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Christ Loves

 

Career Choice and University Studies

 

This sermon inspired me because I am spending a lot of my time on a campus now, during my travels through Europe. Using their free internet and spending much of my time on campus, it brought me back to the days when I used to go to university, and my life. It reminded me of one girl I met in university who had just finished a degree, paid for her by her parents, perhaps tried working in her field, but decided she was not really happy with it and wanted to try something else. It reminded me of the time when I finished highschool and was considering the possibility of travelling around the world for a year before going to university, but my mother adamantly argued that my brain would stop working and that I should proceed directly to university and "stay on track". Well, that was the last time I listened to my mother against what my instincts and gut feelings were telling me. Unfortunately, it was not the last time I followed someone else's advice against my own gut instincts. But I'm learning.

In any case, what a colossal waste that case above of the girl who started all over again with another career choice. Perhaps she will end up using the knowledge at some point, so it will not be such a colossal waste. After all, I have used some of my knowledge in economics from university. But she did not seem very enthusiastic about even her second choice.
The point I am trying to make is that one should not rush into this very important matter. I like to refer to one of my favourite lines in the bible:

ECC 3:9 What does the worker gain from his toil? [10] I have seen the burden God has laid on men. [11] He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. [12] I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. [13] That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God.

Yet many people seem to be railroaded into the rat race. Into believing that they must work hard first, and then receive the fruits of their hard labour by the joy they receive from all the possessions they accumulate in their homes and the few vacations they can afford each year with their family.
I recently heard an interesting show on the radio touching on this very matter. The moderator spoke of a study performed in the US over the years and asking people to gauge and evaluate their happiness, where it was generally found that the personal happiness felt by the general population declined proportionally from around the time when the message began to be pushed (through the advertising media) that one's happiness depends on how many toys one has, or as one of my friends put it: "He who has the most toys, wins." But I believe this is deadly wrong. Do you really believe a material object somehow has influence on the state of your soul? Is not joy and happiness directly related to one's soul and spirit? I found I have been spiritually the most happy at times when I had the least possessions. I believe that all these possessions and entertainment can instead serve to distract us from what truly makes us happy.

In any case, when one looks at it simply and logically, and the amount of time one spends a day, we can see that most of it revolves around work. Out of 24 hours, roughly 8 hours might be spent sleeping (we are unconscious, so we cannot really include these hours when evaluating our happiness), then around 8 hours working. Which leaves about 8 hours, of which 1 to 2 hours may be spent commuting, another 2 hours eating and everything surrounding that (brushing teeth, going to the washroom, cooking and cleaning up afterwards), then perhaps some household chores and personal errands, until at the very end, one might have only a few hours a day to spend doing what they enjoy. And what do most people do with this time? They turn off their brains, sit on the couch, and watch violence on TV. This is truly a good recipe for disaster and an unhappy life, especially if they do not enjoy their work.
Furthermore, if they hate their jobs, which many people seem to, the bitterness accumulated over half their waking life, added to the bitterness they might accumulate while frustrated in daily traffic to and from work, and wrestling among others in the grocery store on their way home, it is no wonder they turn their minds off to passively watch senseless violence after another gruelling day. I had a friend who so hated her work, she couldn't wait to get home to play Doom on the computer, punching in the secret code to make her invincible and with unlimited weapons, so that she could choose the chainsaw and slice her way through all her foe, imagining every one of them were her pears at work. How horrible.

So I would like to spend this time to convince you to weigh this decision very carefully, if you are now at a juncture in life when you are finishing highschool and wondering what career choice to make. This is a very pivotal point in your life, and I would advice against rushing into it and commit yourself to some path which will not bring you joy.
Many around you may be pressuring you to make a quick decision. Your parents may want you to become a doctor. After all, it makes them look good, doesn't it? But who is living your life? You or your parents? Do not let yourself be rushed into this by anyone.

