Archive for the ‘community’ Tag

Guiding My Career Choices: From Soldier to Worker

Temporarily caged?

Random Observation/Comment #242: The month-long gap of writing was a test to see how much I could get done when I didn’t write.  The answer, surprisingly, is that I didn’t do anything – well, that’s not true, but I didn’t get as much as I wanted done.  I didn’t know this before, but writing in a blog about what I’m going to do is actually the thing that starts me doing things.  I needed to read that sentence over again to make sure it was right.  Yes.  I am dependent on this writing to clear my mind of all the woes in my ever-growing mind, and basically do a core-dump of my random ideas on how to improve my life.  Without this, I just think about doing things, and I never make the first step to do them.  Knowing this, changes everything… I will address this in the next entry.

For the past 6 months, my underlying belief of this life has been challenged.  The philosophy that I had so desperately formed to make sense of this world – the guidelines that kept me under control and tied to a close-knit community – all of it was shaken by the foundation by a different perspective.  It was a perspective that I had remembered so clearly, yet since I had once looked at the world this way, I had to lean in closer to make sure my choice was right for me.

Let’s start from the beginning: I was a soldier.  I followed orders from my parents and made them proud every step of the way.  From honor societies in high school to graduating as an engineer, I always performed for that greater purpose: my parents’ pride.  All I wanted was for them to accept my strides forward and tell me I was doing a great job.  All I wanted was to see their eyes welt up with tears of joy to see their son achieve great things.

The base for all of this still holds true to my roots, but the difference is: I am no longer a soldier.  You see, my parents had graduated me from that status and told me to follow another goal.  They told me to do what makes me happy, always stay healthy, and remember the importance of community.  As a soldier taking orders for 21 years, I felt confused and lost without a path to follow.  I had perfected the act of following a path, but I had never learned how to make my own.  In fact, the goals for me all sounded strange because none of them mentioned money or success.

They didn’t want me to be a soldier, yet I knew no other path so I tried different things and always just looked back to see their reaction and approval.  Everything I did was accepted with a nod and a smile.  So… now what?  The pressure to meet expectations for reaching the best of the best had faded.  So, I did what everyone else in my situation would do: I looked at my peers to seek their advice and their opinion.  As I asked them, it seemed that my level of acceptance had shifted to another party. Now, all I wanted was their acceptance and their envy.  I wanted a level of respect from them and an overall higher status in this stratified society.

This view of life is what drives our economy.  We see shit we want because other people have them.  I can’t deny that I still don’t follow this line of thought when I see new gadgets that come out every month (I just want to pimp out my daily routine so badly!).  Yet, the things I want are actually not that expensive.  It also makes me wonder what I would do if I had everything I wanted.  I don’t think I would feel complete at all.  There would probably always be something more that I needed to complete my collection.  Plus, my neighbor would probably one-up me with that bigger screen TV and make me wonder if it were about time to get a new one.

This key idea troubled me:  I needed to make money because I wanted to buy things that I thought I needed because I was hanging around other people that made money.  Climbing the status tower is fine, but your expectations keep rising to reaching the status above you.  This vicious cycle makes me believe that one day; you’ll find yourself alone at the top.  Well, you’re either at the top, or you’re disappointed that you can’t reach the next status.  Hopefully, you’ll be happy and you’ll stop, but greed is not something you can fulfill.  The more you feed it, the more it wants and the more you’ll sacrifice to get it.

What I’ve found with wealth (in the sense of monetary wealth) is that people tend to spend money on things they don’t need.  Of course, what I think they need and what they think they need is very subjective.  Some people think they need to own three houses while living in a small studio in NYC and working 80-hour weeks to afford the mortgages: fantastic.  What I wonder is: what if I just need less?  Will that make me less ambitious?  Will I be ill-motivated to reach any higher?  Does being content make the mind stale and boring?

All of these questions formulated into a philosophy that actually fit into my parents’ new goals for me: happiness, health, and community.  So many people objectively see success by salary, the size of their estate, or the number of cars they own.  That’s so… old school.  I would think in our modern day and age, we would measure success differently.  What about overall happiness, health, and community?

