Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beyond Human Comprehension

Hmm… how time flies. The last time I posted was 6 days ago!

Just an update: Avatar was a great movie. I would go watch it again in a heartbeat. James Cameron really is a good movie director. The movie is grand, much like Titanic, and has a very thought provoking storyline. Makes you contemplate about the goodness and the ugliness of human natures.

The only minus was the insane line-up. And where there are line-ups, inevitably, I get to witness the uglier side of human nature (ie. Pushing, and cutting line-ups). But Wayne and I were lucky. We were there a good hour and a half early, and were among the first few people in the long line-up. =)

I’ve always said that the Christmas holidays is a time of contemplation for me, and this year is no different.

I will attempt to organize my thoughts this weekend as I had contemplated on what it means to be a mother.

I am both excited and scared at being a first time mom, but I know that our baby will be very patient with me and Wayne, as all three of us embark on this new chapter of our lives.

Most importantly, we have abundant love in our hearts, and I am sure our love for one another will see us through those sleepless nights, and overwhelming emotions that may threaten to drown us in our first days as parents.

Alright, enough rambling for now. I am now going to share another speech, which I wrote when I was contemplating about the callousness of human nature. Hope you will enjoy it!

Beyond Human Comprehension

Recently, I was asked to write a petition letter for what I consider to be a bizarre and the most ridiculous case that I’ve ever encountered in my professional life. The petition is to seek redress for a recently deceased employee of a multinational corporation. Her name was Jannie Wu.

Jannie was an employee of a large American corporation, based in Singapore. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer in July 2006. She passed away recently on May 5th, 2007, and her death was believed to be brought on prematurely by work related stress and unnecessary aggravation from her immediate manager, Lester.

Through phone conversations, Jannie’s family described the case to me, and also forwarded some documents for me to read.

Needless to say, I was thoroughly saddened as I read through the correspondence that Lester sent to Jannie as she battled with her cancer, and her deteriorating health.

Instead of being an understanding and compassionate employer, Lester made life miserable for Jannie, even after learning that Jannie had a medical condition. From conversations with Jannie’s close friends and her sisters, Jannie was very much traumatized by the events in her workplace in the last few months leading to her death.

Citing corporate human resource policies and procedures, Lester claimed that Jannie did not provide enough evidence, and proof of her medical condition, and even had the audacity to write to Jannie’s doctor at the National Cancer Center of Singapore, requesting for confidential medical information.

Jannie’s doctor was bound by the law to keep her information confidential, and even told Jannie that medical information should not be extracted under duress. Even then, the doctor took time out of his busy schedule to issue a handwritten memo to Lester, telling Lester that Jannie’s situation remains status quo, and Lester’s cooperation in ensuring light duties for Jannie is seeked.

Ignoring the doctor’s handwritten note, Lester still wanted Jannie to work the graveyard shift, which started at 3:30 am. All this despite the fact that Jannie just undergone surgery to remove a couple of tumours from her stomach, and was recovering. That was in September 2006.

In the months following the news of her cancer, Jannie had to go through a couple of surgeries, and hence, she incurred medical and hospitalization leave.

Lester repeatedly called her, while she was on medical and hospitalization leave, asking her about her medical condition, claiming that he needs to have a contingency plan.

Even when Jannie’s teammates approached Lester, and informed him that they are willing to help cover Jannie’s duties so that Jannie could have a lighter workload, Lester would not hear of it!

In one of the memos that Lester documented with regards to his 1-on-1 sessions with Jannie, Lester actually asked Jannie to brush up on her work performance and to meet her quotas as a collection agent, or he would have to consult with HR regarding her performance.

In another memo, Lester actually documented that he will not initiate Jannie to leave the company until she is completely recovered, however, Jannie will have to meet the minimum performance requirement, and not allow her condition to affect her work. If her performance goes down too much, he will have to no choice but to ask HR for advice.

What a great way to induce fear of job loss for a terminally ill employee! What a great way to add unnecessary stress to someone who is dealing with her impending death! What garbage coming from a man who is supposedly well educated! It certainly made me wonder what exactly had Lester suffered from that he seemed to lack the basic human compassion, which makes us different from a beast?

