talking at the cafeteria at the faculty in the university, to him this is one of not so many times to take one or few steps away from what he has been doing in life lately: works, assignments, deadlines, teamworks and whatnot. sometimes probably meetings and decisions, I don’t really know, having never been on that place has never established proper understanding of context and circumstances of his situations.
what I seem to know is that to this person, being in this place holds a distinct meaning on its own — like maybe nostalgia, days passing by, or a throw back to his past. or in context, my present. that always sounds complicated.
he looks a bit like me, to say the least. glasses –with half-rim– cargo and trekking shoes. there is a bit of charm mingled with confidence and slight air of authority, though at other times people might also call bits of perceived arrogance in his words.
in his early 25, few weeks past his 24, it’s easy to misunderstand. after all none of us were angels.
“I had made my decision that I’m not going halfheartedly,” he says when asked about how he is doing as a professional at work. “sometimes it’s frantic. things are going, things are not going, planned and unplanned situations. disappointments are good friends, especially when you hold yourself to high standards.
“I don’t know if it’s good or not. sometimes you just say, ‘okay, I’m dealing with this’ then you hit the gas, take the wheel, and crash to whatever awaits. to some extent it’s like having Hungarian Horntail you can’t choose,” he comes with a neat Harry Potter reference. “you can’t just run away or it equals defeat. perhaps to some people such doesn’t really matter, but I guess that’s not me! so I just get on with it. or maybe I’m just exaggerating.”
he reserved a bit of laugh at his remarks as if he has been talking about a life or death situation. I would tend to agree about the ‘probably exaggerating’, though on the other hand one could concur that it might have stemmed from the fact that he takes enjoyment from what he has been doing.
“but one good thing is that there are reliable people. we have teams, from one place and others. few of them are pretty much the ones I very much look forward to work with. not that anyone else is not good, but sometimes I think it’s probably inherent in people. the drive, the willingness to go beyond the necessary. there is respect between us, a mutual understanding.
“these are people that I really appreciate as professionals and people. sometimes how old you are doesn’t really matter. if you are good enough you are old enough, and it doesn’t necessarily take someone being older for you to learn from. sometimes people are moving on to other places, but that’s life. but at least if we could make the ride worthwhile, that’s good enough for me.”
he noticed that it was tough as fresh graduate living in suburban area, as it was necessary to commute in order to clock the attendance according to company policy. still, in the wake of office-hour policy such as flextime or working remotely through virtual private networks, does it make an edge for an employee to be working remotely?
“it wasn’t really convenient when you are not used to spend hours on the road for each days,” he explained. “to have a quality public transportation is a basic necessity for commuters. I’m considering myself grateful about it, although it still means few hours on the road but at least it’s not that of terribly exhausting demand.
“but personally I don’t really believe in advantage of working remotely, or even flextime to some extent. there are things that simply can’t be replaced –I don’t know if it’s with a ‘yet’– when your results are not solely dependent on your workload. also there are subtle elements in teamworks, those you simply can’t address by working remotely.
“the last time I was unable to come to the office — there was a heavy jam and I was stuck for almost two hours before I decided to take a turn around and then remotely working on the situations at the office. it wasn’t really convenient even though there are technologies like cellphone and online collaboration, even when you are constantly monitoring your mailbox from a distance. much less when you are working with teams across departments.
“then the girl from department next door called me, there were things to be discussed. I told her to check her mailbox and so on to check the status, that she could call me whenever she feels necessary and vice versa, but then the situation was frantic. such approach was highly inefficient when exposed to situations demanding quick responses, though I do believe it can be done for other purposes. but you need to do it right: you have to be modular on the workload designation, you need to remove interlocking interdependence then it can work.
