Feeling appreciated

I have been working since 2000. Contrary to my coursemates who applied for prestigious jobs in the cities once they graduated, I decided to work as a research assistant in the university and do my Master of Science (Environmental Science) at the same time.

It has been 17 years since then, and I have worked for all manner of employers, from tiny three-person companies to sizeable international ones, but somehow, the interest wanes after one to two years, and boredom sets in as I do the same thing over and over again, year after year. In my last job, in my fourth year, I tried to apply for a transfer to another department to have a change of environment and job scope, but my application was unsuccessful. I then did the next best thing. I set out on my own, choosing to become self-employed.

Of course, this does not mean self-employment is for everybody, nor do I recommend it for anyone who is having issues with boredom at work. Self-employment is a major life-changing decision, and can only be made after careful consideration of all important aspects of one’s life, and everybody’s life is unique and different.

There are many pros and cons in relation to being employed by a company, but I feel the top reason why employees stay on even though they are unhappy is perceived job security. Sometimes, the only reason they bother to wake up and go to the office is to get a pay cheque at the end of the month. It has become a mechanical action for countless people every day – to get up, dress up, and show up. And that is how they pass their time, year after year, decade after decade, till retirement. The retirement age in Malaysia used to be 55. Now, it is 60. Maybe 10 year later, as the workforce ages progressively and costs of living rises steadily, the retirement age might be raised to 65. Who knows?

However, in these trying times of economic uncertainty, I sometimes feel that job security is somewhat of an illusion. Terms like ‘retrenchment’ and ‘VSS’ are becoming increasingly common. Even though staff do not want to think about it, it is there, lurking in the dark corners of their mind.

In times like these, it would be useful to pick up a new skill, or learn a new trade, or even take a hobby to the next level. Perhaps, the new experience might spark passion in a previously undiscovered area, and lead to a new direction, and hopefully more interesting times ahead. Let’s face it. How many people will not get bored working in the same job for 10 to 30 years?

Another area of concern for me in full-time employment is the lack of appreciation from employers. Since staff are paid for their time and effort, it is easy to take them for granted, treating them as if they owe the company, simply because they are paid to work. It is like deja vu. In large organisations, sometimes staff are like hundreds of cows or sheep. The top management simply thinks of their workers en masse, and not as individuals with unique aspirations, interests and needs.

Strangely, I have found appreciation in other areas, all of which do not concern full-time employment. Since a young age, I have always had an interest in volunteer work, serving the community and environmental conservation and protection. It is the organisations and individuals in this area that are the most appreciative of my contributions.

In 2008, the Selangor Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) gave me a branch award in recognition of my contributions as a volunteer.

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About 10 years later, our MNS Selangor Branch chairperson Pasu brought back a certificate of appreciation from the recent national AGM in Langkawi for me. It was a pleasant surprise that an award was presented to me at an AGM that I did not attend. 😀

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Even though I will not likely be awarded any long-service awards by any organisations in the future, these NGO awards will always remind me that I have contributed meaningfully to worthy causes and people have taken note of my contributions. And that is how I would like to be remembered.

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My first volunteer experience with the Nature Guides

In September 2017, I volunteered with the Nature Guides for the first time, helping them to conduct nature walks in the gardens of Carcosa Seri Negara, as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Day 2017 celebrations. I wrote an article about my experience, and it was published in the Pencinta Alam November 2017 issue.

Here is the article, as published in the newsletter. Pencinta Alam is the national monthly newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

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Here is the text version for easy reading:

On the Trail as a Nature Guide

Article by Khor Hui Min
Photos by Angeline Siok and Norazmir Mustapha

In all the years I have been a member and volunteer of the Malaysian Nature Society, I had never volunteered to be a nature guide. I had joined various walks conducted by nature guides once in a while, and found it interesting. The wealth of information about nature, beneficial plants and animals the nature guides had was enough to fill volumes of books, I imagined.

At last in September 2017, I finally volunteered myself to assist the nature guides to conduct walks as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme at Carcosa Seri Negara.

I missed the initial briefing for volunteers on 19 August due to other commitments, but reported for duty on 16 September, which was Malaysia Day.

‘Jalan Merdeka – Traversing the routes to Merdeka’ was an exhibition on our country’s journey towards Merdeka from 1896 to 1957, showcasing the historical Carcosa and Seri Negara buildings, which were next to the Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Jalan Merdeka was organised by the Asian Heritage Museum, and ran from 1 September till 31 October 2017.

