Approximately seven-and-a-half years ago, having completed my final year of school, I did something rather unorthodox. Something very few people have seen me do: I cried. Yes, that’s right; I actually discharged liquid from my eyes (albeit, a very small quantity). This will come as a surprise to most people, who assume me to be an unfeeling robot. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Just because I don’t show emotion very well, doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. Anyway, I found myself lamenting the fact that I actually had to make a choice that would seemingly determine the course of my adult life. Since I had no idea as to what career I wanted to pursue, and I was not particularly bad at any subject, it seemed like the right choice to undertake something that would be of practical use to society. Given that my father is an engineer, I thought: why not?
Four years later, I had passed with first class honours in civil/structural engineering. Every university graduate seems to have a framed photograph of himself/herself adorning the traditional gown and hat, complete with a huge smile that says: This is the best day of my life, except for my wedding day of course, which is obviously number one. Clearly the best day of my life was the day when I spent an excessive volume of money that I didn’t have on a meaningless ceremony in which I invited an abundance of so-called-friends and spiteful relatives to drink expensive wine and congratulate me through gritted teeth. Please don’t confuse these as my own thoughts (I have nothing against weddings, and I am rather fond of my friends/relatives); these are the thoughts I have observed through the typical smiling graduate photograph. As for me, I felt nothing but hollowness and misery. I realised that I had completed something that I had no passion for and dreaded the prospect of spending the rest of my life as an engineer.
Shortly after graduating, I acquired a job in a small consulting firm in Far North Queensland, several thousand kilometres from where I grew up in Southeast Tasmania. Three-and-a-half years later, I’ve concluded that working as an engineer has not been any better than I expected. In a word: uninspiring. So in short, it’s taken me seven-and-a-half years of bashing my head against a brick wall before I realised that it would be much more pleasant to simply hold my head up high and proclaim that all this head bashing is rather unnecessary, and most likely not greatly beneficial to the cultivation of a healthy head, neck and spine.
Given that I have dedicated the last seven-and-a-half years of my life to a career which brings me very little fulfilment, have I just wasted a great chunk of my life? Perhaps. However, if I had not pursued this particular path, I would not have ended up living independently in Far North Queensland for the past three-and-a-half years. Work aside, the experience has been an extremely beneficial journey for me. I have learned a lot about myself and met several interesting people along the way (my experiences with Edge Hill Tigers football club have been particularly satisfying). Despite my disinterest in my chosen career, I couldn’t have asked for a better boss or group of colleagues (the people at work were easily the best part of the job). They truly were a great bunch of people and I wish them all the best for the future.
Spending a fair proportion of time alone has allowed me to obtain some clarity in my mind, where previously it had been a jumbled storage place for other people’s opinions and beliefs. The whole point of life is at the root of how and why we live. Without adequately addressing this question, one’s whole outlook on life is a confused mess, or a mindless following of popular culture and society. I was brought up in a Christian family, where church every Sunday was the expectation. As I grew up, I became less and less comfortable with an unquestionable faith in the Christian God. Why should I just accept this religion as truth? Is it not arrogant to assume the religions of the west are any better than the religions developed simultaneously in the east? If God is a supernatural being, why in twenty years of attending church services had I failed to see one single miracle that disobeyed the physical constraints of this world? I had seen plenty of people claim to be psychologically transformed. Of course, the brain is a powerful organism. In my opinion, any spiritual experiences are achieved through accessing certain parts of the brain. And if that works for people, that’s great. I respect people of all religious faiths, so long as the pursuit of their ideology is not detrimental to others who do not share their beliefs.
There is no single correct way to live. Everybody’s way of life should be treated with respect, provided it does not adversely affect other people’s ability to pursue their own way of life. Each individual should rationally assess a variety of systems before settling for an ideology or way of living. If an individual feels the need to take a leap of faith, that is their prerogative. Faith is a personal decision that should be made solely on the basis of one’s individual convictions; not on feelings of obligation or pressure from other people or society. An individual should never ignorantly inherit a value system and should be weary of acquiring guidance through misinformation or indoctrination. A man’s only obligation is to define his own moral code and to follow it.
The one rule in which I believe everybody should aspire towards is to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. I value tolerance and respect of others. Intolerance is the bane of our society. No one human being has the same set of experiences as another human being, and thus nobody has the right to judge others. Politically, given that left wing and right wing politics have essentially criss-crossed on several issues in Australia, the best advice I can offer is to always vote for the losing party. That way, you have every right to criticize the party in governance.
