The past four years have been the years of soul searching for me to find the answer to one, single question. That is, “Who am I, exactly?”
I used to harbor envy at people with deep passions in their lives. There are those who are so passionate about cooking, or filmmaking, or fashion, or photography, or wedding planning, or tennis, or golf, or dancing, or music making. And they found that passion at such an early age, they already made a name for themselves in their thirties, or even twenties.
I once read a short bio on Jamie Oliver, the British celebrity chef. Age-wise, he is only 12 days older than I am. Yet he had achieved so much in his 20’s, while in the same period of time the only achievement I made was living to the adage of ‘work hard, play hard’.
Here’s the rough comparison
Jamie: hosted his first television show
Me: hmmm … what did I do back then?
Jamie: Appointed MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Elizabeth II, Queen of England.
Me: still no clue
As with many people, the realization of the fleeting time dawned on me as I was getting nearer to my 30th birthday. I began to look around, and I could not help feeling dissatisfied with my life. I could not help having the nagging thought of, “Had I known what I am passionate about in my teens, I would have been in a better position, as of now.”
Somehow I had the difficulties of making up my mind on what I want to pursue on a professional level. Something that I enjoy doing, and at the same time it puts bread on the table.
I do know that my job now is not so bad. I learn a lot from it, and I do get satisfaction every now and then. One time, as I filled out my LinkedIn profile, I realized I have done many things, and I have made a difference for my company and for many people.
But have I made a difference in my life? Or am I just working to make a living?
The acid test is this: Would I do what I do now if I don’t get paid for it?
Then what is the one thing that I don’t mind not getting paid for doing?
If I can answer that, then I will find the definition of me.
I pondered about this question for several years. I knew I had several interests in life, and I am pretty good at them, but which one of them really defines me? The one thing that people will put after my name when they describe me in a biographical entry.
Here’s some examples from wikipedia:
Christian Bale (born Jan 30, 1974) is an English actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio (born Nov 11, 1974) is an American actor and film producer.
David Beckham (born May 2, 1975) is an English footballer.
Jamie Oliver, MBE (born May 27, 1975) is an English chef and media personality.
Stephen Siregar (born Jun 9, 1975) is … ???
During the 4 years of soul-searching, I took inventory of all the things that were of interest to me. Of all that I could come up with, I came to the conclusion that I was a writer. Yeah, a writer! I wrote occasionally, and sometimes I got good reviews from the readers. And the most important thing was that it was something I enjoyed doing although I didn’t get paid for it. I could make a career in writing. Blogs, books, articles, whatever. I just need to write, write and write to get myself even better and better at it.
But then, I realized one important aspect in writing that might critically impair its economic potential. Writing took ideas, and ideas need inspiration. And in my case, inspiration is most of the time as rare as a four-leaf clover (well, alright, a four-leaflet clover, for crying out loud). I was not so diligent in writing as I had hoped to be.
So, if writing is not it, then what is?
I do enjoy picture taking, but I’m not much of a camera buff. I’m not the kind of photography enthusiast who spend a lot of money on cameras and their accessories. And instead of going hunting for the most beautiful sights on earth, I would rather hang out in cafes. I don’t mind not getting paid for my photos, but I also don’t like making money from taking pictures, either. So that can’t be it.
Everything suddenly became clear in the past 4 months. I had projects at the office that require the use of my designing skills. I worked on several designs, offering them to the users, and picked one that I believe would work best. I planned the project from scratch, hired furniture designer and technicians, and I delightly watched as my ideas took form into being.
And there it is now: the new lay-out of my office.
I got satisfaction from seeing the ideas that I combined in a design became a reality. I would do it for free, but since it’s part of my job description, then I was actually got paid for it!
I wished it had been a larger project with more funds and more risk to it. I wish it had been an entire building job. I wish it had been an extreme makeover project.
Then the enlightment suddenly hit me. This is it! This is the one thing that defines me! This is actually what I have been wanting to do ever since I was in elementary school. This is me! This should be how I look at and how I approach my job. No matter where I am, no matter what I do.
Stephen Siregar (born Jun 9, 1975) is an Indonesian designer.