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On one eventful late afternoon, I was having a smoke break. Around 1600, where plenty of office worker would prepare to go home. Not me, I'm a good fellow worker who needs that extra overtime money. I figured I would take 10 minutes smoke break and continue work till 2000/2100 on a small shack in front of the office. Chain-smoking my Lucky Strike, and observing people stuck at the traffic jam.

As I closed my eyes, enjoying every puff before I noticed a peculiar shape cloud. Head of a giraffe? A crown? And what's beyond the veil, I asked myself.

Clearly, someone in another part of my town would see the same cloud as I am. And the cloud might have passed another city. States, even continents! I imagine myself become the cloud, drifting through the seas for weeks and months. Visiting other continents, be a witness of a great waterfall.

And what were people doing out there? In the part of Africa. Or South America. Or North, Maybe in the North pole? What a vast world! Suddenly, I become a single drop in the ocean.

The sound of a horn from cars brings me back home. Apparently, they got impatient over the traffic and started to get frustrated. As I smoke the last inch of my cigarettes, I couldn't stop myself from asking whether this is how I want to spend my life. And no matter how hard I try to convince myself, I can not say yes.

I love my job. I work on my dream job as a network administrator. I've planned to get a network security certificate in a few years. Getting married, have kids and a stable job. I would get a house, and I'd spent my days in comfort.

But the question of my purpose lingers through my head, seeping down and intoxicate every corner of my mind. The thing is, it doesn't seem toxic. Quite the opposite, I feel something calls me. I went to the restroom and wash my face. Splashing cold water to my face often brings the best of my logic.

For a split second, when I see myself in the mirror, I can see a great journey, should I decide to pursue it. It's none of the steady and safe life, but I can see myself be alive. My reflection stares at me for half a minute, before he smiles and says: do it.

That day would be the day zero of my 7 years quest for purpose.

The pursue of a meaningful life

I've named my first company Creatio, from Creatio ex nihilo. The concept of something out of nothing proves to be irresistible and goes deep into my heart, and the company is the first of my creation. As a first-timer, I learn the lessons of life the hard way. I ruined it in just 13 months.

Creatio office was in a rather wealthy complex, with three pools and a free gym membership. I tried to imitate the idea of Google office at that time, that if you give your team the most flexible way to work (and have a balanced life), everything will work out just fine. Apparently, there's a lot of things they don't say about the real operational process and business. I should've made robust rules and metrics to keep everything in balance, but I was very naive at that moment I couldn't see any of the reality.

I learned my lessons hard, at the expense of others. I lose the trust of many, and I could never regain it back. I was devastated.

To numb the disappointment over myself, I decided to pursue the opposite of corporate life. Living as a freelance programmer, with an added spice of fun. I made software for bars and night club. To make things interesting, I learned Operational strategy and included it as my service. If you're wondering why it's because that would allow me access and privileges to accelerated learning. My client is filthy rich people who built bars over night clubs, and I got to advise them over the entire operational perspective.

It allows me to hang with them a lot and get to see how the world works. Plus, I got access to unlimited alcohol. Mind you, these were the times when I am dead broke and got nothing over my name, but at the same time when my hormone is kicking. Give me two bottles of whisky, and I could drink it on one night, and still wake up at 8 AM entirely fresh.

After one year of booze and plenty of untold stories, I decided to go back pursuing my thing. I love the f&b, but I don't feel I want to settle on it. I still went as a freelance programmer, but this time for the unsexy market. Logistics, Property, and everything in between. Yet, I figured it's not my thing.

The last one would be a project for mining and airlines. I would argue it's the most impressing project of all. I'd know things general people don't and have a better understanding of how the gears of the world work. But again, I don't feel I'm into it that much.

I got tangled into the complexity of corporates for the second time, and I couldn't keep but wonder why I'm still in it if I don't like it that much. Months passed by until one day, I can't take it no more and decided to flush all my saving for an impromptu trip to Vietnam.

I borrowed S$300 from a good friend and went for 9 days trip to Vietnam.

The revelation

I imagine it would be a mediocre trip. The kind of how a backpacking trip would do. But even from day one, the journey becomes more interesting than I imagine. I met and drink with a bunch of crazy Australians. And then met Klemi, a professional KTM motorcycle racer from Switzerland, pose as a modest electrician.

I went to Da Lat, where I found the answer to my quest of purpose on a temple up on the mountain. I went to abseiling a waterfall and meet Timo, a crazy dude with astounding life stories. We got high and ended up befriending a local bar owner. Meet with the Klemi again, bought a cheap bike, and do a road trip without any GPS or direction assistance other than the sun.

The trip was meant to be a refresher. Instead, it opens my eyes and changes my course of life.

We arrived at Nha Trang, only to found more crazy friends where we would dance with babushka, get high, and spent a night at the beach with a bonfire and good conversation.

The trip that changes everything. What first meant as a short refreshing vacation becomes a life-changing experience.

As I went back home, I feel energized and positive about life again. And this time, I know what I want. I don't want to be a slave to money and corporate life. I want to feel alive, and I am most alive when I'm creating something that I really like. It changes over time, but as long as I follow my heart, I know I will do fine.

Upon arriving back home, I asked my business partner to drop the mining and airlines project. Because I have a plan to create something that I feel most alive. And to get there, I need first to become a world citizen.


Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash