A couple of months of ago, I mused to someone I had recently got to know that I have never really faced a professional setback in my life. It was an innocuous, thoughtless and stupid thing to say. Something that I should have never uttered or thought of or even entertained in my brain. It was not only an insult to everything that I have achieved but also an insult to every single person who has supported me over the years.

The thing is, recently, I realized setbacks in our lives are not isolated incidents. It isn’t just a break up or loss of a promotion or lack of appreciation or a hospital trip or losing someone we love, these things don’t happen as singular experiences. We don’t live life shuttling through various boxes, one at a time. We are simultaneously dealing with multiple things together. Switching on somewhere, switching off somewhere. Carrying some leftovers like emotions and thoughts and feelings. Affecting the personal with professional and professional with personal. According to me, it is something that makes us human. It feels like a hindrance but it isn’t always one. Every experience leaves us something. Maybe a lesson or a thought or an emotion that we’ve never felt earlier. It leaves with something that makes us stronger and more equipped to deal something that is coming. A part of me refused to believe that any negative or positive experience happens in isolation. Everything that has happened happens so that we are ready for everything that will happen.

A couple of months ago I quit my job. While I wasn’t very happy with it at that very moment, it was a job that I loved at some point. It was The Job for me for a while. I quit with a heavy heart even when I knew I was doing the right thing. My energy levels at the point of time were in negative. I had never been this physically or emotionally exhausted. It wasn’t a particular thing or aspect of my life that was bringing me down but I think the exhaustion of a lot of years. An accumulation of various negative experiences that seemed so huge that every victory big or small was diminished and seemed unimportant.  It was my dark cloudy sky and I was waiting for it to rain.

I spent a couple of months just regaining physical strength. Learning a new hobby. Doing seemingly miniscule things that made me happy. Buying groceries and learning to make perfect pasta. Figuring out how to remove water stains from my new shiny sanitary ware.  Flirting with strangers on Secret, enjoying slightly scandalous conversations. All hidden hobbies things I’d never admit to anyone if they asked me what I like to do.  Whiling away time, happily so. All of this while I was trying to deal with some small health issues. Nothing major. A frequent cold and an occasional cough. Stuff I’d ignore and carry on work if I was working. I never really paid much heed to it. There was no reason to. 

As much as I would have loved to just do these things and enjoy life, it was a fact that I have to work. I am not used to not earning. I love my lifestyle. I love being responsible. I started looking out for jobs. Approached some places that I’d like to work for. Gave some interviews. Somehow everything seemed just not right. Some places out right rejected me, some places I didn’t show too much interest, some places weren’t just meant to be. I came across something I liked, waited patiently for it to work out. And it did. Just as I was mentally preparing myself to bear the daily commute and get back to work life, the apparent small cold and cough became a serious matter. I took my medicines more diligently than I ever have in my life. I reached an okay state where I thought I could resume my normal life but in a day it was evident that just wasn’t possible. It was horrible letting go of something I wanted so much. Something I saw a future in. Something that made me want to get over my anxiety and work towards my normal life again. This was probably the first ever “professional” setback I’ve ever had.

A month passed by, an old opportunity came back. I estimated with a big buffer that I’d be okay enough to try again. Again a wrong estimation, unintentional but hurtful to myself.  Suddenly the cold became rhinitis, the cough became asthma and the tightness in my chest became high blood pressure. Very manageable, chronic but controllable things were (are) causing havoc in my life. Stuff that I never thought of and stuff that doesn’t come with a timeline. The most frustrating part of chronic conditions like these was (is) that there was (is) no estimation of how long before I can resume my normal life, how long before I can walk without feeling that my lungs are on fire or how long before my head doesn’t feel like it weighs a couple of hundred pounds. I bid my time, I take my medicines, and I wait to feel normal.

It took me a lot of time to look at this with some perspective. At some point I realized that if this was something related to work, I would have fought to fight a solution. Yes, I would have been emotional and frustrated but I would have tried to fix it. If it didn’t work out the first time, I would’ve tried again or asked for help. If it was something to do with my family, I would have tried my best to make things right. And I would have tried unconditionally. Then why is that I am having such a hard time to adjust and accept all of this? Is it just because this is something personal and intangible? Something that is beyond my control? Why don’t I allow myself the same allowances when it comes to me?

And this is when I realized that the way I look at things has been skewed for a very long time. It isn’t fair to us or others when we look at different aspects of life in isolation. No one can be happy with progress in one aspect and failure in another. I have always looked at my life as divided in different compartments. It has always helped me deal with things better. Switch on and switch off better. To (seemingly) stay unaffected while dealing with some part even when some other part is collapsing. It is just now that I realize that life can’t be that way.

Our setbacks don’t happen in isolation. Our victories don’t happen in isolation either. It is all a package. While, I do not mean to say that when something goes wrong, everything needs to go wrong and collapse like a pack of dominoes. What I mean is when something happens, it happens to us as a whole person. There is no such thing as personal or professional when it comes to setbacks. They affect you. They bother you. And they will have repercussions. While they require a targeted solution, the effects of solving a crisis will be universal. They won’t stay contained in one part of you.

