"THE MOMENT WHEN YOU'LL FEEL GOOD ENOUGH WILL PROBABLY NEVER COME. WHATEVER YOU DO RIGHT NOW, YOU'RE GOOD ENOUGH AT IT"
LIFE ON YOUR OWN TERMS
I've been an aid worker since 2005 and that's the only thing I've ever done. A couple of years ago, I suffered from a burnout and finally found the courage to choose a different path in life. I broke away from the expectations and obligations that I have always been carrying. I decided to slow down and gradually transition out of the aid sector, giving myself the space to create the vision of a lifestyle that I want. I have created a lifestyle where I put myself and my wellbeing at the forefront, instead of trying to fit in. I am not taking long-term or permanent contracts anymore and I am avoiding hardship duty stations. I have also recently launched my small coaching practice. I am not sure what it will look like down the road, but I’m trying to trust my process, enjoying the journey as I go along.
Living life on my own terms means creating my own rules about how I want my life to work out, not just blindly following the rules and norms of how everyone else does it. This means carving out some space to envision what I want out of this life and having the courage to pursue what I feel is best for me and trusting my intuition.
ROOTS AND SEEDS
I'm from Singapore and have lived in China, Australia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Mozambique, and now Turkey.
WHAT YOUR FOUR YEAR OLD SELF WOULD TELL YOU TODAY
She would be shocked and impressed at where I am today, and doing this type of work. Growing up, aid work was so far from what I knew.
I'm really good at getting things done. When I put my mind to something, I follow through until the end.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH MOMENT
I was in northeast Syria in the winter over Christmas on a mission. I wasn't sad but I was feeling alone, remote and it felt like the whole world had forgotten me. It was around that time that I decided that I wanted to stop working in the field, that it wasn’t for me anymore. Soon enough, I signed up for coach training.
MOST EXCITING HIGH
When I decided to myself that I was done with aid work, it felt calming and liberating, like a load lifting off my shoulders. During coach training, I realized that there was a world out there that I had not explored before.
MOST CHALLENGING LOW
It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. At first, I didn't tell anybody that I decided to leave the aid sector, apart from my partner. When I started sharing, with others, I felt judged and misunderstood. I first started defending my choice and wondering if I was making the right decision. But then I decided to ignore the negativity and reduce my contact with those who tried to put me down.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE
When I had a lot of doubts about becoming a coach, I worked with a coach who asked me to keep a list of why it’s important to pursue my goal of a coaching business and what it would look like if I didn't. When the doubts come back, I look at that list. It really helps to keep me grounded in my goals.
WORST PIECE OF ADVICE
It would have to be one of those piece of advice that I hear a lot in aid work, telling me to suck it up and just do the work as needed, if I wished to remain or climb up the career ladder.
BOOK OR PEOPLE THAT HAD AN IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE
Byron Katie, who teaches a method of self-inquiry called “The Work”. It forces me to reevaluate my relationships with myself and the people in my life. If you're minding someone else's business than who is minding yours.
BIGGEST LEAP OF FAITH
At the end of last year, I decided to take some time out and not extend a contract. I didn't know what was next and was excited about the unknown. My partner also took a similar leap of faith, he is working on a book.
FEAR OR BELIEF YOU LET GO OF
The belief that I'm not good enough to do something on my own. With my Asian upbringing, I used to have an underlying belief that I need to prove myself, my work to get what I want, and that others are probably better than me. The moment when you'll feel good enough will probably never come. Whatever you do right now, you're good enough at it. I'm so much better at acknowledging and accepting it now. It comes back sometimes, I just let it come and go.
IF GIVEN A CHANCE WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY
I would have lived life on my own terms a lot sooner. I would have used my late 20s and early 30s for a lot more self-reflection, self-awareness, exploring things that mattered to me. I don't regret it though.
After my burnout, I decided not to bring work back home anymore, unless it’s really urgent. I like taking 10-15mns not doing anything, sometimes I meditate. I also switch off all phone notifications and avoid looking at it too often. The App Moment has been helpful in keeping track of my phone usage.
HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING A PERSON WHO LIVES ON THEIR OWN TERMS
People not understanding why I prefer short-term contracts to a more stable job where I can get promoted, a pension and all that perks. I don't explain it unless people ask. Those who ask are often inspired to take some time off themselves.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO LESS/MORE?
I need to take small leaps of faith and trust the decisions I've made. Take actions instead of getting more information. I also want to go back to meditation on a daily basis. It helps me get clear and calmer.
I am planning to transition out of the aid sector entirely in the coming 3-6 years. I feel I still have a lot to discover beyond aid work, and I am truly excited for that. Aside from making more inroads with my coaching practice, I am also taking my Ayurveda teacher training right now and planning to complement that with a yoga teacher training in early 2019. I want to move towards wellness living and helping others to find their version of that.
WORDS OF WISDOM
The moment when you'll feel good enough will probably never come. Whatever you do right now, you're good enough at it.
Today I take care of myself, yesterday has passed and tomorrow is not here.
WHERE TO FIND HER