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Am I who my résumé says I am?

by | 17 September 2017, 8:28 AM

What do you say if someone asked you about yourself?

We’ve been through the drill in school – wait for your turn, think of something witty but not over-the-top, stand up in front of a group of strangers, deliver it.

As we go into higher education or into the working world, we meet people who are less like us – in terms of age, education background, or personality – and the pressure to impress can get #real.

To introduce ourselves, most of us might bring up our work – what we’re studying or do for a living – it comes quite instinctively as a normal (and effective!) act of self-disclosure to new acquaintances. It’s personal but not too personal.

But whenever our work comes up in a conversation, it’s hard to avoid the comparison game, isn’t it?

Sometimes you hear it in the chorus that the impressed group makes when they hear a job title that commands admiration, “Wah, doctor ah!”

Other times you hear it in the falling intonation from your new friend who hasn’t even heard of your company – “Oh…”

Work has been as inextricably tied to our identity as our names are; it’s what we tell people about ourselves. And more than we might realise, it has become what we feel makes us valuable and useful.

I had a fleeting thought one day: What if all my certificates and achievements over the years become nullified?

There will be a considerable amount of unraveling that’ll take place if my qualifications were no longer valid. All our hard work down the drain aside, are we still who we think we are?

For some of us, that thought is frightening. Perhaps because we’ve more to lose, perhaps because we’ve staked so much of our worth on our achievements.

When I look at my own résumé, it doesn’t seem to be much, especially when I compare myself to my peers who have not just studied at great universities abroad, but also excelled in their side pursuits.

But then I recognise that it is much in its own way.

While it may not win the jostle for a coveted job at a big firm, my résumé is a covert testimony.

If we know where to look, we can find gold – not just in our achievements, but in our personal triumphs too.

In the empty spaces between lines of black Helvetica, in the unwritten – lie the stories of our lives. We’ve gone through so much as people on a journey and we sometimes overlook the precious, personal details. Only we know the unwritten things. 

Only I know the lengths of which my mother went to ensure my education wasn’t disrupted by changes in the family. Only I know the emotional struggle I experienced trying to fit in at school. Only I know that it is by sheer grace that I have come so far.     

And these things don’t always show on the sheets of paper on which we summarise our “professional lives”.

“We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life.” (David Brooks, author and New York Times columnist)

Résumés are created for scrutiny – often quite ruthlessly– but if we know where to look, we can find gold – not just in our achievements, but in our personal triumphs too. And if we miss those things, we risk placing all our worth in our achievements.

Take stock! Our personal growth cultivates in us something that cannot be nullified – it’s our inner life. Don’t neglect the seemingly uninspiring and unique details of your life, they may not be remarkable to the #haters, but they count for more than words can say. 

They count towards a story that is yours, written by the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). 

It may take you some time to see the greatness in you, but it’s there. So don’t stop smoothing out the rough edges and allowing yourself to be moulded into the person God made you to be (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, yes, I am who my résumé says I am – and a whole lot more too.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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“So help me God”: Wrestling with my calling to the Bar

by Ada Chua | 5 February 2018, 11:49 AM

I was reading Exodus 3 to Exodus 4:1-17, where God revealed His heart for the Israelites and His plan for Moses to lead them. Moses’ first words in response to that call struck me: “Who am I?”

Despite God’s repeated assurances that He would be with Moses and that the people and Pharaoh would listen to him, Moses continued to doubt God’s call for him.

via GIPHY

He first questioned his locus standi to bring the Israelites out of Egypt: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). God replied that He would be with him.

Moses then questioned his understanding and knowledge of who God was: “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13). God pretty much scripted the reply for Moses to give to the Israelites.

Moses then questioned his credibility: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’” (Exodus 4:4). God gave Moses a staff to perform miracles so it would be clear He was sent by God.

It is impossible to fulfil our calling without God’s empowerment.

Despite God’s reassurances, Moses still presents a final retort – that his talents are not good enough for the calling he has been given: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10).

God still graciously promises Moses that He will empower him. However, despite all of God’s representations, warranties and undertakings, Moses isn’t convinced.

“Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

via GIPHY

I’ve often questioned whether I was called correctly. I’ve wondered if soliciting was the right place for me to be. I’ve thought about whether I should leave.

So the replies that Moses gave God are not dissimilar to mine. I frequently question my ability to be a good solicitor – my bosses do as well. I question my value-add to my law firm and to the profession. I question my special standing as a daughter of God. I question the promise that God will empower me.

