(Story) Working life and the Emptiness of Success

Updated: May 11, 2019

I started working at an Event Organiser Company after trying some part-time jobs whilst looking for a proper job after Uni.

I was looking for some kind of creative, fast paced, exciting job which I'd be able to be passionate about and also to showcase my (pre-mature) skills and talents. Just two months after graduation I got it - the job of my dream at the time. It was a new start-up business with a small but effective team. I was so excited about going to start a new working life - a promising new horizon without any stress of exams, and to have a monthly income and no longer need the support from my parents for the first time in my life…

Even though I was a bit anxious about the new job and role, I was so proud of myself as I got it by my own efforts in looking, applying, and passing the interviews, without any help of connections or lobbying which I knew was so common across the country, or at least in my town at the time… I was so convinced that I was right in believing that i was quite talented and that I was reaching my ultimate goal: having a good job! Which was all that a graduate wished for, wasn't it!!

As it was a small organisation, I had the chance to present the best of myself directly to the big boss, and shortly was assigned with a lot of tasks and responsibilities. Probably I appeared to be confident and hid so well the lack of experience and skills, my boss seemed to have trust in me that I would be able to handle those kind of tasks…

I developed a good relationship with my boss over the first year since I worked with her. Many times during our breaks at the office or on an event site, she shared with me her belief and some knowledge in Buddhism which i never heard of or paid any attention at all. It was interesting for me to hear for the first time things like the Buddhist rituals and mantras that help and save you when something bad happened, things like life after death and that you'd be reincarnating as an unfortunate person or even an animal if you did something wrong… I somewhat came to agree to share some of those belief with her as it was kind of make sense to me in explaining some problems people seemed to have due to their past karma, and it gave me a way to find a sense of hope by asking for help and protection from the Buddhas only when things went wrong…

*I started visiting Buddhist temples and doing offering ceremonies in order to pray and wish for abundance of goodness, luck and wealth coming to my life. I considered myself a Buddhist follower. I used the ideas that I heard about in Buddhism as references to explain things that were tricky to be explained by mere logic. But my understandings about Buddhist philosophy at that time were no more than knowing the mere Names of some Terms, such as: karma, meditation, compassion, do bad things you get punishments as horrible things happen in life, do charity/ good things you get good luck and good fortunes, etc. Buddhism for me at that time (and for many other people in Vietnam also) was a mere place of refuge when bad things happened and  where you ask for better things in life and mainly better material comfort.*

During the first couple of years, I was so passionate about working, it was in fact the main focal point of my life at the time. I enjoyed working overtime in evenings, over nights, and sometimes weekends as well. Not to forget to mention that along side the main job, I gradually started to run a music band which went round bars and cafes in the city for weekly night shows. It was a period of time with such experience of a busy life where my time was completely full and filled with work. The main job as an event organiser and the side job as a music band manager both gave me the sense of success. I enjoyed the exhaustion and stress, probably like a donkey enjoys carrying heavier and heavier stuff on its back to be worthwhile.

I never confessed but I indeed felt proud and satisfied when telling my parents, sister, relatives or friends that: "Sorry I'm busy!" without any hint for when i would get back to them... Usually i wouldn't, only they themselves tried again, and again, day after day… I was too busy pursuing my success which, at the time, meant being a busy person, making good money, being important, being focused on thriving to achievements and recognition.

Working life was a perfect place which constantly gave me chances to feed my Ego's hungers. Hunger for approval that it was productive, hard working, innovative, clever and talented sort of professional. Hunger for recognition, achievements and power in any environment it was in. Hunger for acquiring more and more material items and possessions for itself to reinforce its sense of security and success.

But there had been something still never quite soothed or settled inside myself.

Loneliness! It was always there, despite the coverage of so many things I had acquired and achieved at work and life on the surface.

Probably I just needed some good friends?!…

My circle of friends had always been small, most of them came from Uni youth clubs, few from high school, and very few of them i met after Uni. The trauma thing happened in the past made me loose trust and interest in making friends I supposed.

I relied on this small circle of friends to fill the rest of the free time if i did have outside of work. The friends who i kept in touch with were all lovely, funny, smart and kind, and all of them possessed some interesting individual traits and personal tastes. I always believed that I loved them dearly.

But strangely meeting with friends, besides good laughs, I often felt disappointed and upset, when someone was late and made me wait, something had been changed without asking for my approval if that involved me even just with a slightest, someone refused to join me when i requested even with good reasons, someone did something in a different way which might not be exactly the way that i would do…

I wouldn't communicate my disappointment with the friends, as I myself didn't understand my own emotions. I couldn't help expressing myself in an unpleasant vibe which I was sometimes aware of and sometimes not…

Now looking back, I found a repeated pattern in my relationships with friends who I associated with since schools, Uni, and up to that point in working life: I was either senior, or the leader of the groups, or better than the friends in something that i was quite confident about… Was that just a random choice when making friends, or was that in fact the stereotype that my Ego favoured to pick? in which, I (or my Ego) would be the dominant character and be able to take control over others.

Did I keep the friendship with my friends just because I loved them, cared about them, and enjoyed their company? or did I take them as the means to serve my Ego's need to be in power and control, to cover up its fear of loneliness and being insignificant?…

I now admit that I was not there for them wholeheartedly just once. I did not really see or understand their hearts, their thoughts, hopes, needs, and I did not share their grounds and with what they were going through in life… All I saw and cared about was those of mine. My mind was locked in my own selfish illusion that the whole world needed to sooth me only, without realising.

"Selfish, humbug, taking advantages of others in order to put yourself up…" - these hard-to-face assumptions were some of those that the friends and teachers threw at me when I was a teenager, which I believed that they were completely wrong at the time. But I now realised that those words seemed to be True in describing how I actually was when living my earlier stages of Life, in relations with family and friends.

“There are messages from all different sources in everyday life asking us to change and grow, but we might not be open and clear enough to pick up on them, then they have to become fierce waves strongly attack and urge you to face, listen, and learn the lessons!"

Years went by… I became a bit more experienced at work, I asked for pay rise and felt tired of overtime work. I was also getting tired and bored of the music shows, as all members were busy working, not much time for creating anything new and exciting… Life started becoming repetitive over days, weeks, and months… Every time when things became routines, I found myself getting bored, and lost its direction and passion, and the mind started pondering again the questions: What is the point of Life? Why am I here? For what?...

Wasn't it a Good Job all that I hoped for and needed when I was at Uni? I now had the Job, I even had pay rises, I became a manager, I would be able to buy and try things that I never would before, I traveled to quite a few different places along the country during the years at work… Well done I! I got much more than just a Job that I wished for at Uni.

But Why I was still not happy, still lack of fulfilment? Still didn't know who I was and what I was looking for? What was wrong with me? I couldn't understand my strange feelings. How and what would make me happy and satisfied?

Maybe I just needed to find a partner… just as other people at my age, they were all pairing, dating, and getting married… I just needed to find that Someone who would love me, care for me, protect me, understand me; Someone who would be there for me and only me, who would make me happy, share the life with me, and comfort me every day and night… That must had been what I was looking for!. I just needed to find someone compatible for myself, then I'd be happy, I'd be fulfilled by a sense of belonging, I'd be no longer lost in loneliness or boredom in life?!

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