Are you fed up with your job ? 5 Malaysian employees speak out

Are you fed up with your job ? 5 Malaysian employees discuss a practical way to pursue meaningful work.

This post is for those who sigh when its already Sunday evening and complain that the weekend is too short.

My friend May Yen (not her real name) and myself, met at Sri Hartamas last week for dinner and drinks. We decided to meet at a seemingly popular restaurant (and bar), but for some people, it’s a bar (and restaurant) – you can now tell the different priorities people have when it comes to eating and drinking.

As usual, parking – a headache in places like this. I parked my car about half a kilometre away and walked – fuck !. At about 7.30pm, when I arrived, the restaurant (and bar) was already moderately filled with the after office crowd, . May Yen was late as usual. So I called her on her mobile, she answered and said "Eh, sorry lah, fucking jam here !, Im almost there, just wait, gimme 10 to 15 minutes…".

I know 10 to 15 minutes for May Yen usually means half an hour. I found a table and ordered a scotch (on the rocks). I waited and read a stupid lifestyle magazine (May 2006 issue) – more than 1 year old. I flipped through the first few pages and saw a few pictures of some "Datins" (maybe old models or minor celebrities– I’m not sure) all standing in a row, posing for the camera – fuckin’ hell.

I flipped through more of the old magazine and there were huge advertisements of over-priced watches and clothes, the names of which I’ve not even heard of before. One was called, I think, "Rocco Paccoco" – something like that. Another was called Pascal Chakal – or some fuck wit name. What weird sounding names. I suppose Malaysians will buy anything with a foreign sounding name. Then, the following pages had more Datins (or old models cum mistresses etc) posing, yet again, for some obscure charitable purpose.

Bored with the pretentious magazine, I flung it aside and looked at my watch – it was already 7.55pm. I looked around for May Yen but she still had not arrived. Suddenly my mobile rang – its fucking May Yen, she said "Eh, sorry. I’m here already. Just parking my car. Anyway, two other people are joining us". Apparently, she had invited two of her acquaintances, James Lee and Paul Shanker (not their real names), to join us. James Lee is the Managing Director of a subsidiary of a PLC and Paul Shanker is her ex colleague.

When May Yen came to the table I told her that since she had invited James and Paul for dinner, I should invite our other friend, Kate (not her real name), for drinks later – for her to do some "networking" (you will know why, later).

So, there were 5 of us, as follows:

May Yen, a single 29 year old accountant and a "fuckaholic". It’s not what you’re thinking…she is not addicted to sex. She just likes to say the word "fuck !", all the time.

James Lee is married. He’s in his mid 40's and is the Managing Director of a subsidiary of a PLC.

Paul Shanker, is a single 29 year old middle manager of a PLC, and is also a "social" gigolo (so he claims).

Kate, is single. She's a 30 plus year old advertising account manager and a part time born again MLM "entrepreneur". I know she will hate it when I put the word entrepreneur in inverted commas – evil me ! hahaha.

Me, a single, 30 plus year old professional…. My name and profession will remain a secret, for the time being. I prefer to be anonymous as it allows me to write things I would otherwise refrain from writing.

So for dinner, just the 4 of us. Kate came later for drinks. I’ve only met James once before and Shanker a few times.

As we were chit chatting about the traffic, the weather, food…yada, yada, yada …hehehe…hahaha…May Yen suddenly blurted out (as if she was inspired by some unexplained spiritual intervention) that her friend’s cousin, who was only 30 years old, died the previous week of stroke. Trust May Yen to introduce such unrelated topics of conversation so abruptly. This was how she said it, "hey guys ! guys….GUYS ! listen…GUESS WHAT ? last week my friend’s cousin died lah. He’s only 30. He died of stroke." According to May Yen, the deceased had stroke because he was stressed out and overworked.

So that’s how the topic of conversation steered towards "what is work all about ?" or if you prefer, "why do we need to work doing meaningless jobs ?"

James confessed that he doesn’t particularly enjoy his work – too much stress as he has so many responsibilities. He’d rather be a photographer. He said, "Everything also you have to take care, you know ?. You have to make sure business comes in. Then you got to make sure people pay on time. You think easy ah managing a company ? you have to solve other people’s problems. What to do ? have to "cari makan"."

