Quarter-Life Crisis


They say that if you love what you do, you’d never spend a day working.

I grew up thinking that I need to find work in my passion and find passion in work, only to discover that it is a lot harder than I thought.

I have always been a keen believer that we should find ourselves in a career that we are innately passionate about. Doing the kind of special things that never fails to kick some excitement in you. The kind of things that you spend time doing because you love it too much.

Perhaps I blurred the line between a hobby and a career. That a career could be an extension of a hobby, doing what you love the most and make a living out of it. It seems like such a great deal.

But there are fundamental differences between a hobby and a career. A hobby falls in this loose category of space. There is no time constraint, no deadlines, or any expectations from anyone other than yourself. A hobby is a personal exploration, a personal choice. It’s your Utopia. You’re king (or queen).

A career is on no Utopian island. Sure, you always have the choice between a path you’d like more than another. But here’s the deal – the law of equivalent exchange comes into play. I am probably too much of a novice in the corporate world to make this statement — but I will anyway — to get something you’d almost always have to give something else up in exchange. It’s more than just the work, a career involves the people, the environment, the vibes. It involves decisions, and very hard ones at times. A career is no child’s game. It’s serious business, and often for most of us it is what puts food on the dining table every day.

Slowly but surely I am starting to think that there is no such thing as a perfect job, based on the assumption that you weren’t born with a silver spoon and inherited a mountain of gold bars. No one pays you to have fun. Salary is monetary compensation for your effort and productivity. I would love to be a barista for 6 months and then be a keyboardist or guitarist for another 3. Explore the world for a year as a Nat Geo adventurer, and freelance for the rest of my life, But as long as we are working for money, we will always be stuck in this gridlock and our passion will always be out of our career reach, There is a reason why they call it a dream job – maybe it’s better left in our dreams.

So maybe If it was really impractical to work on our passion, then could we just learn to be passionate about our work?

Passion is an odd thing. You can’t really define it. It’s psychological, and it’s emotional. And the scariest part about passion is that it changes. So perhaps we could just learn to be passionate about what we do? But wouldn’t that beg the fundamental concept of passion in the first place?


How to Treat Yourself Better

1. Eat breakfast

I don’t know about you, but I get very grumpy without a good, hearty breakfast. Your stomach battles through the night without food while you’re sleeping; the least you could do is to be nice to it in the morning. I know a lot of people who don’t eat breakfast, or who actually just stomach something randomly taken from the kitchen for the sake of going through the motion so they can claim they ate breakfast. Please don’t do that. Meals are pleasurables. They need to be treated with respect. Throwing trash down your system in a trashy manner makes you no better than a big pile of trash.

2. Smile

At your neighbour who shares the lift with you as you head down to the ground floor. At the old granny who takes her terrier for walks every morning. At the bus driver whom you see every day because you take the same bus at the same time from the same location. At the barista who prepares your morning coffee. At the random stranger whom you accidentally bump into along the corridor. At the little kid who smiles at you as she walks pass you, holding her mom’s hand.

3. Slow down

Stop rushing, you’re not always in a hurry. You’re just used to being in a hurry. Why do you need to cut in front of someone else walking at a tad slower pace than you when you’re not even in a rush to go anywhere by anytime? Feel your words before they leave your mouth, don’t let them slip away before you even meant to say them. Breathe.

4. Look up, look far

Not figuratively, but literally. I don’t know why, but when you walk and you stare at some point far ahead in the distance, or up in the sky, the world feels so big. I have this favourite street in Pittsburgh that I would take whenever I walked to school. I loved it because it’s always so empty, like it’s entirely yours to keep. I used to walk under the mid-day sunlight and gaze at the blue cloudless sky above. Or close my eyes and feel the world around me. It felt so liberating, and it made me feel so alive.

5. Embrace solitude

Ditch your mobile devices. Ditch YouTube. Ditch Facebook. Ditch your iPods and MP3s. People today struggle with nothingness. We can’t stand in the lift for 1 minute without looking at our phones or talking to someone. We can’t spend our 30-minute train ride to work sitting or standing in silence, not doing anything. We can’t live a moment with just ourselves. We are always clouded by everything else and not our own. It takes time, but I think we all need to sit down with ourselves once in a while. Listen to your breathing, listen to your thoughts. Listen to the world and resist the urge to participate and respond. Observe passively and spectate. Let your mind ponder and your heart wonder. Try it, I think it’s refreshing.