A few people have expressed an interest in reading the unedited version of the piece "High Cost of High Life" which came out in My Paper last week, so here it is!
Life without a Blackberry
Do you miss anything from your previous life? seems to be the favourite question which people ask me since I left the corporate world about 2.5 years ago. The fast money, the exotic holidays, the nice apartment where we threw many lavish dinner parties? Or the turquoise corporate Amex card, the slight air of importance I felt whenever I shook hands with clients in glass-roofed buildings? How about the Blackberry handheld device which I had carried with me almost religiously (to the point that some days it even graced the loo), with the blinking red light indicating the arrival of an email and consequently, my immediate attention.
Sure, a part of me misses the high life. Some days, a little voice whispers to me that all the perks which I had left behind were what made life enjoyable, that without them I cannot have a good quality of life.
2.5 years later, however, I do honestly question what kind of quality that sort of life really offered. It seems impossible to erase from my memory the hundreds of late nights, of being “on call” at weekends and evenings, the inability to plan any social activities during the week, and missing many important celebrations. The image of me crying on the phone at 5am in the New York office with my then boyfriend who was cycling in Australia remains etched in my mind. I was constantly exhausted and high (on Coke Light) at the same time. I felt like I was incessantly catching up on sleep, or out partying to make up for my loss.
Recently I visited Singapore and saw some old school friends. Most of my school friends had been straight A students and had gone on to various high flying careers. One guy, who I had not seen for 13 years, commented that I was brave to have left my very well paid job in order to pursue an alternative career in the charity sector. He quickly added that he loved his luxuries too much, so he had no choice but to continue to work his ass off. Feeling slightly surprised by his candour, and not wanting to offend an old friend, I smiled and mumbled something non-consequential. Later that evening I did wonder though, were the luxuries what he was actually living for?
A few months back I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller who is a brilliantly thought-provoking writer. In his foreword, he described how nobody would want to watch a movie about a guy who worked very hard his whole life in order to buy a sports car in the end. None of us would be very inspired by such a plotline, but the sad fact is, so many of us do live spend our whole lives living a story just like that.
The transition has not been an easy ride – having to deal with head-on many deeply personal issues like my identity, insecurities and my attitudes towards money. However, even with all the struggles I have had to face in my new life, I’m not sure I really miss anything from the old one.
And I now read the red blinking light of a Blackberry as Beware, Danger – I am here to take over your life!
Christine Liu Lilwall grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore, and is married to adventurer and author Rob Lilwall. She worked in the City of London as a corporate lawyer until November 2007 and has since worked for several NGOs in international development and human rights. She has just finished volunteering on a project that works with former street children in Cebu, the Philippines, and regularly writes about her experience on her blog www.lifewithoutablackberry.com.