Your career can be selfishly geared towards making money.  Many people do it because they associate the money with happiness.  There are some careers that sacrifice happiness in the short term in order to benefit in the long term with money or status.  You may be surprised at this next sentence: I don’t think there is anything wrong with this thinking at all.  I fully support making short term sacrifices for long term goals, but one criterion must hold true: You must believe in what you do.  If you just do it for the money, you’ll never make it.

What my parents really wanted to tell me is: Do what you’re good at and do what you love.  If this makes you happy then your career is not work.  If you constantly need a work-life balance, it means you’re trying to escape work.  If you’re learning new things everyday and you believe your sacrifice will be worth it in the end (which is also very subjective), take the risk – we’re so young.

~See Lemons Love Work

Learning from the Bucket List

finishing a bucket list

Random Observation/Comment #223: This vacation is completely different from the ones I’ve had before. Instead of looking for purpose, I feel I’ve already found it.  I feel like I’m doing everything the same, but my mentality is just completely different.  I’m not trying to find a home; I’m just treating it as if it’s already my home.  This doesn’t mean I’ve lost those curious traveling-eyes where everything looks like it’s from another universe, but I think my overall observation about the world (whether at home or overseas) seems to be heightened.  Life has those bright and brilliant colors, and I can’t help but smile.

“The Bucket List” is a movie about two well-aged men (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) who meet as bedmates in a hospital when recovering from cancer. They grow as friends despite being radically different and – after hearing the bad news – decide to form a bucket list of things to do before “kicking the bucket.” Jack’s character, being the owner of the hospital and just ridiculously rich, decides to help make all of these dreams come true and have fun in their final adventure.  Like most people, “travel the world” is basically at the top of the list.  So they left on that private jet and chatted about every aspect of life while touring the major attractions and seeing the majestic beauties every culture has to offer.

Warning: The following is a spoiler for the movie.  I’m mentioning the movie in this blog because I think it makes an important point about leading life.  The underlying message made me review my life and plan for a different type of happiness.

Morgan Freeman’s character is a brilliant man (you know – the type that can answer all of the Jeopardy questions) who selflessly sacrificed his entire life to financially support his family.  After finding out he only has a few months to live, he finds it appropriate to be a little selfish.  With Jack Nicholson’s character as his piggy bank and travel buddy, he goes everywhere and sees everything he’s been unable to see due to time and money restrictions.

Jack’s character is a filthy rich man with four failed marriages and an almost non-existent close family.  He indulges with Morgan’s dreams and sees the “last hurrah” as another adventure – just a simple fun way to see everything he loved about life again with a newly found friend.

Although the list itself seems like it was made to benefit Morgan’s character through the mooching off of Jack’s endless supply of money, it’s interesting to find Jack enjoying himself with a true friend.  He learned much more about community, family, and love while traveling with someone than he had ever done before.  You can say that Jack had everything he ever wanted that could be obtained with money, but he had not found a rightful place with those that should matter most.  Does that initial mask covered with material possessions actually matter at all?  Reputation is definitely important in many respects, but how much reputation do you need when you actually know someone as close as you know your best friends and immediate family?

I can probably write a full 5-page essay about this book, but I’ll save everyone the torture.  The point that struck me most (and I don’t think you need to stretch your brain too far to see it) is that the connection with those around you – the story you leave behind and the bonds you make that are unbreakable– is more important than money.  There will always be that struggle to fight for the higher paying job and own a bigger house, but I don’t think that’s worth it if there’s no one to share it with.

Although some people may argue that the girlfriends will come as money and security builds a sound foundation, I argue that girls can be incredible actresses and unbelievably greedy.  Isn’t that one of those golden rules: Never give a woman your credit card?  I’m not being pessimistic about all women, but I would rather meet someone who’s “real.”  By that, I mean, someone who is okay with being themselves and okay with that causing someone to dislike them (even if it’s me).  Sometimes we should bend and accept certain faults, but other times (which can sometimes be very difficult to gauge), we just need to back away and agree that the relationship is not compatible.

