priorities people!


A few years ago, I missed one of my best friends’ wedding in London, and the privilege to be her Maid of Honour. I guess we have sorted it out since then and I truly feel remorseful. Even though I went back to Hong Kong for her second banquet, it just wasn’t the same.

I had turned down her offer because, and I said something along the lines of, “I’m joining a new team at work, and will be busy with business trips, training, meetings, work etc…” I wince each time I remember this episode. What was I thinking, that work was omni-important over everything else!

Since then, I told myself I will attend every single wedding I was invited to, even if I had to fly 12 hours and drive 2000 kilometres to it, unless I was physically unable to.

I had to miss out a few weddings in the last few years due to my health, but those I could I made the effort to attend.

These days we are planning our own wedding. We sent out some invitations to our overseas guests ahead of time so they might plan flights and hotels and travel.

But some of their responses shocked me:

“Oh, I can’t be sure yet, I might have a meeting around then.”

-“I don’t know, I might not be in Asia then.”

-“I won’t be able to make it because XX is coming to visit in May even though I don’t know which date yet.”

-“I will have a court case that week so I am not certain I can make it. I’ll let you know later.”

-“Can’t come to your bridal shower, I may have to work that weekend.” 

The underlying messages in their responses, seem to tell me that my wedding is not important enough an event for them to block their calendars, make a plan to come, and hence say no to anything else, work their friend’s visit schedule around the wedding, swap a working weekend with someone else to free up the weekend to come to my bridal shower, or even start working on the court case preparations earlier in order to come.

Do they not say, when there’s a will, there’s a way? Maybe Steve Jobs said something similar: “If it’s important enough, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”

And I got lots of excuses. I was disappointed, frankly. But perhaps I had just overestimated how good a friend I was for them; maybe from their perspectives, why would they spend money and waste vacation days for my wedding?

Nevertheless, I also received many heartwarming replies of people who have blocked off a week to come hang out with us, some with a simple and definite “yes, we will be there!” and from those who had other issues and could not make it I got very sincere messages.

It’s all good. I’m not going to cry because people I had expected to come decide not to. It has to go both ways: for me to want them to be here and for them to want the same. Otherwise there is no meaning. Plus, more booze for us 🙂

I just wonder: why do people still choose work over their friends or health or everything else in life in general.

It was only through a painful lesson that I came to recognize that work is but one part of life, and that my company, my title and what I do 9am-5pm everything should not define who I am. My health and a few friendships were sacrificed because I put career and work above all. I do not purport to go about mending things, or regretting my actions. Back in that time and space, I have probably made the “right” decision for me then, and yes work was the only thing that mattered to me.

We all have our own priorities and different things have different value for everybody. The crucial thing is to be aware of what they are and why.

I did not realize I had placed career above all things – this was the real problem – and had the illusion that my life was balanced when it wasn’t. My priorities have changed now, which is why my behaviour a few years back seem strange. I cannot and will not force my friends to change their priorities. They live their lives; I live mine. I just hope they are happy doing so.

What are your priorities?



about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.