By Maira Nguyen
This time last year I graduated from university. Although I was hopeful and uplifted, a part of me was nervous and anxious. After all, it was my first time leaving an education institution, my first time no longer having a structured syllabus, and my first time not knowing where I would end up by the end of next year. At 24, I entered the real world, desperate for a job.
Even though I graduated with a degree in teaching, the first six months of 2017 saw me striving to find a place in the media industry. That was because being a film producer had been my dream since I was 15, and I could never imagine being anything else until two years ago when I began my teaching course. While I loved the teaching profession, I wanted to see if I could land a job as a content producer. Thus, I applied for many media jobs while volunteering as a content producer for two not-for-profit media organisations. As much as I tried, I didn’t manage to secure a job in this industry. The best I could do was to get to the final rounds of the recruitment process (top 2), only then to get rejected because I didn’t have a driving license. It was excruciating, and I remembered weeping almost every night, feeling like my efforts up to now had gone into waste. My self-esteem was damaged, my sense of isolation was deepened, and my patience was running out.
It was Ramadan when God granted me a full-time job: a teaching position at a Muslim school (alhamdulilah). As I didn’t expect I would get the job – I found my performance at the interview horrendous – I was astonished when the vice principal called to inform me that I got the job. I was on cloud nine. Not only because 7 months of unemployment had finally come to an end, but also because my workplace was close to my house and was accessible by public transport. Besides, it’s a Muslim school, which enables me to support the Muslim community as I have often wished. Its staff members are also multi-cultural and multi-faith, which means I would never feel excluded because of my Vietnamese background or feel like I were living in a Muslim bubble with everyone having the same mindset. Thus, I accepted the job without much hesitation.
The remaining five months of 2017 saw me adjusting to the first teaching job in my life. Even though I was not trained in language teaching at university, I was assigned to support students whose English is an additional language. It was an interesting task because I supported the mainstream teacher rather than have my own class. Sometimes I could withdraw students and deliver my own lessons, but most of the times I provided assistance in the classroom. Although my knowledge of English syntax and grammar was solid, making it easy for me to explain to students how to write a sentence or a paragraph, the first term was still overwhelming and exhausting. I often stayed up late to prepare resources, revise pronunciation of words, plan activities and learn new teaching strategies from books and journals. It took me a while, but with the support of Ms Jane – my mentor, I was eventually able to catch up.My students were also lovely, sweet and appeared to enjoy my lessons, which is evident when they often asked me when they could come to the withdrawal class. By the second term, I got used to teaching and felt more confident alhamdulilah. The only thing that upset me was that I had a strong accent, but I will try to improve it.
I never thought one day I would teach ESL. However, I now seriously consider this as a long-term career option. Firstly, I find it amazing to assist someone to learn a new language and make changes in their life. That’s why I have decided to return to university and do a TESOL course in 2018. In Islam, it’s vital that we perform our best in the tasks given, and I think my current task is to ensure I teach to the best of my abilities. Inshallah I will be benefited from the course and will deliver higher quality teaching.
In retrospect, not getting a job in the media industry is not too awful. After several years of volunteering for various media organisations, I came to realise that what I truly loved was storytelling, and I didn’t have to work for a media company to do that. It also hit me that working under tight pressures, stressing about analytics, writing copies and making formulaic videos that have little meaning to me is not exactly what I wanted. I also accepted that my personality was perhaps not suitable for working full time at a media institution. One might say I was justifying my decision to relinquish, but I don’t think that’s the case. I learned to be more flexible by reminding myself that I am not solely defined by my career, and I can use the skills I have gained to continue to glorify God and to support the Muslim community. I learned to appreciate what is given to me instead of complaining about what I don’t have. Instead of serving my own ambition, I will strive to use what God has granted me to serve Him inshallah.
Indeed, being 24 was exhausting . Many tears shed, many moments of hopelessness and depression, and many moments of self-doubt and self-hate. 2017 saw me combating my ego (nafs), which is pessimistic, heedless and lacks discipline. Though I have been defeated several times, these weak moments have also made me realise how I need Islam, how I need God, how being further away from God can bring out the worst qualities in me.
At the same time, this year has reaffirmed my faith in God’s mercy and compassion. Several times I sob because I feel moved by the bounties Allah has showering upon me. For me, the teaching job that Allah has granted me is an affirmation that I was and have never been left alone, my cries have never been unheard, and my supplication has never been ignored.
More importantly, 2017 has taught me again that what I desire might not necessarily be beneficial for me, and what is given to me by Allah, whether it is a calamity or a bounty, is always the best for me. Through them, I learn and discover something about myself – my weaknesses and my strengths. Indeed, Allah knows me better than I do; indeed, He has given me what is the best and most suitable for me at this point; indeed, His Mercy is boundless and absolute.
All praise be to God, the Merciful, the Compassionate