Saturday, September 09, 2006

Je suis retournée! I have completed phase I of my incredibly hectic travelling schedule for this month. I'll be leaving on business again on Friday and will be returning the following Saturday. I'll be leaving again for Hong Kong two weeks after that. In between, I'll be taking two days off in one of the cities I'll be visiting just to get some exploring in.

Being a jet-setting business traveller who's racking up the air miles isn't all it's cracked up to be. Yes, I'm excited that I will soon have sufficient air miles on my frequent flyer card to redeem a regional flight (and probably will do so later in the year), but the packing, planning and the lack of steady human contact does get to you after a while. You may say that I've only been gone for a week, and surely cannot have been affected by this so soon, but I have done a lot of solo travelling, and not having at least one good friend around does affect me a little.

On my first day in Hong Kong, I was having dinner with some friends before I received a call which required me to go into the office at 9 pm that night in order to get out some information to senior management. So I went in. There were some problems with the software, and in the end, even after spending 2.5 hours in the office, I was unable to get out the information required as neither my boss nor I were convinced that what the software was telling us was accurate. A colleague who I called for help and who I hadn't met face to face just yet chuckled a little when I called, and said, "Welcome to Hong Kong." Indeed.

To top off my welcome, I found myself trapped in the restroom as to exit the restroom requires you to use a staff access card to get back into the office. After about ten minutes of fruitlessly looking for a way back in (my mobile phone was in my bag which I had left on the desk with my colleague), I managed to locate where the security guards were slacking off and got myself back in. When I related this anecdote to my colleagues back in Singapore, their response was, "Awww, you could have stayed there and saved the office one night of hotel rental!" Thanks, guys.

I won't bore you with details on how the rest of the week went; essentially, until Friday night, I didn't have any time to explore anything other than my office and my hotel room. And on Friday night, I met up with K., a former colleague, and his high school friends, and partied Hong Kong style, i.e. drinking lots of beer, playing dice games and singing karaoke. I don't quite think I'm cut out for HK-style partying (at least, not too often), because after 2.5 beers imbibed over two hours (although I concede beer is not my strongest drink, and I did down a fair amount as opposed to sipping it), I made my way back to the hotel room and found myself emptying my stomach of all of its contents about 45 minutes later. I really have grown a lot weaker since leaving my previous company. As K. remarked later, that's the way anyone should leave Hong Kong - massively hung over, but still up for a repeat session. And indeed I am. I'm looking forward to renewing my friendship with K. under quieter circumstances, and I ought to be able to do so later on in the year.

Amidst all of that, I found myself in the middle of a personal crisis: is this really the kind of life I want to lead for the next few years? On the one hand, yes, it is. Being a jet-setting employee involved in all sorts of time-intensive and high value deals is something I think I can do. The sense of satisfaction I get when a deal closes is second to none, at least in the work arena.

On the other hand, the long hours, the lack of human contact, the knowledge that I'm being underpaid in relation to the effort I put in, as well as the fear that I'm losing more of myself to work every single day in addition to the usual "if I can't manage my life as it is right now, how do I ever expect to deal with having a steady relationship, much less a family one day?" issue that most career women face do get to me quite a lot.

Honestly, I don't know if I can ever sort this out. I'm not sure if I want to remain in this industry forever, nor do I know if the Masters I so want to take should be related to getting myself ahead in what I do. It's a really tough decision, and as someone once said, I do sound as if I need either a break, or someone to break me off from this. Knowing the kind of person I am, the former is not likely. As for the latter, I do not see a knight in shining armour on the horizon, so I fully expect to be dealing with this issue for quite some time yet.

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