Today, I hope to bring you on a walk down memory lane as I think back on the various lessons I’ve learned over my 28 years. Different stages of my life – student, fresh graduate, working adult, and married – have offered different lessons for me.
I don’t remember a lot of what I learned in History back in high school, but one thing I remember clear as day is the quote that was printed on the front cover of our History textbooks that read, “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
As such, I’ve decided to reflect on my past and share my thoughts with you.
One of my fondest memories as a student is participating in my university’s annual musical. We did a Disney mash-up and I played Mrs Potts. I loved the song ‘Beauty and the Beast’ since I was a kid, and I was so excited to play the part. I stayed on campus at the time and I would sneak into the stairwell to practise singing this song. An odd place to sing, but I enjoyed the privacy and acoustics.
I’m somewhat reserved and the idea of performing in front of a large crowd was thrilling but very scary. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all the rehearsals and the sense of camaraderie working on such projects often bring. At the back of my mind, I was certainly worried about the time I was dedicating to the musical and whether it would affect my grades.
But in retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing. Being a part of that musical and performing my favourite song were some of the highlights of my university days. Although most of our formal education takes place within classrooms, extra-curricular activities offer valuable life lessons on time management, teamwork, and leadership.
Plus, as luck would have it, the promotional poster for this musical was the first picture my husband ever saw of me on Facebook, so I reckon it was all meant to be.
2. Fresh graduate
A few months before graduating from university, I came across an email about on-campus interviews for all students. The email listed companies and organisations that would be conducting recruitment interviews right on-campus in a few weeks.
I was intrigued but to be honest, my focus was wholly on the final exams and getting through my last semester. However, I had a chat with my parents about this and they encouraged me to give it a try.
So, I attended an interview with recruiters from a local bank and after a week or so, I was called in for a second interview at their main headquarters. I was nervous as hell, but fortunately, things worked out well. I graduated and a month or so later, I joined the bank as a management trainee. That on-campus interview I almost pushed aside landed me my first job as a corporate trainer.
This experience taught me that the things we do today set us up for success in the future. It’s important to do things that will benefit our future self, even if we don’t see immediate results.
3. Working adult
Once I started working, I rented a room close to my workplace to ease my daily commute. Staying on my own was an interesting experience. Suddenly, I was paying my own bills and taking care of myself. Well, on weekdays at least. Weekends I’d spend at home with my parents. I guess I was a part-time adult back then.
But anyway, I started earning a paycheck and I was handling my own finances, which was kind of scary. I learned a few things about finances at this stage, including:
It’s important to be a good tenant. At the initial stages, I would transfer the rental to my landlord manually, and sometimes, I would forget. Eventually, I realised these actions reflected very poorly on me and I wanted to do better. In under 5-minutes, I set a standing instruction (SI) online to transfer the rental to my landlord at a specific date every month.
Without any steps to automate my savings, my salary would often disappear within the month. So, I set another monthly SI to move 30% of my salary to another account.
Additionally, I also learned some valuable lessons in the workplace.
Regardless of one’s position or title, everyone is a part of the team, and they play a role in the organisation. Respect and be kind to everyone. This helps to create a positive work environment.
We can learn from anyone and everyone if we listen with an open heart. No ego, no hierarchy.
It’s okay to ask questions, especially when you’re new to something. I asked a ton of questions and my colleagues were patient and helpful. This gave me a better understanding of internal procedures and processes and helped to increase the speed of my work.
I met my husband 3 years ago. We were set up by our parents. It was awkward at first, as all blind dates are, but we became good friends rather quickly. Finally, we tied the knot in March 2018. I can’t believe that it’s been two years already since we got married! Time is flying by!
The greatest lesson I’ve learned about marriage is this: spending quality time with each other is really important. Once you’re married for a while, it’s easy to fall into the habit of being around each other, but not really with each other.
Sometimes, my husband and I are watching our favourite shows on Netflix and then it hits me, “Wait a second. I don’t know how G’s day went.” So, I hit pause and ask if we can talk. I ask him about his day and I tell him about mine. I love dinner dates because we take our time, enjoy our meal and just talk.
Doing things together – cooking, playing games, going for a walk – is a great way to connect too . Taking the effort to do something your partner likes even if you don’t particularly fancy it is often very much appreciated. My husband hates horror movies whereas I’m a horror movie junkie. When a new horror flick comes to cinemas, my eyes light up and he agrees to watch it with me anyway. I appreciate him doing this with me and if we end up going for a B-grade horror movie full of plot holes, we laugh hard and it’s almost like we’re watching a comedy, so win-win!
In all honesty, these lessons were not learned in isolation. They were learned in the company of friends, with the guidance of co-workers and the patience of loved ones. I guess that’s why they say it takes a village. We don’t learn and grow on our own, but with the help of others. And when we’ve walked down that path, it’s our turn to pay it forward.