She Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve

Like a strange familiar place I’ve made this world to be for the last two months since my previous update. I’ve moved on from “I don’t know” to jumping into a pool of work without realising. Subconsciously, I needed to be busy, to have my mind occupied doing work that matters so I have control over myself to stay away from dwindling into nothingness.

Partly, I’m lucky to have people who while I don’t know how much impact I can do, believe that I can whip something up. Or maybe I’m just that kid who just can’t say no.

Either ways, I’m working with amazing people doing different things but has one thing in common – a humanitarian element. Perhaps, that’s my Achilles heel. One I’m drawn to, where my heart resides. Without having a purpose leading up to this, I would lose sight easily and I’ve spent many years long ago knowing what that felt like.

Currently, the project I’m blessed to be part of is an initiative by WOMEN:girls – an apprenticeship programme called Kejar Kerja (loosely translated as Chase the Job?) for girls aged 18-28 years old without any degree or school dropouts who are interested in fashion, product design and culinary arts. The idea is to have 10 girls and matched them with a mentor and company each in the industry for 6 weeks. Our end goal for them is to get a full-time job and build skilled labour locally.

So far, in the last one week, we’ve been going on ground to several residence area where the urban poor communities live in Kuala Lumpur. Way before this, when we were preparing the details of the project, I knew it’s not gonna be an easy task. If anything, there will be so many set backs and limitations for us to reach out to these girls due to family, culture, mentality or lifestyle barriers.

But like everything else, you’ll never know until you’re there in it. Experiencing it.

Initially, we were targeting to get 20 applicants per residence area but as days go by, it already takes so much effort and hard work just to get one applicant to sign up. Just to pull them away from their comfort zone in their home to walk down the staircase felt like a magnet was pushing us away from them. So each day, just the thought of getting 3 people signed up was an achievement on it’s own. That each one had different reasons for doing so – mothers who pushed them to talk to us, neighbours who were aware of the need and sister who had to accompany.

There are a million ways to device a plan when it comes to reaching out to people and more often than not, it’s never a straight forward process. That’s probably why word of mouth is still the strongest form of marketing time and time again.

The channels to reach out are endless but to be able to know the platforms to breakthrough takes time and courage to try. A mind that withholds rejection. A soul that marches through walls. That’s the kind of spirit projects like this will require from each individual.

Having said that, after six days looking for them, I met with a roadblock.

I was waiting for this moment to happen. Waiting for the time when I will question myself and watch myself run in cirlces to overcome this notion. It’s almost a twisted satisfaction, this.

But, unlike past projects I’ve been involved, this is one where the team was not assembled by me. I’ve never worked with them before and vice versa. Imagine the sinister voice in my head, just waiting for the right moment to say “This will be interesting to see how you’ll be seen by others who don’t know how you’re like”.

I don’t think I’m capable of ruining something on purpose. If anything, I will do anything and everything before something crumbles. Or it’s just me putting a ridiculous expectation of myself to complete the work and when shit hits the fan, I become a different person.

“You know your leadership style is one that involves emotion right?” I hear Fei’s voice from our days in Hyper Island.

“You connect through emotions,” another friend once mentioned.

I think coming back from Manchester has untangled a few knots for me ever since. I don’t remember being more aware of the way I lead a team but looking back I remember episodes when I do have long conversations and figure out a way out for the rest so everyone can work better.

It’s not that I need to know but I do. No matter how much someone says you can push aside personal issues at work, to me, if there’s a way to solve those personal issues, then eventually your work will be more positively affected. Well, that’s just the super optimistic side of me thinks.

It doesn’t help that the projects I’m involved this year are mainly about emotions. Or maybe it helps me. We’ll see.

Here I was listening to others and their stories when at one point, I was wondering, how much should I open up about myself to them? After all, we are working on a professional level. Where do we draw the line that there are things you shouldn’t know about the other? Do we even have a line?

Because there was a point in time when I was questioning myself – should I be this vulnerable? Should I admit that I feel like shit and responsible for the downfall even though we’re only at the beginning of the marathon? Do they want to know? Does it even matter?

This goes back to what type of leadership style we fall into and I so happened to be more aligned with the coaching type. Not that I think I’m a good coach given that I too am learning on the job but I guess, that’s just the way I create the work culture. To be invested in the projects you do, you have to have some level of investment in the people you work with to. It’s a personal preference how much you want to dig in so long as it keeps the dynamic balanced.

After all, we are living in a world of noise. Of other people talking. Of no one listening.

So someone has to listen and fill up the gap.

‘Cuz at the end of the day, people can easily tell the way I feel just by looking at me. I’m that’s girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.

You will know if I’m into it or not. You just do even without me trying.

Blah, the perils of embracing yourself. Vulnerability is part of the package.

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