Few weeks ago, I wrote to a magician, well a mentalist more like. I use the term magician so I don’t have to explain what a mentalist is. David was my senior who graduated few years ago, and his since made it big in the entertainment industry performing his mind-bending (or rather, fork-bending) tricks to the world. He also owns a successful restaurant in KL called Skewers, and hangs about showing simple magic tricks to his customers if he’s not somewhere else around the globe performing to a much larger crowd.
Did I mention he was my senior in UTP? Yes, David also has a degree in Civil Engineering. He braved through 5 long years, got his golden ticket to graduate and I’m not sure if he even remembers where he last placed his certificate.
Anyway, I was browsing Facebook the other day, and there was something lingering in my mind, accompanied by a little bit of cold feet. So I decided to drop David a message, just to see what someone who has been-there-done-that has to say. Here’s how it went:
You probably don’t know me from all the 3910 friends (and counting) you have on your FB account anyway, but I’m from UTP, probably 3 years your junior.
I like your story. You survived your degree years here and then went out there to pursue what you really wanted to do, and you’ve been nothing short of great at it ever since.
I’m in my final year now, and I don’t do too bad in school. I am a part time graphics/web designer and I run my own side business whenever I can. Like you, prolly once a part time student, full time dream chaser.
Study life is like a safety mat. You can’t go terribly wrong during those times. No one expects you to work, earn a living just yet. Juggling two worlds, studying and working has been difficult, but fun nonetheless (you know what I’m talking about), but now that I know I will be out of university soon…
…I’m getting a little bit of cold feet. It’s the part where my folks are expecting me to be serious about where I want to go in future. For the past 5 years I’ve been dreaming of ditching the entire engineering scene and pursue what I want – yet the thought of putting all the 5 years of hardwork behind me and leaving a life of stable paychecks seem somewhat scary.
After such a long elaboration of things you already know, I guess I just need some reassurance, or advise from someone who’s already been-there-done-that.
Where do you find courage to do what you do?
With all the risks at stake, and putting your engineering degree aside like it doesn’t matter…
I know you’re a busy guy, but I hope you can spare your two cents here for a minute or two.
I’m sorry for the late reply. I’ve been extremely busy with work recently.
Firstly , congratulations in being in your final year. That’s fantastic work itself. If you’re in engineering , my hats off to you then. Not having passion in engineering and still getting through with a scholarship tied behind your back is a feat. It’s not easy … or at least it wasn’t for me ..
Let me be frank with you. I didn’t pass engineering on my own. I also don’t really value my degree that much. The last statement wasn’t meant in an arrogant way. It’s a fact. I didn’t even attend my own convocation. I was working in Egypt when my classmates threw their mortar boards in the air.
I tagged a few people involved, so they can freely comment in the comment section. It’s also to show you , the validity of what I say below. Some of the people tagged in this posts, are also those who are mentioned below. ; )
(Before you read on, I have to reiterate that I did study and finished all my pre-requisites in university. I actually studied very hard because I didn’t have a natural talent for maths and in no way did I cheat during my finals. I did whatever it took, but I wasn’t dumb either ).
I was never in university during my university days. During my French test, I was in Amman, Jordan. I had a trusty friend who covered for me. I didn’t get to take the re-test therefore I had to study like mad for the finals to make up for coursework . I passed. During my ETP, I was in the group meeting via telephone conferencing. You get the idea. I was mostly traveling in my university days. My room was empty. It was surprising to actually SEE me in my room.
I had shows almost every week during those days, I drove down 300 kilometers to KL, did the show, and drove back 300 kilometers to Tronoh for class after the show. What you didn’t know was that I was also a romantic during my university years. What’s the correlation? Well, my then girlfriend got into Singapore Airlines, and I went down to Singapore at least twice a month. Put magic and a girlfriend in SIA together, you get a MIA engineering student.
As for kokurikulum, I had a friend who roughly looked like me take the weekly classes for me. I bought him a tennis racket in return. He’s still a really good friend by the way. This particular friend also was my best friend as a classmate in university who studied with me day and night to pass my finals. Without this guy, I would have been out of uni long before graduation.
When I didn’t have time to study probability and statistics, my roommate who was excellent in maths took it for me. Mind you my roommate was a Punjabi,writing on his paper ` David Lai ‘ as his name did scare me quite a bit. By the way, one of the factors that contributed to me graduating was actually my roommate. I had the fantastic same roommate for the past 4 ½ years who helped me tremendously. Till today , it’s a wonder to me on how on earth did he tolerate me.
During my internship, I had to run to Philippines to ` work ‘ under a friend. I pre-arranged everything before hand. My good friend owned a huge construction company there ( passed down by his dad ) and ALSO had great connections in the entertainment industry. I had 8 months for internship and used every moment of that 8 months to expand my contact base in the entertainment circle and build a solid base before I graduated. During this time , I already clearly knew what I wanted and was preparing for my exit into the full time working world. My internship was really a cover of me working full time in the entertainment industry. It took massive planning …. and balls of steel during the final presentation. In the end, I was presenting a scripted 8 months of nothing related to engineering.
I didn’t however fail any subject in university and scored an above 3.5 CGPA. I know , it’s hard to believe that with what I said earlier. I find it hard to believe myself.
So why am I telling you all this? It’s not to brag that I’m lucky or smart. I’m not. Far from it. Without the help of a few good friends of mine who studied with me all night long and helped me understand things that my brain refuses to comprehend, I would have never made it through. Emphasis on the word never. More importantly, without friends that would sign my attendance for me and cover me up when I was away ( which was almost all of the time ), I would have been kicked out for poor attendance long ago.
I’m telling you this, because NO person who REALLY wants to be an engineer will do the things that I said I did. I made a decision that I wanted to be an entertainer and stuck to it. I did whatever it took to pass my degree and during that, set up a foundation of what I wanted to do after graduation.
You say you like graphic designing. Then do what you like. Do you want to spend the rest of your life engulfed in something you’re not passionate about, just to make a living? That’s not living by the way. That’s tolerance for mediocrity .
You asked where do I get the courage to do what I do? I get the courage from wanting to be better and wanting a life that I want to live in. I want to wake up in the morning feeling super excited and filled with exciting things to do. My wants is what gives me the courage to abandon a degree I finished for the sake of finishing.
At the end of it, saying and doing are two different entities altogether. It all starts with making a decision and taking massive positive action on that decision. The good thing here is that you realize what you want to do. =)
My advice is to finish off the degree, go into the field that you want to go into, and do whatever it takes to make it there. It’s ok to be afraid to take the plunge. That is what makes life exciting sometimes.
Good luck . =)
View the full message here, as David posted it publicly on Facebook. From the comments, I could tell that this was a question answered for other people as well.
Post-thoughts will come after this. I think it’s going to be a long one. Let me get through my test tomorrow evening and have my round of sushi first. And then, I’ll write.