I will survive - as my parents did

By Eef Gerard Van Emmerik

MY PARENTS' tales of their early struggles have stayed with me.

As baby boomers, they and the majority of their peers had to toil hard to rise up their career ladders - without university degrees. They knew tough times and enabled their children - those of my generation - to stand on their shoulders.

They gave me the choice to pursue law, which I saw as a safe bet. After all, lawyers always make up part of society's upper-middle class; even when they do not make tons of money, most enjoy a relatively comfortable life.

Now here I am, staring at a downturn far worse than all others, in which so much global wealth has been wiped out that we may as well be starting from scratch.

The end is a long way off, too - up to 10 years, if sombre forecasters are to be believed. This, in spite of lawmakers being hard at work to contain the damage.

Though I am still four years from completing university and joining the labour market, I must admit I am finding it hard to 'keep calm and carry on'.

I cannot help but feel disheartened.

Today, I find myself interning at a local law firm - for free - just so I can gain experience to give myself an edge when I finally graduate.

When I called law firms in a search of an internship, I was told by several that they had frozen new hires for now, even that of interns.

In fact, the current downturn is so bad, even allowances for interns with A levels have become a considerable expense - a custom introduced at the end of last year.

It has got me wondering just how resilient the law profession is, and whether my choices are as safe as I thought.

Millennials like me are still grappling with the situation.

We see ourselves as globalised citizens entitled to fulfilling careers - unlike our parents, who tolerated their jobs as a means to a salary. As children of the Internet revolution, we were also expecting to achieve more of a work-life balance.

Still, we are no strangers to crises, having grown up with recessions of the past decade - the ones following the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, the Bali bombings of 2002, Sars in 2003 and the tsunami of 2004.

Of course, the process of downsizing dreams still feels hollow, starting with my, uh, pro bono internship. I know I must rein in the visions I had for my adult life until the economy stabilises.

But I am not cowed. I still believe it is possible to thrive. After all, my parents have done it already, and with far less.

The writer, 20, will read law at Singapore Management University later this year.


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