day.

 

All’s well that ends well. Looking forward to work tomorrow. (Wow! Did I just say that?)

The first day

Do you remember your first day in kindergarten? I do not have memories of my own of this day but my mother has told me hers. I am the eldest child and as a result my mother was apprehensive when the day came for her to leave me for the very first time in foreign care. Kindergarten in Singapore is not a playgroup but rather a pre-school. Children learn how to read and write in Kindergarten. I even attended Mandarin lessons as a second language. Unfortunately I was not allowed to continue it in primary school.

Where was I? Oh yes, kindergarten! My mother put me in my uniform, packed my school bag and walked me to the kindergarten. As we approached the building, she saw children freaking out to varying degrees. Some were hanging onto their family members refusing to enter the classroom. Others were crying their hearts out. Some even ran away and were caught and carried back to the classroom. My mom couldn’t bear the thought of seeing me crying. (Actually she admitted that she felt like crying herself.) However I surprised her by taking my school bag from her hands at the entrance and entered the classroom willingly. She still couldn’t bear leaving me alone and peeked through the window to see how I was coping. She said that when I saw that I waved at her; waved at her to go away that is. 🙂

Tomorrow I have another first day ahead of me. On the one hand, I am really excited and looking forward to starting a new job in a new company. I will pack my back tonight, pick out the clothes to wear tomorrow and check out the train schedule. Things I imagine little Irene might have done the day before she went to kindergarten for the first time too; except for checking for the train schedule. J

But there is a part of me that is feeling apprehensive, and afraid. So many ‘What Ifs’ fleet through my mind. I wonder if little Irene was afraid that day too? Did her joy to learn outweigh her fear being left alone, being with strangers or to fail? Maybe I am thinking too much about it. After all my instinct says that it was the right decision to take on this job and that it is exactly the kind of work I enjoyed.

What are your experiences on your first day at a new job?

Forever young – I want to be forever young

As I write this post, the chorus of the Alphaville song Forever Young is playing over and over again in my head, like a broken record. There is a line in the song that goes, Youth like diamonds in the sky and diamonds are forever. Some time ago, I blogged about why immortality is not as great as it sounds. This post is about what I believe to be more than a trend in modern society – the mission or obsession to remain youthful and also about why I hate Jennifer Aniston and the likes of her.

When I was about 16 years old, I participated in a public speaking competition. There were two parts to the competition. The first part was delivering a prepared speech and the second part to make an impromptu speech on a topic given by jury. My prepared speech was on the topic of Youth Culture. I spoke about, if it is just a trend or a way of life. I am so sure about what I spoke about so long ago because I was traumatised by a case of total mental blackout on stage that day. But I also remember that most of the points in my speech came from my teacher. Honestly what can a youth know firsthand about trying to stay young as long as possible? However ever since I have crossed the thirties threshold, I am confronted with this topic every day – whether I want to or not. With age comes wisdom and I believe I have enough experience of my own to add my two cents worth to this subject.

Wrinkle free skin and a body I would have been proud of in my twenties
Wrinkles and grey hair are widely accepted as the first signs of growing old. I was distraught the day I turned thirty and the salesgirl, who packed my “make-me-feel-good” shopping items, added a sample of an anti-wrinkle cream to the lot. I still do not know what I did to her to deserve such horrible treatment!

The ladies in Hollywood are turning the natural process of ageing into a nightmare for me. Have you noticed how incredible actresses like Demi Moore look the older they get? I am certain Jennifer Aniston looks better in her forties than in her twenties. I know that a lot of money and effort is invested in maintaining this appearance. But the mind only hangs onto the thought that it is possible to look age defying young. If they can do it, I should be able to do it too, right? Who cares that even in my youth I did not have toned muscles or a flat tummy? I can imagine that I am not alone here and that others feel the same way too. So whose idea of youth are we trying to emulate? (Again the word stereotype comes to mind.)

Manipulating our age to look younger
We have a couple of ages. There is the calendar or chronological age, the biological age and the perceived age. The calendar age is self explanatory. It is the number of calendar years we have lived. The biological age is much more difficult to ascertain. It is a combination of various factors, which reduce, slow down or reverse the constant cellular deterioration that constantly goes on in our bodies. The perceived age refers to the age others estimate us to be at based on our appearance, attitude and behaviour.

There is nothing we can do about our calendar age; apart from forging birth certificates. But it is possible to manipulate our biological age. Here is an interesting talk by Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor at UCSF.

