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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Rarely Discussed Life Events

HONG KONG | Wednesday, 19 December 2012 | Views [434]

It's homecoming time again!  It was eleven months ago that I began my gap year visiting my family in Hong Kong, so it is only appropriate that I end it in the same place to complete a 360.  Christmas is also a nice time to be in Hong Kong, the light decorations on the numerous high rises and towers are second to none.

I am also taking the time to plan my life after gap year, amazing how time flies!  It's near impossible to include my volunteer experiences succinctly in a CV. Recruiters will most likely scratch their head once they take a look at it.  It is also my mistake to not have updated my CV regularly in the past, now it's doubly difficult.

In the midst of trying to update my story in a CV, I am reminded of my past role as a HR business systems analyst, in which I spent several years collaborating with the Benefits team on configuring employee's "life events" in HR systems, which include such joyous occasions as "new child", "marriage", or "add domestic partner", controversial events such as "divorce" and "loss of job", and heavy events like "death of child" or "death of spouse".  I often thought how since childhood, we are taught about these important and celebratory "life events":  we should go to school, find a job, find a life partner, get marry, have children, and retire; however, there are rarely any discussion on another series of important life events that occur, which is the passing of our grandparents, the retirement of our parents, the potential decline of our parent's health, the responsibility we shoulder as our parents age, and eventually their passing.  Obviously these are not joyous topics to discuss, but I believe many adult children are often unprepared for them.

I recall my first discussion on aging parents in my early twenties, a fresh college graduate about to embark on my life event of starting my first real job.  I was meeting  with a family for whom I used to babysit as a teenager; the baby, who was only a few months old at the time, was now a beautiful 12 year-old-girl.  I remember fondly how the parents, then perhaps in their late 20s or early  30s, would go out on "date night" (thus requiring my service as a babysitter);  the dad would leave the house and then come to the door as a guest, carrying flowers to pickup his wife .  I asked the parents, now in their 40s, about their families, and husband M mentioned that his mother was in failing health and has taken a toll on the family.  He then told me what no one else had told me before:  during our phases of entering and managing adulthood, working on establishing our career, trying to find a mate and having a family, our parents and grandparents are also progressing into their next phase of adulthood, but one that may not be as exciting as ours: failing health, financial worries, or losing a spouse.  What he said was not earth shattering, but it was something I had not thought about and it stuck with me ever since.

Since then, all of my grandparents have passed, and my parents have become grandparents themselves .  It is a joy to watch my mom with my nephews; it reminds me how much my maternal grandmother had a hand in my upbringing.  I am also grateful that my parents are still around and are carrying on quite well, despite some scary episodes and hospital visits.  Furthermore, I am glad I can shoulder some responsibility, like managing and providing financial advices, making suggestions on life after retirement, and caring for their general well being.  I believe what M told me years ago helped to prepare me for these tasks, even if slightly, although nothing can prepare you in dealing with the fear of not reaching your parents after repeated phone calls (sometimes even the loudest ring volume is loud enough for failing hearing), or seeing them suffer and struggle physically.  Throughout this year (and as heartless as this sounds), I rarely missed anyone or anything with so much newness surrounding me, but on a few occasions, I said to my fellow volunteers "I missed my mommy" as though I was a young child on the first day of school, and wished terribly that I could talk to her.  During those times, my next thought would be "one day, I won't be able to pick up the phone and call her", and it made me sadder than even the worst day of counting dead sharks at Puerto Lopez's fish market.

As I progress through my adulthood and celebrate important milestones, I feel compelled to share my lesson with my younger friends, just as M did with me years ago.  It's a huge bummer for sure, talk about Debbie Downer!  But that's the certainty in life; that there will always be life and death, lots of celebrations, and (hopefully) less stressful and traumatic events in between.  

As for now, I am going to call my mom and ask her how to prepare one of her tofu dishes, because even though I can probably figure it out on my own, I still want to learn from her.

Tags: aging, cv, life event

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