Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Failing For The Greater Good

So here’s a story.

There was this one dude who is super into the arts and inspiring other people’s artistic side. He decided to take up architecture as his degree, since it seemed like it was a course that allowed people to explore their artsy side. He studied hard and got a scholarship to study just that in a university of his choosing.

He finished his four year degree at a local university no problem. Once he graduated, he was immediately offered a job as a lecturer at a public higher learning institute to teach architecture, since that was part of his scholarship programme. There was really no escaping that, since if he decided to say no, he’d have to pay back his bond to the government, which was priced at about half a million ringgit.

He checked into his job, as was his duty, and quickly found that his heart wasn’t there. He felt that what he was doing everyday was banal and did not inspire anything within him to be creative nor encourage his students to be let out there creative side. He really wanted to, but the place clamped down on all of his efforts to give room to the students to explore their creativity. The institute insisted that he limited his actions to what was asked of him, and nothing more. He could do less if he wanted, but certainly nothing more.

He got really frustrated. This wasn’t what he wanted at all. But he didn’t have the wherewithal to opt out of the job, since he didn’t come from an affluent background. His family keep encouraging him to stay put because of the stability the job offered. It was a steady stream of money coming in every month, so why shouldn’t he be happy with that?

The daily monotony ate away at his soul. He wanted to do more things, different things, but the place wouldn’t allow for such a thing to happen. all he needed to do was go to class, read the slides on the screen and go back. There were meetings that needed to be attended every now and again, but besides that, nothing really much. And to be paid for just that, well, all the other lecturers there are pretty happy with the deal. So why wasn't he?

He didn’t know a lot of things for certain, but he did know that if he stayed there for much longer, his soul would be crushed and he would be just like all the other people there, happy to get their salaries every month while doing the bare minimum to achieve mediocre goals. He needed an out.

As it turned out, after a year of service, all new government servants were to go for an induction programme called “The Mind Transformation Programme”. It sounded eery, as if the sole purpose of the programme was to brainwash the participants into a cult belief of some sort, but it was compulsory. A whole week had to be spent listening to older wiser better people talking about how a civil servant was to conduct him/herself while working and also while not working.

During the briefing of the programme on the first day, the person on the microphone said something interesting. She said that at the end of the programme, all the participants will be issued an exam paper to gauge how much they’ve learned throughout the course. If any participant scored less that 10%, they would be considered as having failed the programme, and any failure of the programme was no longer fit to be a civil servant, and thus would be laid off.

This interested the guy to no end. He kept thinking about that clause in the exam throughout the course, to the point where he rarely thought about anything else. The more he thought about it, the more sure he was of the decision that he was about to make.

On the final day of the course, the participants were given the exam papers, as promised. They were given an hour to finish answering the paper. The guy almost laughed at how easy the questions were. One of them asked what was the appropriate attire for a male civil servant to wear at work, A) baju kurung; B) skirt paras lutut; C) t-shirt v-neck; D) kemeja berkolar lengan panjang. It really seemed as if they really didn’t want to give anyone the chance to fail at all. But our guy had made his decision. He circled all the wrong answers to his knowledge. The ones he was not certain about, he just skipped. He didn’t want to risk accidentally answering something right.

A week after the course, the results of the exam came to the office where he worked and he had to be laid off. He even asked his Director whether there were any strings attached. The reply was in the negative. He almost jumped for joy in the Director’s office. Luckily he was able to delay it until he got to the parking lot.

Two weeks later, he opened a cafe in which art was the main focus. He was determined to make the cafe a place where creative people could gather and come up with and make stuff together. It’s a slow start, and he doesn’t think that they’ll break even for a long time coming, but he’s happy. He’s on the path that he wants to be on and will continue on this journey he set for himself, doing what he is passionate about and getting to see and meet people who are just as passionate about what they’re doing at his cafe. 

His family members have their doubts, but after explaining to them his plan for the next five years and showing them just how serious about what he was doing, they became okay with it. Still worried, as parents will be parents, but they couldn’t help but feel the joy beaming from their once dreary-eyed son, and that gave them a sense of happiness as well.

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