Summer is a time of change and growth. Over the past summer, there were three realizations that helped to shape my life.
First, I realized that working a job (and earning money) is not difficult. The intellectual challenge of a white collar job is much smaller than reading Marx and Darwin. Most of the time, only a small fraction of the brain is required to do a good job. For an average assignment, there is little need for the higher, creative faculties. Also, even if I have no previous experience, I could learn the trade quickly and start creating value. All it takes is time and effort.
Second, I realized that I don't need a lot of money to lead a happy and healthy life. Material possession and consumption are of no interest to me, and true happiness is usually free. For example, in the morning, as I bike to work along Lake Michigan, my greatest joy is to ask: what color is the lake today? It's different every day, every minute. The big lake never fails to surprise and amaze me with her richness in color and texture.
Third, I realized what is worth working (or even dying) for, and what is not. By pure coincidence, within a week, I read a biography of Buddha, saw the film "Gandhi," and watched a documentary about Nelson Mandela. Their paths and devotions touched me deeply. During the same week, I had lunch with a former CEO of a global fast-food company. The person was very decent, smart and hardworking, but hearing about his work just made me depressed. I can't see the value of what he was doing --- creating even more fast food restaurants that are even more profitable? So what? Actually, to most of the career paths I've observed, I can't help but ask: so what?
These three realizations are empowering, liberating, and sobering. They provide an anchor and a compass in this turbulent "career-oriented" world. Next time if someone ask me what my career path is, I'd point to Gandhi's "career path" for an example.
We are so fortunate to live in a world where the challenges are interesting, and the solutions are possible. We are lucky to be endowed with good capabilities and opportunities. It would indeed be a sin to take the easy exit. Let this youthful, naive idealism live, so that we can prove the cynics wrong.