Then I wrote this a week ago – a noteworthy realization, at long last:
Whenever I’m home and would catch up with Eldest Sis about her PhD thesis and classes – I find myself falling into old patterns, often unconsciously. Unlike with work, everything about these are familiar. I will always, I think, be ‘too academic’ – a term that is often made to sound like a great evil or disadvantage where I am now to the point that most times my hardest daily struggle is to shed ‘old skin’; fitting in. Mum said it too just the other night, “You’re still too academic. You need to shed that.” But recognizing how effortlessly Eldest Sis and my conversations would take flight, tackling various forms in perspectives with the ghost of my past struggles lingering in the background thus instantly binding us in yet another aspect, I’m making a conscious decision to proactively refrain from apologizing for the way that I am. I will always be ‘too academic’ – but so what? It just means that in this corporate world – the ‘industry’ – which I’m in now, I’ll have to work twice as hard each time, and restrain thrice as much from my tendency to over-evaluate. My ‘old skin’ need not be a disadvantage.
“Kasi belajar sikit” (lit. Let (me) learn a bit) is these days my favorite phrase picked up from my senior/colleague; three words that act as an opening for ‘innocent’ questions. I’m aware there must be an expiry date to the period I can act this way, so I’m just doubly grateful it’s not soon.
Being ‘too academic’ means I will 90% of the time have questions – and not be afraid to ask, as I did yesterday when we inspected the generator where I threw questions like “What are we looking at in this test; what do these values represent?” And again later in the afternoon at a major controls & automation vendor company, for my project’s instrumentation scope (“What do you mean by DCS, IPS etc? What are we integrating here?”). Being ‘too academic’ means I’m a lifelong student, transitioning now to learning in makeshift classrooms under the guidance of a myriad of characters – from natural teachers to active doers.
I’m equally aware that learning is a two-way process; I could throw my questions and be met with silence but fortunately that hasn’t be the case. I’m grateful. I’m aware how blessed I am to be shadowing and working closely with a senior who, once he realized my eagerness to learn isn’t going away, would now frequently and wordlessly call me over to his side to explain and demonstrate the ongoing activities we look after. Whenever he goes “After I think think think-“ that’s my favorite part – it means I’m granted access to another’s mental space. I’m grateful for similar responses from the discipline engineers who makeup my project team, many of whom have taken to the whiteboard to draw things out for me to increase the effectiveness of their lessons. Now my project’s structural engineer, for instance, sometimes hilariously comes up to me and asks, “Why don’t you ask me this?” before proceeding to ask and answer himself. Being ‘too academic’ means I may not be very good with my hands, it’s true, but my willingness to try and learn, thus to listen with genuine interest, is second to none.
My natural inclination of being ‘too academic’ means I appreciate knowledge in any and all forms they appear, even if their context arrive belatedly. Above all, I’ve learned that being ‘too academic’ is an advantage especially when I think of myself as an open channel because as a result of engaging in questions and answers, sometimes the most basic ones, my resource pool and knowledge bank widen and deepen to complement the expanse of my personal, individual potential and worth.