I am sometimes grateful for the moments of solitude in a life where there is a constant influx of deadlines and to-do lists, because that’s when I get to sit down and consolidate my own thoughts and experiences. Sometimes, you forget to “check” yourself once in a while, as you keep telling yourself to move on to the next thing. Having ambitions and chasing grades is not a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean your perspectives in life should remain stagnant just because you don’t have time to think about it. 4AO3 classes so far has given me that space to stop and think of other things in life. In engineering, we have a top-down and bottom-up approach. 4AO3 is sort of a bottom-up approach as you take a step back and see where the individual engineer as a module fit into the rest of the system, which is the society, or the rest of the world. I could suddenly see the bigger picture of my role in the society. How my slaving away in circuit analyses is not just for the sake of it, but it is to equip me with skills that will get the job done for the bigger purpose of serving the society. For me, some of the most significant perspective changes come from the fact that I have to reconsider my lifestyles and my habits. It challenges my sense of complacency in feeling that nothing has to ever change in my life. Whatever that I’m doing now has always worked for me and didn’t need re-evaluation let alone change. For example, when I did my choice assignment on carbon foot-print, one of the suggestions was that reducing consumption of meat could actually help reduce the strain on the demand for produce; hence reducing land used for farming and could conserve resources better. I am a big fan of meat and I eat it whenever I can. I never really considered how much of an impact it would have and until today, I find it really hard to give up that part of my lifestyle. However, reflecting on the significance of a little sacrifice in giving up something for your own good and the good of others, gives meaning to other aspects of my life. For example, I profess to a religious belief and some rituals require fasting, which is a form of a small sacrifice since you have to abstain from food consumption for a period of time. Giving up an aspect of your lifestyle to embrace change can be a form of “fasting”. This small sacrifice makes you feel grateful for the little things in life as you empathize with the people who are a lot less privileged than you when you experience the loss of that privilege or luxury as you abstain. At the end of the day, all these things will eventually build character and make you come out a more humane and considerate individual. Another noteworthy thing is the fact that due to the breadth of the course and flexibility in the course content, I am able to rediscover my lost interests that I most probably put away in pursuit of academic performance. I have a tendency to tilt my work-life balance towards work, such that I am willing to sacrifice time with friends and family and even time for myself to get things done, and I make work a convenient excuse to avoid social obligations. Since 4AO3 is part of my schedule I guess I was sort of forced out of my usual work to think about other things. From the range of topics discussed and the freedom of expression of opinions on whatever topics made me remember the
things I would once be passionate about, especially during the TEDTalk assignment. Initially I found it really hard to figure out what I wanted to talk about because I spent all my time and energy on work and not set aside any for the things I was passionate about. In this term as well, I took the time to get involved with the SELECT program, and 4AO3 ties in nicely with this because in both activities I get to hear a lot of ideas and learn about other people’s passions that inspire me to find or rediscover my own. It teaches me that there is a lot more to life than just work and I realized how much I have let grades defined who I am exclusively and how much working for those grades took up my time that I could have allotted to myself to pursue other interests and build other skills, or seek self-fulfilment in other areas or to engage in other social settings. The diversity of the topics covered in class, from both the TEDTalks as well as the guest speakers also made me realize that learning can happen from any person since everyone has different knowledge and experiences to offer.
All in all, I was thankful for this experience. There is definitely some change in the person I was at the beginning of the term and the person I am now. Even in my denial that I have better things to do than attend an ethics class, without a doubt, even being present in class and listening to the lecture or the in-class discussions, it does have an impact on giving me an awareness to self-reflect and expand my breadth of thoughts. That, in itself, is enough to give a small but significant perspective change in me.