Finding Joy in the Journey:

BAC Alumni Sharlyn J's Strategy to Balance Social Work and Self-Care

photo of three men jumping on ground near bare trees during daytime

If you read the first part of her story, you should know by now that this young lady's story is one of resilience and determination as she navigates her personal and professional life.

After completing her A-Levels at Brickfields Asia College, Sharlyn J. went on to complete a Bachelor's Degree in Law & Criminology at Aberystwyth University, UK via the UK Transfer Degree (Law) programme at BAC. Despite facing a setback with spine surgery, she remains undaunted in her pursuit of success.

So is there a magic formula for Sharlyn's success? It may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but her approach to life is certainly inspiring. Sharlyn has realised the value of maintaining a positive outlook and practising self-care, as she eases back into work.

Between the Days

Sharlyn's typical day is a reflection of her diverse skill set, and dedication to the cause she dearly believes in. While she primarily identifies as an educator, she's taken on the mantle of a social worker. "I always think of myself as an educator because I'm in the education sector, but a social worker is an apt word to use," she said.

Sharlyn's work involves speaking to, and reaching out to individuals from all walks of life. She regularly interacts with teenagers who reach out to her for guidance, university and high school personnel, and curriculum developers who provide expert input into their programmes.

 "So, I analyse most of the things in you can call me the Chief Everything Officer, I guess" she remarked with a burst of laughter. Although the demands of work on top of her recent surgery have taken a toll on Sharlyn, her spirits remain high. Although she admits she's not fully functioning after the surgery, she refuses to let it slow her down. In fact, she's lined up an impressive list of activities. 

“I will be meeting a professor tomorrow, followed by another school. Finally, I’m visiting a teacher from an international high school who has invited me to run teacher's training for his school's teachers as well,” said Sharlyn, breezing through her schedule for the day, after this interview. 

While Sharlyn acknowledges that her role may seem all-encompassing, she doesn't mind the workload. With the education sphere constantly evolving, she invests a lot of time in keeping updated with the latest developments. Reading is a critical component of her approach to staying informed, a habit that has served her well.

How Do You Make More Time in a Day? 

For Sharlyn, there's no clear-cut answer. While time management is a popular approach, it doesn't work for everyone, including Sharlyn. From her perspective, it's not about cramming as much as possible into a 24-hour period, but rather about 'energy management,' and creating a balance between the amount of energy she puts into work and life, to ensure she can tackle what’s ahead. "I adopt the energy management perspective," she says. "I know I am a little bit more focused on work, and I need to manage my energy with how much I pour out to my family. So it's always dynamic and fluid," Sharlyn added.  

Sharlyn believes that balancing one's lifestyle is a process that involves making mistakes and learning from them. "I just take it one step at a time, connect a lot with the people I love, and make sure that I communicate. I don't keep them in the dark. I don't expect them to know what I'm thinking," she says, stressing the importance of open communication. She expresses gratitude for her family, acknowledging that they're not perfect, but they always find a way to work things out. "I'm very blessed that my parents and elder brother are incredible and understanding," she says with heartfelt appreciation.

A firm believer in social and emotional learning, she's also quick to point out that she practices what she preaches. "I'm applying it to my life," she explains, as a testament to the transformative power and importance of empathy. Implementing social and emotional learning has helped Sharlyn understand her own thought and behavioural patterns. By asking herself questions like, 'how do I manage my emotions,' and 'what are my parents going through,' she has gained insights into her emotional landscape and relationships. Sharlyn now views the world with greater empathy and understanding, which helps her navigate her emotions and relationships.

Sharlyn deeply cares about her community and helping others, but she knows setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining her energy and momentum. "As human beings, we can't do everything all at once," she acknowledges. "It's important to figure out the rhythms of when to rest, when to focus on family, and when to give back to the community." By recognising her limitations and prioritising self-care, Sharlyn is able to continue making a positive impact while also taking care of herself.

What Does the Future Hold?

Sharlyn expressed that one of her future aspirations for is to delve into the area of parent education, but for the time being, her focus is on stabilising the team, and making an impact amongst our youths. Her ultimate goal is to have a holistic approach that helps not only teenagers but also teachers and parents. 

She also hopes to expand her team and find like-minded individuals to help build an online community for the youth. While this may take some time, she is committed to achieving her long-term goal. In the meantime, Sharlyn plans to continue conducting workshops in Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and even Sabah.

Maintaining Self-Care and Preventing Burnout

Sharlyn finds that maintaining self-care can be challenging, but her faith in God has keeps her grounded on her journey. Along with that, she has a supportive community of friends and family who surround her with love, and help her stay motivated and focused on her mission: empowering the younger generation. “During difficult times, their encouragement helped me keep going. It's not easy, but with the right people and mindset, we can push through the toughest of seasons,” Sharlyn shares. 

She has a simple strategy for achieving her goals this year: focusing on one thing at a time. It could be a small task she wants to accomplish in an hour or a larger goal she plans to achieve over several months. Whatever the timeline, she adapts her strategy to suit the complexity and context of the goal.

But Sharlyn doesn't just focus on the goal itself. She knows that it's important to enjoy the process and have fun along the way. "You have to laugh! Really have to laugh. You have to enjoy the journey," she says with enthusiasm. She also chooses to simplify her life without getting bogged down by too many things. This allows her to focus on what's important and achieve her goals with clarity and ease. 

We are in this together

Sharlyn offers a powerful message to those struggling with mental health issues: "there are no words that I will want to say. I want to sit down with them instead." She believes that being present with someone, and letting them know it's okay to sit with what they are going through, can be incredibly powerful.

She also understands the fear of being judged or condemned by others. Sharlyn shares that she has personally struggled with her emotional and mental health, especially growing up. But she wants those struggling to know that there's always one person out there that isn't condemning or judging them. She hopes that by being open and vulnerable about her own experiences, she can help others feel less alone, and more supported in their own journeys towards healing. “There's also no shame in getting professional help at all,” she added. 

Sharlyn's journey as an educator and a social worker has not been without its challenges. She has faced many obstacles along the way, but her determination to help the younger generation has never wavered. Her faith, supportive community, and positive outlook have helped her navigate difficult times and continue making an impact. Through it all, Sharlyn reminds us of the importance of self-care, laughter, and simplicity. Her journey serves as an inspiration to all of us to keep pushing forward, even when the going gets tough, and to remember that we are never alone in our struggles.