My six-year scholarship bond with my company ended 11 days ago, on 31st March 2017. I looked back at the past six years with fond memories: of new found friendships, of self-discoveries, and of surprising achievements. There were several painful experiences, of course, but as with all wisdom of hindsight, I am now able to focus on the benefits of those unpleasant moments. I finally understand how it truly feels to run a marathon and see through it from start till the finishing line.
Now that it is over, I can finally admit how I almost surrendered, several times in fact, and was determined to break the bond. You will find the following account of my biggest meltdown, rather amusing, but I assure you that at those moments in time, it felt like the end of the world. And there was no way out, but to give up.
2013, with slightly more than three years to the end of the bond. I drove to work in tears. I arrived, carried my two heavy bags, and instead of walking towards my office, I marched (tears streaming down my face) in the direction of our legal office. I knocked on the glass door of the Head of Legal, and sobbingly I said, ” I want to break my bond. Please calculate the penalty I need to pay please”.
Frankly if I were her I would have burst out laughing at this pitiful sight of an adult woman clutching on to her two seemingly overweight bags filled with documents, files, rubbish and a laptop, mascara streaks down her morning puffy face. I would have sent this baby to a doctor.
But she did not. She replied calmly, in a neutral tone, careful not to show too much concern, that she would check on the terms and conditions of my bond agreement and would get back to me within the day.
I thanked her, with the tiny bit of dignity left, and walked back towards my office, feeling even more wretched. I was really disappointed in myself for surrendering the white flag at the half-way mark. But I could no longer lie to myself that I was happy in a corporate environment. I am a free spirit, I should fly. Well, at least that was what I strongly believed in then.
Later in the day, I was told of the amount I was liable for breaking the bond. It was slightly around $600K. I immediately embarked on a quest to raise this sum. I was going to:
- Sell my studio apartment.
- Sell my car.
- Empty my savings.
- Take up a loan.
I would be left with nothing, only debts. But at least I would be free. Freedom is priceless.
It was a good plan.
It was a terrible plan.
What do you think? What would you do?
Well, you know what I did.
I walked shamefully into the legal office a second time, all my shreds of pride down the drain, and I apologized to the same Head of Legal for creating a scene that morning, and for wasting her time. “I don’t have the money to pay the bond. So sorry. I will continue to work till the bond ends”, I said, looking even more pathetic than ever.
I gave up twice in a day. First time, on my job. Second time on my gungho declaration to break free.
Epic failure, one would say.
Fast forward to current status. Bond is over. And I did not leave my company. I actually do enjoy chasing targets, building a team, having something to wake up for. I am proud that I have a job that gives me satisfaction in all its victories and defeats. Work is still (very) tough, but I am grateful for the many character-building opportunities I have been given. And all this, is priceless too.
It is ok to give up, you know? We are too hard on ourselves. A wise man told me that the usual “I must prove myself” pressure should no longer be that urgent at my age of 42. Moral of the story, things do get exponentially better. Allow yourself to be surprised. And once you’ve scaled a mountain, no one can take that away from you.