It is the culmination of a series of such events that led to the rapid deterioration of Jannie‘s health, resulting in her early demise.

To make matters worse, or rather more ludicrous, the human resources department of the company, and Lester’s direct reporting manager, were evidently aware of what was happening, as Lester copied them in his meticulous documentation.

What baffles me, and continues to do so today, is why not one of senior management and HR personnel was willing to stand up and speak out for Jannie?

Perhaps, they believed that such callousness towards Jannie and such indignity is acceptable? I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend that such less-than-dignified behaviors are actually perpetuated in a first-world country like Singapore... A country that I am proud of to call my motherland... and in a world class American multi national corporation.

But most importantly, I cannot understand why Jannie would allow herself to be treated with such disrespect and indignity? As I read through the entire case, what struck me really hard was that Jannie had allowed her job insecurity, and her fear of losing her job overtake her more immediate concern of nursing herself back to health.

In mid March, she was crying to a colleague, lamenting that she would lose her job by end of May... Little did she know that she would lose her life first....

Jannie left this world on May 5th, 2007, at 12:15 am, half an hour after the Managing Director of her division visited her, and spoke to her whilst she was in her coma. She only let go after she heard from her managing director.

I do not know Jannie personally, and sadly, I will never have a chance to know her. But I was moved by her case to write the petition letter to the senior management, and also to send an email to the CEO of the company.

I wanted so much for Jannie’s story to be published in the newspapers, as I really believed there are huge lessons to be learnt from her story.

Jannie’s story is not only a call for the corporation to examine its corporate policies and values.

It can also serve as a reminder for us to always fight for what is important to us. For truly, I believe that no one should be saying that they wish they had spent more time at work when they are on their deathbed!

More importantly, I believe Jannie’s story should be a wake-up call to all of us, as we are so mired in our day-to-day lives, that we should never forget to be compassionate towards our fellow human beings, to come forth and protect those who may be weaker than us, and to reach out to those who are in trouble.

For the callousness of Lester towards Jannie while she was alive is to me beyond human comprehension.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

World Of Unknowns

Wow, time sure flies. It is December 24th already. I don't even want to know what the malls are going to be like. I have been a lucky gal, since we don't really believe in gifts, so I have been spared all the horrible stories I have heard about Christmas shopping in the malls. Phew!

I am happy today, as the weather is not as cold when I walked to work, and I am bringing my hubby out for the movie, Avatar, tonight! We will be watching it on IMAX 3D! I think he is excited! =)

I redeemed 1,000 Scene points for one ticket, and paid $17.50 for the other ticket. It seems like it will cost me the same number of Scene points for a regular movie or an IMAX movie. My strategy from now on will be to use my Cineplex movie passes for regular movies, and only redeem my Scene points for IMAX 3D movies!

Okay... enough rambling. I promised to post the essays I wrote for my Toastmaster speeches. So, here goes!


World of Unknowns

We humans have this amazing ability to lull ourselves into a state of comfort. All through our lives, we work at building walls to house ourselves in this little space, called our comfort zone, and even when this so called comfort zone gets too suffocating, too cluttered, and just plain unlivable, we are so familiar with it that we refused to venture outside of those walls.

Are we really that comfortable in the little space that we’ve trapped ourselves in? Are our lives not worth expanding beyond those 4 imaginary walls that we’ve put up? Or are we just afraid of the unknown?

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the next 5 minutes, I am going to share with all of you parts of my journey of traveling in the world of unknowns. I have always pride myself as a person, who has lived a couple of lives.

I had a previous life, a life before I met Wayne, my husband, and moved to North America. A very sheltered life, where everything was provided for me by my lovely parents. Like all parents who meant well, mom and dad gave their best, and provide the best for me, and they never fail to always stop me from “committing” mistakes.

I could have followed my parents’ wishes, and live my life according to their plan. I could have had my destiny all planned out for me, and lived a very comfortable life. But then I would not be here today.

Instead, I chose to live my life on my own terms. I was not going to have my life lived out for me!

