So, why aren't you a lawyer?

That was a question I was asked quite often. Here’s my story…

As you may know, I studied law. Halfway through the course, I realised maybe it wasn’t the subject I should’ve chosen, but decided to finish it anyway. Needless to say, I wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Singapore bar, despite the fact that Singapore graduates with the same results as me, wouldn’t face such a restriction. It wasn’t fair. I could’ve taken the London and New York bars if I wanted to. Ironically, it was only my own country that wouldn’t take me in. But I decided to jump onto the dotcom bandwagon. The rest is history.

Maybe it’s a Singaporean thing

Singaporeans like to ask questions not entirely appropriate to the social situation. Over the years, I’ve received less flak for ‘wasting my degree’ and have come to realise that it is very much a Singaporean fascination. Here are some stories to prove my case:

Lucy, the Theologian

Lucy was a Theology student from Liverpool. She stayed on the same floor as me, when I was a first year student in Hall. When our Singaporean posse learnt that there was a girl here studying Theology, their first reaction was “How can she make money from that??” And I confess, I too was doubtful of her career prospects. As time went by, however, I discovered there were also fellow law students who didn’t want to become lawyers.

There was a Fiona (Appleton? Smith?) who was brilliant, near First class standard. She told me she wanted to go into Social Services to counsel the poor. I was surprised, because someone of her capabilities could be pulling a fat salary at one of the big firms. But that was a good eye-opener. There was more to life after university, than making big bucks.

Naturally, Singaporeans find it hard to understand how people can take a year off to go travelling or soul-searching, when they are rushing to complete their degrees and gain a head start in the rat race.

After adjusting to the culture in the UK, I went home to a less forgiving culture - my own.

So here are some of the not so nice experiences I’ve had with perfect strangers back in my home country. Rest assured, I never received such flak overseas.

The inquisitive concert-goer

One of my first encounters with an Inquisitive Singaporean regarding my non-law occupation, was at a Jamiroquai concert. A couple wanted me and my friend Jiamin to send us some photos we took, so we exchanged email addresses. The girl asked us what we worked as. Jiamin and I were both web designers. But Jiamin’s path was ‘reasonable’; she was a Mass Communication graduate. I could feel myself about to be judged, once again …

“But why didn’t you become a lawyer? Isn’t that a WASTE?? “

I tried to ignore her.

“But … why?” She persisted. She was acting awfully familiar towards me, seeing how we only met two minutes ago. I can’t remember how this ended, but we both didn’t quite find her endearing. Irritating Raffles Girl.

The parents’ friend who still thinks I’m doing law

Some people remember only the things they want to believe. A nice lady who knows my parents, kept on telling everyone I was a thriving young lawyer, despite my having been a web designer for two years. I kept on reminding her that I wasn’t a lawyer but it didn’t work. That evening I was embarassed, because everyone was beaming at me and I didn’t know what to say.

The acquaintances I don’t care to explain to

Every now and then, people I meet will find out I was a law graduate, and start poking around my life with questions. Without hearing my side of the story fully (or, maybe I didn’t care to tell them everything), they will insist that I would have been better off being a lawyer, largely because I would earn more. While that is true, I’ve been happy with my line of work. I feel I’m making a bigger impact serving the public and expanding new media borders. Now, that’s an unmeasurable factor.


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