back in school

Hark back to when you were a kid in school. You shudder when called into the Principal's office, whether you did something wrong or not. You worry about studying for exams, about your status games and roles in school, about trying to make the school cricket team (or the debate team, or the band), and sometimes the stress got to you. You were dependent on your parents for most (all?) things. You see your friend have the NES 64 and want one of your own but no.

You think that all your problems will resolve when you grow up and move out of your parents' house. No more rules.

Silly kid!

moving out

When you move out to make it on your own, it is liberating. And scary. You are now responsible for things that did not exist - paying rent, doing laundry, buying groceries, and hundred other things. The universe seems to have expanded quite a bit.

This expansion causes quite a stir. A lot of fun new things and a lot of scary new responsibilities as well. Figuring out how to navigate this is fun, especially if you have a safety net of sorts. You are playing the game in your sandbox. Whenever it gets rough, there's always a cheat code in the form of parents or relatives or someone to help you out.

You think that as soon as you get a job, all your problems are going to be a thing of the past. And the current pesky ones - the exams, the studying, well, vanish.

NES DIY controller for switch
Photo by Ravi Palwe / Unsplash

This growing up thing is still fun but not as carefree as you once believed.

the first job

Well, the first paycheck. The moment you've been waiting for. The freedom and liberation. The promised land. Let's buy the latest video game console. And the car. And all those things that are waiting to be found at the end of the rainbow.

And the list of adult stuff and yucky responsibilities have grown so much more. You are starting to realise that being 15 was the promised land. Well, a bit too late now. You make futile attempts to re-live and re-create it. But enough brainpower has developed to move on.

You have to do your job well. You have to figure out how to get promoted, how to be in your manager's good books, how to make yourself stand out and all that. As the grunt work increases, the promised land starts to get more bitter than expected.

As soon as you make manager, all your problems will be solved.


go play somewhere else

When you start off, your universe is small. You get rather good at placing it in context, figuring out the various games that are in it and play them well. But of course, some of them irk you and you naively think that moving to the next level means you won't need to play that game or be confined by those rules.

Except, of course, the next level has different games to play, different rules. More freedom, of course. But more responsibility. The carefree nature of things starts to reduce bit by bit. And before you know it, you are an adult doing adult things you swore you'd never do - telling kids to go play someplace else and not next to your car as they keep hitting the ball on it. Oh boy, you are THAT girl/guy now. Scratch that, you are THAT uncle/aunty now.


the ever-expanding universe

By now, we should recognise this pattern. Every increasing level of this game of life brings about higher-level responsibilities. And higher-level benefits. Not better. Not worse. Simply different. And inevitable.

Hiding from them is not an option. Even if it were, would you take it?

Your function is to keep your universe ever-expanding. And to grow with it. And to keep growing and learning. There's no point saying you will not go to the 12th grade and you'd rather stay in the 11th grade. There's no point saying you won't go away to college. That is the path, or rather, moving forward is the path (not the actual specifics, like college).

Do you want your job to improve? Well, embrace the responsibility. Play the game better. Don't wish for a better job. Do your current job immeasurably well and you will realise there's so much more to you and your job than you previously thought. And before you know it, you are promoted. And hey, you seem to be doing half the things that your new role requires. This has also opened up a new realm of possibilities. Embrace it! Don't be overwhelmed by it - everyone around you is also figuring it out.

based on Czikszentmihalyi's Flow

Looking back at high school, you realise let fear get in the way. You realise that some things were scarier in your head than in the real. Back then, it was obviously too real and scary. But now, with more years under the belt, you see better. And when you were bored, ahhh, you were just not challenged enough.

Well, you can wait 10 years to look back and today and realise the same. Or maybe, just maybe, tell yourself that (and hope realisation comes by later) and just act that way.

The universe will keep expanding. Expand with it. Be at the boundary, constantly pushing. Find the middle way.