The Verdict

Two weeks after the trip, I received a call while I was at school.

The man on the phone asked how I found the trip, whether I enjoyed it and made small talk for a while before saying ‘congratulations’. I got in and I was given only a week to decide if I want to accept the offer.

I thought I would have felt happy, but I didn’t. Instead, something sunk and decided to sit at the pits of my stomach. I knew a serious discussion is needed with my parents. I was already half expecting they would tell me not to take up the offer, while the pessimist-fatalist in me started doubting a lot of things about myself – Was I ready? Can I really manage a life so different from the one I’m having now? Am I really sure I can do this? Was I being foolish? What if I fail?

“They called. I got in.” I said with a message first.

“Ah, I see,” came the only reply. I decided to leave my phone aside and let the news sink in. I could have gone home early that night, but my feelings were a mess. Instead, the first thing I did was to call a trusted friend. Sitting at the lobby of my home, I related my fears and worries and we talked until midnight with my feelings more or less settled.

“Gina, this really boils down to what you want. Is this what you want? Can you imagine a life working in Singapore for the next half of your life? Would you regret not taking up this offer years later? What do you think?” My friend asked. I fell silent and bit my lip.

“If I go there, I’ll be giving up my friends and family here, I’ll be far away, I’ll–”

“Your friends and family will still be here, and there are ways to manage the distance, no matter how difficult, and who knows what the future may bring and what priorities that may change later. If you turn this offer down, what else is there on the plate? And 5 years later, would you regret not taking this offer? What is your heart really really telling you right now?” my friend asked. I fell silent again.

“I don’t know about the future… but I want to try,” I said.

“Talk to your parents tomorrow then, tell them what you really think,” he said.

“Okay, thanks for listening,” I sighed. “And hey,”

“Yeah?”

“… I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but you know I’m thankful I have you as my friend, right?”

“Yeah.” We hung up.

The next morning, my parents and I sat at the table. I compared the different challenges that I will face with all my options that I have available, what I feel about each different option, I told them all the possible risks and consequences involved if I make the decision to go Japan to work, the reasons why I want to do this, why I think I need to do this for the sake of myself and them.

They nodded and listened patiently. Both were silent for a while. My mom has always been accepting of the whole situation. It was my dad that I was afraid of.

He looked down, deep in thought, blinked once, twice, then he looked up at me.

“… As much as my heart doesn’t want you to go, if I looked at this objectively, I think this would be a good opportunity for you to grow. I think stopping you from going would not do you any good, to be extremely honest. So if this is what you want to try, who am I to stop you?”

“… really?” I asked, half expecting him to say it’s all a joke.

“Yes, really,” he said. “Do it,” he said.

Within the next few days, I signed the deal and that was it.

…6 months to say my goodbyes.

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A Trip To Remember (Part V)

Taking the van to the station, we took a train, switched to the Shinkansen, and took another super express train to a hotel near the airport.

Yet another long and tiring trip.

I looked out the window and thought about the experience I had for the past 3 days. It still feels like a dream. I think it always will.

It was like something in me that I never knew existed stirred and woke up within me, and is seeing the world again with the same curiosity of a baby, trying to relearn the ways of the world, trying to rethink and reshape several perspectives that I’ve gained to make sense of it all. Maybe in time, I’ll forget again. Maybe in time, I’ll go back to how I was before – disillusioned and jaded and just settling for whatever works.

But reflecting on this trip a little bit, I guess Steve Jobs says it right.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Don’t settle.  Never settle. Find something that fits you as an individual. Find something that you want.

Maybe this might not be the right job for me. I’ll never know. But if I spend my life cooped up here, I’ll never be able to find what’s right. I’ll die never knowing, always wondering, and for the first time in my life, I want to do something for a change. If I become disillusioned and jaded again, maybe then, I’ll know it’s time for a change. Because I know staying the same and being stagnant won’t help. There’s so many things to learn and see. We just need to pick a direction to go forth with. The closer we were to reaching the hotel, the more my heart was slowly hardening to a resolution.

That night, the three interviewees and I didn’t sleep. We spent the time talking the whole way through. Our dreams and aspirations, sharing our beliefs and thoughts about the trip on a whole.

When it was time, we packed our bags and left for the airport. On the plane, I simply slept the whole way through.

7 hours later, I was home. My parents were already there waiting. I went up to them without a word and gave them both an appreciative hug.

“我回来了 (I’m back),” I said with a tired smile.

“累了right? 回家吧, (you’re tired, right? Let’s go home.),” my mom said. I pressed my lips hard together to form a smile, trying to swallow the lump of tears that was forming in my throat back down. Suddenly, something as simple and casual as that could mean so much more.