Paul agreed. He said, "You got to manage your staff, deal with bosses, do unending paperwork…have to "tai chi" sometimes…etc etc" He said he would rather be a professional gigolo. I’m not sure if he’s serious about pursuing this profession. He has also mentioned this before, when we met a few times. May Yen would always tease him, "You sure you qualify ah ?, you so fat, how to be gigolo ?". His reply would always be, "I’m already doing it on a social basis, but I’ve not found a way to commercialise it". Whatever it is, Paul is also not happy with his current work. He said that when he first started working after graduation, he enjoyed his work, but eventually, the work pressure became overwhelming, but his salary hasn't been as overwhelming as his work – his salary is very modest, he claims, for a person with his responsibilities and qualifications.

May Yen and myself, although not particularly happy with our current work, but do not have any particular complaints. We only wonder if there is some better way of earning a living, rather then doing a job that we don’t enjoy. We don't want to do meaningless jobs for 35 years (or more) of our lives, and then, retire. Assuming we live that long.

Every one of us just looked at each other, in silence, not knowing what else to do or suggest about this scenario. This is definitely not a very good topic of conversation to have, during a weekday. May Yen is quietly picking at her French fries ! Lil’ Bitch – all her fault for sparking off this topic.

Lucky are those who have found their true calling in life. Lucky are those who can pursue their true calling in life.

Most of us have invested time and money in pursuit of our current careers These careers, unfortunately, have turned out to be unsuitable for us, whatever the reasons. Most continue unsatisfying careers just to pay the monthly bills or to comply with society’s expectations.

We work anything from 8 to 12 hours a day, even sometimes on weekends as well. If we factor in preparation and commuting time of approximately 2 hours each day, our total daily time commitment towards work is between 10 to14 hours.

That is 10 to 14 hours everyday, for 35 years. Then retire.

If most of our waking hours are spent working, isn’t it sensible to pursue work that has some meaning to us ? – something we find enjoyable.

At some point in our lives, we may find ourselves standing at a crossroad - passion or profession ?. You will ask, which path should I take ?. Should I continue to pursue my stable and secure, but meaningless career ?. Should I continue to invest more days of my life doing something meaningless, just to survive ?

Animals are born just to survive, then they die. Are we humans condemned to live life just like animals ? – born just to survive, then we die. Isn’t there anything more to life than this ?

Animals and slaves do not have a choice on this matter – animals are limited by its intelligence and slaves are restrained by their masters.

What about free human beings ? Isn’t it our obligation, as free human beings, to live life the way we choose, by pursuing meaningful work.

Is pursuing meaningful work only an option for the privileged few ? Are the rest of us just glorified slaves ?

Is "cari makan" more important than meaningful work ? Is there a reasonable compromise between the two ?

To be continued in Part 2.

Kate joins us for drinks, and the conversation continues. Discover why we think Kate’s strategy for financial freedom is potentially flawed. Read about what we collectively found to be a practical solution to "cari makan" while doing meaningful work.

Read Part 2 - Meaningful Work Vs Cari Makan

Meanwhile, please comment on this post.


Patricia said...

A good career counsellor may be able to help professionals find more satisfying jobs. You are right, there is no point working in a job that is not satisfying.

neil said...

Without meaningful work, people lose their reason for existence. They can get very depressed. Ignorance is bliss. Those who are ignorant are very happy earning and spending money on unimportant things. Nice website.

chong said...

Actually, a lot of people are unhappy with their work. They would rather be this, this and this. But at the end of the day, not people will take the risk to quit their job and do what they like to do.

The Malaysian Life said...

patricia - that is a good suggestion, but in my opinion, most so called career counsellors in Malaysia are people who have never held high professional positions in their lives - how are they going to advise people who have more experience, earn more money and have better qualifications ?

neil - I totally agree with you.

chong - Well, not everyone can afford to quit their jobs and follow their dreams, without a proper strategy.

"I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life" Corazon Aquino

A rather extreme stand by Aquino ?

Cocka Doodle said...

alamak! you are a typical malysian lah...park 500m away only complain.
I always park behind Finnegan's if I'm drinking there or Denise.
Ample parking lots with no hassle.

Actually, life is what you make out of it. A lot of us tend to live beyond our means these days.

zewt said...

hahahaha.... i have a series on this... called modern slavery.

honestly speaking... i have only met a handful of ppl who actually enjoy what they are doing. even that, the reason why they are enjoying it is either they are heavily over-paid and under work (notwithstanding the fact that they dont quite like the work) or.... they are doing something outside the corporate world.

this place in hartamas? hahaha... is it souled out? or the formerly 1957? haha....