From the sound of it, it takes more than creams, hair dyes and clothes to being youthful. No pain, no gain. I am not referring to the pain due to plastic surgeries or Botox injections. (Honestly taking away the mimic from your face does not make you look younger. Instead it makes you look like a well embalmed zombie.) I am referring to the muscle aches as a result of exercising and the pain of having to abstain from sinfully delicious fatty food. The good news according to Dean Ornish is that sport, a healthy diet and lifestyle have a positive effect on our cellular structures. This helps us reduce our biological age.

My perceived age is younger than my calendar age, which is actually a curse in disguise. It keeps me from exercising because my subconscious tells me that there is no need to start just yet. (In project management speak; I am using up my puffer time.) In my opinion, two factors contribute to the perceived age. First is the appearance factor, which is influenced by the physical appearance and fashion sense. Certain types of clothes or hairstyles can make us appear older than we are. Second is the attitude factor, which is the way we think and behave. Our attitude towards technological advances and affinity to new social media could make us appear younger.

Why do we want to be youthful?
One reason that comes to mind is that looking youthful has an impact on the level of success in our career. On the one hand, looking old might give an impression of not being up-to-date. On the other hand, looking youthful is associated with being dynamic, open-minded, flexible and able to easily adapt to changes. It might sound shallow but it is common knowledge that good-looking people are more successful in their careers. (I blogged about it some time ago.) Given the choice between a youthful looking candidate and a old looking candidate with the same qualification and experience, I am pretty sure that the youthful looking candidate would be chosen. In this case, it would not even be a case of ageism.

Another reason I can think of is the fact that we live longer than our ancestors did. Retirement may mark the end of one’s career but it marks the beginning of life. Retirees finally have enough time and money to catch up on all the dreams postponed in favour of the career and the quest of earning money. Therefore being physically youthful is necessary to support an active and possibly adventurous lifestyle.

As I have expressed in this post forever young could mean many different things. Do you want to be forever young and what does being young mean to you?

A new start is on the horizon

In Confessions of a virgin, I wrote about how I have never been to a job interview before. I was anxious about how my very first job interview on the 16th of February would be. After a 4 hour interview and assessment centre, I was happy with my own performance. I knew that I had given my best. The week later the company contacted me to arrange a trial working day on the 28th of February. I was elated. They wanted to see me again! It meant that I had passed the interview round. I had faced the unknown monster under the bed and found out that it was not as frightening as my imagination made it out to be. Continue reading

Statistics cannot be trusted

I kind of feel guilt that I am blogging instead of preparing for tomorrow. What is on tomorrow you ask? Do you still remember that I had my first job interview ever on the 16th of February? I received a call last Wednesday that they want me to come back for another full day assessment. In German it is called “Probearbeitstag” – which translates into “Trail working day” and it is set for tomorrow.

I wonder how a trial working day would look like. I am applying for the position of IT Project Manager. Would they want me to execute a case study on project management? They are aware that I have no knowledge of their ERP system, which is not Oracle. So they cannot expect me to work on their system. Then I was reminded of a point they mentioned during the interview. Given the small size of the company, some controlling tasks would also fall under the role of the Project Manager as well.

I remembered the numerous reports and statistics I have gone through in my career life so far. I hated being presented with a number or value, which I had to explain. How do I know where the 1 Million Euro difference comes from? Before I could explain a difference, I had to first verify how the numbers were calculated. (I know it is a repetition of tasks but it is also a matter of doing my job well.) I tried to find out what formed the basis of calculations or which exchange rate was taken to convert the currencies. Even rounding differences could add up to a substantial amount when there are thousands of transactions. These points usually helped in clarifying a part of the difference and I knew what I was supposed to clarify.

I am registered as unemployed since we returned from our RTW trip last April. Between August and December, I attended courses to get certified as a Project Manager. But I was officially not part of the unemployed statistics during this period, although I was still looking for a job. Therefore when it was reported in the news that the unemployment rate has gone down in the last quarter of 2011, I wondered how much was attributed to job seekers attending training courses.

See what I mean? Why it is not good to trust any statistics? Especially those you did not create yourself. There are so many possibilities to manipulate data and the way they are presented. Therefore keep that in mind the next time you get worked up because of some numbers you have read in the newspapers.

Cultural Experts – An Endangered Species?

I grew up in a country, which is a melting pot of many racial groups. Chinese, Indian, Malay and Eurasians all live together in close proximity. Cultural diversity was nothing special in my childhood. It was normal for me that my best friend next door was called Li Ling. As a child I learned about the different cultural and religious beliefs both at school and through exposure in my everyday life. There were times I was not happy that my friends could do something that I was not allowed and often got to hear, “It is because we are Indians. Good Indian girls do not do such things”. Continue reading