This is a short story by a bumbling ex-software engineer.
Graduating from university, I was pretty much clueless about what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
To be honest, I wasn’t particularly good at anything. Unfortunately, I had spent most of my time dating and playing computer games.
Sure, I usually learn fairly quickly and always put in plenty of effort into whatever I do.
But finding my niche and specialty? Apparently, that was never my thing.
In response to the inevitable, I half-heartedly applied for a bunch of IT jobs. After the usual round of rejections and screwing up many interviews, I landed a contract with a big-name multi-national corporation (MNC) that specializes in consulting as a test analyst – which is really a glorified term for someone that does spreadsheet stuff.
Oh yes, remind me about the company culture! It was ages ago but it felt like yesterday. I was regularly leaving office between 10pm to 1am and then coming in to work after 10am – yeah, nobody bat an eyelid at such stuff.
The drinking parties – man, that was crazy stuff. Folks were passing out from unlimited drinks, and I remember cartons of beer and wine were brought back to the office for future consumption.
No surprise there but I quit after three months, and landed a subsequent job with a small-medium enterprise (SME) this time.
Hey, I thought that it would be an opportunity to get my hands dirty instead of being a big corporation’s cog-in-the-wheel.
I hunkered down and took on whatever that was thrown and assigned to me. Like I said, I wasn’t that good at anything (generalist, you say?) but my output and work ethics eventually won my boss and clients over, I guess.
One thing led to another and things fell into place – I was eventually leading a team and making sure things run like clockwork. Looks like a generalist is pretty suitable for my role?
On the surface, my career was going well. (By the way, Peter Principle is an interesting phenomenon.)
Although I wasn’t drawing sky-high wages, I was leading a team and was trusted upon with responsibilities. So what?
I guess the root of the problem was that deep down, I was jaded with work and was perpetually drained of energy from what I was doing.
I dreaded Mondays. I looked forward to vacations to escape from work. I questioned whether this was what I wanted to keep doing for the rest of my life.
At the age of 31, I left my job.
Instead of sitting around and doing nothing, I joined a hostel as the sole part-timer working the 7am-7pm shift for $7 an hour, four times a week (on average).
In Singapore, a hostel is the cheapest type of accommodations you can find – the lowest rate at the place where I hosted travellers was $12 per night. In exchange, they get a bed and locker in the shared 12-pax room.
To be honest, it was nothing like what I have imagined.
Looking back, little did I know that this would turn out to be a really pivotal period of my life and the profound impact it would have on my future decisions.
I finally understood why some folks who have taken a gap-year to backpack the world return with new-found direction in life. It’s all in the social interactions and shared experiences.
Living in a small and sheltered country like Singapore? The actual exposure to the world out there is limited, and we all know that no amount of leisure-focused overseas vacations can make up for it.
For four months, I didn’t have to step foot outside of country to access the global perspectives I was lacking. They came to me, right here in my tiny little hostel.
I have probably mentioned this in my older blog posts, but the diversity of the temporary residents whom I’ve gotten to know at the hostel was mind-blowing.
Would you believe that a visiting associate professor at National University of Singapore would stay at a little hostel?
A trainee doctor was transiting Singapore and on his way to Cambodia to do voluntary work, and we shared our past experiences dealing with medical situations.
Pretty memorable was a wealthy Indonesian Chinese who frequents Singapore’s casinos regularly. He always keeps the complimentary stays at Marina Bay Sands for his daughter’s trips to Singapore.
There was a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who had finished a short stay in Thailand and starting a new training stint in Singapore.
A young Canadian lad dressed in Kurta who had just arrived from India confessed he didn’t want to take over his family’s business.
Did you say giggly Thai girls?
Still, there are many more that will forever reside in my memory.
To many of these travellers with whom I’ve had fleeting interactions with, I’m eternally thankful to them for giving me the impetus to try and live my life with no regrets – just like how many of them are actively doing the best they can, with what they have got, regardless of how old they might be.
The worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.
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Kevin started Turtle Investor when his net worth languished at negative $25,755. His desire to turn things around led him to build passive income from investments and side hustles that pay for all his daily expenses and overseas vacations. You can learn more about Kevin here.