Monday, October 20, 2008


An interesting comment from Lyon sparked a discussion on occupation on Oxy's blog. So what good is occupation supposed to do?

I believe everyone subscribed to either,

1. I work to earn myself and my family, a decent standard of living.
2. I work because I love what I do.
3. I work therefore I am. (workaholic scenario)

Apart from the last option, I certainly do feel these are legitimate reasons to be working. An occupation is a intriguing concept, almost a love-hate relationship between you and the society. So which is better reason?

My parents did not come to Singapore as expatriates. We were closer to the immigrants category, almost bordering to the illegal side. Their desperation drove them out of the country into a new land where they could rebuild their hope. My mum was 23, my Dad a little older. In the cramp seat at the back of the bus, 3 of us took a 6 hour bus journey, (no expressway then) to get to Singapore.

I was 4 and they could not afford my milk powder. Both my parents left me in the care of a nanny while they slaved for the little money they could bring home. We survived the ordeal and 18 years later, my family enjoys a standard of living most Singaporean families are comfortably settled in most of their lives. They lost nothing, except their youth, spent on work to make ends meet.

I recently told my parents I will become a zookeeper. They joked that working with animals is way better than working with any human. I told them about the "meagre" income I will be getting. They told me it's my youth at my dispense and I should do what I want to do.

No. I do not mean that everyone should follow their heart and work accordance to their passion, even if your income will never be enough to cover your basal expenses. What I suggest everyone do however, is to consider what's best for your youth.

I know that no matter how hard I work, I can never buy back my mother's youth. I could work hard to realize her dreams, but at the end of the day, would I want my children to work so hard to realize my dreams?

With graduation in a little more than 1 to 2 years time, it's time we should consider a little about our lives.

Thanks Oxy and Lyon!

All the best for your future endeavors.


Tiffany said... @ October 21, 2008 at 12:43 AM

Hi Weiren,

On my way to school everyday, I see many people on the MRT (going to work and all) and when I look at their faces, I ask myself, "How many of these people are actually going for work they enjoy?" "Will I ever be like one of those who don't?"

In my heart, the answer just surfaces out of nowhere and I believe that 8 out of 10 of the people I see on the trains subscribe to either option one or three. Their faces tell it all. And then all of a sudden, I cringe because I worry that in the near future, I might be one of those expressionless people going to work and someone might be asking the same questions as I am in their hearts.

Lyon said... @ October 21, 2008 at 12:53 AM

Hi Weiren,

I guess the best is to strike a balance! But it's not an easy task. What you likes to do you might not excel in it (look at Bush) and what you are good at you might not like to do it (look at whoever that are successful but don't like what they are doing as I have no examples haha).

For me, even though what I plan to do is not my passion or dream, it is at the very least what I am interested in. And I am taking a huge risk by diving into it when what I am studying has no relevance to it. And like what you've said, I am not going to waste away my youth doing something I totally hate. I dream to see the world (besides chasing lions and elephants) and by hook or by crook I will achieve that.

There are 2 sides to every coin (yes I admit that is a cliche). You can choose one side and never to see the other side of the coin, or you can choose to make the coin stand (didn't I say that striking a balance is hard?).

Wei Kwan said... @ October 22, 2008 at 1:26 AM

Sometimes I wonder whether work can really be something that is truly enjoyable. The word by itself is already such an irony. I will know in less than a year whether my work will be challenging and enjoyable. Hopefully, it will be a positive answer :)

weiren said... @ October 23, 2008 at 5:55 PM

Hi Tiffany,

That very same question occurred to me too! It's especially heartbreaking that we habour so much ambition and hope in the working life only to end up getting stuck with "a mundane job".

You do not see the vest in them, nor the life. (Especially if you board the train after office hours). That's really quite tragic and somehow, they are still doing what they do. Is it so inevitable? It's quite scary to think of it.

weiren said... @ October 23, 2008 at 6:18 PM

Hi Lyon,

I totally agree with you. A balance is always a best case scenario. Indeed, the challenge is to place our pivot between money and passion.

The most important thing we must remember is to follow it through. I always believe that one can reap their reward at the end of the road, only if you make it to the end.

As again, I do not think you made an incorrect decision. After all, most of the life science graduate never end up in career related to their field of study. Good luck!


weiren said... @ October 23, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Hi Wei Kwan,

Well, you employer will try to tell you it can be enjoyable. It all depends on your mind.

Good luck with your career!

Brad Blackstone said... @ November 6, 2008 at 10:04 PM

What a serious discussion, one of the most fundamental that people can have: Seeing how life is short, how should it be spent?

Well, unless you are born into serious wealth, the work is inevitable. But the key for me is to plan ahead and try to imagine what you will be comfortable doing at age 30, then 40, then 50, then at retirement. Sometimes what we want to do at age 30 will not pay the bills at age 50, when our kids want to go to college. Sometimes what we want to do at 50 won't keep up when we want to retire.

But whatever we do, it should, at the minimum, make us satisfied, make us feel good about ourselves and the world we have inhabited, maybe not happy every day, but basically satisfied, so that when we are older and look back, we can say, "We have lived the way we wanted to live, and we have shared the gift of life with others."

It might not be perfect, but it is all we can do.

weiren said... @ November 13, 2008 at 2:35 PM


I do agree that our satisfaction in a job is the most important factor that we should look into when deciding to embark on a certain career. However, I do feel that our career path is often changed throughout the course of our lives.

It changes to meet our needs or for a better environment. Sometimes it does get uncertain when I start planning my future. I am unsure of what will happen when I'm 30, let alone 40 or beyond.

I feel that as we plan further ahead of us, our plans should be less rigid, to allow buffer in changes in life.

Thanks sir for the advice!

J.Chappelear said... @ October 17, 2011 at 4:52 AM

What a great thought.
I really appreciate your perspective.
John Chappelear