Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Making a living

People who know me for my music sometimes ask what I do for a living because anyone in their right mind knows that writing original music and holding on to artistic integrity can hardly buy you a cheeseburger a day.

For more than a decade I have been involved in the family business of textiles trading. Before that I graduated from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, with a major in Philosophy. The truth is, I majored in Philosophy by default because I was undecided about what to major in for a long time, exploring all kinds of subjects until I was told by one of my education counsellors that I had enough credits from my Philosophy classes to fulfill the requirements of a degree. My father was already breathing down my neck at the time, telling me to graduate as soon as possible. It was around the time of the financial crisis of 1997 and he couldn't keep me there much longer due to financial constraints of having three other kids to support.

In haste, I declared my major and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. I was actually a couple of semesters short of a double degree because besides Philosophy, I had taken a lot of major classes in Mass Communications and Broadcasting as well. I had spent over four years in the US without really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Before I knew it I was back in Malaysia, helping run the family business at my father's request. 

So, what is it like working in a family business? Well, it's not easy, although it's better than working for some other third party. However, it is a common misconception that when you work in your family business, the business is yours. Nothing could be further from the truth. Honestly, you're just a trustee and there are a lot of mouths to feed. Your job is merely to be responsible for taking care of the entity that provides for a whole bunch of people. If you're lucky, you'll get your share of the profits, if business is good. Otherwise, it's the same as collecting a salary at any other place but with the added liabilities and responsibility.

I don't know any jokes about textiles traders because it is quite a humourless job but there are plenty of jokes about philosophy majors. Here are some of them:

Recently, I was cleaning out one of my drawers and found this, yellowing with antiquity. If you're interested in employing me, you can write in to the College to request for the official transcripts. I'm more inclined to refer to it as my Bachelor of Farts these days, since I haven't had much use for it since I graduated.   

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