One was a workaholic who couldn’t take a break while the other had a life-threatening experience. What both women had in common was the determination to leave their past behind and start anew, amid a more conscious lifestyle.
My Career Was My Life
I was married to my high-flying corporate job. Every day for the past 12 years, I woke up at dawn to get an early start at the office and I won’t leave till past 10pm. I survived on coffee, cigarettes, wine and an average of four hours of sleep each night. My weekends were either spent clearing work emails or meeting the demands of clients. I had no time for family or friends, much less romance.
Then my company sent me to Shanghai, China to head one of its offices and suddenly, I was dealing with a heavier workload and pulling even longer hours. The years I spent there was a blur – all I could remember was travelling to the office and back. I didn’t even have time to travel around the country because I simply had no time. Any break I could afford was spent sleeping – I was that exhausted.
In my fourth year there, I received news that my mother had suffered a stroke, causing her left side of the body to be paralysed. My siblings asked me to return home so I could spend time with Mum, who missed me dearly. But I was swamped with projects and couldn’t find an appropriate time to apply for leave. So I kept putting off the visit. Six months later, my mother passed away and I wasn’t at her side. The last time I saw her was the week before I left for Shanghai – four years before her death.
I immediately took a red eye home to attend her funeral. My family was inconsolable – so was I. I was wracked with guilt, feeling like a bad, unfilial daughter. I couldn’t stop thinking about the time I will no longer have with my mother. But her death gave me a new perspective on life. I started wondering why I was working myself to the bone, at the expense of my health and personal life. So what if I was earning tons of money? If I don’t slow down, I may not live long enough to enjoy my wealth.
So I decided to quit my job and travel the world – a long, well-deserved holiday after over a decade of slogging away. On the trip, I met my current husband who introduced me to the concept of conscious living. I’ve not looked back since. I feel more focused now and more in control of my life. My mind is at peace, my heart is content and my soul is rejuvenated. I now live my life by my own rules and only pursue things that I love. Material gain is no longer top of mind – I now spend my time volunteering (both locally and overseas) and doing photography. I’ve never been happier. – Jenna Ong, 40, yoga trainer/practitioner
I was 33 years old when I found out that I had breast cancer. My world fell apart – I was worried that I won’t live long enough to watch my children grow. Money was already tight and with the added costs of chemotherapy and such, I didn’t know if my family would be able to make ends meet. To make matters worse, I reacted badly to the cancer treatment and wasn’t in top form most days. So I had to quit my job, making my husband the sole breadwinner. We had no choice but to tighten our purse strings – we were now eating to live.
I wallowed in self-pity and even fell into depression. A good friend of mine suggested that I join an online support group cum forum for breast cancer patients and survivors. She felt it would do me good to be among people who understood what I had to go through every day. She was right. My spirits were lifted when I met fellow “sufferers” – some of whom were in worst shape than me but portrayed more positivity than I did. With the help of my newfound online “friends”, I began to feel more upbeat and more determined to fight the disease.
At the same time, my family and I were settling into a much simpler life. We only bought things that we needed and never in excess. We used to make purchases without thinking – now we consider our needs versus our wants. Waste not, want not, as they say.
We also preferred to dine in than eat out, which brought us closer together and allowed us to spend more time with one another. Before I fell sick and both my husband and I were working, time spent with our children was a luxury we could hardly afford. Now, we look forward to it and enjoy every minute of it.
That was five years ago. I’ve made a full recovery since and am practicing a healthier lifestyle. I’ve also become more pragmatic – I’m more conscious of what I buy, consume and spend my time as well as my energy on. This was not a conscious effort though – I think this new way of living grew on me after all those years of watching my diet and finances. I considered it as downsizing my lifestyle. It was only recently that I stumbled upon this idea of conscious living and realised how similar it was to mine.
I definitely feel freer now. My life (and house) is no longer cluttered, my spirit feels lighter and the choices I make are based on what will make my family happy, instead of what will make us look good. – Desiree Chee, 38, stay-at-home mum
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