I was recently asked a question privately:

how did you manage to discover what you enjoy doing?

It’s an interesting question, and one that I’ve probably didn’t notice until people pointed out to me. So I’ll attempt to answer this, but before that a bit of background.

Well, when I was younger, I like making things. Like model planes, ships etc… I find that I like the satisfaction of doing something just for myself. It’s my own pride, my own joy. This basic concept fanned out to work. I like programming for the sake of making things. But then I discovered that what people like may not be in line with what you like. Sometimes, you have to just grudgingly agree to put feature Y in the software, or to just agree to use this method, because someone else wants it.

Fast track to a few years later. You think that the most efficient way is the best way but somehow people prefer inefficiency than efficiency at the loss of familiarity. It reached a point where I don’t enjoy coding any more because it does not feels like it belonged to me, but rather to folks who don’t know what they want, don’t know how they want it, and don’t appreciate the effort that is put in to increase their productivity but yet want to put their stamp in something they did not create.

That’s where I switched to systems administration. In system administration, the main customer are the machines. How the machines talk to the folks was out of my scope, but how the machines talk to each other fell on my scope. Unfortunately, there are still folks that think that machines should talk the way they think they should talk, there was so little why, but there was so much “just do it because I say so”. So while the job is satisfactory, dealing with people was not. Each person has their own view of how they carry out a job. Not many share the fact that I live to work rather than work to live. And for those who do, they are just aimless, the direction is dependant on one’s mood and all.

So I discovered that if I could minus folks from my job, or if people respect my boundaries, and let me carry out my work. I will enjoy what I’m doing. Actually, I do. I like making things. but really, what I really like is when the things I make serves a good purpose rather than be diluted or sidelined because of politics, ego or just aimless leadership. It’s really nice to be recognised, not necessarily appreciated. Don’t get me wrong, I like working with people. But unless you are working with folks that share your interest, there is no way that you can really enjoy what you are doing.

Same with music, I like making music, but because people that I make music with seems to think that music should come with an agenda. Or just to fit their own style but it does not evolve naturally. I don’t know. It kills the joy of music when you always have your contributions rejected because it’s too avantgarde, too not-them, too weird. It’s hard to find people to play in a band that share the same beliefs and direction. Same with companies, same with careers. I actually gave music up so that I can concentrate on my job. I still like playing music, and would not rule out a chance to return if I can, but only if I can find the right fit and mix. Until then, I’m just a system administrator.

So after working for a long time, I would like to think that I had finally reached a point of my career that I could be proud of.  It is definitely not perfect, neither is it the most well paid job, but it’s the most fulfilling role I’ve played so far. That’s because in my current job, I run my own shop, I am my own boss, and I’m my own employee in my department (yeah, I have helpers, but in the end, I’m overall responsible).

So it goes with sports as well. Running, skiing are both sports that I can compete against myself. I realise I like things when I have control over them and when the real person I’m competing and answerable to with is myself and no other. For once, I did not run or do anything for anyone, I have the freedom to stop if I feel tired, not up to it, or just wanting to exercise at my own pace without being ridiculed or marginalised.

Once I cleared with that concept, I begin to conquer my derision and enjoy it. In my years in Singapore where I had to run because of IPPT and the army, I really detested it, hated it like poison.  Because I have been pressured to perform, it’s not competition against yourself, but against what people have set the yardstick on. And that’s not very enjoyable to me. And now, not only could I run, I could set records that I could never had imagined myself doing.

In conclusion, this is just my personal viewpoint. I know there are others who love being managed by people, they love working with people. And I really respect them because I don’t think I can get really near that directly. Indirectly, yes, not directly. But I guess, it’s up to one to find out what makes one tick, is it art, is it doodling, or maybe it’s something else that folks would shun away from – like community work or volunteering for help during the covid-19 outbreak.

There are also others who claim that their environment is what they make out of it and I shouldn’t use my environment as a scapegoat.

That’s true if you have a strong will.

I will admit that I did not. But what I went through gave me a stronger one than I have. 

To each his/her own, still, I do feel that it is important that  one has to discover what is fulfilling to oneself. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to live a meaningful life, for then life becomes procedural, meaningless, and the whole process of living is just there to please everyone.

And if you try to please everybody, you’ll eventually end up pleasing no one, least even yourself.

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