When I do … I am always drawn back to something I wrote on the day I got called. It helps with my fear of practice:

The Christian oath is different from the non-Christian oath. After the promise to “truly and honestly conduct myself in the practice of an advocate and solicitor according to the best of my knowledge and ability and according to law,” the Christian oath ends with a 4-word cry: “So help me God.”

So help me God! It’s a cry that expresses how inadequate I feel – how daunting the task is. But it also gives me peace: I know that the God I call upon has never failed me. He will always come through for me. After all, He has already brought me further than I ever thought or deserved.

With faith, I celebrate having the privilege of serving people and clients as my livelihood. In gratitude, whenever I fall short of being that good advocate and solicitor which clients deserve, I know I have a just, loving and merciful God I can call upon for help. It is He who first empowers and prunes me to help society!

via GIPHY

At the core of it, Moses deeply questioned his ability to fulfil God’s calling. Many times, when we receive a calling, we think the pressure is on us to perform. But we must remember that it is impossible to fulfil our calling without God’s empowerment.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Moses would never have persuaded Pharaoh even if he had the eloquence of a Senior Counsel. God didn’t need that. If God was looking for eloquence, He would have looked for Aaron.

So why did God call Moses, a murderer? Why did God choose Jacob, a manipulator? Why did God choose the Israelites, the never-ending complainants?

I could offer a few reasons, but to be honest – I don’t know. Perhaps it has nothing to do with who we are – and everything to do with who He is.

God is Love. Because He loves you and has called you – He will provide for you. He will empower you.

He has given you the authority to act on His behalf, and He will never fail you.

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Live fast, die young

by Jonathan Cho | 19 January 2018, 4:10 PM

Is there more to life than this?

A big question, which most of us have probably asked at some point. But in this age of hyper-connectivity, it’s almost impossible to create space to find the silence and solitude we need to wrestle with life’s big questions.

“Out of office” is a lie, because omnipresent wifi, mobile data and push notifications mean the office is wherever we are. The drudgery of the routine of life is hitting us harder than ever before. The endless cycle forces up questions of meaning, purpose, and fulfilment, but we try to cover up the seeming emptiness of these endless pursuits by filling our time – ironically with more and more such endless pursuits.

We don’t have the time to stop and think. Even if we manage to momentarily drown out the question by loading ourselves with more activity, the cry of our heart remains the same: Is there more to life than this?

I wrote the song, Strive (Live Fast, Die Young) out of that place of tension, where the desire to slow down, reflect and recalibrate my life had to be reconciled with the unapologetic fact that the world will never stop for me to do so.

I had a choice to make, as do all of us. Do we dare to hit the Pause button, and lose our lives as we know it, in order to find out what we are really living for?

More often than not, making the decision to slow our lives down means we’ll have to sacrifice something.

For some, it may involve finances: Dare I give up a life of stability? Would I give up my income and a comfortable life in order to take the time to understand what I am really living for? 

But for many of us, it is an issue of insecurity – the insecurity of not being in control and not being certain of who we are apart from what we do. It is a fear of losing grip over an image that has become so central to how we identify ourselves and our identity in this World. Maybe we fear losing our reputation – we’re worried on what people might think of us calling for a “time-out”.

I remember the day I started work in the CBD. I felt as if I had been thrust onto a moving treadmill; there was no warm-up, no gradual increase of pace. From Day 1 I felt as if I was playing catch-up. Anyone who works in the city might be able to identify; there’s an established rhythm in the area, a certain atmosphere about it. Things move like clockwork.

My peers and I were simply trying to survive and keep our heads above water. “Such is life,” we were told. “You just have to get used to it.”

So I did.

Over time, I caught on to this rhythm and assimilated myself into the working force. I developed an ability to move from activity to activity, task to task, person to person. Truth be told, I was mostly driven by an adrenaline-rush – it was absolutely thrilling. I felt effective, like I was a part of something bigger, and thought that my life actually had meaning. Telling people that I was busy felt almost like a badge of honour.

But in retrospect, I think the only meaning I had, was to live for busyness. There was a part of me which believed that if I was busy, I was useful. And if I was useful, then surely I was of value – significant.

I was so busy that even in my downtime, I found myself restless and unable to be still, checking my emails or social media for incoming messages/news/information. Most days, I felt like I was drowning in people’s demands and often unrealistic expectations. My boat was taking on more water than it could hold – from work, from Christian service, from people, family, and friends – and I didn’t even know it.