Anonymous said...

well for me paying the bills come first. thats the first thing every month...

Angie Tan said...

this is a question which i ask myself nearly everyday of my working life.

frankly, i have yet to find a definite answer for this question. perhaps i will be able to when i meet my Maker and pose him the question.

my brain is 1/2 awake on this monday morning and so, its hard for me to think of anything intelligent to say. lol. ;-)

The Malaysian Life said...

cocka doodle - Some people live beyond their means because they wanna keep up with the Jones', and the employee salary levels have not kept up with the cost of living.

zewt - there are also some people who truly enjoy their work despite being disproportionately compensated.

anonymous - yes, for most people survival comes first.

angie - reassessing your priorities in life, seems due.:)

Snapshots said...

Meaningful work? As thing stands, we will be lucky to earn enough for us to get us by month to month not to say for our old age. I will go for a job that can earn me enough to raise my family and for my and my wife old age, and forget about a meaningful work.

What satisfy a human being? Once we reach up, our expectation increases and so we strive more, we will never be satisfied. Furthermore we may not have enough qualification for our �Meaningful work� or our �Meaningful work�

I say this �cari makan� dulu, striving for Meaningful work can cause catastrophe to one finances. I have down that road and am starting to recover. If my boss want me to move this pile of sand to that place and back, that what I will do.

The Malaysian Life said...

Snapshots - I agree that attempting the "meaningful work" path seem impractical to most people.

Seaqueen said...

What a topic to read, and to have it happening to me as well. Left 1 job and I seem to jump into another "hot frying pan". Sigh. So, it's going to be another long life here of endless doing meaningless things.

I'm still trying to find that "job" that can make me feel fulfilled but it's still a struggle

Alvin said...

Nice post. And my msn status is Passion VS Money. :P I donno la, i've been asking this question everyday also (oh ya, and Angie is actually 1 of my supervisors :P).

i'm still young (i think), bt i already have commitments. my parents not working, my sister's pay is worse than mine...and i have loans to pay off. yet, there's this voice inside me which keep on asking me to pursue what i like. to do what i am passionate about. to lead a meaningful life.

my current job is ok. pay is quite ok for my level. doin things that i quite like.

but there's this question that i always ask myself "if i continue to do this..wat do i c myself in 5years?...same industry, same line, with slightly higher pay...and not even something i m really passionate about?"

things like "we only live once" bla bla bla sound all too familiar to me now.

seriously speaking, if i don have any commitments, i will quit my current job n start doing wat i like. but i think this applies for every1 rite? :) plan now is to earn as much money as i can survive 1 year w/o salary. then quit my job, try out something that i like for 6 mths and see how it goes.

financial freedom? that's a bit too far-fetched for someone my level.

AdrianC said...

ha ha life is like that actually...sigh everything is so repetitive...:( meanwhile the exciting jobs will most probably take away your life. :p

The Malaysian Life said...

Seaqueen - Try to take advantage to any covert opportunities this job may open up for you. If not, you can always move on. Water over ducks' back.

Alvin - I suppose in this country, without a safety net, it is difficult to pursue one's passion.

Adrian - Sometimes, there are trade offs that must be made.

Hor ny Ang Moh said...

What to do???We have to feel our stomach plus a few other stomach too! If my job is pokeing & providing service I will be complaining like no tomorrow! But if I think pokeing is just a side job then it will not be so bad! So sometime I just think that my real job is a side job. Nice post! Have a nice day!

3POINT8 said...

Oh my....
You mean most working class people are not satisfied with their job. Thats sure sounds scary for a student who is going to graduate in 4months.
Man, I guess its time to comtemplate about what I'm going to do for life...

The Malaysian Life said...

Hor ny Ang Moh - Trade offs will have to be made I suppose.

3POINT8 - An early lesson in life for you.

keeyit said...

My dream work and my salary is not in line. This is most of the people faced in reality. Honestly how many of you are really love your job ? I am one of those who sigh on sunday evening that tomorrow will have work.

The Malaysian Life said...

keeyit - I've not met many people who like their jobs. Even if they did, after 2 years, all the joy is gone as they would have to do repetitive work and deal with crappy clients, bosses, colleagues...

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