Updated: Jan 6, 2021
Nelumbo Nucifera or Nel remembered very well the story of her sister who studied economics. Her sister was working as an economist because she thought that was what she should do. Ignoring what she is very good at, and on top of that what she is really passionate about, she often says “I hate my job!” Even though she had been doing a great job as an economist, it was not where her heart was.
At the age of 40, she finally followed her heart and started to work as a designer. She is now indeed very happy! Nel is lucky in a sense that she has the freedom to do what she wants and has never been asked or pressured by her parents to conform or be a particular person. Following her free and creative spirit, Nel studied journalism and media and entered her career in that field.
“For me having a family, children, getting married by a certain age like 40 has never been my goal. If it happens, it happens but it is not what I am driving for.”
Sadly in the year 2017, females in their 40s often receive comments from their female peers questioning why they are not settled down. It is very interesting to me that such comments would often come from females rather than males.
This brought back my memory of walking in my hometown with my husband who looks very different to me. Regardless of how much I would say ‘I don’t care about people’, judgmental eyes looked at me walking with a foreigner, and deep down I did care about that judgement’.
It did make me feel uncomfortable knowing that I was different and that I stood out from what was perceived to be a social norm. There is a difference between acknowledging the differences and judging the differences. I believe we can live a much more productive life when we stop judging and start acknowledging.
Nel remembered really well how she ended up with her very first job. “I walked into a media studio and asked if I could be ‘a fly on the wall, just please let me be here!’ I was granted permission. And after a week passed, they offered me a full time job! Until today I still feel so proud of myself for doing that even though I got rejected before”. This story really gave me an assurance of the power of taking the initiative to break the lock on the door and open the door of opportunity for yourself!
“Though the job content was great as it allowed me to be creative and surrounded by engaging people, I did not have an easy time.” Nel said to me with a softer tone. She was working with a mature experienced cameraman who had been working in this role for all his life and often rolled his eyes at her when she gave him instruction. Though this behaviour made her feel uncomfortable and questioned her command, she often ignored it. One day while they were filming in the woods, Nel had enough of his attitude and told everyone to stop. She looked him in the eyes and said “what time is it”. Cameraman said “3.30pm”. Nel: “and what time do you finish work today”. Cameraman: “Five”. Nel: “Right! So this is what we need to finish and we will finish it today!” in her very firm and powerful voice. Since that moment when she stood up to his unprofessional behaviour, Nel and the cameraman were the best team and he never rolled his eyes at her again. “So be confident and remember that you are capable”. That is a very powerful message I have learned from Nel. It is very relevant to women in particular as we often underestimate our own capabilities. A colleague who I admire a lot, after I told him I often questioned and doubted my own capability, once told me that “It is a healthy way of thinking. How could you improve if you already believe and think you are the best?” Yes be confident but not over-confident!
I asked Nel how happy and satisfied she was at her current workplace. Nel said, “work is not always fun and so it is with life. But you have to accept that and be patient! I like the job and my team. It could be improved if the workplace had a clear direction, certainty, a sense of purpose, and positive energy and attitude. I was lucky that I had a positive boss who had made a big difference in lifting up my spirit.” I then asked what Nel herself did to help lift her own energy level. She replied with a positive smile, “I try to stay positive and surround myself with positive people and work with positive people.”
I continued asking Nel what her advice would be for someone who might be in the middle of an ocean not knowing which direction to head in. Nel said “one may say it is a cliché but it is true -
“trust your gut feeling and follow that because that is when you will be true to yourself and it will lead you right. Somewhere inside you, you know what you want!”
This reminded me of one of the conversations I had with my coach who shared with me that humans have “three brains” – one in our head, one in our heart and yes you guessed it right – one in our gut. If all fails, trust your gut! But is it only the three brains or are there more that influence the way we make decisions and live?