Growing up

Becoming – Michelle Obama

It’s been an interesting week with interesting conversations at work and at home.

What did I want to be when I was growing up?

I wanted to be a teacher. Only because it was probably one of the first occupations I knew when I first started going to school.

But I discovered books and the joy of reading. I loved writing. And so I wanted to be a writer.

I wrote a lot. Diaries, journals, essays, newspaper articles, scripts and plays, mini stories.

Then I started thinking, but can I really write? What if I ran out of things to write?

So my dream of becoming a writer ended before it started.

I landed my dream job, almost 13 years ago, not as a writer but as a researcher and strategist.

It’s not just about understanding human behaviour and market dynamics and translating them into business recommendations; it’s about uncovering insights and coming up with a narrative to draw people in so they are influenced to do something about it.

As with most, if not all, jobs, this job is not perfect, but what kept me going has always been what my work is fundamentally about: the insight and the narrative.

But of course, there is the need to progress – financially, personally and professionally. There are checkboxes to tick, milestones to hit, because these are tangible evidence of progress.

Lately I’ve been thrown offguard by two questions: 1) Why do you want a promotion? and 2) Can you rank your motivations for wanting a promotion – Influence, Ego or Compensation?

Why do students need to take examinations? Why do birds fly and fishes swim? Why do monkeys climb trees?

For the first time ever, I lost the insight and the narrative.

Is it a lack of opportunity? A lack of calibre? Or simply.. a lack of love?

I’m just mindblown by the things people say, and feel like I’ve been mindfucked.

Maybe it’s time to re-callibrate.

I had a long chat with Clarissa today about school and English class.

Her English teacher from the learning centre called me last weekend and told me about the steep learning curve Clarissa is having, and asked that I encourage her more. Her classmates, who started taking the class much earlier than her, are writing faster than her and understand what’s going on in class better than her.

Yet when I asked her how the class went last week, she said it was good.

Today she told me how she really felt in class. With tears in her eyes, she said the passage was hard to write, and she didn’t know what the teacher was talking about. She loves learning about countries and cities and the things in those countries and cities, but writing and reading is so hard.

I explained to her why I wanted her to take the class. I said it’s because it’s important to know how to read and write, because even though it’s hard to learn, it would ultimately make her happy.

Because she loves books and stories, knowing how to read would make her happy.

Because she loves travelling and going on holidays, knowing how to read so she can learn about these places would make her happy.

Because going to school is a must, knowing how to read and write would make learning easier, and that would make her happy too.

She nodded and brightened up as she told me how she is now the only one in class who can read the words in the toilet, because she learned the word “splash” in English class. She was able to tell her friends how to spell the word “little”. And now she can read and spell the name of her swimming school.

“Does that make you happy?” I asked her.

She smiled and nodded.

I explained her how her classmates have a headstart, just like how she has a headstart in school as compared to Allie. That’s why they seem faster and better, but it’s only because they’ve got more practice.

I told her I don’t care if she couldn’t write the passage properly, but what’s important to me is that she tries her best and that she has learned something from it. In this case, she’s learned about the floating market in Thailand, which she would not have seen or read about otherwise.

I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. It’s hard to know if I’m pushing her just enough or if I’m pushing her too much.

It’s important to learn the value of hard work, to have the grit to persevere and the willingness to learn and to try.

I don’t need her to be a straight-As student, and I hope I will not be the parent who only seeks tangible results in the form of grades, and only grades.

Maybe this is the universe telling me the same thing I’m trying to tell my child.

That not everything can be measured. And not everything needs to be measured.

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