10 Mar 2013

Follow Your Heart

"Follow your heart. Don't cave in to peer pressure or society's preconceptions."

That's a recurring idea in many of the talks I attended across a few various university Open House events. The speakers aren't wrong: it's hard to put in the required effort to succeed in a field, when you're not really passionate about the subject at all. And if you graduate and go into a related job, you won't enjoy your job enough to do your best either, instead compromising both yourself and the industry concerned. It's generally agreed that pursuing one's dream will be to the interest of the majority. 

I think this rising mindset is partly to do with the fact that the younger generations, including myself, have been more exposed to childhood movies. And not just any kind of childhood movies, but those that liked to express the idea that following your heart is a recommended path, even if it means a path with more resistance or risk. We know that one protagonist who was heavily discouraged from straying from the safe path set out for them, only to defy such pressure and truly shine in the role that he/she really belonged to. Like that one girl who would be a highly qualified doctor given her excellent academic performance, but instead went to take on her true love of singing on stage. Or that guy who was to have continued the family line of baseball superstars, only to deviate and take up the "less manly" role of dancing. (Actually I've no idea if such movies were made, but if not, I thought of them first!)

The older generations have slowly started to accept this mindset as well. When they had to decide their career paths, more often they were driven by survival/sustainability rather than interest. More often than not the economy's demands overrode the individual's dreams. If the economy needed more doctors and researchers, then it seemed a more sensible idea to become a doctor or researcher. These days, with more and more job types springing up thanks to technological advancement, diversity has shared at least equal priority too, because it meant more lifelines to hold on to should one industry suffer. This also meant more people could now pursue the less conventional jobs that aligned with their personal interests more tightly.

So I am grateful that I live in a time period where I'm not just allowed, but even strongly encouraged to go with my passion in my academic choices. I'm not forced to be the lawyer or doctor that I don't want to be. I've got more control over the steering wheel.

And I've been thinking... should I do the same for my current situation in the army?

I can't deny that my current job is certainly important, and somebody will need to fill in when my upper-study leaves, but I still cannot shake the heavy feeling that I can contribute in a more significant and meaningful way in the MDC. I've been trying my best at picking up the skills and knowledge needed for the job, but it's already started to creep up on me. After a bit of chatting with my upper-study, even he agrees that I'll probably be more useful in the MDC. Besides there's a larger pool of suitable candidates that could easily replace me here, but not as great a pool for the MDC to choose from.

The problem is I can't discuss this with my superior officers yet. I'd rather wait for things to simmer down, because I don't want to cause even more problems on top of the heavy workload at the moment. But once that's over, I believe it's in the interest of everybody for me to speak up as soon as possible. The thing is I don't know how ready they are to let me go...

It's true that what I'll learn from the current office job I have will be practical and widely applicable in many other jobs. So will being in the MDC. I recognise that interacting with people is inevitable in either situation, or in many future possible situations. At least I'll be more comfortable developing my interpersonal skills in the MDC than in the office. It sounds like I'm just avoiding responsibility, but the pressure to be a good performer seems much less than the pressure to be a good clerk to me. As a musician I have better grasp on relevant knowledge, possess way more relevant experience, and pay a smaller cost for mistakes: at most I just sound bad, or make the group sound bad. Being a clerk, however, throws me into a completely unfamiliar territory where almost none of my skills or experiences can help me out, and places a much heavier penalty for committing mistakes.

I have firm confidence that being in the MDC will allow me to do way more for the SAF during my service. That itself is already unusual, because I very rarely have firm confidence in my own opinions. I don't remember the last time I've been so non-neutral on a personal stand. And it's certainly the first time I want to act so strongly on my own belief, added on by the fact that a few people whom I know also think I deserve to be there.

I'm growing tired of keeping this hush from the superiors. I can't spring this out at them so suddenly, but I fear if I don't act soon then it'll be much harder for me to do anything to change my situation. I have to let them know soon. Maybe next week might be a convenient time...?

One thing's for sure: I can't keep taking such a passive role in my life all the time.