There is so much to say, and yet I don't know where to begin. Hm.
I had the great fortune of meeting some like-minded individuals on that trip. And you guys know that I'm not exactly... average/normal. In a Venn diagram. the intersection of my interests and an average person's interests is so small, and I can't exactly get along with most people on a deeper level. I don't have many friends, and I don't need many friends. Out of the friendships I do have, I feel grateful for how they have enriched my life, and I hope I've done the same for them.
If I had to pin down what the disconnect is... I'd say it has something to do with my interests being more engaged with life (meaningful). For a while I had mistakenly described them as "old man interests" simply because everyone else did so. But it's probably more accurately attributed to "wisdom"; not that I'm suddenly full of wisdom or something. I'm still young and there's so much for me to learn. But at least I wasn't pissing away my nights in Lan Kwai Fong getting drunk. So. Pointless. I feel like there are better things to be doing with my life. Though admittedly, some of my choices are simply just more erudite. I do have a bookworm-ish introverted disposition.
Anyway. There were many nights where deep and meaningful discussions were had. One night we even got very personal with our examples. I had to step up and make the first move so that everyone else would open up a bit as well... And the results were very interesting, to say the least. I won't say anything too specific though.
Clearly there are so many people out there who aren't aiming to engage with the world, with their fellow humans and do something useful that makes the most of their talents. It was somewhat frustrating, and yet I could empathise with their respective situations. One was utterly focused on the future, trying to lock in something that couldn't be locked in now. The other was very aware of the issue, but did not make an attempt to correct it. The heart is in the right place, but still the effort is being focused in the wrong place.
Both were not open to the possibility of rising above that narrow view and making a larger impact in our world. One of my friends (not in my blogroll) wrote something very true about most humans: We simply survive, and all we do is become experts at surviving. Doing anything more is so risky that we shrink back into our tiny holes. Few are willing and able to become bright shining stars in history.
Having thought about and discussed this many times with friends at home and in Hong Kong, it is now clear to me that the holes in our lives, the things we crave for, influence our thoughts and actions on so many levels. Right now, it is very likely that you live a life that is lacking something, big or small. But that's just normal. I'm pretty damn sure I do too.
At my age, most people have relatively small issues, and yet it still consumes our thoughts and leaves us blind to a more productive and meaningful life. Imagine what it's like when you're 50 and unhappy with your job. And it's not just your job that's going to impact you, because that unhappiness is also going to leak into other aspects of your life and the choices you make. It can be difficult to pull yourself out of that mess.
Thankfully people in developed countries do live in greater comfort, and have a higher chance of having their basic needs satisfied. The proof is in the unparalleled level of knowledge we been allowed to gain (wow, the Internet is not just for porn :P), and what feels like an increase in attempts to apply what we know to make our lives better. Stem cell research, gay marriage, abortion, etc. have become hot topics because of our attempts to throw off the chains of old and become more enlightened, continuing the great tradition of freethinkers shaking things up in the cultural revolutions/Renaissances in the Western world: Always looking back, always finding the strength to make changes where it must be made.
But there's always room for improvement, and it starts with yourself. What you want to achieve with your life is really up to you so I won't elaborate on that point.
Now before there's any confusion and misinterpretation, I'm going to make another disclaimer and fully admit that I myself am not making the most of my time in this universe right now, nor am I very disciplined. I am definitely not looking down on others when I talk about this. I was once in that position myself, and I still am in some respects.
So, that leads me to a more personal area: What Rogiraffe is going to do with his own life.
For me, a fulfilled life is one where I am happy with what I do and what I have achieved. Well, that's only part of it. I need to be whole, so that I may take the excess and give to others. In this universe, with so little time and such fragile bodies, we really need to make every second count. To me, there is no better way to do it than to reach out and help someone else in need. Or hundreds of people in need. The more, the better.
After 3 years of faffing about and not really thinking about what would make me fulfilled (yes I'm still that young), I'm seriously considering going into academia. While that may seem like a very cloistered and ivory-tower sort of profession, I feel like it will allow me to engage more fully with life. It's definitely because of the teaching, which is something I love to do. Seeing those confused faces change and light up with excitement and understanding is the best thing ever. Well, that and the simple thanks I receive afterwards.
Maybe the research will be great as well. That's the part I'm not 100% sure of. Intellectually, it is very interesting... Can I really produce such research myself on a regular basis? It's such a difficult question to answer right now. But that's why I want to go into Honours, so I can get a taste and see if I want to do this for most of my working life. I've been more or less told that I have the disposition and manner befitting an approachable teacher or professor, so I have that going for me :)
And if I do dive into that, it won't be very lucrative for several years... It's a large outlay for sure. While money isn't the only concern, it's still a significant factor.
Yes, it may bring in more income if I work one of those ordinary office jobs. But as they say, money doesn't (necessarily) buy happiness. There is a lot to be sacrificed when you go for safety over the chance of fulfilment. You only get one shot at life, so one should not immediately hunker down and simply survive.
When I die, I want to at least die knowing I tried my best and was actually of some significance and touched many lives, regardless of whether I'm recognised for my efforts or not.
I want to do more with my life. And for now, I'm finding that my choices are a lot clearer than they were when I began studying at university. I've done a lot of growing, and a LOT of struggling with what to do after my studies are over.
I know, I know. This is all super idealistic, and life can ruin your plans. But this is the guiding force I need to simply make the next step in my life. If I have a shot at succeeding in academia, awesome. If not, then there must be other avenues for fulfilment. Let's just hope all goes well for me. Only time will tell if I really put these plans into action and become an awesome professor.
Professor Rogiraffe. Hell yeah.
SO. That's enough for now. I have so much more to say, but that can definitely be left for another day. I should throw in some more art and tea-related posts in the interim.