So what if I could write? That didn't make me special.
I used to be a very shy person. I was so shy that the first time I ordered food at a fast food counter, unattended and unaccompanied, was at the age of 18. Call it arrested development but when you have a dragon mom who takes the lead in almost everything, I suppose it's only natural that she ended up with such a meek daughter.
Believe it or not, I used to go hungry in university because of my shyness. You see, I used to live in the hostel and there was this one canteen operator whom I usually bought my food from – but only if there were no other customers. Why? Because then I'd get the full attention of the ‘abang counter’! The times when I went hungry was when the abang failed to notice me because there were too many customers jostling and shouting their orders to him. I would wait up to 10 minutes at most before slinking away to buy a cup noodle from the kedai runcit next door. I graduated many cup noodles later. I also left with very few friends made during my university years.
I received an offer to join the Malay Mail as a journalist two months into my first job. I was a subeditor at a small publishing house with four other employees. I realised that my experience there would not help me to grow as an individual. So I left and discovered a hellish world that forced me to speak to complete strangers, convince people in powerful positions to be interviews and endure editors that yelled at me to not come back until I got my front-page story.
I especially dreaded the street poll assignments. It took at least 30 minutes of mental prepping to bolster enough courage to approach a random person, who in turn would turn me away like I was a pesky salesperson. I was more afraid of my editors though so I hustled as best as I could and shelved away the incessant worry that I was not cut out to be a journalist.
I improved with time, as how things usually went, but four years later I was still having difficulty speaking to strangers outside of work. A typical example would be like the times when I hung out at a mamak with my journalist friends after our shift ended. I would get them to call the server over if I wanted to make an order. I didn't have the courage to shout out "ANE, ORDER!" like they could. I made excuses. I was technically off my shift after all.
After six years I transitioned, as most journalists did after a spell, into the scarier world of public relations. The first year was a shocker. I had trouble adapting. When I was a journalist, I never cared to think about what PR professionals did beyond writing press releases and attending to journalists at press events. The PR folks I knew were always friendly and accommodating (bar a few bitchy ones). I was happy as long as I got all the information I needed for my story and managed to score an exclusive interview every once in a while.
It was a different story on the other side of the fence. Nobody cared about me, this tiny cog in the big wheels of a money-making conglomerate. So what if I could write? That didn't make me special. And if last time I could command the attention and time of the CEO, as a PR slave I'd be lucky if I could get past the guard-dog of a secretary.
But with time and perseveration, I am now at a stage where I can be the one to call the ane over and make the order for everyone.
There is nothing special about my story nor is it inspirational although I do make better money now. If there's one takeaway I can share with you, it is that you need to get out of your comfort zone while you still can. So challenge yourself and conquer your mountains, no matter how big or small!