Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Today, I allow myself to answer this question with honesty
When I started applying around for my first real job, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Sure, there were expectations from people around me that I’d somehow end up doing something in tech.
In truth, I don’t actually have a computer science degree. I wasn’t proud of my business major, in part because I didn’t learn anything from it. My heart was in literature — except, how exactly do you sell your in-depth knowledge of the cultural intricacies and influencing powers of Chaucer?
I was what you’d class as the overachiever, double bachelor’s degree, quad major (yes, it’s crazy but possible), scholarship kid fresh out of University with no job experience. It was zilch.
Not even a job at the local cafe or supermarket.
It was that bad.
But I was a proactive tinkerer — doing freelance jobs for people I knew. They trusted me to take things apart and put it all together again. At one point, everyone thought I was studying engineering or something related.
Then I got hit with the interview questions. Nothing stumped me as hard as these fateful words: where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
How I originally answered the question
Back then, there was an expected pathway I was supposed to follow — go to school, get a job, buy a house, get married, have kids, raise kids, live for a little bit then retire.
Being the script follower that I was, I gave an acceptable answer. You know the kind that looked for future job progression and into a leadership space. I made it sound convincing, even though a part of me knew it was all a lie.
The truth was, I didn’t really know what I wanted. Rather, I just said what everyone wanted to hear. I was trained through my entire childhood and teenage years to be a chameleon — to be the ultimate rule follower.
What my trainers didn’t prepare me for was the unhappiness that ensued because I wasn’t true to myself — whoever that self happened to be.
The thing is that as you grow up, you start to absorb all the expectations of others. If your caregivers aren’t careful, you can become a patchwork of other people’s values. Your sense of self is constructed based on the perception of others. Too much force in a particular direction could tear your sense of self apart.
You become fragile because you haven’t figured out your principles — the thing that guides your character towards making the right decisions for you at a particular moment in time.
Some of us never figure it out, meandering through life checking other people’s boxes while the nagging sense of feeling unfulfilled remains.
For me, I had a script that I followed. I checked all the boxes but they were never for me. Everyone applauded me for my good work but inside, I felt unnecessarily empty.
How I’m answering that question now
That would be my answer.
When you’re living in a world of expectations, you become trapped in their systems, scripts, and opinions. When you live your financial life the same way others are playing it, you don’t really have true control over how you spend your money.
People enter into traditional 9–5s because it’s expected. It’s also the taught path on how to survive.
But I don’t want to just survive. I want to be free.
I want to be free from the expectations of others. Free to make mistakes. Free to thrive. Free to grow. Free to learn. Free from the burdens of just making it financially on a day to day basis. Free from rent.
And I’m going to figure out how to do it in five years from now.
In truth, I had a bit of a head start by doing my depth year. But as 2020 is fast approaching and as I’m wrapping the depth year part up of my life, I needed to refocus myself and figure out what I’m going to do next.
My depth year was supposed to be a mastery year but it turned into a pursuit for happiness — to figure out what things that truly made me happy are. It turn out the answer to what makes me happy has always been there, dating as far back as my tinkering days — to create things.
I don’t know exactly what I’ll be creating yet, not for sure — only that it’s happening.
I started coding because it allowed me to create digital products out of nothing. Writing is the same but with digital ink.
Who I was five years ago is not who I am today.
Who I end up being in five years’ time will be an interesting person I’d very much like to meet.
So today, I’m beginning a new chapter — one that is unscripted to the prescribed life I once experienced so I can figure out how to properly be me.