I am in chill mode. I didn’t really feel like blogging since I came back to Singapore in early October. But I have a aim to write at least 1 post a month so this will be the month’s post even though it is overdue. It is also my way of recording how I felt during this period of transition for my life, and should be fun for me to read in years to come.
To recap, it started with The Departure Chronicles: Giving notice when my P refused my request to attend the Rio Olympics. The Departure Chronicles: Reflections of my 13 years details my journey as a school teacher in a MOE secondary school. When my students heard of me leaving, their sadness (at my departure) and gratitude (of my impact on their lives) motivated me to write The Departure Chronicles: this post is for my students. During the last 2 weeks of my employment, I taught my students My Last Lecture. And now, for the last post of this chapter of my life:
…..A long long time ago, in another chapter of my life…..
My last day in office was on 1st September 2016. The school was celebrating Teachers’ Day. Although I was being paid for a while more, I had no need to go back to office anymore. I returned my laptop, settled the exit administration, said my goodbyes and left school for the last time as a teacher. Then I went to San Francisco on a month long holiday to adjust myself to a new non-work routine.
There were too many mixed feelings as I worked my last lap. It was difficult to say farewell to my students and a few colleagues. Many couldn’t understand why I am leaving when I seemed to had it good. Most colleagues wished me well; some were quiet. I guess that I am different from the norm, and most teachers are conservative and could not understand my motivations.
This is a list of my reflections during this last period of a work/vocation that I am unlikely to return to. I am in my early 40s and retiring from my last formal employment that I have been doing for the last 13 years.
1. I couldn’t sleep much on the last day. Normally, I will try to sleep as much as I can before dragging myself up to go to work. But on the last day, I woke up really early on 1/9/2016 at 430am. And I didn’t sleep well for the next few days too. I am guessing that somehow my heart is missing a routine that it is too used to.
2. Doing the same routines I had been doing for years for the last few times, puts it in a different light altogether. I used to dislike doing morning runs for overweight students. But when it was for the last time, I sort of miss the familiarity. Funny how humans are, I am even missing things that I don’t like.
3. There was a strong sense of loss and sadness. It was surprisingly familiar, sort of like the feelings I will feel after a break up with a girlfriend.
4. The Teachers’ Day lunch at school sucks. It is a minor thing actually, but somehow it affected me. I am a food person and having bad food on my last day in school just didn’t feel good. Luckily, I had a sort of departmental lunch after that at a colleague’s place. The food was much better and I even ate enough to skip my dinner. And that was probably my last departmental gathering.
5. The many actions of my students, present and past, touched me deeply. My current class gave me a very appropriate gift (basketball) and wrote many wonderful notes. My form class from last year came together to take pictures. Many other students came up to wish me well, taking pics and asking for my contact details. I felt like a movie star, getting so much attention from my “fans”. I am very appreciative and grateful.
6. A few colleagues from my department affirmed me for my professional work contributions. These are people I had respected and worked closely with, and being praised by them means more to me. The colleague I worked with for the school exams also complimented me for being meticulous and detailed. It is the first time we worked together and he was surprised at how good I am in planning ahead. I guess I am good at what I do, when I do what I want.
7. I got a certificate from MOE, thanking me for my service. I know it is a normal HR practice but I still felt weird that after all these years, all I received was such. Worse, it was signed off by someone I don’t even know. The resignation process was surprisingly easy too. It was almost like a non-affair. I wrote to P, he replied, MOE was informed, I received confirmation and that’s it. It was not a pleasant feeling that I am so easily replaced. We are treated as “resources” but management seemed to have forgotten that we are people too. We have feelings but everyone is only concerned with matters that only concern them.
