Becoming Catherine

by shz

Catherine was my project architect when I was still an assistant back in Oxford, and my God, did I hate her. I would always come home from work with eyes freshly out of tears and even though my husband never met her, I’m sure he knows her as if he had worked under her himself. Obviously she was a woman and being a childless middle aged one doesn’t help in the maternal department. She was (or still is, I think) married to her career. The thing about her is that she is bloody good and so smart, that when you are wrong, you are wrong. Not understanding her pressure of having to deal with so many consultants, being an associate of some big ass practice, handling about 3-4 projects at a time and trying to distribute workload to her assistants made me feel so negative about her. How civilized you think UK can be, there will be one or two people who tend to fall off from the category when it comes to work. I was always being yelled at, humiliated and talked to like I was an idiot. She couldn’t accept the simplest mistake and often enough would expect everyone to be as perfect as her. She is a beautiful person to me and when she smiles, it really felt like you just came out from a black hole. But sadly enough, my days were approached with frowns and a troubled face I wish I didn’t have to see to start off my mornings. Suffice to say, I pledged myself everyday not to be like her when the time comes for me to be her.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a bad idea working under someone. You just do whatever you’re told, come in and out at the right time and try to stay out of trouble. But when you become the boss of yourself and others, there are a lot more than that. Sure, I’m getting the kind of security and authority at work like I never had in my life before, but the things that Spiderman says can never be true enough. With great power comes great responsibility and even after suiting myself for over a year and a half, I’m still not sure whether I’m ready enough for Spiderman’s kind of responsibility.

Truly, ridiculous. I tried not to lose my cool at work. When my assistants shit at the simplest jobs, I try to breath and reboot myself. I talked to them and tried to level privately by hearing their sides of stories. I warned them politely. But still after much give and no takes, how can one stand it? After all, I’m the one who has to face my principals and explain why I couldn’t deliver on time – not them. Even that my principals happened to be Mom & Dad, they don’t compromise professionalism at work. I still have to call them Encik Mokhtar and Puan Siti at the office, imagine that. Not to mention looking stupid when engineers, surveyors and clients question the lack of attention with our drawings. I mean, how can I tolerate when an experienced assistant mixed the word isolation with insulation? Its an isolation room, and do you know what insulation is? Or when they draw a bloody wall where a door should be? Like, how the hell are you going to get into the damn toilet, with superpowers? So I guess today I cracked. I was raising my voice and questioned their credibility as a so called experienced architectural assistant who are worth the salary they requested in front of every staff. I couldn’t wait to do privately anymore, a part of me wanted everybody else to know to what extent of the edge they can push me. The question whether it was right to do so didn’t cross my mind. I saved their faces too many times already.

Its amazing when your worker of the year could downgrade himself to if-its-up-to-me-you’re-fired kind of worker. Sure, everyone has their personal troubles. Financial or family, but he is not my only staff. If I have to consider his story, I have to consider other’s. I understand the tendency of a woman to become emotional is higher than a man, but at work, I tried hard to emotionally become a man. But you just can’t help it when people are sexists and think they know better than you just because you’re a woman, and that is something I cannot prevent to be pissed off about.

Somehow, I understand Catherine now. How unbearable the humiliation I endured from her, at this point I think it was necessary. I am better because she shouted at me, enough to make me piss in my pants and never repeat the mistake again. Being an architect, you cannot tolerate accuracy. I was an idiot then because I tolerated it, I couldn’t care about it. Deep inside me now I am thankful to her, for showing me that you cannot go far if you didn’t care, for making me realize that when I learned by hard, that’s when I really learned. Those people who thinks spoon feeding is better – sod off. It will never work, at least not here and now in Malaysia.

Sorry for leaving this place for so long. Now with this entry, I’m sure you know why.