Young, successful - and in search of a dream
By DANIEL BUENAS
UNHAPPY - that's how I feel as a young Singaporean.
I feel this way not because I'm jobless, poor or uneducated. In fact, I have a good job, a stable income and a good education. By most standards, I should be considered a successful young man. However, I am slowly realising that the achievements I have been chasing are, perhaps, a chimera.
I have sought and yearned for success, when perhaps what I should have been looking for was happiness, or meaning in life. This is the dilemma that the youth in Singapore face - we cannot reconcile our apparent success with our gnawing dissatisfaction with life, and nobody can tell us why.
What we suffer from is a crisis of the soul. Young Singaporeans are getting lost in a world in which our worth as human beings is tied to our material, social and physical successes. However, as we look behind these successes, we often find the faded vestiges of what once were our dreams. Thus, our life's purpose has been drowned in the ocean of practicality. This distinction between success and happiness was brought home to me recently after the death of a friend. He had passed on suddenly and in the prime of his life, and his death shook me from the stupor of endless days of work. I realised that I had perhaps neglected my family and friends around me and, in so doing, had lost the true meaning of life. It is too late now, but if I could speak to my friend one last time, I wouldn't say anything.
Instead, I would listen to what he had to say. Why? Because Singaporeans are too busy rushing to work, rushing from work and rushing at work. We don't take the time to listen to others. His death made me reflect on my own life, and the search for happiness. Sadly, the need to find meaning in life wasn't one of the things I learnt at school. The need for success, however, was.
The desire for success is ingrained in our national psyche, and has been pursued with a fervour that equals - and often surpasses - religious zeal. From young, we are treamed, labelled and forced into educational moulds, emerging as world-class products of our world-class education system. We graduate equipped to be successful in life. Yet, I feel that in some way, we are lacking. I was never taught to pursue my dreams. Instead, I was taught to be practical. I chose my field of study, computer science, and my university based on practical considerations. I thought this would eventually lead to success. But success doesn't always translate into happiness. Perhaps my idealism is brought about by a life that has not known the cruelty of war, or the bitter struggle for survival. Yet, I have met those who hold on to similar ideals, despite going through great suffering.
For instance, I recently interviewed a well-respected academic who spoke at length with me on the virtues of finding meaning and purpose in what we do. He was no stranger to suffering, having lived through the Japanese
occupation, the Communist revolution in China and nearly starving to death as a young boy. After so much hardship, one would expect him to extol the virtues of being practical. Instead, he spoke of passion, desire, purpose and happiness in what we do. I found it ironic that it took a senior citizen to point this out to what he called 'a handsome, energetic young
man' (what I found even more ironic was his use of the word 'handsome').
Singaporean youth need to learn that our lives are not just about achieving success and that we cannot rely on the government or society to provide us with the reason for our existence. If we do, we will surely come away disillusioned and disappointed. More than anything, Singaporean youth need to know that the beauty of life lies in fulfilling our own dreams - not someone else's - and that we should not fear pursuing them, whatever they may be. Therein lies our road to happiness.
As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently put it: 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams'.
The writer is a BT journalist. He is 24.
My own thoughts:
I used to think that I want to succeed in life - be famous, leave a name down in history.
Yet, it seems now that I don't have the hunger to succeed. As Obama puts it, to be a senator, one must exhibit an almost fanatical single -mindedness, often disregarding their health, relationships, mental balance and dignity.
No, I don't have the appetite for that. I seems to use Steven Covey's balance to tell me that I need balance in my life - to read and to exercise.
Hence, you keep seeing in my posts on facebook, I want to do less but do it well. that to me is enough for my passion and leave other time for other thing to stay sane