I had no idea at all how my life will be like outside of my comfort zone. All I had was this burning desire to have a fulfilling life, a life that will resemble my dreams, a life that I will be proud of to share with my loved ones, a life that will leave a blazing trail in the wake of my journey.

My first leap into the unknown started in December 1998. I just got out of a very painful 3 year relationship, and was depressed for the longest time. It’s strange how the best of human nature always rise up in moments of darkness and crisis. After deciding enough is enough, I gave myself a break, and took a trip to North America all by myself. By the way, up till then, I have never been out of Asia.

It was an amazing 2 weeks! I took in the sights of New York City, fell in love with Niagara Falls, and had a grand time in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Incidentally, Halifax is the place I met Wayne, and that was the start of the turning point of my life. Now, Wayne and I started off on the wrong foot, and how we eventually got together is enough material for another speech. =)

Suffice to say, by December 1999, we decided to give long distance relationship a shot, a journey not many people enjoy. Let’s just say it’s not fun.

On Valentine’s Day 2000, Wayne said he had enough of the long distance relationship, and asked me to join him in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was working. I followed my heart, and by April 2000, I moved to Charlotte.

No one could fully comprehend my decision. Why would Denise choose to give up a comfortable and good life in Singapore, and move to Charlotte? Where is Charlotte, anyways? Some say I was blinded by love… But the romantic me prefer to think that I was blinded by my passion to live my life to the fullest. =)

Wayne and I lived in Charlotte for 2 wonderful years.

However, in February 2002, he decided that he had enough of the corporate world, and wanted to take a year off to backpack.

I was very hesitant at first, as I had just started to get comfortable with my life in Charlotte. But something in me told me not to be afraid, and to pounce on this opportunity! Something told me that it was time to move out of my comfort zone again, and go on the adventure of a lifetime.

So, by mid March 2002, we sold most of our stuff, packed the rest of our worldly belongings, and drove back to Halifax.

Once we deposited our belongings in Halifax, we set off on a year of backpacking. We did not have any idea where our journey will take us. All we had were 2 Lonely Planet guidebooks, one of Southeast Asia, and one of China.

In that year, we took in the culture of Germany, and the windmills of Netherlands. We walked along, and swam in the beautiful white sand beaches of Redang, Malaysia. We took a walk with a tiger in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, stood in awe, and marveled at the mysteriousness of the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and learnt about the sad history of Vietnam.

We drank in the breathtaking scenery of HuangShan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui, strolled along the Bund in Shanghai, climbed an unrestored section of the Great Wall of China in Beijing, and visited the famous Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an.

It was an unforgettable journey in a world full of dazzling sights, and unmatched beauty.

Standing here now, I shudder to think that if I had been afraid to venture into unchartered territories, if I had been afraid to come out of my comfort zone, and if I had given in to the many naysayers around me who mean well, I would not have been able to experience this world in all its splendor.

My fellow Toastmasters, if there’s anything I have learnt in this short life of mine, I have learnt that just as we have the ability to lull ourselves into a state of comfort, choosing to live within the imaginary walls we’ve erected, lying dormant in all of us is also have this tenacious capacity, and enormous will to break through our normal paradigms, to venture into the great wide unknown world, and to choose to live a life that is filled with passion and wonderment.

I do not know where my journey in life will take me from here, but what I do know is that I will not stop traveling out of my comfort zone. But most importantly, what I do know is that I will have lived my life knowing that when I look back, I will choose to live my life the same way all over again.

Madam Toastmaster.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dare I bare all in cyberspace?

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a very long time. I thought I have been procrastinating, but the truth is, I am not.

I am just worried about being judged for my rants, my musings, and my viewpoints.

I've always lived by the motto, "To conquer fear, do what you fear most."

So, here I am! Taking my first baby step in the blogging world! :)

I also hope to use this blog to chronicle my journeys in this wonderful world, and I am dedicating this blog to my wonderful husband, who has been my rock and harbour in this sometimes insane world, and also to the bundle of blessing that is growing in me now.

I am going to start by sharing some of the essays I wrote for my Toastmasters speeches.

So, watch out, world. Here comes Woofy and her musings! :)