And that is why I felt that my statement “I have never really faced a professional setback in my life,” is insulting. A setback is a setback. There is nothing professional or personal about it. The only time it should be looked in isolation is when you are looking at the broader picture and seeking a solution. Rest of the time, at least I have decided to, give myself enough leeway to deal with things as a complete person and not a compartmentalized machine.





Unemployment woes

I turn 27 in a couple of days and I’m freaking out. I am writing this hoping that it will help me calm down a little bit. I know that feeling lost and confused is an eternal part of life and I shouldn’t give this as much attention but I have never felt this freaked out by being a year old. 27 is just to close to 30. And that is an age by which I wanted quite a lot of things done. And I am way far away from them.

The fact is I don’t feel much different than what I felt when I was 21. To be honest, when my life isn’t much different either. I’m single. I have serious responsibilities. I don’t have a job currently. And I have very little money in my account after this long (unintentionally long) sabbatical. I never really like being out of work beyond a certain point. I’m not very ambitious either. But I like doing some good work, hoping that it will attract the right fortunes and people. My version of good fortune has been I have met the right people at the right time. Some of them have helped me become who I am today. I have had to wait but I have never really had a massive setback. The more I look I back and ponder; I have only been counting the good things. Yes, there were bad months and years but nothing compares to the sheer luck I’ve had when it comes to my career.

All of this introspection is the reason why I am freaking out. I don’t care much about my single status. I think it will happen in its own time like most things. Responsibilities, I am used to by now. It really bothers me to not have a job or work or a purpose I feel passionate about. I have had people tell me to lower my standards, that a job is just a job and that I should get used to the dull monotony of work. But the thing is I just cannot spend my life compromising one of the very few things that really matter to me. It will be like choosing a guy to get married to only based on the fact that he is a guy and I am not a lesbian. May be I am foolish but I’d really prefer not being sane if it means compromising such a huge part of me.

I know as time goes by, my paranoia about being unemployed will just increase. I may not get what I want. I know that I might have to bend my ego a bit and not be as independent as I have been in the recent years. But hey, I am 27. I, for a change, know what I want. That is a big deal to me. And unless I absolutely have to, I am not going to let go of this purpose of knowing what I want and trying to find it.

Wish me luck.

The power of time off

How much time do we actually spend on ourselves or on what we like to do while we are working? Even when we do take leaves, how much time do we spend doing what we love or doing nothing. My personal experience says it takes us weeks just to get back to normal rhythm of things. To slow down, pay attention to our own thoughts and to find things that we’d rather be doing instead of work. Sure, we say that we’d like to travel to new places, read new books and in my case do nothing, but how far do we really go? It is quite amazing to see this video and know that someone really does what I have been trying to do in my time off. 
My sabbaticals may not have been as productive as this man’s but one can hope. May be by the time I reach the next one, I’d know exactly what I’d like to do when I get my share of unlimited time off.Till then, I am going to let my thoughts wander, spend time doing nothing, read, cook and generally try to find peace once again. 

Letting go

I think if there is one thing that I’ve learnt time and again in my life, it is how to let go. The more I want stability and assurance, the more I have to let go. My relationships have always been about being okay with uncertainty and non-commitment. Being okay with dead ends. And knowing it might not lead to anywhere.

Then why is it after so much time, I still act like I haven’t received the message? Why is it easier to latch on things/people and grieve the loss of something rather than accepting from day one that presence today doesn’t mean the same tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be easier to appreciate things/people more if this is drilled in our heads all the time? Not that I am the kind that doesn’t appreciate those around me but seriously, there has to be something about this message the universe keeps repeating again and again.

May be it is time to start everything by letting go. Being okay with uncertainty and embracing the now instead of thinking or planning for tomorrow. And saying goodbye before saying hello.

I am not being mean, I just want to move on.

A couple of years ago, in a fit of anger, I deleted some people from my Facebook friend list. A few weeks ago, a guy I have known for a long time acted like a jerk so I deleted him from my Facebook list. It appears, throwing people out of my life  or just ensuring that there is limited contact with them starts by ensuring that they are no longer connected to me on social media. May be because it is my job or because I have always been an internet addict, getting in touch with me is easiest through the internet. Whatsapp and sms closely follows. But this disconnecting tactic is something that caught my attention yesterday during a conversation where I was quite unknowingly defending my actions.

Why are these people no longer a part of my Facebook friend list? The simple reason being I don’t want them to know what I am up to. I don’t want them to know where I work, what I work as, who do I hang out with, who am I seeing, what do I drink, what do I watch etc etc. No matter how much and how consciously I avoid putting up my personal life on Facebook, a lot of it inevitably ends up on Facebook. Friends tag, I share whatever I feel is worthy, I spend at least 15 minutes on it everyday for personal use. What goes on there, is a clear window into my life. And these guys don’t quite deserve to know it.

No wonder it becomes such a matter of ego and pride when someone gets deleted from someone’s ‘friend list.’           

I envy the generation before mine. For them, a break up actually meant a break up. Saying goodbye actually meant goodbye. It didn’t mean, lets wait for a few weeks before we add each other again or unblock each other. They certainly had a few more choices. And moving on didn’t mean offending someone.