“even flextime has its disadvantage to some extent. say, you have a team whose working hours range from 7-to-4, 8-to-5, and 8:30-to-5:30 respectively. you can, for example, arrange a team discussion only on 8:30-to-4. not to say when it comes to more subtle elements like team dynamics and working rhythm. I would very much like to assert that it definitely could be done, but it does pose a challenge on its own.”
he graduated from Computer Science at a university where, in a famous running gag, the freshmen were known to be told by the sophomores that they were chosen to have been ‘one in a hundred’. a place abounds with technically gifted people, few of them are living at the pretty far end of the curve in Gaussian distribution. it’s not rare, he says, for classmates he knew of currently going abroad or living overseas to continue with research in higher education or working as professionals far away from home.
“look, I could tell myself this: look at yourself, and look at your classmates. they have gone overseas, they have reached heights in their academic careers, or they are working as professionals there in Europe, Japan, Australia. some of them are used to travelling to various countries, and you are here, what are you doing?
“but since then I decided that I have better understanding of the qualities I have of my own. I couldn’t be like them, nor do I want to be. hell, I wasn’t even among the top students at the graduation. they are great at what they do, and I have genuine respects towards them. these people are working hard, and that is always a quality I respect from people I have met in my life.
“on the other hand, I know what I do. people are different –indeed they are– and what is good for them is not necessarily good for me. will I thrive at what they do? I don’t know. I don’t even want to know. they have qualities, and so do I, though what I thrive at might not exactly be the same with what they thrive at. and I’m confident about it. I’m confident about what I do, about what I can do at least to the extent of what I understand of myself.
“in the end, we are all just people,” he smiles. “we like to get around for fried rice at Alo, some other times the boys could be playing Pro Evolution Soccer, or in other times we crave for Indomie at the cafeteria like this. so after all it’s not like there is that much difference between us.”
when he is talking about his days at university, it’s obvious and understandable that there has been a soft spot for the place where he was educated. after all, he spent four years of his life studying in the campus, with all and everything in between: classes and assignments, exams and activities, might as well crush and heartbreaks.
“this is an important place to me. there are many things I treasure here, even more than when I was in high school. courses, classes, that’s obvious, and I’ve had the fullest of that four years of my life in this place. it may sound like exaggerating, but personally I think that’s the way it is to me.
“I’ve had almost everything there is to remember here. the education, the good times when we studied late at night prior exams. those days when we packed in a room, with notebooks and slides and printouts and things like automata and numerics and such. there was once when we stayed at a friend’s place for the night prior the Scientific Computing exam, and until two in the morning there were discussions about polynomials.
“the exam was at eight on the sixth floor at the faculty. so we woke up early, somewhat sleep-deprived, and before six-thirty we were all set to leave for the campus. then one of us smirked, ‘hey, what about an additional match of PES?’ and we did exactly that within less than an hour to the exam. such things defined life back then.
“aside from that there are other things, to me to say the least. I met a first love here. I lost a friend here. I started writing when I was here. things I went through here, more or less, have contributed to what I have become right now. I’m not saying things were perfect, but at least I’m grateful with what I’ve had here. could things have been better? maybe, we never know, but I think suffice it to say that I’ve lived those years to the fullest.”
it might be a little bit personal to people, but knowing him better I would like to know whether he is happy about his life as the way it is. quarter-life crisis and such, to put on terms people like to utter.
“quarter-life crisis? well, I don’t have any!” to which he smiles with a little laugh before then he continues with a more reserved gesture.
“honestly I don’t know. generally I can say I have satisfaction with my life, though I do believe that there are always things that could be better. there are times when I couldn’t have what I wished for –with or without ‘yet’– but I think such applies to everyone as well so I can’t really complain nor do I want to.
“on my 25th birthday few weeks ago a friend of mine greeted me a ‘happy birthday’, to which she continued ‘have an even more joyful, happier life ahead’. honestly I don’t know; have I been that happy to have an ‘even more’? but overall I think I have no particular resentment towards life.
“personally I’m trying to live without regret. things happen, sometimes inconvenient, but at least only when you are at peace with yourself you could be more content. your happiness is your responsibility, after all.”
for all that is good and otherwise in this person, there is always a striking resemblance of symmetry between us.
in celebration of life as a student, in celebration of life as a professional.