I was striving for so much and moving so fast that I had no capacity to even consider how I could be thriving instead, because I spent most of my energy just trying to survive.

All this came to a jarring halt one day, as I looked out the window at my workplace to give my eyes a break from the computer.

Looking down from the seventh floor, I noticed in the middle of the open area at Raffles Place a man sitting in a wheelchair, holding out tissue-packets for sale. It wasn’t an uncommon sight in the CBD, but that day my heart writhed with a sharp pain: Almost everyone walked past him, each one on their mobile phone, too busy to stop to give him a moment’s attention.

It wasn’t about the money; most would easily have been able to afford to give a dollar or more. It was their time that seemed far too expensive to give away.

In that moment, I felt as if my heart had caught a glimpse of what my daily life looked like – as seen from above. In the busyness of each day, had I lost sight of the true business of life?

When our lives move too fast, that comes with a cost. It may be the inability to notice and care for the people around us. It may be how we find ourselves restless in quiet moments. It breeds a deep sense of striving – there always seem to be things we need to do, goals we have to attain, people we need to be, respect we need to earn.

We build our fortunes and our reputation through all this striving, but to what end? What kind of life are we building beyond that, and what legacy do we leave behind?

Jesus was highlighting something critical to/for us when He posed the question: “What good would it gain a man to gain the World but forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

The thing about living fast is that by the time we realise it, most of life might have passed us by. I carry this song in my heart as a prayer for each one of us, that we would not live lives where the only meaning is to stay busy, and that we would recognise the urgency of learning how to slow our lives down, because fast-paced living comes with a cost – the cost of living fast, but dying young.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

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There must be more: What do you live for?

by Keith Wong | 12 January 2018, 11:52 AM

Shuffling up the grotty stairwell of People’s Park Complex, I had no precedent of what to expect. I only carried an open mind and a seeking heart. Gently opening the last door to my destination, the prayer meeting had already started.

I crept quietly to the back of the group so as to not interrupt the person speaking. There was nary a familiar face, as I smiled and acknowledged the person who’d invited me here.

Thinking back, that meeting carried such a scent of the divine.

A mentor once shared that in many a youth’s chase to find their life’s mission, they must first know their Maker. This sagely advice deeply impacted my then 17-year-old heart, but also fell upon deaf ears, as purpose was blindly pursued without the wisdom of experience.

Destiny was redefined as what I was comfortable doing, rather than what my heart burned for.

In the seven years that followed, obstacles were faced, criticism was received and discouragement abounded. Dream after dream was burnt up and buried. Destiny was redefined as what I was comfortable doing, rather than what my heart burned for, what I yearned to make a reality.

Things took a turn in 2015, when I attended Bible school, and a very motherly classmate prayed and prophesied over me.

“Keith … God wants you to dream again.”

That day at the meeting, I felt a fresh dream stirring in me again.

THE WORD BEHIND THE WORDS

Ephesians 4:1 has been on my heart for a majority of 2017, to “walk worthy of the calling” of which I’ve been called. What does it mean to walk worthy? I always felt this was one of those things you wouldn’t and couldn’t really know beforehand – you’d just have to walk it out with God to find out.

Another line that I’ve held onto for the longest time since my poly days is to “aim to make an impact that outlasts oneself.” These have been principles and beliefs that guide my life in my pursuit of purpose and destiny.

And as I’ve spent time observing the current perspectives and standards that our society holds, another resounding thought comes to mind: There must be more than this.

There must be more to this life than how it currently is right now; there must be more to life than just chasing after pieces of paper; there must be more to life than hustling to achieve the millennial version of the Five Cs – and what were they again?

There must be more to life than just striving for a comfortable one.

There must be more than this rat race of chasing after fame and fortune. For a life lived “better”, richer, louder than your peers, climbing mountain after mountain, only to realise the striving never ends.

There must be more than this paper chase, where numbers and letters weakly define your value and your worth, insinuating that you are only made of this and for that, based on what you’ve academically achieved in the first 12 to 20 years of your life.

There must be more than this “dog eat dog” world that is driven by what benefits “me” the most.

There must be more to this life than just #goals that provoke envy and pride, that insidious need to prove that I’m somehow better than everyone else because I have more Instagram followers and likes.

There must be more to this life because you are made for more than this life.

I BELIEVE, THEREFORE I SPEAK

Making an impact that outlasts yourself is not about KPIs, the digits in your bank account, the stamps on your passport, or things that glorify “me”. There must be more to this life than just placing temporal things on a pedestal instead of striving for the eternal.