Whilst the fundamental laws of nature remain unchanged, it is not fact that governs the world; but conjecture. Politics is based around presentation and perception. If we removed the personal aspect of politics, would the country benefit? What if all politicians remained anonymous and their policies were read by a neutral announcer. Any questions directed at a politician could be answered via written communication (social media, for example). It’s not like we ever learn anything new from a live discussion with a politician anyway; whenever a politician is asked for a spontaneous response, he/she provides an evasive answer. A politician’s main skill is in being asked one question, and convincing the interviewer that they asked something completely different. For example, if asked why the asylum seeker policy is so unsympathetic, a skilled politician could answer the question of why those little sachets of soy sauce are always complementary with a sushi purchase when nobody ever uses the soy sauce anyway. With the personal aspect of politics removed, perhaps politicians can then be judged on their competence, rather than their public image.
Government policy should be focused predominately on economic issues, with as little focus as possible on individual moral issues. Each individual should have their own moral code based on their belief system. Any moral decisions should be a personal decision, made without the influence of a governing body. The government should not interfere with a person’s way of life, provided that it does not adversely affect the ability of others to pursue their own moral code.
Whilst this time alone had been greatly beneficial to me, I recognise that my main problem in life so far is that I have been far too introverted. Whilst I have the desire to connect with others and pursue meaningful relationships, I have remained largely emotionally distant from my fellow human beings. I have recently concluded that to improve my sociability, I need to be totally genuine. Beginning with this post, I will endeavour to be more open with people from this point forwards. Here it goes then: It was I who glued a coin to the science room floor in high school; that game of five-hundreds where my brother and I totally demolished a couple of unsuspecting girls – the deck was rigged; I’ve spilt cordial on a library book; in a state of shocking indifference, I’ve defaced a politician or two on the front page of newspapers; some occasions have seen me jump queues at the Australian Open tennis such that I get instant access to matches others have lined up for hours to see; I’ve snuck into Port Arthur without paying; an outdated ID has been used to get into MONA for free; I was a key participant in Operation Rose, where flora was obtained illegally from private residences; I have deliberately exceeded the speed limit on several occasions; I’ve thrown rocks at scrub turkeys; I’ve ridden trams without paying the fee; and very little money has been donated to charity. To my credit, I did complement someone once. Although, I think they mistook it as sarcasm.
Many people talk a lot, yet say very little. If Intolerance is the bane of our society, Small Talk is his pretentious cousin. Small Talk whispers in your ear: Don’t trust others with your real feelings and opinions; they will only laugh at your shortcomings and revel in your vulnerability. And so, with the fear of non-acceptance, you supress all meaningful discussion and talk about something superficial instead. Okay, Small Talk is a necessary presence to break the ice and an essential part of living. However, Small Talk is an excessively jealous guy. If you allow him, he will sabotage all your hopes of meaningful relationships. Small Talk has only so much to say. Don’t let Small Talk dominate your relationships as I have; instead treat him with the frivolity he deserves.
After reading the above, it would appear that I am perhaps running away to procrastinate. This assumption would be absolutely correct. But it’s so much more than that. Travelling the world is something I really want to do. To experience other cultures, climb distant mountains, taste foreign cuisines, meet exotic people, and generally broaden my horizons. I have a nagging curiosity of the different cultures around the world. Are people who live in less wealthy countries any worse off internally? Perhaps people from poorer communities are happier than materialistically abundant western societies? I look forward to observing how communities and families interact in a variety of cultures across the globe. Is it acceptable to maintain steady eye-contact with a stranger around the world, or – like Australia – does something so dreadfully horrific happen such that one can only hold a strangers gaze for a fleeting moment before one has to look away? Surely other societies aren’t as easily outraged as Australians, who seem to find the most trivial things highly offensive. Perhaps it is our lack of hardship in recent years that has driven us to become such a bunch of spineless, pretentious, fruit loops.
My main travel goals are to have genuine cultural experiences with local people outside of the mainstream tourist attractions; and to climb a lot of mountains. And maybe, just maybe, in the course of my travels I’ll come to some sort of conclusion as to who I am and what I want to do with my life. And so begins my journey beyond the horizon…