This blog was started almost ten years ago.
Things don't seem to have changed a lot. We didn't even have touchscreen phones then but I somehow cannot remember life before android. In the same way that I can't seem to remember what it felt like to be a student despite having worked only for two years. A decade ago isn't really that far away if you think hard about it. Not if you hang out with the same people and make almost the same jokes you've been making for the last ten years. The "grown-up issues" are not very dissimilar to the teenage ones. In school, there were those who wanted to be lawyers or doctors, the rest of us just drifted along, into the least boring or most practical courses, into the most practical faculty, into the first job offer. Today, some are doctors, lawyers or teachers, the rest of us just drift from one place to another.
At 15, and even at 20, there mere thought of going to a fixed office everyday was incredibly suffocating. The idea that school holidays would no longer be looked forward to every ten weeks or so was enough reason to want to stay in school for ever. Ironically, all that changed when I first started work. I enjoyed the responsibility that came with work, there was a sense of finally being involved in the real world, finally having productive days and an income to look forward to. It wasn't that hard getting used to the 9 to 6 hours, and slowly, moving on to the 9 to 11 hours. After awhile, weekends felt a little empty during a lull period. There was a sense of fulfillment from being completely absorbed in the week. I didn't enjoy it on a daily basis but it felt like a good way to lead a productive life. Except that still, it was just drifting along. The novelty of work wore off in the first year or so. I thought I was pretty decent at it and I could probably have pursued it as a career but for the lack of real passion. Without real enjoyment, the trade off was then long hours for money and prestige. Money is important, but has diminishing marginal utility and creates very little joy beyond a certain amount.
I left rather indecisively, wavering loads near the end and have never looked back since. I got a job with slightly less money but many hours less and I thought that was the best thing that I could do. Sufficient money at lower stress levels. Except that without the constant pressure to work, I now have a lot of time to think. And to realise that it was still just drifting along. There was a strong push factor in my last job, the high workload near the end forced a decision. There are no strong push or pull factors now. I could drift along until circumstances change or I could do something that I really care for. Except that its so hard to find something to care about. I watched a documentary on the sexual abuse of young children in Cambodia last night. Not because I really care for documentaries but because it was on TV. It was awful. The things that people do to young kids. I wanted to join an NGO when the credits ran. But when I woke up this morning, the moment had passed. It became a knowledge bite and a sympathetic memory that is conveniently filed away.
I am not sure if I lack the courage to step out of my comfort zone. I try to bury the "drift along-ness" of my existence under a tight schedule of activities. I attend driving lessons, I go to the gym, I go out for dinner with friends. I considered volunteering, but none of the "ready made" activities really appealed to me and it would just be another effort to lighten my conscience. I give to beggars and old people selling tissue because it directly impacts their lives, not flag day students though, and I really don't see how fund raising for a "service learning, school painting, teaching English" trip could be considered a charitable activity since no one really benefits from it. But of course, the truly passionate would then set up their own NGO and devise their own means to contribute.
The drift-along nature of my life is almost purely due to the lack of passion. But three paragraphs from my first line, I feel at least slightly more optimistic. Things have changed from a decade ago. At 15, I was ambitious, hopeful and uncertain of my own abilities. At 25, I am no longer ambitious but confident of my grasp on my own future. It would not be decided by the next math test or what my friends feel. I have decided I don't care about being a clever, well-liked or rich person. I will be a happy one. My happy future would be decided by me, from within, guided by commitments and responsibilities. Responsibilities are different from burdens. I care for my parents' approval not because I fear their anger but because their feelings matter to me. That for me, was probably the single most important lesson over the past year.
Perhaps all that looking for something to be passionate about stuff doesn't really matter. Drifting from day to day might not be that bad. I buy breakfast on Saturday mornings and have vacations with the family. That can't be considered time wasted.
To my twenty-five year self - it was a packed two and a half decades. I had a lot of fun.