|How I became an artist, educationist, and writer.
In this post I’m showing you how I did the ‘work-life balance’. My childhood was fully inclined towards art. My parents didn’t let me go to NCA for its ‘open’ environment, and my mother put me in College of Home Economics. I was the typical daughter who studied there, on the promise that I’ll go to NCA, after graduating. That didn’t materialize. I ended up with an MSc degree in Related Arts, and got married to a PAF aerospace engineer.
Do a job which you love:
As far as my husband was concerned, he left it to me to decide whether I wanted to work or not. So, I did a job when I was in a position to give it my best, and didn’t do it when my family commitments were more. I believe that when you do a job, and it should be what you love. Only then can your work can be good. Also, one shouldn’t work when you are already under pressure when the children are too small, or any other reason. So, when my children became school going, I’d work only if I liked the job. Believe me, when you are going for that interview, it is not only them sizing you up, it is you sizing them up too! It has got to be a mutually beneficial situation, otherwise, it isn’t worth it.
Whenever I chose not to work:
In the cases when I chose to stay at home, it was for a reason. Then, I made the most of my time at home. Giving time to my family and home. I loved my time at home. Also, my aim was to upgrade myself and my knowledge while I’m home. (I didn’t work for eight years after my marriage. There were several spells in between jobs when I didn’t work due to personal reasons.)
So, this is how I spent my time at home while grooming my children, I groomed myself too:
- Reading almost three books a week, was normal for me. I was always a member of one library at least. In books I chose to read fiction as well as non-fiction. Learning and upgrading myself, and attending workshops was my passion.
- Continuing my work in painting at home; The first year after my marriage I held a solo painting’s exhibition in Lahore’s Shakir Ali Museum and a year later, in my home in Sargodha, (while I was expecting Nataliya.) I was also selling paintings regularly in galleries and in exhibitions. When I was expecting Waliya, I held a very successful solo exhibition of paintings in Karachi’s, VM Art Gallery. Much later, I held one in Lahore’s Alhamra Arts Council too. Regularly I participated in group art exhibitions.
- My work in Dawn also began by accident with my article on Kuwait. When they asked me to write regularly for them , there was no turning back. So, even when I wasn’t ‘working’, I continued my writing and painting at home.
- I did my Master Teacher’s Course during one of my no-job spells.
- Also my EMBA, and MBA has been done during these spells.
A very important point about jobs:
I learnt from my friend Farzana Ikram that there are three types of employees in an organization:
A type: The ones who bring their name and fame to the organization. They give more than what the organization gives back to them. In short they are an asset to the organization.
B type: The ones who give back equally to what they receive, in the shape of pay and priviledges.
C type: the ones who gain by the name of the organization which they can add to their CV. They are learning from the institution, in return for lessor payscale.
Farzana went on to saying that it is for the benefit of the organization to realize the value of each employee and to treat the person according to their worth. This is why some companies lose good hardworking and outstanding employees by treating all ‘equally’. It is important to value the gems according to how much they give back.
Rules for working at a job:
- Only take a job when home is properly running, and family is well settled. Most of the time, I had a cook for preparing food. He and other part-time help were there.
- I took care of the children myself. So, my job had to fit in with their school timings . Naturally, teaching was convenient for me, and I really loved working with children. I’d go with my children, and return with them.
- This is why, freelancing as a writer and artist was my favorite past time also, along with the jobs I did.
- I held exhibitions of paintings whenever I could or did projects. In fact, I was principal of a Branch in Sargodha, when I held my solo exhibition in Lahore’s Alhamra Arts Council.
- In my office or class room, I tried to work in the A type way. Giving more than what I received, mostly.
- I didn’t look elsewhere, no matter how attractive the pay-scale offered. Once I’ve accepted a job, I worked wholeheartedly. I looked for ways to enjoy my job. Moonlighting with my writing for Dawn and sale of paintings helped too.
- Loyalty is something I believe in. So, speaking against the management or boss wasn’t done. (If occasionally I did, then it was wrong.) You don’t talk against your employer due to whom your kitchen is getting that ‘Jam on bread.’ There are ‘other’ lobbies in every organization, I tried to stay away from them.
- Always earn honestly and halal. So be trustworthy, tactful and candid.
- Having a ‘family time’ every evening at home with husband and children was almost compulsory. The family regularly sat together in the evenings, and went on outings, and holidays together.
- I tried to save up from my income to pay for extra things I wanted in the home, or for holidays.
The principles of Rizk:
All my jobs sound very hunky dory. Actually, I’ve had the usual tough times too. I was sidelined, downsized and received the pink slip. I’ve faced office politics and witnessed a lot of ‘drama’.
Somehow, it never perturbed me. (My calmness perturbed my perpetrators more!) I knew they couldn’t stop my means of livelihood, even if they tried. No one can stop me from getting what my Maker has marked out for me. I know He will give me from another source.
Shireen’s Studio began:
Over 25 years of work experience behind me, I have started my Shireen’s Studio: A center for self-enrichment, with art classes, writer’s meet-ups and workshops. I am very happy to say that Abbas Husain often conducts workshops and talks at my Studio and his spiritual and other lectures are popular. My daughters Waliya Najib and Nataliya Khan also conduct workshops on Photography here. Now, I am publishing books too. I do counseling of couples and individuals also.
