Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Destination matters little when the journey is awesome

After graduation, I landed a job fast enough.
It's what I have prepared myself to be--a lecturer in a university.
I teach students the way I love to be taught. I seek answers to the questions that shoot sparks up my spine. I get to mingle in conferences and workshops in places I have longed to visit.
And, I get paid for doing all that.
Pretty sweet deal, no? Life did seem kind of sweet then.
(Especially since I just returned from an awesome trip to India then, and had been feasting my eyes on 7 weeks of Indian beauty)

Two months into my new chapter in life, I aimed to attain financial security by 42 years old (yeah, kinda weird number, figured that 45 seems a bit too old!), and attain professorship before 38. I read books and articles about personal financing, learned the do's and don'ts of the securities investing, and paid lots of attention to the criteria of getting a professorship in Malaysia.

Six months later, it dawned on me that my two latest goals were no easy task. They were difficult in their own right, but more so in my case because they would require me to steer off my initial path. I would need to get out of my comfort zone into ...quite an oblivion zone of uncertainty. My comfort zone is being in a learning environment, where even though I may hold the mantle of a 'teacher', I am learning with and from everyone else involved.

You see, with my salary (which isn't anywhere near pitiful), financial security at 42 is possible only IF i) my salary increases leap and bound, or ii) I maintain an annual return on investment of about 20%, or iii) I marry a remarkably rich (but surely blind) woman who sadly (but conveniently) passes from this earthly plane and leaves me with all her fortune.

In the 2nd week of this semester, I was packing up my stuff in the lecture hall after I finished a class. Students were streaming out of the hall. One student came up to me.
"Hi Dr. My name is not on the attendance list."
"Oh? Have you registered?"
"No, not yet. The class was full, but I will wait for the cap to lift, then I can register."
"Aiyah...this class already almost 70 students! Please consider other sessions. Quite hard for me to teach so many of you."
"No no, I will register for this class."
"What...?! You sure or not?"
"Yes I am sure. For sure I will join this class."

At the end of last semester, one of the students wrote in his/her class evaluation sheet--"Thank you a lot Yao Hua! Last time I very scared and don't dare to talk in front of people. But you gave me confidence to answer in class. Now I think I improved a lot. Thanks!!"

A few weeks ago I met a student from last semester. The first thing she screamed was "Eh Yao Hua~~!", then she said "I miss you". No tinge of embarrassment, no hint of pretence. I really missed them too, and so that was what I replied.

I spend the first 5 minutes of every 2-hour lesson on an in-class sharing of past week's stories and experience. Last week I actually played "Menghitung Hari" for them (well, I almost wanted to sing it too!). Last week's class, I could see them nodding their heads, and at times frowning in deep thought as we discussed world hunger and agriculture. In the same class, I heard them sucked in their breath when I hit myself against the desk, and they all gasped when I slided over the counter.

Every week now I spend at least two hours with each Final Year Project student on guiding and discussing their projects. I have three FYP students this semester. It's amazing and a certain joy to witness the improvement of the students within just two hours. Bakers must feel the same way seeing their bread or cakes rise!

With all of that, I really cannot think of a better occupation than mine. Master Hsing Yun vowed to be a monk for every of his reincarnation and lives; I will be just as content and eager to be a teacher in each and every of my lives. I guess professorship and wealth can take a backseat--they are just by-products of a wonderful, meaningful journey.

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