Many moons ago, I was the poster girl for (fastidious*) go-getters. I did very well in school. I excelled at work. I never gave anything short of my best in everything I did. I was all about the results. *(why fastidious?)Yes, I was the type of person who didn’t bother to invest any effort in something I didn’t like to do or something that I knew I was going to suck at (PE for example, I couldn’t catch a basketball even if you gave me three more arms and seven more legs), and only spent time on things that I loved to do and on things that I knew I was going to be good at.
It sounds like I was an irritating blood-sucking tick, huh?
Today, I write this as I sneak time away from my sleeping baby girl. Yes, I am a mother. A stay-at-home-mother. It’s 1pm and I haven’t showered. Nope, I haven’t had the time to wash my face or comb my hair. I did brush my teeth but I’m still in my pyjamas. Such is the story of my life and it’s been going on for about five months now.
The old me would have frowned at my life today. Straight distinctions for O and A levels, a PhD, a high-flying job, all that glitz and glamour in London, and now, you give that all up for a baby who wouldn’t remember what you sacrificed for her? What about your career? What about your years of education? You’re Dr Tan, for crying out loud. All this gone to nought?!
Sadly, this is also what some people have said to me. But, I’m glad that I’m no longer one of them.
Yes, I have a PhD. Yes, I should be doing my post-doctoral fellowship now and I should be doing scientific research. I should be moving onto a professorship next. Ahhh, the I-should-be’s. But guess what? It took me 4 years of pursuing an honours degree, 2 years of working in academic research and 3 years of PhD to realise that I no longer want to do scientific research. To put it simply, it took me 9 years to realise that I was unhappy. It took me 9 years to realise that I needed to start being happy. So, I stepped out of science and dived right into a new career path. It was completely crazy, utterly unnerving…and totally liberating.
So you snagged a job that you really liked? Why don’t you head back now that your baby is a little older? Don’t you miss it? Don’t you miss being happy?
Yes, I miss my job. I miss doing something that I love, that didn’t have anything to do with my husband, my baby, or the neighbour’s dog. My job was mine and mine to keep. I miss it, yes, but that doesn’t mean that I am unhappy now. Motherhood is tough, of course; it breaks me down, spins me around, puts me up on the highest pedestal and exposes everything about me to every critic out there. Sounds really brutal on the being, and it probably sounds perverse to you when I say that I am, in spite of all that, happy most of the time.
There is absolutely no shame in giving up everything I had. Why (other than the fact that I am nurturing and caring for my flesh and blood, and she is so adorable and loveable that I can’t imagine life without her)? Because through all those years of toiling in the world out there, through all those lessons learnt, I now have answers. I know what makes me happy, and what doesn’t. I know what I want to do next to realise my new dreams. And that, is worth every distinction, every PhD, every high-flying job that I have turned my back on, and every step I’m taking into the future, my future.
Look Ma, I’m happy!