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Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Career That You Want

As I struggle on in the journey of life, I find that many people of my age group (late 20's, early 30's) are asking the same thing: "Great, you're on your way to making it as a _________ (fill in the blank). Is this what you wanted?"

To many people, the thought of doing something that you don't like for the rest of your life, may be tolerable on one of the following grounds:

(a) Fulfilling your parents' dreams.
(b) Making your family proud.
(c) Somebody in the family has to do it.
(d) You've got the brains for it, so why waste talent?

In Malaysia, the triumvirate of desirable jobs for middle class families will certainly encompass: Doctor, Engineer, and Lawyer. Of course, other notable choices that have figured in "Top Three Choices of Careers" have also included: Accountant, Architect, Dentist, CEO, Software Programmer, Web Developer, System Analyst, Chartered Financial Analyst, and many many others. It may be a fair statement to say that these are frequently choices made to please one's parents, or perhaps these choices were made by one's parents!

Somehow, in their early 30's, many young adults (who are no longer as young as they would have liked to be) wisen up, and figure: "There's only so many years left in living my own life, before I start wrinkling up and move to the old folks' home, subsisting on my children's pity. When am I going to start living the life that I've always wanted?" To these individuals, they choose more avant-garde options, such as: Animator, Photographer, Actor, Writer, Scientist, Activist, Singer, Pilot, Lecturing, Speaker, et cetera.

Many of the choices that our parents make for us are to compensate for their lack of opportunity, for the dreams that died, for the rainbows that never ended in a pot of gold. They are still hopeful that somehow, in some way, a small part of them can live that dream. Perhaps they were living in squalid conditions, with rife competition from peers -- a diamond cut diamond situation. Perhaps, they were robbed of the chance to shine despite showing great promise, simply because of their family's great poverty. And how unfortunate it is, that for you, the scion of the family, to be lavished with such opportunity to enjoy education and the chance to live your parents' dreams!

Actually, if you read the above paragraphs and agree with every word, you probably fit the description of: A person working as a professional, holds a respectable job, is drawing a reasonably good pay, and is admired by people, but is not truly happy with life. Think about it: You have had a wonderful childhood, thanks to your parents' sacrifices. You have had an education that not many others of your age have had, because your parents, or someone close to you, cared enough to slog hard enough to send you money for educational expenses. And you studied it -- whatever course that was picked out for you -- because you had the opportunity and the brains, and did not wish to waste it. Does that describe you?

I don't know how to jump from one prestigious job to another. I know less about jumping from one highly coveted profession to a more gung-ho, idealistic profession that better tickles your fancy. But people like Albert Schweitzer, who took up medicine at the ripe old age of 30 (thirty!) to reach out to the poor and dying, certainly do inspire confidence. There are heroes for every type of person on this Earth of ours. It certainly does not mean that people like the following are any less worthy of being admired: Alan Greenspan, Dr Mahathir, Jose Rizal, Bill Cosby, Bill Gates, Kenichi Ohmae, Chin-Ning Chu, Benjamin Graham, and a host of many others. The adulation and adoration shown by the whole world for Michael Jackson, and the great mourning that ensued at the news of his death, testify that mankind does have all sorts of heroes.

Whatever choice that you may take, the choice is yours alone. But your choice will affect the lives of many, many people around you. The fact is that every person makes choices, leading to the detriment of some matters, and to the advantage of others. From those simple choices, a series of events have been unleashed. Some scientists call it the Butterfly Effect, frequently described by the possibility that the flapping of a butterfly's wings can have on the rain pouring down in another country. Robert Frost recognised it early on when he wrote eloquently about the road that he did not take.

And thus, the choice to change your career, to do something different, to break out of the mould, is your choice alone. But such choices may well bless the lives of many. The story of Billy Graham's life, for example, is the story of a man whose life has influenced the lives of those around him in a profound way, enriching and liberating them from the shackles of their mind. Perhaps you are destined for such greatness? Yet like the poet in The Road Not Taken, it must be acknowledged that not every choice is reversible; not every road has a way back. A journey may fork into an unexpected series of events, simply because of one little choice. Events lead to other events, and before you know it, that fateful day that you made the choice, has become a point of no return. You have to live with the consequences of your choices.

Today, that choice for you is to decide whether you are happy in the job that you already hold -- or, would you be happier trying out another job, somewhere else, doing something else? It's a bit like the choice between renovating your existing home, or selling it off to buy a new home. Russell Conwell, of Acres of Diamonds fame, suggests that you may find your life's riches and satisfaction from your existing station in life. Prospero, in Shakespeare's The Tempest, says these meaningful lines:

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And, like the baseless fabric of vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.


It is to the last line that I turn my attention to. The meaning of our lives are sometimes lost in the hubbub of everyday mundanity. So much, so that we are nothing more than the "stuff as dreams are made on" -- stuff, which vanishes in a puff. Our short and eventful little life is ended with an eternal sleep -- death, upon which all our endeavours end. Make the most of life!

I wish you good luck in the choices that you make.

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