True impact is about making life better in so many different ways for people of the present and children of the future. You are made of greater things and for greater works.

You aren’t here just to find your place, but to make your mark on this generation.

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How do you define success?

by | 4 January 2018, 7:13 PM

Do you remember your childhood ambitions?

In Upper Primary, my form teacher asked what we wanted to be in the future. I knew what the “prestigious” careers were, but wasn’t sure what I aspired to be.

As she rattled off options – teacher, lawyer, dentist, doctor, among others – I cautiously raised my hand when she asked who aspired to be a doctor.

I was affirmed this was a wise answer when my classmate mused, “I want to be a doctor – my dad is one!”

But as it turned out, I’d go on to drop Biology for Physics in Upper Secondary, then study in the Arts’ stream in Junior College. More so, the pictures of diseased organs printed in my Biology textbook sufficed to put me off the subject. It was too intense for my squeamish self.

Despite its prestige, I am certain the medical field isn’t what God intended for me.

Over time, I’ve even grown comfortable with knowing my love for words and what it allows me to do may never draw me the wealth of income that sits on the top of climbing the medical ladder.

As a writer – a profession my teacher didn’t mention in suggesting plausible career choices – have I failed to achieve success, if defined by my work and vocation?

SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE ARE THOSE WHO OBEY GOD

While some may feel this to be true, perusing the Bible, I find a different perspective – we achieve success when we serve the Lord wholeheartedly. This happens when we work for the Lord out of love for Him.

In God’s sight, successful people are those who obey Him.

For example, in the Old Testament, King David told his son Solomon to do what the Lord commanded. By following God’s teaching in obedience, Solomon would succeed in all he did (1 Kings 2:3).

Likewise, Solomon reflected on this advice in his writing in Proverbs 3, where he instructs readers to pursue success by doing what God commands and walking in God’s ways (Proverbs 3:1, 2).

We achieve success when we serve God wholeheartedly – when we work for the Lord out of love for Him.

Though the word “success” is seldom used in the New Testament, when used, it describes success for the apostles and early believers in ministry.

When Paul talks about “success” in Romans 1:9-10, the word describes his desire that the Lord enable him to succeed in going to Rome. This relates to a desire for success in ministry, not vocational or material gain.

Furthermore, under the new covenant, God’s commands for his people to demonstrate their faith in Him nonetheless remain relevant – Jesus likewise challenged His followers to show their love for Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15).

These commandments, which are reiterated in Matthew 22:37-39, echo God’s words to Israel in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12-13, 11:13).

SUCCESS IS MEASURED BY THE HEART

One pertinent example of the Bible’s illustration of success comes from the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

In it, a man goes on a journey and gives his three servants different amounts of money before leaving. Each unit of money he gives is measured as a talent. Upon return, the master asks his servants how they had managed the money.

Regardless of the absolute amount, the first two servants receive their master’s praise because they had doubled what they had received(Matthew 25:21, 23). The last servant who had safeguarded the money had done nothing to increase it; hence, the master condemned him for his passivity.

What mattered to the master was the servants’ faithful stewardship of what they received; it took an equal amount of effort for both servants to double their talents.

In this parable, the second half of verse 15 is often overlooked – it tells us the servants were given amounts “each according to his ability.”

Though we are tempted to protest the differences in amounts each servant received, what mattered to the master was the servants’ faithful stewardship of what they received; it took an equal amount of effort for both servants to double their talents.

Just as the master in the parable of the talents expected his servants to do more than safeguard what they were given, God expects us to use our talents productively.

Like the servants in the parable, God did not create us with a uniform amount of talents. Nonetheless, there is equality in the parable, and likewise, in God’s economy where He rewards us according to our efforts – which reveal the intentions of our hearts.

In response, we work for God in everything we do – not limited to, but including our vocational callings.

Success that God desires begins when we live a life of faithfulness to the Lord and his standards. Only then will He grant us success – not on our terms, but as He desires.

Contrary to what the world tells us, biblical success has little to do with climbing the corporate ladder or working in a highly-esteemed vocation.

It is a journey of learning to be comfortable with this when people offer their unsolicited perspectives of career-related success. With God’s help as I remain accountable to those who love me, I press on in living with a new definition of success – the obedience to God and working for Him, wherever He places me.

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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Article list

Am I who my résumé says I am?

“So help me God”: Wrestling with my calling to the Bar

#THIRSTACOUSTIC – Strive

Live fast, die young

There must be more: What do you live for?

How do you define success?