I have spent most of my life questioning about the limit of one’s self. Always wondering if I could have do more, if things could be better had I taken a different route. In a simulator, I could reload and explore multiple path to my content but such aren’t the case in real life. There’s seldom a possibility to do a u-turn decision in real life, depending of the scale of sacrifice. Thus one can only identify the constraints to work with and make the best choice. And since we are working with constraints, we are also indirectly limiting ourselves. Did that make any sense?
The Age of Chaos
As I re-evaluate the story retold in Romance of The Three Kingdoms, I came to realize the wisdom within. Cao Cao said that at a time of peace, he would probably be a stable guard or a court officer at best. But at a time of chaos, anyone could be a hero. It was only because of chaos, that he was given the opportunity to assassinate Dong Zhou and became renown in the process. Although he failed and was left running for his own life, he was still able to make use of the chaos and make a name for himself.
Perhaps a common nature of today’s youth from watching too much movies, I have always wanted to do something heroic. But the times we live in, seldom allows for that. And perhaps the place too. If I see someone being robbed, I would be the first to sprint after the robber. If I see someone being assaulted, I would be the first to hit his attacker. If it’s a gun or a bomb, I would willingly sacrifice myself because that would be the right thing to do. But, I can’t. In my whole life in Singapore, I have never witness any such cases. The best I could do was to give up my seat on the train to an elderly. There’s nothing heroic about it, and easily forgotten.
why not go on a volunteer mission overseas?
So I thought, and explore I did. But major disasters that requires overseas aid, doesn’t happen all the time. I could be wrong on this – being the frog in the well – but the available missions I could find, were pretty much “pay to experience” programs. You pretty much enroll yourself into an overseas mission, like say… to teach the kids English or build a house in a more unfortunate part of the world, but you pay for your own lodging and living expenses. Oh, travel expenses too. Since money was a constrain for me, that route weren’t available for me to choose.
The ones we serve
As I evaluate the wisdom further, I came across a conversation between Liu Bei and Xu You. Liu Bei wanted to leave the service of Yuan Shao because he felt that Yuan Shao’s indecisiveness will not allow him to do anything big. If he stayed with Yuan Shao, he would be wasting his life away. Xu You agrees, but refused Liu Bei’s offer to follow him instead for future greatness. Their conversation enlightened me.
Liu Bei did not have anything, after having just lost all 6 provinces in Xu Zhou to Cao Cao. All he had was himself, and his brothers. Yet, he firmly believes that he could do more than Yuan Shao could. Thus, he determined to leave in order to save the Han dynasty himself, rather than depend on others. Xu You on the other hand, was well aware that his wasted serving Yuan Shao, but he couldn’t bring himself to abandon the good lord, after having served for decades and receiving his patronage.
I’m suddenly overwhelmed to relate their conversation to my situation. Had I stayed on in the employment of my ex-company, I would not have to worry about living expenses. In another 5 years, I would be able to afford government housing and maybe start a small family 10 years later. What worries me was that I may not have enough income to provide my kids with good education. But that was the limit of the company’s generosity, not my limit. During my stay there, I had confused myself into believing that my limits is why I can’t find better prospects. That I should not leave the company, because the company was generous to employ me; however confusing my identity in that company was. For several years, I was like Xu You. Choosing to stay, believing that I should repay the company with gratitude. But after failing to get anywhere, I finally left despite having nowhere else to go to. Somewhere deep down, I can relate to how Liu Bei felt.
Some closing thoughts
The above examples aren’t enough to convey my thoughts, but I previously decided that I would not write anymore overly long & personal posts, so I shall abide by that choice. I do feel a little better about current situation though. I don’t really know the real meaning to why humanity exist in this vast universe, but I believe that we exists as different paths / choices in search of something. The unique fingerprint and DNA is probably our creator’s way of identifying the different “choices”. Probably our creator was searching for the answer to life, and arrived at the idea of creating life in his image, so that we may arrive at the answer under his observation. It is after all, a quicker more effective process.
Created in his image, our limit is probably endless or perhaps far beyond our awareness. What we are limited by instead are the times we live in and the ones we serve. I probably wouldn’t be able a millionaire in this lifetime or a CTO for a fortune 500 company. Not because I can’t, nor because I lack the talent to. But because I am limited by society’s perception that paper certification is required in today’s time. In a time where no paper, no money, gets you nowhere. But at least I am still better off than others born before me, for they couldn’t obtain proper education and thus having a harder time than me today. At least, I don’t have to reduce myself to being a dish washer. If I desire, I could turn any struggling company into a profitable company. I could be a hero for injustice. But the times have determined that there is no need for me to do that, that my options lies elsewhere. It doesn’t really help my current situation but I feel somewhat better knowing that. Perhaps… I was too hard on myself the whole time, blaming the constraints instead of working alongside them. For a good period of time, I was hating my life, hating myself for being a failure, hating myself for being ambitious, but now my heart feels a little lighter. Perhaps, working at McDonald’s for the rest of my life is my destiny to be in these times of peace.