Saturday, January 19

Perkhidmatan Saya Masih Panjang

I'm back in Kuching this weekend after a mad rush to attend the wedding dinner of a buddy of mine last night. I would usually stay away from such events unless I was personally invited by the bride or the groom.
I dislike lectures from zealous married marriage missionaries & having to explain why I'm the weirdo who is unmarried & worse *gasp* ungirl-friended.
I also dislike the facial expression of people who react to the revelation that I am a lowly teacher. Yes, I kidnap children & sell them off to child armies in Africa. No, I dont teach the almighty Form 5 because I am an incompetent teacher.
I pity the person who teaches Form 1.

But, this wedding was a must. This guy is a great friend of mine & this event would definitely bring together other great friends. I was right. I got to reunite with some of my long time no see buddies & we reminisced over beer, Chinese food & cigars.
Made some new friends too. Met one person who could genuinely see why I am doing what I'm doing. Enlightened banker, he is.

Last night, I was also given the most amazing compliment of all time.
One of my buddies told me this: "I really look up to you, man. I read your blog. Because all of us have dreams but you are the only one I know who is actively pursuing yours."
Or something like that. Beer does mess with memory retention.
Imagine if someone said this to you. WOW. Right?

Honestly, I have never viewed myself as a person who has made it. I am someone who has achieved a little in life but I still have a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong way to go. Actually, I want to keep building up & doing more & making an even greater difference exponentially every single year. Only stopping the day I die.

I was very heartbroken when a teacher I looked up to & sought leadership from when I was at my lowest point 2 years ago said to me: "Saya mengikut rentak ketua saya."
I wanted him to support me. I wanted him to encourage me. At that point of time, I was beaten down in almost any possible way & I was down emotionally & mentally as well as exhausted physically. I was swimming against the current. I was working very hard & putting in long hours. I gave my best & I was given scorn in return. So I looked to him for hope.

Even after his reply, I tried to reasoned with him. Utterly unbelieving what I just heard.
Shouldn't we set our own standards according to our conscience & then actively pursue it instead of blindly imitating poor leaders who have very little desire to see growth & make a difference?
To which he replied that should be the way. BUT: "Perkhidmatan saya masih lagi panjang."
Justifying his previous statement & his refusal to fulfil his fullest potential. Also, totally discouraging me & shattering my already broken spirit.

For a short period of time ensuing, I actually followed in his footsteps. Tired. Broken. Leaderless.
What else was I to do? Wouldn't you have done the same at your lowest moment?
That was the pits for me. Life was a meaningless living hell.
At one side, you see the screaming need for almost everything imaginable. At another, you choose to do nothing about it.
I had a pretty relaxing life though. I could sit back & do as little as I wanted.

Thank God. I woke up from my zombie existence a few weeks later.
I opened my eyes & saw others just like me. Working their hearts out doing what they love for the students they love. Yet at the same time gaining nothing but scorn. No appreciation. No thank you. Just criticism & nit-picking.
The ones doing the bare minimum were having a ball of a time. They were free to enjoy doing whatever they wanted to do for themselves. No criticism. No demands. What a wonderful life.
Imagine if it was the other way around. What a wonderful working environment that would be.

Right there & then. I realised.
Perkhidmatan awak masih panjang. Perkhidmatan saya LAGILAH panjang lagi! Adakah saya patut lebih releks dari kamu?
This kind of warped logic entraps many men. Not I. That is not the life I want to live.
I want to be more than a conqueror. I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to make a difference in the lives of the neglected & the less fortunate.
I dont care about getting rich. I dont care about getting tired. I dont care about getting scorned or criticised.
I will fight the good fight & continue to do what I believe in my heart is right.

The time to complain is over. Now is the time to act.
The time to be sorry is over. Now is the time to dream.
The time to depend on others is over. Now I will depend on my faith.
The time to be led is over. Now I will lead others who are not led.

I'll be honest with you. My past 2 years as Chief Warden has been nothing but hell on Earth. I worked really really hard to sustain a sinking ship. I got attacked by people who were supposed to lead / support me. I was criticised by people who would not lift a finger to help or teach me how they would do it.
I never shared about this because I believe in promoting what I love instead of bashing what I hate.

Realising that I was not alone made me burn. An anger at injustice burned deep. It pierced my soul.
From then on I saw: Why 90% of teachers have mental illnesses. Why teachers burn out. Why good teachers turn bad. Why talented teachers leave the public education system where they are needed most.
I saw good teachers cry. It broke my heart.

From now on, I will not only try to make a difference in the lives of my students. I will also do the same for all the good teachers I know. I will provide them with the leadership, encouragement & love that they deserve.
Just as I would give to my students, I would give to good teachers even more.

Photo by Tom Hussey
Watch out. Perkhidmatan Saya Masih Panjang.

p/s: Oh, for those of you who use "perkhidmatan saya SUDAH panjang" as an excuse, please do the education system a favour: retire or resign. I appreciate your many years of service but you are taking up valuable space a younger person would make better use of.
The civil service is not a welfare service. It is an accumulation of the best & most passionate to glorify our nation.

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