2016 is the year:
– the British defied all expectations and put David Cameron out of a job by voting for Brexit;
– the Americans defied all expectations and allowed a thin-skinned, obnoxious racist to annihilate Hillary Clinton;
– Taiwan elected its first female president, while South Korea’s first female president created a spectacle more captivating than Descendants of the Sun, W and Train to Busan;
– Joseph Schooling surprised Michael Phelps and the rest of the world with that spectacular swim in Rio;
– Nathan Hartono single-handedly activated the Milo trucks;
– we bade farewell to former President S R Nathan, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Shimon Peres, Fidel Castro, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, as well as Underwater World, California Fitness Singapore, John Little, Rochor Centre, Dakota Crescent and SMAP×SMAP;
– haunting pictures of Syrian children made us tear;
– Michelin organisers made restaurant owners in Singapore tear;
– we all found out that Rui En stays in Clementi #doyouknowwhoiam;
– 康熙來了 finally ended after 12 years;
– Finding Dory finally made it to the big screen after 13 years;
– Leonardo DiCaprio finally got hold of an Oscar after 200 years;
wasted their lives had plenty of fun with Pokémon Go;
– people wasted their lives watching X-Men: Apocalypse, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Independence Day: Resurgence.
2016 is also the year Cruz Teng held two business cards.
People were understandably confused when they heard I ‘parted ways’ with NoonTalk Media in less than a year. Well, the stint at NoonTalk was always meant to be temporary. There were never plans for me to receive a long service award there.
My employment contract with Mediacorp contained a whopping six-month notice period. I was kept extremely busy till the end— management, Global Chinese Music Awards, radio hosting, television hosting, etc— so I didn’t have time to plan anything at all.
I relied on my friend, Dasmond Koh, to keep me partially employed during the transition, as I took time to seriously consider what to do for 2016 and beyond. In between the launch of FrozenAge and producing The Freshmen, I found time to do some volunteer work, and also managed to clock an incredible amount of time at the gym.
For a month or so, I flirted with the idea of venturing overseas, specifically Taipei. I got my financial advisors to look through my portfolio, and even drafted exit plans— like when to sell my car, and how to freeze certain recurring payments, etc. Eventually, the pragmatic Singaporean genes in me prevailed. It wouldn’t make any financial sense to move to Taipei at this point. I like the city, and there are people in the city I like. But no, I chose to remain in Singapore.
The New Challenge
After I got back from a two-week stay in Taipei, and with almost half the year gone, I finally decided that I would look for something outside Radio. My criteria: (1) I must be able to learn something new— something that requires major brainpower. (2) It cannot be boring. It cannot be too easy. I don’t want to be in a retirement village. (3) The remuneration and benefits must be reasonably attractive.
The company, which called me for an interview in July, offers all of the above.
I had a million and one first-world problems I had to settle before the first day of work:
(1) “I have nothing to wear!” And I really mean it. The stuff in my wardrobe belonged to two extreme ends of the spectrum— (a) super casual i.e. jeans, tees and sneakers, and (b) black tie i.e. crisp dress shirts with French cuffs, and maybe some shimmery bits, and red patent shoes for the stage. I didn’t own any normal shirts and pants for normal usage by a normal human being.
(2) “Should I drive?” I went to work at 6AM for more than a decade, and I never paid ERP fees (unless I overslept). And it was dirt cheap to park at Caldecott. I wondered if it would be extremely expensive to drive into the Downtown Core, and if I would go berserk getting caught in morning and evening peak traffic.
(3) “How expensive is it to eat there every day?” I was used to cheap and tasty canteen food at Caldecott, you know.
No, I didn’t worry if I would be able to pass my probation, or if my new colleagues would like me. I was occupied with frivolous thoughts after I was called back for a second, and then, a third round of interview.
(1) I had twelve shirts and two pairs of trousers tailored in time. I would have had more trousers done, but the tailor told me to ‘get used to them first’.
(2) I decided to drive— although I’m given free travel privileges on all buses and trains.
(3) My colleagues brought me somewhere to enjoy a plate of economical rice for $2.60!
“Are you sure you can get used to this?”
That was the number one question I was asked.
I obviously need time to settle down in a new environment and get to know new people. However, if the question is about my will and ability to survive outside my comfort zone, the answer is a definite YES (no pun intended).
Back in 1996, I told the folks at Ngee Ann Polytechnic to thrash my application for Mass Communications because I was already on air by then and I no longer required the paper qualifications to pursue what I wanted to pursue. I then applied for Business Studies so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.
When I became a full-time presenter, I nudged my way into non-programming stuff like marketing communications and event planning, and did crazy things like asking for a seat in the Singapore Hit Awards committee and making drastic changes to the rules and regulations, so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.
I later took a part-time degree in Translation and Interpretation, so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.
I took up a management position primarily as a calling, but also to gain new knowledge and hone my skills in other areas, so that I have something else to do when I leave Radio one fine day.
I was in Radio for nearly twenty years, and I spent an equal amount of time preparing myself— technically and mentally— for a post-Radio chapter.
Thank you for your concern. 2016 has been rather interesting. I hope 2017 will be better. And I need to get back into that pair of jeans.