Do you take a certain career path or chase your own passion? This dilemma is what is keeping our science desk intern Rayan Suryadikara occupied. He wrote this column about it.
Rayan Suryadikara: "I noticed a reoccurring coping mechanism that was triggered whenever whatever I was doing felt tedious or daunting." (Photo: Rayan Suryadikara)

Do you take a certain career path or chase your own passion? This dilemma is what is keeping our science desk intern Rayan Suryadikara occupied. He wrote this column about it.

Passion is an idea that I have been struggling to figure out. My background lies in computer science, but I can’t remember having a solid, genuine desire for choosing it as my undergraduate education in the first place. After finishing the study, I picked out a job as a software engineer. A year passed, and I knew that I have zero inclination to take a committed dive into this territory. It didn’t spark a sense of enthusiasm within me. I was at a crossroads, facing a huge dilemma.

Aware that my knowledge was still largely insufficient, I felt a surging desire to continue my education. Even so, I didn’t want to learn only the technicalities; I aimed to extend my skillset and keep my options open. Conveniently, I had been cultivating a hobby of writing and communicating anything that I find interesting – mostly reserved for movies. Thus, wouldn’t a computer science programme with a communication streak be the most sensible choice? Would this path be something that finally sates my passion?

To cut a long story short, I am currently in the final chapter of my master programme. While my thesis is still within the computer science domain, the last semester offers me an opportunity to explore the communication aspects. One of them is being a science desk intern here at Delta. I acquainted myself with science journalism eight months ago, and the whole experience meets all my expectations. This could be my passion! Maybe this is where I shift course to pursue this career line, possibly leaving the whole computer science behind. But then, something dawned on me.

‘It would be best if we learned to distinguish a true passion from various escapisms’

It was a slight malaise in the second half of my internship. As is perfectly normal, at the time I was subconsciously in ‘the search mode’, looking for another passion. After much reflection, I noticed a reoccurring coping mechanism that was triggered whenever whatever I was doing felt tedious or daunting, which left me with the absence of feeling satisfied at the end of the day. When this happens, I procrastinate by doing one of my pastimes and then pass it off as something I want to do in the future. Remember my writing hobby I mentioned earlier?

In other words, I branded the next fling as my new passion. Understandable, as a hobby is something we enjoy, and everyone wants to make a career out of something in which they take delight. Still, swiftly labelling a pastime as your calling when you are struggling to do your work is a form of escapism. What happens is that you often see your latest fling seen through rose-coloured glasses, and it can lead you to underestimate its weight.

In my case, I relish my internship work, but I don’t have a solid journalistic background in practice. All the rosy views will be washed away by the eventual struggles when I delve into it. I must acknowledge this before taking a life-changing decision. Otherwise, I will find another ‘passion’ to escape to, trapping myself and denying this line of work the respect it deserves.

Still, I am not trying to discourage the pursuit of passion – it is still a fantastic thing to do! In my case, I am lucky to be able to satisfy my every fleeting craving to at least a certain extent. I learned a vast set of skills outside my initial background and shaped a unique niche for myself. However, it is plain senseless to endlessly peer at the grass on the other side of the fence. Instead, it would be best if we learned to distinguish a true passion from various escapisms. A practice you get better with after savouring one or two flings.

Rayan Suryadikara is a computer science master student at Leiden University. He is completing his internship at TU Delta at the science desk.