Reflecting Back on the Past

Somehow, I stumbled upon this again:Down Memory Lane at This makes me realise the number of life changing decisions (or maybe not so life changing) along the way.

1. Deciding not to pursue programming as a career - I have no lack of confidence in my programming skill. Unlike some of our DGX colleagues, chewxy and I chose not to go that way. I don't know about chewxy, but I made my decision based on some (peculiar) impressions. I wasn't interested in sitting around in front of a computer screen coding for days to meet a deadline. As much appeal as programming had for me, I decided that I would keep programming as my hobby, not my job. To me, I suppose the biggest turnoff was actually doing the degree.

The first year of a programming degree would have been hellish to me. A commerce degree where I knew little of (actuarial science is radically different from standard commerce, believe me) was boring enough for the first two years. I did do one first year programming subject. It probably wasn't the best subject to gauge my performance with, but it certainly wasn't the worst. Doing that class convinced me I hadn't made the wrong choice to forgo getting a programming degree.

Some people might relate to this: imagine going to a class where you knew every damn thing the lecturer was going to explain. You knew it so well, you could replace him/her if they were sick (in my case, I could replace the replacement which did come, and taught painfully badly). Imagine this is true for six hours of class every week. Imagine you have four of those types of classes every week for a year.

2. Deciding to go for actuarial studies: If you asked me more than five years ago what I'd be studying - I would've said accounting/finance. In 2004, I made the decision to pursue my studies in actuarial studies. I decided I fit the bill perfectly. I loved mathematics, had the bit of programming to give me that edge - and most importantly, it promised difficulty and challenge. Not the difficulty of memorising thick books of accounting regulations and laws, but the difficulty of math and logic.

Now if you ask me what I should've done - I'll now say pure math. I realise now I wouldn't have been happy doing an accounting course. That being said, doing actuarial science wasn't exactly the greatest compromise - but it was a fairly good one, considering the information I had then.

3. Going to DGX-DCC: Back in 2001, this seemed like an arbitrary decision. There weren't many competitions for young computer geeks like us, and it was between this and the ComQuiz. My friends and I went to every ComQuiz, but the best thing that ever came out of that was me being Top Scorer for the State of Selangor in the last year I participated. It was inconceivable to me then that I would ever make finals for the DGX-DCC.

The ONLY programming language I knew then was Visual Basic. My grasp of programming structure and layout and objects was dodgy at best. I went for BitBlt instead of DirectX (yeah, imagine how stupid that sounds now) - and I submitted only an incomplete game engine. I think I probably won the contest for worst developed program (and probably worst program too). Of course, there was a good reason for that - it was a public exam school year, and I didn't think I had a chance in hell of making it in.

So you can imagine what kind of surprise it is when you get a phone call saying you got into the top 15 finalists. That competition taught me a few things about myself: I wasn't as bad as I thought I was - and - our kind were a rare breed. While it had no direct effect on my life, it probably changed my life indirectly - and in more ways than one. (I'd learned that there are people better than you a long time ago - DGX merely altered how high up I saw myself - but in no way are they you - and that makes a whole lot of difference.)

4. Choosing between Australia and the USA: while I've never talked about it before - in 2004 I was faced with a very real and life-altering choice besides my degree. Do I go to a top ranked uni in Australia - or to a less popular one in the USA? I must say that even now, I do not truly know the right answer to that question - but I will know in five years time - so remind me. ;) Even within Australia, there was the question of whether I should've gone to Sydney, Melbourne, or Canberra. In the end, I picked the one with the best looking name (from a Malaysian's point of view, of course): the University of Melbourne.

5. The Mac + Consoles decision: While we'd never truly know what the outcome would've been otherwise, my decision to switch to the world of the Macs most certainly has changed my life. It was from the humble Mac that I started my decision to switch to console gaming. Two years later - I now know it was the right choice. My PowerBook G4 despite being old and outdated - still has no equal in my house, even with my numerous borrowed PCs and consoles.

I'm unsure as to whether the choice made me more of a tech geek/nerd than a normal PC laptop would have, but I am certain that I have no regrets going down this path. It was a good decision - and one no one should ever turn back on. Console gaming has most certainly overtaken PC gaming - and in a BIG BIG way. Sadly, I chose the Mac to reduce my gaming. Look at how much gaming I'm doing now. Oh well, at least I don't drink, smoke or gamble, I guess.

6. The decision to live: Anyone who's been following my blog ever since it's conception and existence will know that I once spoke loads of morbid thoughts on my blog, speaking sometimes of a depression. I have only confided in one person of this - and it isn't chewxy (or anyone I've ever mentioned on this blog, actually). In fact, if you read my blog, which started in 2002, that was actually towards the end of the cycle. Oh, how childish I used to sound on my blog.

The problem probably began escalating somewhere in the year 1999, and then I realised it in 2000. I'm quite sure everyone has contemplated suicide at some point - and it will always be very real - and the fine line between thinking about it and really doing it is scary. Really scary. There are things that are wrong with life you cannot fix. It is during this kind of times when you question your purpose of existence (for which there is no good answer, as I have realised oh-so-many years ago) and whether you have a reason to keep on living (I've never found one up to now strong enough - so I'll doubt anyone at my age has.)

Thankfully, past some point, you find a way to cope usually you can only find in faith. It doesn't matter what kind of faith it is, it doesn't even have be a religion. The faith that you do have a purpose you haven't found yet - and that you will help somebody somewhere no matter how insignificant at some point in time - is more than enough. It will never be bulletproof - never expect it to be - because a set of the wrong things at the wrong time will trigger it again - and it will hit harder.

The human brain is an interesting monster - with maturity comes a new understanding of life. It's entirely possible that my suicide ideation was no more than just that - but the amount of mental development it brings to the table is immense - and that probably steered me in the right direction for my future. Life is too short to be unhappy.