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A Man Without Passion

Dr. Thitiwat Phetkee, Internal Medicine Resident, Phramongkutklao Hospital

If you’re a Millennial or a Gen(eration) Z, you must have asked yourself this question: What is my passion? It is impossible not to seek an answer to it at least once because everyone, from self-made billionaires to life coaches, say finding your passion is key to finding success, wealth, and happiness.

But do you really need to have that in order to be happy and successful? Recent studies and surveys released in the last 5-6 years have shown that most people don’t have a passion, and while the majority of respondents said they believe a life with passion is what they aim for, only a small number of them really pursue a passion.

Dr Thitiwat Phetkee, Internal Medicine Resident at Phramongkutklao Hospital, is one of those ‘passionless’ people who, admittedly, asks himself that question in various ways and on various occasions. Each time, it has become clear to him that the answer is “nada”.

“I’ve asked myself many times over the years to the point that I have started wondering if I’m weird or abnormal in some way for having no passion,” he says.

When you look at him, what you see is what you get. The 27-year-old doctor is a shy, softly-spoken man of Chinese descent, with a gentle smile. As an introvert, he enjoys reading and playing Saw Duang and Saw U, a class of traditional Thai string instruments. He has no interest in gadgets, sports, VDO games, painting, partying, or even traveling. “Being with my cat” is his reply when asked about his hobby.

What about a dream? Do you have any ‘must-do’ list before you die? “No, I don’t have a dream; such a list has never entered my mind,” he says. Studying medicine was only the result of his excellent academic performance.

But Dr Thitiwat has one clear purpose, and it’s been clear since he was little. “If there’s anything I want, it’s to be able to take care of my aging parents and my two older sisters.” Now he’s a doctor, he plans to return one day to his hometown in the northern province of Pichit and work at the provincial hospital.

In Thailand, the number of healthcare professionals is way too low compared to the total population. They are often overworked and hospitals understaffed. Most medical workers also prefer to work in big cities or private hospitals as the pay is much better and the workload lighter. This further exacerbates the problem of inadequate staff in local hospitals, particularly in remote areas.

With his professional expertise, his future is guaranteed. Dr Thitiwat also believed that way until he was ordained as a Buddhist monk a year ago after he had just completed his internship. During his one-month life as a monk, Dr Thitiwat discovered the kind of peace he had never known before in his entire life.

“I was quite content with my life at that time. Basically, I’m a natural minimalist,” he explains, adding that it also applies emotionally. “I don’t get excited easily, neither do I have strong feelings, whether likes or dislikes. In my life, I never want anything beyond basic necessities. But Vipassana Meditation (Mindfulness Meditation) practice is really something.” It showed him there’s still calmness beyond calmness, serenity beyond serenity.

While considering himself easy-going and patient, Dr Thitiwat admits he can get annoyed easily at certain things, but the mind training through Vipassana has made him become more patient.

Unfortunately, his busy schedule doesn’t allow him enough time to sit down and meditate properly, so he tries to stay mindful of his thoughts, feelings, and actions during each day instead. “It helps me think twice before I say something. When I’m more observant of myself, I make fewer mistakes.”

In case you’d like to know if his sharper mind leads him to find his purpose, the answer is still “No.” What he has gained, however, is something greater than that; his life purpose has become clearer than ever. When his parents pass away and his family can stand on its own, he will enter the monkhood for life.

“Dhamma is amazing. The strenuous training and long hours of meditation don’t bore or tire me at all. When I do Focus Meditation, I feel very light, in fact, so light as if I could fly. When I switch to Vipassana, there’s no comfort during the sitting at all, but after that, the mind is even lighter and more deeply serene…and I thought to myself, this is what I’ve always wanted.”

So, Dr Thitiwat still lives a life without passion, but obviously not without happiness. Perhaps passion is overrated. What we really need is purpose.