Anyway, even before watching this movie, I had some similar type of revelation. It happened sometime in September when I came back.  After traveling for so long, I still felt at home.  My friends were still my friends, but with more stories, and the scrips were still the scrips, but with new buildings.  It was simple and relieving.  I stared at the unknown ahead and planned as much as possible while making my list of goals, aspirations, and dreams.  As I thought about this community-loving nugget of knowledge, I saw something much more interesting.  I saw a web of connecting interests and a slew of dreams that overlapped.  Dreams were being made and broken every day, but there were the dreams around me that I could actually make come true.  There are lives around me that (while they don’t necessarily depend on me) would strengthen our relationship based on my plans ahead.  With that in mind, I found the bucket list to change into something much more selfless.  I still have the dreams that will help me move forward before helping others, but that choice moving into work experience was mostly for those around me.

I am selling out to help my parents: they deserve to retire and enjoy themselves as I have.  I am selling out to grow closer to my friends: we’re going to run the scrips.  I am selling out to continue making this year better than the one before: What’s better than traveling the world?  Having a place to call home (Or making enough money so you could travel the world with your friends and family.  That would just be ridiculous).

~See Lemons Believe in Community

A drunken entry on the plane about life

Looks like the guy was drunk when he did this

Random Observation/Comment #221: 13-hour anything-rides are a pain in the ass – like literally, your ass may fall asleep and it may be painful.  Before the plane ride, I thought I had the best plan: Drink alcohol, get drunk, and fall asleep.  What I didn’t take into account was how quickly I get trashed while 15,000 ft in the air.  Gin and tonic was my toxin of choice, and after 5 glasses, I was very entertaining and a delight to be around (at least that’s how I felt).  After snoring and dozing off for 4 or 5 hours, however, I woke up with a sick feeling. It could have been the yogurt at dinner, or the alcohol itself, but the next 5 hours were the worst. The lady sitting next to me gave me dirty looks for making her get up to use the bathroom so much.  Never again – well, maybe on the ride back.

Note: This ridiculously long flight (where I was trashed half the time and sick the other half) still gave me time to write. I had written this in a drunken state, but I think it was interesting.  I, honestly, don’t even remember writing this.

Life doesn’t exist in phases: I think we just separate them that way when we’re younger to make things easier to understand. More important than the phases are the values that are learned while growing up.  Life seems to be mostly about how you think about life.  Pessimistic people will find bad things and optimistic people will expect and look for good things. Why not just see things for how they are and go with the flow?  Make sure your current situation is the best that it can be, and then plan ahead to make the situation even better.  Make sure you’re indulging in your joy and then spread that joy to those around you.

I found that “make yourself happy” is a fairly simple line of thought.  Of course, “I” does matter a lot, since I don’t think “I” is stupid enough to do harmful things to him, but continuously thinking about “I” would never advance a civilization.  It’s always been the bonds you form and the community you join that makes the world a better a place. I think I knew this when I first started traveling, but I didn’t really enforce it because I kept traveling and distancing myself from a community around me.  This blog was the only attempt I made to stay connected to a community I created for my own pleasure.

In many ways, my happiness was selfish: girls treated, not entirely as relationships, but as objects towards my own goals; degrees obtained to make money instead of help an advancing scientific world; hobbies existing as little side projects that pretty much only made me smile; tasting extravagant foods and wines/beers/spirits just so I could build my own opinion about them.  I wasn’t consciously making these decisions to obtain my own selfish goals, but I think I do owe many apologies for my previous actions that were sub-consciously made selfishly.  It is, however, this adjustment of character that should help me approach the world with more respect.

However, now that I know that this is the path I will take after I mature, I am wondering how quickly I should mature.  There are so many people out there who haven’t even begun to think about this, and I wonder if I should take advantage of the years I have to stay immature.  Of course, I will still have my values, but shouldn’t I be taking risks and exploring?  The only thing that floats in the back of my mind is the fact that those around me will benefit from my actions. If I didn’t grow up, my parents couldn’t retire and have fun. If I didn’t grow up, my friends wouldn’t be able to have the baller life-style in the city.

I suspect many people would tell me to worry about my own life before planning to meet the goals of others, but I think it’s fair to have other’s goal in mind if I love my friends and family.  Without them, my goals wouldn’t be worth having anyway.

~See Lemons Drunk and Mumbling