It Takes An Island undoubtedly entered the world with the first Jr. Hackathon in the midst of the enthusiasm of a hundred over people. But personally, I feel it has been something fermenting inside my messy mind over several phases of my life like a perpetual yet ambiguous itch. First, it was there as a child futilely rebelling against the ‘system’ of school and structured activities, then it grew with the reflection as a professional and later as an entrepreneur, and finally, could not contain itself when idealism hit reality as a mother.
As a child, I hated structure and questioned how ‘all this boring stuff’ will benefit me in life. I found joy in the tangible and fared well with anything that had a clear objective. Science projects with presentations: I was totally in and ruled. Put the same topic on a piece of paper with multiple choices, I suffered through every syllable. But with gentle nudging (translation: bribing) and convincing (translation: threats) by my parents, I managed to sufficiently thrive to the point I was a half-decent student and later went on to get a pretty piece of paper saying I was now ‘educated’. But to this day, I struggle to remember the contents of textbooks and the outcome of exams, yet I can clearly remember the stories I wrote and read the presentations and projects I made, and the friendships that were cultivated. However, those impressions only amounted to a fraction of the actual time spent at school. That perplexed me.
As a working adult, whatever book smarts I gained over the years were brutally bullied by the realities of what was my job. That said, there were glimpses of glory for the dog ears in my head-glossary, such as when I had to leverage fundamental theories, or when that logical thinking pounded in deeply was employed, and of course when I had the chance to display my standardized test Ace-ing vocabulary.
However, after starting my own businesses, I realised the most valued attributes within myself and what I sought for when hiring was often intangible. We wanted to hire people who were resourceful, those who could connect the dots while on the run, and of course those who displayed tenacity and grit were always alluring. The compliant-nature of most candidates we saw freshly out of top universities were not enticing for a small company that needed those who could hit the ground immediately and could withstand dynamic job descriptions. So, I often concluded they were better suited in larger organizations that had more specific, structured roles in mind.
But as the compliant and standardized roles of the job market dissipate to the digitally and mechanically-powered workforce, wouldn’t the needs of larger companies also morph into something similar to ours?
As a mother of two, I tried my best to be the main-provider of ‘almost-everything’ while working without a stop. Gaps I saw in nutrition, education, and social exposure I tried to cover through my own means and network. But by baby no.3 I was stretched to a fragile state in which you would see me googling things like “how long does post-partum depression last?” And at this point I quite literally collapsed and I made the most startling discovery: It’s okay to rely on others. It took bed rest orders from the doctor to let myself relinquish my older two to the caring hands of some friends and the extended family. As I recovered, I realised the beauty of having friends and family participate more actively in the children’s lives. The fact they were loved and cared for by more, was the largest factor of course. But a close-second was the varied exposure and learnings they were blessed with as they engaged with more and more people outside of the home. This is when the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” started to resonate.
With the contemplations of my own education, the working world, and finally the realisation that it does indeed take a village to raise a child (or in Singapore’s context, the island), I became very much liberal (too liberal, according to my husband—but that is another story for another day) with the children. I started bringing them to events that were otherwise catered to adults, I brought them to work, we had more gatherings at home and they mingled with all sorts of people. And at every corner, serendipity blessed us with amazing people who became willing teachers and mentors to the children in a very organic way. It was far from perfect but the fact remained simple: the island was needed to raise these children and, remarkably, the island was more than willing.