the fine line

there is a fine line between finding yourself and dodging reality.

a friend tweeted an interview published in time magazine about a young man named sean aiken. aiken took a year off after graduating with a business degree to “find something [he] was passionate about”. he undertook a new job each week, going through 52 jobs in a year and blogging about the process. he was probably hoping to find a job that he can do for most of his life without feeling like gouging his eyes out every morning, but at the end of the interview he said that he found no such thing. instead, he came to accept that what he likes now may not be what interests him 5 years later and that it is encouraging to know that he can always move on whenever he wants to try something else.

as someone with varied interests, it’s a very attractive prospect. if i don’t want to be a doctor after housemanship, i can toss being a medical officer out the window, go back to school and get the credentials i need for the next job on my list – a journalist. if after 5 years i decide that covering minor news stories is “no longer fulfilling”, i can make like sean aiken and “move on” to my third career as a teacher. once the kids get on my nerves and i don’t want to mould them into the leaders of tomorrow anymore, i can take whatever money i’ve saved, fly to the subcontinent and teach proper dental hygiene methods to the people of india. and i will stay there until it doesn’t make me happy anymore. then i’ll go on. and on. and on.

if you think i sound cynical, it’s probably because i am. yes my father has taken the family all over the world and he’s changed jobs more than paris hilton has changed fiances, but they were almost never because he wasn’t satisfied. from whatever my mother’s told me, his professional life has been about which job can provide best for his family or is a stepping stone towards something else than can better provide for his family. it’s probably only in recent years as he has stepped into semi-retirement that he’s gone forth with the passions he has built up over the 40 years he’s spent working. everything before that has been selfless.

the one-week job, however, reeks of being selfish. sean aiken could have found a job and stuck with it long enough to pay off his student loans or give his extremely understanding parents a break. so ok fine his exploits have landed him a book deal and he is now getting paid giving interviews and has a documentary going on, but exactly how many people out there get recognised like that? not everyone can benefit from a year of hedonism and carefree experimentation and the more we worship “experience”, the more disillusioned we will get about life.

to be honest, i have often thought about not going ahead with housemanship. it would be great if i could just as easily spend a year or two “finding myself”, volunteering, writing. but dodging reality – the reality of a scholarship bond, ageing parents, the traditional conventional things i secretly desire – just seems so unacceptably irresponsible and i cannot allow myself to get drawn into the fancy prancy world that people like sean aiken live in.

i’m too young to really know it but the older i get, the more it makes sense that passion doesn’t have to be something you need to go out of your way to find – it can be whatever you make it to be.

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One response to “the fine line

  1. very interesting post…

    it’s treading that fine line between satisfying one’s own selfish desires to do whatever you want to do or going through the pathway that your parents have planned for you for a conventional life ahead.

    but hey, i think passion is sometimes what you make it out to be, as you said. 🙂

    all the best, li shun!

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