Friday, October 17, 2014

Education: Finding Passion Is Difficult

Assalamualaikum Brother Aiman,

I don’t know if you will read this, but I’ll have a go at it anyway.

After secondary school, I got into the engineering program. I had no idea why I picked that program because I had no interest in it. Maybe I was influenced by my peers in school, or maybe I was mesmerized by its “wow” factor. I mean, it’s engineering…come on.

In the beginning, I didn’t want to go into the program but my teacher asked me to give it a go. My teacher said that interest can be cultivated. But I ended up hating the program – I didn’t understand it, I couldn’t study, every night I called my mom wanting to go home, and my pointers were just enough for me to get by.

I didn’t want to waste my time there so I quit. Thankfully, my parents understood me.

But I had no idea what to do then. I had no idea what program to take. So I applied into anything that I found was easy. Sadly, none of my applications got through. 

I wonder why God did this to me. All my friends managed to get a place in their university, but not me. 

I had to face a lot of resentment from people. They asked me, “So, are you still on vacation?” Some even said that I have failed. It hurts, and I don’t know when it will end. I feel like I want to cover my face when I go outside. I am tired and I don’t think I have the strength to face all of this. 

When will this end?

But anyhow, I haven’t given up yet. I called universities, I sent letters, and I sent my secondary school transcript. I am still trying. I don’t know what else to do besides that. I know I have the potential if I study well and if I believe in myself. 

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I don’t know if anyone is willing to listen, or not. But if there are those who are willing to lend me their ears, please pray for me. I hope God still give me a chance to make something of my life, and to move on.

Thank you.

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Waalaikumussalam.

Thank you for your honest email. I appreciate your willingness to share your story with me.

Allow me to begin with two important points:

No. 1, if you are going for something you are not interested in, chances are you are not going to like it.

No. 2, we have to stop ranking jobs. One job is not superior to the other. An engineer is not better than a garbage man. We need both in this world that we currently live in. I mean, imagine a world without garbage men.

Any honest job is a good job, and if you are positively contributing to the society by doing that job, that’s great, and if you find satisfaction in doing that job, that is even better.

Interest or passion can be cultivated. I have met people who didn’t love what they do at first, but they learn to love it as they go along. That is great.

But, if you have tried your best and you have tried to find interest and passion in what you are doing, but you could not find it, then I think it is a form of emotional torture to keep walking on that path.

You want to enjoy what you do, not endure it.

If you decided to quit, then good for you. There is no rule that forces you to keep on pursuing something that you hate. However, I am not saying that if you don’t love what you do, you should quit cold turkey. Ask for advice. Consult wise people before you make your decision.

I am fully aware that each individual situation is different, but my main point is this: if you want to do something for the rest of your life, as a career choice, then it makes sense to choose something that you love doing (provided that it’s not illegal or morally wrong of course).

Never pursue something just because it is easy. Pursue something because you love it, not because it is easy. Sometimes what you love is easy. Sometimes what you love is hard. But either way it doesn’t matter because you would find enjoyment and satisfaction in it nonetheless. Plus, difficult things build character.

If you have no idea what to do, it’s okay to try things out. Explore new things. See if anything resonates with you or not. It’s okay to take your time. There’s no rule that says that you have to be in university by this age and you have to graduate by this age.

I have met people who are much, much older than me sitting in the same class as me in university. One person in particular had grey hair and needed a cane to walk. So there is no age limit to learning and exploring.

For some people, finding passion is easy – they already figured out what to do with their life from the very beginning. But for others, it is not as easy. They have to go out, explore, and figure things out – that process requires time, patience, and determination.

And hey, a little bit of help from the people around who actually care can go a long way.

I understand that in a difficult time like this, we have this tendency to find blame so that our apparent misery has some form of explanation to it. 

But don’t put the blame on God. You have no idea what He has planned for you. You have no idea if there is good in what you are currently experiencing. 

We are taught to always be optimistic. Not delusional, thinking that everything is sunshine and daisies. No, we acknowledge the negative that is around but we choose to focus on the positive. Between the two, if I had to make a choice, I’d go for positive any day. 

Sometimes the thing that we want the most might not be good for us, and we might not see it in the moment. We are very short-sighted; we can’t see beyond what is in front of our eyes. We want something and think that it’s good for us, but in the long term, it might not be good and only God knows what is in the long term. 

It’s like when a child wants to play with fire and you as a parent know that it is bad for the child, so you stop the child from going near the fire. But all the child knows is that he really wants to play with the fire, so the child would probably cry because you didn’t allow him to play with it. 

So maybe, just maybe, the things that you want right now are not good for you so God blocked you from going near them. In a way, He is doing you a huge favour and that is a reason to thank Him. Not to blame Him.

Don't measure yourself with other people. What is good for others might not be good for you. Yes, your friends might be getting along fine with their university application being accepted and all, but you don't know what other challenges they are facing. 

Try to look beyond what you see. What seems good for you might not be good at all in the long run. What seems bad for you might actually be good, if you search for the silver lining. Know this, God will never forsake you.

I understand it must be difficult for you to face all the resentments from people. One of the hard truths about life is that it is not easy. Life is difficult. Along the way, you will come across difficult people. 

For you, you should know that you don't have control over their mouths. However, you do have control over your own. Whatever they say, don't reciprocate because that will only make matters worst. Don't fight fire with fire. 

Having said that, it doesn't mean that you allow yourself to get beaten up by their words. You can stand up to them, by giving them compassionate but firm advice. At the end of the day, you can only do what is in your control. 

For the difficult people, they should really hit the brakes and think about what they are doing. They have no idea what you've gone through. They have no idea how hard you are trying. They have no idea about your current emotional state. If they have no idea, then they should think better of you. 

At the very least, they should just keep quiet. Speak good, or speak nothing at all. 

Life will serve you with a full course meal of annoying and demotivating people, so we need to build a much thicker skin to deal with people like that. 

Chances are, we can’t avoid them. They will be around. We can try our best to advise them, but in the end we can’t really shut people up. we can’t control what they say, but we can control our reaction to what they say.

Be the bigger person and God will love you for it.

Despite all the hate, the fact that you are still trying your best shows your true colors. It shows how strong you really are and it shows that you have what it takes to face these challenges, for God doesn't burden a soul with a test it cannot bear. 

And yes, there are people who are willing to listen to you. 

Don't stop. Don't give up. You can do it. 

May God grant you strength and grant you what is best for you in this world and in the next. Ameen.
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Aiman Azlan
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