Three months ago I left my chemist job. I had been working there for two years. This was my first employment after having studied chemistry for eight years formally and many more informally. I posted an opinion shortly after talking about what the more conservative would describe as a childish impulse.
I had no good idea of what I could or wanted to do. I had dreams carried with me from childhood and lessons learnt as to what I didn’t want to do. I don’t regret my decision, but it is reasonable to say I have growing up to do in some regards. This is my three-month update on the process. During this period, I produced a smorgasbord of content, spurred on by the frustration of not having had a chance to before and seeing others apparently breezing through and being successful. I had a go at many things, strategy just as sensible as it often is in experimental science. There is a lot of failure, but you learn and maybe discover some things with potential.
What have I learnt or understood that might be of use to other people?
- Anything can become boring when turned into a routine. Even the task of trying something new is a chore if you have to do it everyday. The saying ‘Do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life’ is just absolute nonsense. Work, like anything else, is enjoyable only if you don’t stop to think about what you are doing. And if you never stop to think you are missing out.
- Working alone is not fun. You come to realise the problem with working with people is whether they match your character or not. Unfortunately, it can be almost impossible to end up working with just the right people, or ones that are at least tolerable. It is, however, interesting to note how certain jobs seem to collect the same kinds of people. It would be helpful if career advising looked at personality compatibility, rather than solely what kind of work you like or are able to perform.
- What you’re good at and what people appreciate are different things. There is no substitute for hard work. I value it and I think everyone should. However, it is rather frustrating to see people mistake achievement for inclination or suitability. It negates both: you get patted on the back for being good at something without having your hard work acknowledged and it denies you the chance of developing those things you would be good at without breaking your back.
- We shouldn’t live by other people’s standards. Back when I was in uni, I asked one of my tutor’s something along the lines of..what should I do? I find this just ridiculous. His answer at the time was infuriating, but actually brilliant: ‘You can do whatever you like.’ This might have been phrased differently, and I’ve heard it from other people in the meantime, but only now I appreciate and understand. At the time I thought this to be an easy way out, a way of saying a lot without saying anything. I don’t know if these people hold the same position for family and friends. But if they do, I now have the wisdom to appreciate them. Unfortunately, people do in general like to tell others what to do, especially children or younger ones. They probably mean well and feel they are entitled and compelled. But they should just stop. Two people’s lives are not the same. I hope I never make this mistake. If I have, I apologise.
- It’s awful chasing success. I have not reached full enlightenment on this point yet. I am still chasing and I blame my upbringing for it. Perhaps, I will make progress in time for the next update.
- Being fickle is not shameful. One thing that is paradoxical in the modern world is the craving for consistency and novelty. We consider everything that is not immediate progress a failure, but we forbid any experiments that are not solidly justified and edit any variation in form. We prize content and originality, but we find gratification in criticising format. We want the same thing as yesterday, but we want it to be new and exciting. Changing your opinions and ways seems like a recipe for disaster. I am learning to be proud of my attempts and failures. This is perhaps the true value of not living on someone else’s money (e.g. parents) or being on the payroll (employed). This brings me to the final point.
- Being your own boss. Whether I still want to or whether I would succeed, it is too soon to tell. The value I find is, as mentioned above, in the freedom to make mistakes. Three months ago I used to believe I wanted to be my own boss so that I wouldn’t have to do as I am told. I don’t think I would have ended up having this thought if it wasn’t for number 4 on this list. I am actually sensible and I like following rules as long as they’re not moronic.
My main argument three months ago for leaving my job was that I shouldn’t be doing something that is turning me into a worse person than I actually am. My main argument now for having made a good choice is that I feel I’ve grown up more in three months than in ten years.