With a diploma in her hand, Gah Yi graduated.
Same as other young people, she had a dream, one that she had been holding onto for a long time. She had always been giving thought to her plans, such as what job to apply for and how to carry out her project…
Yet, she hadn’t received any news from any company. As all of her cover letters seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, she became desperate.
Day after day, she wondered, ‘Where’s my chance?’
Finally, there was some good news. Despite only having one interview offer, Gah Yi was still excited.
On the day of the interview, she dressed up neatly. Carrying the heavy briefcase in her hand under the blazing sun, she arrived at an old industrial building. As she stepped into the doorway dripping with sweat, she was immediately drawn to the company behind the glass door—the interior design company she had yearned for so long! Memories of studying for her diploma in interior design started to rush into her mind. She would often dream of working at a big interior design company in the study room, earning the satisfaction she deserved everyday after a big day at work.
Eight thousand and five hundred? She was absolutely perplexed. Didn’t we agree that it’ll be ten thousand dollars?
‘You’re a graduate student with no experience…’ The man on the other end of the phone explained.
‘Alright then.’ Gah Yi sighed with disappointment, slightly lowering her standard mentally.
‘You’ll start working tomorrow.’ The man said in a stern voice, almost as if he was commanding her.
After hanging up, Gah Yi told the news to her mother.
‘Eight thousand and five hundred…’ Her mother gave it a thought. ‘That’s about right.’
Gah Yi fell silent.
Mum gave her a quick glance, ‘With zero experience and as a “fresh grad”, eight thousand and five hundred is already not bad!’
After hearing Mum’s words, Gah Yi further lowered her standards.
As it turned out, she was only worth eight thousand and five hundred hundred dollars!
One year later, Gah Yi’s performance improved a lot and got promoted as a junior designer.
From then on, she decided not to dress up all gaudy anymore, but only shades of black, grey and white, in spite of being at a young age.
Some said she became mature and improved herself.
‘I don’t think so.’ Gah Yi wanted to speak up for herself, yet her mouth always failed to open.
Everybody seemed to have only seen her ‘positive’ side.
Was this the Gah Yi everybody wanted to see? A woman who was no laughing matter and only wore dull-coloured clothes? They seemed to have forgotten her age. She was only twenty years old, which is the perfect time to bask in the glory of her youth. The real Gah Yi was a girl who loved to smile and have fun. Yet, by showing her true self, she would be labelled as a ‘naive’, ‘spoiled’ young woman who ‘made no efforts in striving to be better’.
Better give in to reality then.
Gah Yi put on her suit once more, hiding her youthful physique away. By putting on heavy makeup, she managed to force her smile weighing down on her face, almost if it disappeared.
This was the Gah Yi everybody wanted to see, right?
‘I’m home.’ Gah Yi took off her heels, and sat on the sofa.
‘Have you been paid already?’ Mum asked immediately.
‘Yes.’ Gah Yi took out her paycheck and pay advice from her handbag.
Mum caught a quick glimpse of them and shrieked in dismay, ‘Haven’t you already been promoted?’
Gah Yi didn’t answer her.
Glaring at her, Mum’s heart was ablaze with rage.
It was Gah Yi who promised she would earn more in the first place.
It was she who wanted to believe in her dream so much that she turned down another offer with a generous pay in the first place.
She should not have followed her heart and chosen interior design in the first place.
In the first place…
All night long, Mum didn’t utter a single word.
Gah Yi was miserable, but chose not to speak much. Yes, she regretted this very much—why was she so obsessed with her dream initially? As it turned out, dreams really weren’t for making a living!
But now what?
This was Gah Yi’s first time at a bar.
Everyone, regardless of gender, had dark circles under their eyes. Gah Yi was no exception too—she couldn’t sleep last night.
She had never been ridiculed in front of so many people. And now she had to apologise as well. Yet, she did the most unthinkable thing possible—she actually apologised.
It wasn’t even her fault!
But apologising could save the deal…
Instead, she ended up distorting her true self…
Was it worth it at all?
‘Are you Gah Yi?’ She felt a pat on her shoulder.
‘Sis?’ Gah Yi unconsciously extended her arm out and greeted her routinely.
‘How have things been?’ Her senior in school had become more mature as well. ‘Are you still working at the interior design company?’
‘Yeah.’ Gah Yi tried to hide away the truth, but her eyes gave it away.
‘I’ve started my own interior design company…’ Sis said half-wittingly. ‘And I need a designer…’
‘Designer…’ Gah Yi suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline.
‘It’s pretty independent, but the salary…’ Sis discreetly approached her. ‘Would you like to come and help?’
Gah Yi had been drafting her resignation letter all night, which she held tightly in her hand.
If she had the courage to hand over her letter, followed by a few ambiguous reasons, then her plan of chasing after her dreams would be under her control.
‘You can’t make a living out of your dreams!’ These words suddenly rang in her ears.
They had been said by many, including her mother, her friends, her colleagues, her boss… even herself.
When they came out from her mouth, she felt utterly desperate. Yet for others, they said the phrase with a relaxed tone.
Dreams, did they really not matter? Were they really that far away?
Didn’t everyone have a dream when they were young?
Or did they already know that dreams don’t exist in reality, and had already given up?
Whatever. Just hand in the letter!
‘You’re…’ Gah Yi’s boss remained calm and composed. ‘Really out of money, right?’
Gah Yi was dumbfounded.
‘Does raising your salary help?’ Two digits shot up from his hand, signalling his offer of a raise—an additional two thousand dollars.
She didn’t reject immediately and doubted.
‘If there’s no problem, you can go back to work then!’ He smiled.
Had she… already given up?
She could feel her heart flutter after hearing her boss’ words, and she instantly knew she had no right to chase after her dreams anymore…
Shades of grey clouded the sky.
Gah Yi looked up, feeling dazed. ‘What am I even doing?’ Her hands were trembling, crumpling her letter. Before, she had never believed that there would be a day when she would bow down to money. Yet today, she finally got a taste of what it felt like.
Hanging her head low, Gah Yi walked up to her door, forcing a smile as she pressed the doorbell. Mum answered the door.
Last night, they had a heated argument about whether she should leave or stay at the company.
With their cheeks flushed red with anger, they crossed blades with another in an intense neck and neck debate, unable to determine the victor even when it ended.
Her mother’s words kept ringing in her ears. ‘Life is hard!’
In the heat of passion, Gah Yi spat out, ‘Money is not everything!’ After twenty four hours though, she wished she could take back her words.
‘Are you really going to quit?’ Mum’s cold, sharp tone pierced through Gah Yi’s heart.
‘No.’ She was about to burst into tears.
‘Really?’ Mum’s mixed feelings were written all over her face, letting out a wisp of melancholy.
Yes, she was happy Gah Yi didn’t quit, but she also knew what her daughter’s temperament was—stubborn and persistent. There were only two things that could really change her mind. Either she had figured something out, or she had been completely ‘defeated’.
Mum chose to believe the latter. ‘Is there something you want to say?’
‘No.’ Gah Yi shook her head.
Back in her room, she lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling.
Tearless wails were the only thing coming out of her system.
 HKD is used in the story, and 1 USD is roughly 7.8 HKD. [Click to go back]