8. People already know I am leaving even when they are not supposed to know. People gossip.
9. Many colleagues expressed surprise that I am leaving service. The response was varied. Many congratulated me. I thought that was funny cos it seemed that they were envious I can leave when they can’t, and it does not speak well of how they feel for themselves. Several of the older colleagues near retirement age joked that it was unfair that I am leaving before them. And many said that I was doing something that they wanted to do, but can’t afford to. Even a closer colleague who is afraid to leave service because he worries that he will not have enough money, congratulated me for doing what he thinks is right. He is 56 years old and says that if he had planned better in his youth, he will do what I had done.
10. A few colleagues spoke at length to me, asking me for advice on how they can do what I have done. These people are teachers but they are only good at their subject matters. When it comes to personal finance, many are not knowledgeable. All of them said the same things: they used to enjoy teaching but now are less motivated, so they are seeking another way out. They want to have choices. One of my colleague who I had not spoken much to for the last 3 years, chatted with me at the canteen for 2 hours! She is in her 50s now and had been investing for years. She wants to tap my knowledge on how she can better retire when it is her turn soon.
11. A previous colleague came back to visit. She resigned a few years ago and is currently not working as well. She looked fresh after a few months of rest but is now actively looking for work as she wants to have income again. She was surprised that I quit and even more so when I told her I am able to stop working for a long time. It is likely we will meet up again to see how I may help her to manage her finances better, as she now thinks I am able to advise her.
12. I gave all my school stuff away. I gave my expensive office chair to an older colleague who always envy me my chair. I got it on my own and I remembered the day it was delivered to school, everyone thought that perhaps it was meant for management. I gave away my office stationery and basically almost everything else. My cubicle became empty. I know one of my colleague is taking my seat cos it is nicely located. Soon, it will be as if I was never there. Such is working life. We are all replaceable. At work, none of us truly matters.
13. I was somewhat disgusted that a camera has been installed in one of the classroom to monitor the students. Granted that this class is naughty but to install a monitoring device to watch them constantly smacks of authoritative control. I can’t imagine how the students feel about it, being monitored all the time. I know I will hate it. The school dare not do it to the teachers yet, but who knows what will happen in the future. There are more cameras nowadays everywhere. Is this the beginning of something far more sinister?
14. Everyone thinks I must be rich. Someone asked if I strike lottery. Most think that they need millions before they can retire from work. No one asked about how I control my expenses. Many of them want to do what I have done, but it seemed from what I observed that none are willing to put in the efforts and sacrifices needed.
15. There were many doubts from myself on whether what I had planned would work out. Even after checking the numbers again and again, I was still apprehensive. I was worried about leaving a good job when the economy was bad, even though I wanted to leave. I felt uncertain and had to keep seeking assurances from my loved ones. Only with my partner’s support, was I courageous enough to take the last step and call it quits.
16. I watched Sex and the City. Samantha reminds me of me, for her yearning of freedom from the chains of societal norms. We both want to be fabulous.
17. As i left my office for the last time, I sent out a farewell email. It speaks of a song and a cartoon. The song is ABBA’s Thank you for the music. The cartoon is:
18. And I finally cried on the 3rd day after I left. I was watching this show 3 idiots that I had shown my students before. The movie speaks of chasing your dreams and being brave. It reminds me so much of what I taught my students, of my fears and now of my courage. The tears just suddenly flowed and once it came, I couldn’t stop it. I think that maybe I was touched again by the movie, and also cos I know this is really the end. I felt a lot better after i cried.
I shall end this blog post with quotes from this wonderful movie. If you haven’t watch this movie before, I highly recommend it. Guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and feel. And the songs rocks. Money back guarantee 🙂
Inspirational Quotes from 3 Idiots Movie
“Ever since we were young, we believed that life was a race. If we didn’t run fast enough, we would be trampled and overtaken. Even to be born, we had to race 300 million sperm.”
Rancho: No, but you gain courage to face it.
“And this is a college, not a pressure cooker! The lion in a circus learns that he needs to sit on the chair if his owner has a whip in his hand. But that lion is called well-trained, not well-educated.”