Being a nature guide is not easy. There are a lot of plants and trees to recognise and remember, and we have to memorise their special qualities, medicinal uses, as well as other interesting facts, all of which are supposed to be interesting to the visitors joining the walks. After my briefing on 16 September, I could only remember half the plants, to my disappointment.

After some revision, and following on guided tours conducted by seasoned nature guides, with notes in hand, I finally conducted my first tour on 22 September, which was the following weekend. I was finally like, “What the heck. Just do it.”

It went rather well, which was a pleasant surprise for me. The large group of visitors, consisting of a mixed crowd of nature enthusiasts and casual drop-in visitors to the
exhibitions at Carcosa Seri Negara, spread out rather too much somewhere in the middle of the walk, so I had to wait for the people at the back to catch up with the people in front, but the weather was good for a walk, and I thought they rather enjoyed the fresh air and their morning exercise.

There was no prepared script, and we decided whether to share more detailed information or stick to the basics, or even shorten the walk, depending on the interest
shown by the visitors who joined each walk and whether they were in a hurry. Furthermore, I was not naturally good at public speaking, and did not need to speak to
customers at work, so this volunteer opportunity took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to talk (albeit rather loudly) to strangers. Thus, it was an opportunity
for personal growth and development, which was beneficial to me.

By taking the effort to recognise and remember plants, their flowers and fruits, and to memorise interesting information about them, I learnt so much more about our
garden plants over two weekends than I had ever done so in school. All in all, it was a good learning experience for me, I enjoyed spending time with the nature guides,
and I would definitely do it again.

🙂

Fab at Forty

Well, technically, I just turned 41 yesterday.

I have never written an exclusively birthday-related post before, because left on my own, my birthday is just like any other normal day. I would wake up in the morning, and go… oh, today’s my birthday. Then, I would do what I do on any other day.

However, this year, I feel different. Since the beginning of the year, I wanted to do things differently. When do I want to do the things I have always wanted to do? Do I wait until the right time, or do I do them now? I decided to do them now, because actually, we create the right time ourselves, when we are ready.

A change in direction

I have always wanted to do what I love, and go where I want to go. Unfortunately, I did not have the guts, because like everybody around me, I was brought up to cherish the security of the 9-to-5 job and look forward to the pay cheque at the end of the month.

I would land a piece of freelance work once in a while, but it was never enough to warrant giving up my full-time job… till now. Good fortune finally smiled on me, and I was seeing the blossoming of abundance and opportunity at last. The universe was most kind.

So, in mid-2017, I decided to resign and be a freelance writer. I became a full-fledged freelance writer right before my 41st birthday. I estimated that my earnings would be finally enough to sustain me in my new direction. I like to read business, career and financial articles from time to time, and I have come across a disturbing trend. When people earn more money as their income increases over the years, their expenditure would naturally grow with this increase in income. I decided that this did not have to be so. I wanted to live a simple life, and I wanted to reduce my expenditure, in line with being self-employed.

What do people do on their birthday?

Well, this birthday turned out to be the busiest ever. I decided that I wanted to start the day by pampering myself. So, I went for a facial. After treating myself to a nice birthday lunch of sushi and matcha ice cream, it was time to work, because well, my birthday did not have to be all about me.

I wanted to do something I enjoyed on my birthday, and one of the things I enjoyed most was volunteer work. I had with me some donations from an earlier Sparkles of Heart meditation at the Golden Space. The recipient selected by Beatrice for this session was SUKA Society. I had called a few days earlier to find out what they needed at this moment in time. I was informed that the money could go towards buying food for the food bank for refugee children. They gave me a list of what they needed – rice, pasta, red kidney beans, tomato puree, and cooking oil. The contact person emailed me a list complete with photos, too.

So, I went shopping in TESCO, because I was informed that the TESCO brand red kidney beans were most suitable for the refugees. Most urbanites in Kuala Lumpur would think that RM376 was a tiny amount, but with the right approach, it could actually feed a whole lot of people.

Shopping cart for SUKA1In fact, RM376 bought us:

1. 10 bags of rice (5kg)
2. 20 packs of pasta
3. 5 bottles of oil (5kg)
4. 14 tins of red kidney beans (400g)
5. 11 tins of tomato puree (215g)

So never underestimate our ability to stretch our ringgits!

I was really satisfied that I had filled up the shopping cart. Pushing the full trolley around the hypermarket and loading and unloading the goods was a workout by itself, no gym required. Luckily the wheels did not break before I reached the car in the basement.

