Passion Fruits

I’m passionate about my job.

One in three profiles on dating apps.

Last week, I had a chat with a couple of friends and we talked about the idea of dreams: what they actually mean and how practical it is to chase one. I was mildly surprised by the variety of viewpoints that arose.

One person said that dreaming is not something she thinks about too much because she has had experienced enough in life and that she just wants to be the best mother, friend, and sister she can be to the people around her and that is enough. Another person brought up Ikigai, a Japanese concept which means ‘the reason for being’ where this ‘reason’ is at the intersection of:
1) Something that you love
2) Something you’re good at
3) Something the world needs
4) Something you can be paid for.
What piqued my interest is that he acknowledged that there is hardly anything where the four requirements are checked. If there is, then you’re in luck but the fact of the matter is that not many of us are that lucky. Most people just want a job that they don’t hate all that much and still pays the bills.

That conversation was deeply insightful for me and I attribute that mainly to the diversity of the people in the discussion. 20s-40s is an age range during which this topic appears a lot because you still have time to change the path you take in life. Having people who are in different phases in life can really give you perspectives of what the world is like, or more accurately for me, to what the human mind is like and how we see the world. It is widely diverse, strongly shaped by our upbringing and exposure but concurrently it is also simple. We have that raw innate desire to just be joyous and satisfied in life. We chase things because we think that the rewards are greater than the sum of the effort we put in. My personal understanding of joy is still taking its shape; slowly being moulded by insights and experiences, and subsequently hardened by the flames of reality.

Jobs can be purely transactional, and some people may be entirely okay with that because for most of human history that’s the way it needed to be. For most of human history we did things because they needed to be done. But society has come to a point that options are open and that the permutations of our contributions to society are not anymore limited by technology and globalisation. Somehow this has brought about a new dilemma. In the similar way that you would put the bowl of popcorn away before the guests come to your place so that you wouldn’t be tempted to nibble on half of them, I disagree with economists because they say more options are better, because we are not computers that takes all the available factors and variables to churn out a number and compare it to a threshold. We are simply human beings that do not thrive too well with multi-tasking. Beneath all the craziness and dreams that we have, there is still a desire somewhere in there to just exhale slowly and think “This is well.”

Is the answer, then, to be passionate about your job? By the way that many people on dating apps include it in their profile, it seems to be pointing to the idea that many are inclined to believe that the job you have can define you, and in the eyes of many others, it does. It feels as if people are stuck with a job and if they’re lucky enough that the one they’re stuck with is something they’re passionate about. There are easily strong cases to this argument because the career-driven culture of Singapore has made that mindset the norm. But a simple glance around your office (or zoom meetings) straight away tells you that not only are identity and resumes hardly correlated, you probably know that well. Granted this thought bloomed only because I am fortunate enough that in my line of work, office politics are not that cutthroat and fully human interactions still exists. I know this is not the case for my friends who work mainly and solely with computers and numbers, or those whose professional environment discourages natural conversation on such topics.

Dreams and passions are but ideals but what do we fully know what are behind those ideals? What if you had the dream right here right now? Would you still be passionate about it? Simon Sinek often says that Millennials have grown up in a society where instant gratification were readily available to us in the better part of our early years (at least in fairly developed countries), where metrics are given every half-term and rewards handed out annually. But the hustle of life is not so kind. There seems to be a dichotomy in our minds that if we don’t succeed, we fail. If we are not passionate about our job, it isn’t one worth doing our entire life. Life is not binary and this false dichotomy can be highly toxic to our assessment of the present. We are overwhelmed by spending too much brain bandwidth deciding which box we should put our life in when in reality we should be living life instead of putting it in any box.

A: “Where is my life right now?”
B: “I’ll do you one better. Who should I be right now?”
C: “I’ll do one even better. Why is my life what it is right now?”

Wise words from some powerful beings.

Header image obtained from https://calories-info.com/passion-fruit-calories-kcal/

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