If you asked random people on the street, they would be hard pressed to name a job that requires them to be more two-faced than lawyers.
But I seem to have stumbled upon one.
More so than lawyers, diplomats are trained to say things that they may not believe in, and always with a smile on their faces. Lawyers, at least, have to aspire to believe in their clients, even when they find it hard to. Diplomats, on the other hand, are admonished when they believe in their own talking points.1
So I find it strange that the people I’ve gotten to know properly at work are such authentic and kind people.
I’ve had conversations with colleagues on dreams, on loves, and on the everything between the two called life.
Some have posed me the most penetrating questions I have ever received.
And I couldn’t have asked for better mentors.2
Early this year, when some of my batchmates’ musical talents were surfaced for consideration, the batch was tasked to perform an item during our overseas induction trip.
So we formed an a capella choir3 which I shamelessly volunteered to be part of, and as all of life should be, I found myself enjoying the journey more than the destination.
So when we were approached (read: arrowed) to perform again for our Dinner & Dance last week, I was among those who raised the least objection.
To cut the long story short, the choir re-formed into a band, which we dubbed Five Eyes. Here is 4.5 of us.
And here is all of us, leather jackets and poser and all.
We burnt Saturdays in dingy studios and week nights in dodgy ones.
We even considered singing the Pokemon theme song. (I’m serious: Pokemon was a 90’s thing after all.)
There are those who may have seen opportunities like these as means to further ends in work. But it’s the opposite really: work is the means to the ends of experiences like these with people like them.
At times, the discrepancy between what my bosses actually thought and what they later said scared me. It made me wonder whether I was being naive to believe that people could be genuine in this place.
But recalling the times that we had fun together halts the infinite regress of doubt. Because those times were real.
And the times that we had to slog it out and cover for each other (more so at work than at laser tag) were real.
It may well be that my inexperience is the rosy hue that tints how I perceive the people I work with. But I am affirmed also by the wisdom of Tommy Koh, who believes that kindness is the most important virtue. If a great diplomat like him can believe that the the starting point of a negotiation is a relationship, I don’t think I am being rash in blurring the line between colleague and friend.
So here’s to the ones who dream / foolish as we may seem / here’s to the hearts that ache / here’s to the friends we make.
1.That’s not to say that we are liars. As Bilahari wrote, “good diplomats of every country generally tell the truth and stick to the facts, although there is no obligation to always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
2.In a 360-degree review, I wrote that my supervisor’s genuine interest in training us justified the (vast) gap between where we were at and where our supervisor wanted us to be.
3.We sang a rendition of Kit Chan’s Home, arranged by Benjamin Low, which set an unfortunate precedent for future freshies. I don’t say this with glee. Not that much anyway.