Finding my passion and what I was born to do

Photo: Eng Beng

Photo: Eng Beng

Finding what you were born to do can be hard. Some people know it when they are young, and make life decisions that lead them there. Some people take a lifetime to figure it out; some never do.

I'm lucky I didn't take too long. And I might actually have to thank myself for being fickle; for not settling; for not being contented with where life was taking me.

I get bored easily. That is why I try to learn something new every year. It gives me something to look forward to after work and injects excitement into my life.

I enrolled in a Korean language course and sat for my first TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) paper in 2013. Picked up songwriting in 2014 for the love of music (I pursued classical piano for 13 years), and because I occasionally woke up with melodies in my head but had no idea how to put them together coherently. In 2015, I learnt how to crochet and made my first amigurumi (the Japanese term for crochet stuffed toys). Last year, I dedicated my time to photography, and started studying lighting intensively. 

I regard all the above as my hobbies, and some were certainly more short-lived than the others. Though I seemed frivolous for switching hobbies every year, there was one thing I always returned to - photography.

Photography was a habit that I never got to kick (it has been 15 years since I started shooting). It was a commitment that didn't feel like one, so much that I was consistently doing something photography-related from time to time.

However, even though I never gave up on photography, I never regarded it as my life purpose. It was a hobby (like all other hobbies that I picked up along the way) - until I read Chris Guillebeau's book, Born For This.

He said that in order to find what you were born to do, try a lot of things. Expand your options first, and then limit them. 

Try a lot of things. Over time, you discover something that requires more of your time and attention—and that’s when you switch to focusing more and more on that one thing. In other words, you expand your options, and then you limit them.
— Chris Guillebeau

And suddenly, my life made sense. 

I tried many things, but I kept going back to photography, each time with more excitement and vigour.

Looking back, I wasn't aware that by learning something new each year, I was bringing myself closer to what I wanted in life. As I learnt new skills, I started to understand myself better - my strengths, my weaknesses, what I loved, what I hated, what was important to me (freedom of time and creative control), what didn't matter as much as I thought it would ('stability' of a 9-5 job), and most importantly, what I wanted to do for a long time to come. 

It might be an exaggeration to say that a single book turned my life around. But it certainly helped me make sense of a life that seemed random and disorganised. It helped me make the jump to that one thing that is truly promising, and I have started to put all my eggs in that single basket.

For a long while, I had been collecting new hobbies (switching jobs too) and looking outwards to find purpose in life. Never had I thought that the answer was always there. 

Put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket very carefully.
— Mark Twain