Pei Yi is currently Legal Counsel (Asia-Pacific) at Travelport. She graduated with an LLB from the National University of Singapore. After graduation, she deferred her training contract with Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP to take a gap year, interning with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Upon returning to Singapore, Pei Yi got called to the Singapore bar and began her legal career in private practice before going in-house in 2015. In her free time, she dabbles in side projects, the most recent being the Singapore War Crimes Trials Web Portal (launched in 2016). If she had never studied law, she would have been an archaeologist or a historian.
This Letter is addressed to her 22-year-old self, in her final year at law school, having just decided to take a gap year after graduation to explore her interest in the non-profit international law space instead of doing the Singapore bar.
Dear Pei Yi,
It is alright to not have a plan. The next year of your life will be uncertain, but I promise you that you will grow in ways you never imagined.
It is perfectly okay that your friends and batchmates have decided to do the Singapore bar, and that you will not be called at the same time as them because of your decision now. It does not mean that you are a year behind in Post-Qualified Experience (PQE) because everyone’s life progresses at a different pace and will pan out so differently. In fact, this concept of ‘PQE’ is very misleading. You are much more than the number of PQE years you will accumulate and your knowledge and attitude towards work and life should not and will not be defined by it. The world is huge and the possibilities out there are so varied and numerous. You just have to trust that it will all work out eventually.
As much as it is difficult to believe at this stage of your life, your peers are actually as clueless as you are about what lies ahead, regardless of how many internships they say they have done and which famous big firm partners they say they are going to work for. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have to be kind, you have to work as hard as you can, and you have to always be thankful for all that you have.
People will ask you about your life and career plans like you should have an idea, but it is alright to not have a clue about what you are signing up for. It truly is the process and journey that matter. In fact, almost everything that you believe about yourself now and what you will achieve in 5 years’ time will turn out to be inaccurate. In 5 years’ time, your life will look very different from how you imagine it to be now.
It is understandable that this uncertainty is very unsettling. All these external voices are somehow pointing you in the direction of getting your act together – you are supposed to graduate in a year’s time, get a real job, start paying the bills, get married, get a house, etc. Some of your friends will go on to do all these with rapid speed, and although you celebrate with them and feel very happy for them, a tiny part of you cannot help but compare yourself with them and this might reinforce the idea that your decision to take a year off is silly and a waste of time. But, it isn’t.
Your life ahead is much more than checking off these boxes on the list of to-dos in life. You will learn so much from the seemingly random things you signed up for – the super small scale theatre production on child prostitution awareness that you are rehearsing for every Saturday will be one of the fondest memories you share with your sister; the photocopying of media reports at National Library will become the Singapore War Crimes Trials Web Portal project; and you will scrimp and save over the next year to live and work in Europe, where you will end up becoming such good friends with the person who will become your husband in the future.
Trust that all these little things will add up, stay curious, embrace and live with this uncertainty you are feeling, and you are going to be alright.