Waze brought me right to the doorstep of the SUKA Society office, and the staff were pleased to help me unload the goods and bring them all to the storeroom where they kept the items for the food bank.

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Surprise party mastermind (left) and surprised birthday girl (right)

An unexpected surprise

After freshening up, it was time to go for El Herington’s free preview at the Golden Space. El came all the way from Hawaii, and her sessions were quite interesting.

When I arrived, my meditation classmates literally pounced on me with a cake and sang the birthday song. That was really sweet and thoughtful of them. ❤ I don’t remember the last time somebody threw me a surprise party. 🙂

I am really happy to know all of these nice people at the Golden Space, who are supportive, kind, thoughtful and non-judgemental. They turned my good day into a super awesome day. The cake was light and creamy and delicious, too.

El Herington’s session was really nice, as always. I hope she will come again next year.

Opportunity knocks

When I went back, I found that my application to be a Shutterstock Contributor had finally been approved. I had to take a photo of my passport for them to verify my identity, before they could approve me! It was a very pleasant end to the day.

To find my photos on Shutterstock, click here.

Earlier, at dinnertime, I received a call from a new client, confirming that I will be joining their team of freelance writers, too. This birthday was becoming the best one ever!

Busting myths

When I turned 40, I felt just like when I was 30, except that now, with wisdom acquired from my experiences, I had learnt to appreciate my body and take better care of myself. As a result, at 40, I was healthier, stronger and fitter than I was at 30, or even 20.

So, ladies in your 20s and 30s, do not believe it when people tell you that you are old and over the hill at 40. It is simply not true. Every individual is unique and different, but if you take care of yourself properly – eat healthy food, exercise regularly, get enough rest, and have a positive mindset, you will be all right.

I have seen too many people worry too much about other people and what they think and perceive, and this has unfortunately become the focal point of their existence – to please others, to be better than others, to prove others wrong, etc. Stop worrying about how people look at you and what people think of you, because you can never please everybody. Best thing to do is to be comfortable with yourself and be happy.

Always make it a point to schedule some ‘me’ time to do things you enjoy. It could be anything, from a manicure, to a sewing class, or learning self defense moves. As long as it makes you happy, and gives you some satisfaction, then you are on the right track.

Looking forward

Who knows what lurks around the corner? It is my second month as a freelance writer, but I am getting the hang of it, and settling in, slowly but surely.

I have decided not to fret too much about the details of where I am going or where I will end up. Instead, I am going to enjoy my life in the here and now, and spend more quality time doing meaningful things that enrich my life. Perhaps there is an adventure waiting for me around the corner. 😉

 

When did we meet?

In mid-January 2017, I attended a week-long self-discovery, life transformation and success in life programme – the first of this kind of programme I have ever attended. One year ago, I would not have entertained the idea of joining such a programme, but in December 2016, I decided to take a leap of faith. I thought – I should try something new, something different. Maybe it will be good for me.

So, I signed up for Awaken the Divine You, conducted by Master Umesh, the founder of The Golden Space (Malaysia). I like the universal and non-religious concept of  the programme and the centre, where people from all walks of life are welcome, regardless of background, ethnicity and beliefs. It was different and interesting, and definitely beneficial. I felt that I have grown and improved on Hui Min version 1.0. Perhaps Hui Min 2.0 should be in the works? 😉 So would I recommend other people to take the same  leap of faith? Well, yes! Why not? Never try, never know.

After the programme, I wrote a poem entitled ‘When did we meet?‘ Hope you enjoy reading it. 🙂

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When did we meet?

When you walked past
Busy going about your lives
When did you stop to think last
Why the man leaning against the wall
Looked familiar, in a city so vast?

Jostling for space, shoulder to shoulder
In buses and trains, living life at a frantic pace
Did you wonder about the woman sitting yonder
Where did you see her last?
Was she from your school, did you ever ponder?

Busy about our lives; having time for nothing
To the point of eclipsing all else
What is that something that is missing?
The elusive feeling that you just can’t describe
That makes you lie awake at night thinking

Perhaps he was a brother’s long lost friend
Out of sight, out of mind?
Perhaps she was really an old school friend
Hidden somewhere in the recesses of memory
So busy in this city; till we’ve forgotten our friends?

Maybe he was a brother in a past life
Many millennia ago
Maybe she was a sister lifetimes past, or a wife
Although of different colours and beliefs
Our destinies are inextricably interwoven in life

Khor Hui Min
1 Feb 2017