You should first find out what you enjoy doing, and go from there. I decided on a degree in economics because I was not accepted into business school, and assumed that economics was the next best choice. I decided on business school because I knew I wanted to own and run a business one day. The first time I went to university, when I was pressured by my mom, I decided on engineering, because I had no clue what I wanted to do and chose that only because that is what my dad studied. The first time around I had no motivation, failed half my courses and ended up taking three years off out of shock. The second time around, I felt I needed a self esteem boost, and felt that a university degree would give me this, and help me dig myself out of the bottom of the totem pole jobs I was working on during those three years, and over the top to the next white collar level. I was following simple logic. I studied the economics with distaste. I forced myself through it, and found many of the theories dry, boring, and retarded.
When I finished my studies I was going to launch myself into some career, but did not know what, and I was not very enthusiastic about it. Many friends egged me to go travelling first. Which is when I stumbled onto Europe, moved to Prague, and there began my entrepreneurial ventures, not using any of my education at all. I could have saved myself four years of torture, although I admit the general partying at university was great fun for me and I learned a lot of other things while there.

But in hindsight, I must say that my strategy was entirely wrong. With the internet, I believe there are now many ways one can educate themselves and they do not need to go to an institutional educational system to achieve it. Many people consider me a computer guru. I know so many things, from system administration, setting up databases, optimizing webpages for the search engines, and many other computer tips, and I learned all these things on my own. For free from the help menu on every software program. Or from the internet. Or once in a while from someone who knew more than I did. This is very useful knowledge. So why spend four years of my life learning this in a university, spending all this money to do so, so that I can spend the next decade or more slaving in some office to pay back all these accumulated debts?
After all, there are many other forms of education now available, such as vocational or trade schools, or private correspondence courses one can take on their own free time while working. You should really sit down and analyse things first. Decide what interests you. Decide the best way to attain it, and start from there. Not just go or let yourself be railroaded into university, assuming that everything will somehow work out by itself from there. After all, university is a big investment. Of time and money. Four years is not a small matter. With my creative and entrepreneurial pizzazz, if I had spent the four years experimenting with business ideas instead, I am sure I would be better off now. Did not Bill Gates drop out of highschool because he saw it as a waste of his time? Obviously, the logic is not "drop out of highschool and you will become as successful as Bill Gates," but Bill has supreme intelligence, he had a business plan, decided that school was holding him back, and pursued his well thought out plan.

Choosing a life career and education is like developing a business plan. And to develop a good business plan you need experience. You can study other business plans. You should have hands-on experience in the industry before you think of starting your own business in it. And you should apply this same principle for when devising your life career plan. In fact, you should start earlier. Don't waste your highschool years trudging to school every day, doing the minimum, and spending the rest of your time playing video games. On the other hand, one should enjoy their youth freely. But at some point you should start thinking about the future. It is your own life, after all. Why flaunt your time carelessly during highschool when already you could be using the time to discover what interests you. Is it pottery? Is it acting? Why wait to experiment with these things until you are finished with highschool and the great pressure is on you to decide?
But if you are out of highschool now and trying to decide what to do, and you have already flaunted your highschool years and still have no clue what you want to do, then start experimenting now! Let's say you want to be a lawyer. One would normally think you cannot experiment with being a lawyer, which is why I chose it for my example. And because many people might choose to be a lawyer because it seems like a profitable career choice. But you could be railroading yourself into a commitment for the rest of your life that you will not enjoy. If it concerns the rest of your life, would it not be better to spend at least a few months during summer or a year experimenting with the idea?
So, as someone who has built up a successful translation business and used business logic for many years, this is how I would logically propose "experimenting" with the proposition of becoming a lawyer. You can go to a university and sit in one of their classes. I assume that most universities would let you do this, or you can just sneak in anyway. Sit in on several different types of classes and hear what they have to say. Do you find it interesting? If you do not find it interesting now, why would you find it interesting later? Instead, you might find it unpleasant hell, and wish you hadn't made that choice. And later in life, when you are convinced it is too late to change your career, you will regret you hadn't invested the time now and made a better decision.
Look at the students around you. Do they impress you? Do you want to be like them one day?
You can try to make friends with some of them. Ask them how the studies are. Ask them for their opinion. Speak with the teachers. You might try to work in a law office for a summer or few and try it out. Get some insight into the profession. You might go to the library and read some books about it. Find some information about it on the internet. Instead of launching yourself into this lifelong commitment based on some whim or pressure from your parents.

