September 3, 2019

Unlimited freedom to explore life

September 3, 2019

Instead of spending the summer break traveling to new places like his peers, An’s idea of an ideal summer vacation is to work. Tran Nhut An, a Fulbright incoming student spent two months working as an intern for a finance company. And he learned a lot not just about the workplace but also himself.

To be honest, this summer job is not something I had expected nor planned for. I was lured by a curiosity to learn about the office workplace, business culture, and the finance world, and definitely not the high salary. 

Definitely not for the high salary. In a way, these two months can be seen as a trial run, a demo of adulthood for me, before I officially become just another taxpayer.

Actually, I am already paying taxes! I am nineteen and already a white-collar worker paying taxes, albeit for only two months! Truly, in life, nothing is certain but death and taxes.

More importantly, however, I have learned a lesson I would never forget: Working a job you don’t like for the high pay alone is absolutely not worth it. On a more positive note, I also did learn a lot about the office workplace, business culture, and the finance world.

In a typical workday of mine, I wake up at 7:00 am, do the morning routine standard for every decent person, have breakfast, leave for work at 8:00 and arrives at 8:30.

My work begins with checking emails, then I try to tackle the tasks delegated to me for the week. The work itself varies, from doing translation works to market research and presentation preparation. 

Student Tran Nhut An

There was a period when the team’s designers have finished their contract and we suddenly found ourselves without any. I then became a sort of pseudo designer, one who cannot design new things but has enough Photoshop skills to scrap by salvaging and stitching old design assets together. 

I even managed to bullshit out not one but two website wireframes during my time there, although I did not work on those alone.

I work until 12:00 when I take my lunch break. Thanks to Douglas Adams, I had a reasonable expectation of what it will be like. Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

After the daily time warp, I continue my work until 7:00 or until everyone has left. Occasionally, I got to left early for Fulbright matters. When I got home, I only have around three hours to relax and prepare for the next day before going to sleep.

The entire internship feels like a grind to me, which was understandable, as I was an intern for a rising startup. Normally, people who work for such companies are personally invested in them, making the standard work hour very brutal.

I did not have any stake in it, so for me, it was grudgingly hard to follow. It was as though I was in a game with lackluster mechanics, unengaging gameplay and nonexistent narrative and the only reason I continue to play is that I have forgotten about the sunk cost fallacy. 

I truly admire those who can live like this, those who have found something personally worthy for them to contribute to. It took me every last bit of my resolve to trudge through those two months out of sheer responsibility.

I am not cut for it. I honestly cannot do that. I cannot sit inside a cubicle doing paperwork for the remaining of my life. I could never grow living a life like that.

To me, it’s just insanity when you have practically unlimited freedom to explore life and chose to confine yourself in a box doing things you do not enjoy. 

All in all, my internship was not all that bad. Good boss, pleasant coworkers, high pay, and I learned an important lesson. I guess start-ups are only a suitable workplace for those who are passionate about it, and I am clearly not. I want something different.

I want to min/max life to the best of my abilities. I want to learn and experience and discover as much as I can. I want to unravel all of nature’s mystery. I do not hope to create or be anything groundbreaking or world-changing, I just want to see how far I can stretch myself to grow. I want to become a polymath. I admire polymaths. 

However, I wonder if this is too selfish and impractical, wishing to live a life like that in this day and age. Intense specification is going to continue to be the trend in many years to come. You need to become an expert in a niche subject to be able to meaningfully contribute to your field.

Furthermore, my goal was not even to help people, or advance anything. It was just to satisfy my selfish curiosity. I then suddenly find myself asking questions such as am I obligated to contribute to society? Can I opt-out from it? What do I do if I am obligated? What do I do or if I am not? Is it even ok to ask such questions?

I am still looking for answers.

Tran Nhut An– Class of 2023

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