While blogging, I want to devote the rest of my life to making life beautiful and comfortable for others. Specially, to bring enlightenment in every way to the underprivileged.
Stay blessed, my dear reader – whether you choose to do your job, or not.
Note: This is where my blog post ends. I’ve provided details of my jobs for whoever is interested at the end.
Details of my jobs:
All my jobs happened by chance. Usually, I was asked by the management or someone in the institution.
Hard to believe? This is how it happened:
1. Montessori Teacher: I was chosen by the Base Commander’s wife, at PAFWA Montessori school, in PAF Samungli, Quetta. It suited me, due to my three-year-old Nadiya.
2. Computer teacher for grades six and seven: We moved to Karachi when my husband got posted to PAF Masroor. There, a friend of mine was the computer teacher in PAF School. When she had to leave, she suggested my name to the principal, Mr. Sabeeh Husain. So, I taught around 240 students there. After about a year and a half, later I started expecting Waliya, so I left that job.
3. Freelance writing for Dawn and Women’s Own magazine began while I was the computer teacher. The Dawn office invited me to write regularly for them, in fact they offered me a regular job too but I declined due to my condition and baby Waliya. I continued writing as a freelancer for Dawn’s Tuesday Review with Najma Babar as the editor. Even though I was the ‘find’ of Anjum Niaz. At the same time, my articles were getting published in Riaz Ahmed Mansuri’s Women’s Own magazine, as well as Good Food and Beauty magazines . While freelancing I would do different assignments for them.
4. Solo painting exhibition: I held a solo exhibition of my paintings in Rangoonwala building, the VM Art Gallery, where Riffat Alvi was in-charge.
5. Freelance work in Peshawar: Our next move to Peshawar resulted in both Dawn and Women’s Own magazines asking me to write for them from Peshawar. So, while Waliya was small, I was doing full time freelance work. I also wrote for the local Frontier Post and in brochures for the local Pearl Continental Hotel. I took my six-month-old baby with me for interviews, or research.
6. I became Montessori Teacher when Mrs. Mushif Ali Mir, the Base Commander’s wife, asked me. (In those days I was volunteering as art teacher in the Special School in PAFWA, also.)
7. English teacher for several sections of Matriculations classes: Once we moved to Karachi, for nine months, when my husband was in Air War College. Even there I ended up teaching, I taught grades nine and ten, for seven months. Next, we went to Islamabad. The moment I told my friend Afshan Mansoor about my posting, she said, ‘I want you to teach in my Khala, Ms. Nusrat Kichlew’s school ICAS.’ It was amazing, teaching two batches of grade four students.
8. Principal of Pre-school branch in Connoisseur Grammar School: My husband became OC Engineering in Sargodha. When I took Waliya to the best school in town, for admission, I returned with a proposal of Branch Head of Pre-School! (with over 120 children,) which I accepted. When I was to come to go to Islamabad after two years, I was given two forward dated pay cheques by the principal Farzana Ikram!
9. Back to Islamabad, and Nusrat Kichlew, and I was back with ICAS within ten days. This time I was in the Middle Section, and sometimes Primary School. I was teaching English and History to grades seven and eight. I was also ESL teacher for O’ level classes. It ended with myself also being principal of the school Branch with A level classes in it.
10. Next was a posting, near Wah, where my husband was Deputy DG. I went to Karachi for a month to attend the Master Teacher’s Course with Abbas Husain. I had a sprained ankle, and lived alone in an officer’s mess for the course. Then my husband retired from Air Force, and he got a job as Principal PIA Training School, in Karachi.
11. So now I was conducting workshops for Abbas Husain who had his own Teacher’s Training Center. I continued writing for Dawn, and Women’s Own, Beauty Magazine. I became the editor of Good Food Magazine there too for a short while too.
12. Within a year and a half, my husband and I moved to Rawalpindi, where I received a call from head of APSACS, they needed a Coordinator in Training and Development, at their office in Secretariat, Rawalpindi. So, I joined them. The training and development modules we prepared and then conducted training workshops in Gilgit and Gujranwala. It was a memorable experience teaching teachers and principals of different schools.
13. Regional Coordinator at Roots Millennium in Islamabad. Around a year later, my husband moved to Islamabad. As I walked into the office of Roots Millennium Head office for interview of my daughter Waliya for admission there. The principal, Faisel Mushtaque started asking me questions. Yes, I was offered the job.
14. The death of my husband and the following turmoil found me tackling construction of my house, coping with debts and completing my studies in MBA . At the same time I was fighting court cases in Islamabad courts, and publishing a book in America.
15. English teacher in Sheikh Zayed International Academy. In 2014, I met my friend Sumbul at a Mehndi function. We were dancing with everyone on the floor, and she says, ‘we need a teacher in Sheikh Zayed.’ I’ll just call the principal. Literally, by next day I got the job. This is how I got my job there.
16. Teaching Interior Designing in Finishing School and Mentoring of their students. It was a pleasure mentoring and teaching young girls of 18 to 35 years of age. Finally, Sarah’s Day Care Center, became my last short spell and then I decided to do my own thing.