Familiarity And Change

Life is strange.  On one hand, we look forward to change, and on the other, we find comfort in familiarity. Familiarity breeds contempt, contempt is a catalyst for change, which happens and then we embrace it with open arms, only to struggle because we were too comfortable to embrace change. Sooner or later, when change slows down, we become familiar again and the whole cycle repeats itself.  It basically sums up what I think most people go through in life. And sometimes, I wonder why we do this, or rather why we react to change and familiarity this way.

Had a dream one night where I saw myself  in the estate of Queenstown, Singapore. All the familiar things  came back – the overhead bridges, the Queensway underpass, the church where I used to go and the familiar scent of Singapore food. It overwhelmed me and I woke up feeling a bit nostalgic yet sad at the same time, also feeling depressed. But when reality kicked in, that depression gave way to anger mixed with guilt.

This sense of familiarity is probably what many advertisers use as a psychological bait to entice people to get a product. Why? Because there’s comfort in this, there’s comfort in knowing that all familiar feeling, and with comfort, it brings a smile. In this era where change is happening even faster than ever, we grow weary struggling to keep up, we want to stop everything and just cuddle in that familiar comfort.

The psychological vitamin of familiarity’s comfort is also used in political agendas. Interviews and speeches from the prime minister of Singapore have appealed to the nostalgic nature of things to entice Singaporeans living out of Singapore  to return.  Nostalgia. We seem to be very enamoured by it, we collect old music and reminisce, we remind ourselves of that comfort when we taste, see, and experience familiar things. It just seems … comfortable.

Yet, familiarity breeds contempt eventually. Too much of a good thing is likened to quick sand, where you will eventually sink when you do not move.

Last week was a week of sorts. I had resigned from my previous company (let’s call it X), I started on my new job as a systemansvarlig (system administrator) again. It looked like a demotion of sorts, from an engineer to an ‘administrator’, but that’s really just a title. In actual fact, I think I have gotten promoted in the role that I usually play as an engineer to something much, much more.

X was a good place to start, and the past (nearly) 2 years there have been valuable technically speaking. It was a good place that I can take hold of some technologies and just apply them and see what are the possibilities that they can change. A lot of stuff accelerated, a lot of stuff were resolved, or thrown out because it was too unwieldy because a better solution had been found.

But a lot of things still remained unchanged. And soon, it became apparent, that the greatest resistance to technology are fear, uncertainty and doubt.  There is so much that could have been done, but only limited to resources, and often than not, one is so consumed by the operational parts of the equation that we become a slave to it. By the time we awake and are truly aware that the whole process needs an overhaul, we are so mentally tired by it all that we no longer have the energy to evolve things.

And then there’s the social part of the job. I’ve been in an international setup before, there were prejudices and stereotypes, but people generally tried to get along.  And people who work as immigrants in a country that provides them a job, home and security ought not to bite the hand that feeds them.  Even if they don’t feel nationalistic, there is no need to be insular and raise a stink because one thinks themselves as better than the people one has a prejudice against, let alone the people who provide one with income.  There are people who immigrate for the many reasons. There are those that are just here to earn a living, without any intention to remain. And there are those who want to not just earn a living, but to see themselves are part and parcel of building up of a nation economically and socially.   I probably belong more towards the latter, where my (ex) colleagues were more towards the former. It was generally ok working with them, but in the long run I probably know I will never fit into their ideals.

So I got myself this new job. It’s a largely Norwegian company, of course with people from all over, and English is spoken in some communication channels but its heart and soul is Norwegian to the core.  What’s more interesting is the scope of work that I will be doing. It’s basically what I was doing in my last job before I left Singapore. Familiarity. Yes. This job is more inward looking, improve internal operations, maintain internal systems etc.. The last 2 jobs were mainly customer facing. This time, it’s inward facing, with information technology being the engine that is not the final product but a key element in the manufacture of it.  That’s the difference.

So it’s deja vu, and at the same time, I’m glad I went through the last 2 companies in a way. The experience does help, in fact, I already find myself applying some of them within my first 2 weeks of this job and it got some jobs done much quicker than it ought to. It also gives me a chance to build things from scratch where I had always been in a situation where someone more technically experienced had set the groundwork and I’ve to pick up where the person left off. Now, I get to do this all from bottom up. It’s scary, yet at the same time exciting.

And knowing me, I would want things to evolve. People, demands change all the time, and therefore, one needs to evolve accordingly. If one finds too much comfort in familiarity, one will just die standing. And like I mentioned earlier, contempt will quickly come settling in. On the other hand, if one evolves too much, you’ll just be drifting aimlessly like a ship without a rudder or a sail.  I guess the philosophy in working life is to ascertain changes and learn to accept them. Technology is the tool that will make the difference, it’s not the end to itself, but a catalyst for change to happen.  And when that time comes, I hope to have the wisdom to see it in that light.

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