A Fresh Start

Uniform from Singapore Prison Service

In a blink of the eye, I’ve left SPS for half a year. Every now and then, I would partake in some social events involving my old colleagues, who would reminisce the “old” days and talk about our futures.

I believe, on the back of their minds were the same questions that popped up when they received the news of my sudden departure. Things were going pretty well, and I had just emerged from a very good year, what with that stellar IPPT statistics improvement and Yellow Ribbon Rehabilitation Fair 2014.

Why would anyone think of leaving when they were on a roll, when many were struggling to understand the system?

Uniform from Singapore Prison Service

My story to those who asked was that my quest to leave SPS started way back in 2013, when I embarked on my one and a half years of job hunt. As the dust settled, and I looked back to the very much eventful 6 years of my working life, I could trace that journey even further, to the point of inception.

My turning point in SPS came shortly after I went on my Mi Pilgrimage.

Before that, I was really apprehensive about my time in SPS, a mysterious environment that few in the public knows, much less for someone like me who had never experienced a thug’s life. However, as Mi began spreading her idea of generating positive energy, “Do my best and let God handle the rest” drove me to enjoy every moment that I spent working.

With the new-found ideals, and the freedom that a high pay empowered me with, I began to widen my horizons and “breathe the world”.

Life in prison is definitely not a bed of roses; Senior Prison Officers were caught in between our management and a large group of inmates who were a mix of intellects and “hands-on doers”. Trying to keep my team (and inmates) safe everyday took up most of my time. I disregarded every opportunity to change my posting, because I enjoyed what I was doing more than what position I could have held.

One fine day, I listened to the finale song of the Love Mi concert, the very concert that tipped me onto the long journey of self-actualisation, and I realised that I had to, in addition to living the moment, start planning for my future.

*We only have that number of years to live our lives. How would we see ourselves 10, 20 years down the road? How have we fared for the past 10, 20 years?*

I had wanted to look inwards; after all, I had grown comfortable with SPS and that would be a good point to start my next phase of self development. I diverted my energies to deliver what the bosses wanted, only to be passed on for opportunities to hold more important positions in committees or even a simple recognition like a good performance grade.

The reward does not justify the kind of passive-aggressive emotional-blackmailing I received everyday on the job (to be fair, all HR personnel has to endure such treatment from the general staff population). My boss told me to endure (interestingly, my very first OC also told me to press on at the start of my career), but I knew my CEP was fixed and SPS would not be the place for someone like me who wants to prove my worth.

I went on a 2-week trip to Taipei, hoping to find inspiration on what I could do for my future. That was a drastic change to embark on, so I came back and started the job-finding process at home instead.

*If this song resonates with you, it means it’s time to leave the job.*

The security of a job had lengthened the job search in one way or another. In fact, it allowed me to have the opportunity to package myself by filling all the competency gaps like taking on ACTA and reading up on other related fields of subject-matter.

However, the tipping point came and I thought to myself I had to step up my job hunt. Interestingly, I received 2 interview offers and one of it, from SIA, resulted in a job offer.

That sparked another round of soul-searching. As reality set in, I realized I could not have the best of both worlds: One was a highly-paid job in which I had earned a certain level of reputation and ease of job-completion; the other offered a future with breadth for one’s career that required me to start from scratch.

It was at that point of time I opened my eyes to the minds of those older officers who held ranks that were the same as me, or slightly higher, but repulsed me with their inertia to move on with times. At that point of time, I had to make a choice to join their ranks, or to break myself free from this slippery slope that many of us young officers were unknowingly going on.

An advice of a colleague I had worked with previously worked well: Imagine that you are in your deathbed and looking back on your life. Would you have regretted for staying on in this job that offered money and job security, but robbed you of your life and soul? Or would you regret abandoning all those and look for a kind of life that at one point in time, was uncertain and presented itself as a paradox of possibilities and danger?

I chose the latter.

If life has to be lived, I have to live it, accepting all the fine print that comes along with it.

If I really had the skills and resilience, every possibility would turn out to be a certain success.

It was then, I made the decision to accept the offer.

I can’t say for now if I regretted making that decision. The loss of income is immediate, but the exchange for a brighter future cannot be measured in such a short span of time.

Was I angry?

I cannot deny I was frustrated with my job at SPS initially (it would not have triggered my job hunt if I wasn’t). But as the initial angst dissipated, I was overcome with peace. Obstacles didn’t matter to me. In fact, I was not afraid to speak up and offer outrageous ideas, which then spawned the actualisation of the Rehabilitation Fair for Yellow Ribbon Run 2014 (part of Yellow Ribbon Project).

Given my introspective nature, I know I would spend some time, some time in the future, to try and make sense of this exciting and uncertain period of my life.

To live life with love.

*At the later stage of my time in SPS, this song resonated with me. The angst that spurred me to make my departure plans had dissipated, and I took on a more anticipated approach towards the absurdities that was work.*

Leave a Reply