Many people are not content with their lives. You can consider one's life and career choice as an entrepreneurial venture.
When I first came to Prague I was convinced to sell waterbeds there. I launched into it with all the fervour and enthusiasm, without any market research at all. I built the bed frames and bought the watermattresses based on my existing knowledge alone. But I later learned that, although queen sized beds are the most popular in the US, they are simply too small for Czechs. If a Czech is going to do something crazy like buy a waterbed, they are going to go all out and get the biggest size only. No one was interested in my small queen sized beds. And no one was interested in my wooden frames. Under communism, wood was scarce, as was toilet paper, as these were luxurious commodities saved specifically for the poletbureau and rich upper political class of the Russian elite. So everyone in the Czech Republic was used to buying plaster board, fake wood or wood chips glued together to make "wooden" boards, which they then covered over with some nice fabric. All their existing furniture was like this, which to my Canadian eyes appeared horribly tacky. But to their eyes, throwing into a room like that a bare exposed wooden framed bed, which I thought was beautiful, they saw as a sore thumb among their other furniture. I was horrified to learn that most of them wanted to cover up my beautiful pine frames with some tacky fabric.

Well, with failed business ventures, the business man always learns something and applies it to their next venture, and keeps trying. Four years of this, three years of that, always learning, always experimenting, until success comes at last. But you cannot experiment in this way with a university education, because it is much too expensive, and you usually end up railroading yourself into a failed enterprise. Failed to the extent that you do not enjoy it, and are forced to live the rest of your life in it, and be miserable, perhaps.
So I advice you to perform sufficient "market research" at this crucial juncture in your life, and find something that you enjoy. Maybe you will not be making as much money as a lawyer, but your wealth and accumulated possessions in a bigger house with more cars will truly not buy you happiness.

Which is where God might come in. Looking back on the interesting journey of my life so far, I find that I am a dreamer, that I'm an optimist, and that I tend to follow my dreams without much second thought. After all, is it not a dream to live your life while watching your dreams come true? But if you do not follow your dreams, how will they come true? And who planted your dreams there in the first place? After many many years, it finally occurred to me that God had planted my dreams. God crafted me in my mother's womb, where he prepared my spirit. Then during my life he planted my dreams, and in my mother's womb and afterwards carved my character. God has a plan for all of us, but if we do not follow that plan and use some sort of lust logic instead (believing that wealth and possessions will buy you happiness and choose a career which maximises income more than anything else), we will certainly not realise those dreams and end up spending a bulk of our lives doing something which does not produce the joy that we were designed for.

Christ was a humble carpenter. Occasionally I do carpentry work, and I must admit that I enjoy working with wood, smelling its aroma, carving with it, and forming something beautiful and useful out of it. Definitely beats sitting in front of the computer all day.
In any case, when I look back on my life, and look forward to where I am headed, it increasingly seems as though I am fulfilling the dreams that God has planted in me. And thus I am enjoying the journey that much more.
What are your passions? Do you enjoy making pottery with your hands? But your parents are telling you to become a doctor? Why not get involved in pottery more? You do not have to commit yourself to it, but why not develop it further and test your passion? Speaking of doctors and pottery, my cousin does both. She said she would like to juggle both careers on a part time basis. So a transition later in life is possible. But I wouldn't count on it. At this point in time I would highly suggest that you discover what you enjoy doing and go that direction instead. Even with a very low income, if you love your work, does not that mean that at least half your waking life is spent doing something you love doing? In this case you are much better off than someone who earns multitudes more than you but spends most of their day doing something they despise, and are so busy they can hardly spend quality time with their loved ones. This is truly a sad state of affairs.

I believe that much of the lust logic I mentioned above is generated by the devil. Many would picture the devil as a snickering, evil, black hairy being with pointy red horns, but the bible says:

REV 13:11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. [12] He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. [13] And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. [14] Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. [15] He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. [16] He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, [17] so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
REV 13:18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

I think I might go into this interpretation on another page < , but basically I believe that the beast is the ancient serpent and pride which lives in all of us. It is our own vain desire to be gods, and above God himself. To place faith in our own wealth. To worship and serve ourselves. And by this selfishness we feed the beast. And the beast dazzles us with his advertising: the more we buy, the happier we will be. And people seem to follow this lie like it is the absolute truth. Work work work, make lots of money, buy, and you will be happy.

Anyway, I hope this page will inspire you to reflect on this subject carefully. To inspire you to search what work of your hands makes you happy. To seek what plan God has for you. To stand up against all the "instruction" around you and instead focus on what your heart and passions are telling you. After all, it is the rest of your life which you are deciding on at this point of time.

 

 


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