Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aching to break free

Boozy called to say that he had to work all through the national holiday on monday, when everybody else was at home with family and friends hogging on Diwali sweets.  Often in the past he has worked through Friday nights and weekends, struggling to keep up with deadlines.  That conversation got me thinking about the freakin insanity of the whole thing.  Doesn't the "work to live, not live to work" concept hold good anymore?  I have seen friends in equity sales, investment banking, or for that matter, in many arbit profiles, burning out by the minute.

In our whole distorted ordering of priorities, we end up giving such a ridiculous weightage to achieving (or holding on to) a fast track career, that we actually stop living.  We used to have so much fun in college, with little or no money in our pockets.  But then we walked on a programmed path towards becoming an engineer/doctor/CA/MBA/Businessperson and entered the rat race.  No, this is worse.  This is a shit race.  We are all turds in a fkin shit race, gettin flushed away so fast, without getting a chance to leave any kind of mark. 

Even just in my limited social sphere, i know so many young people who are unhappy with what they are doing.  I'm not talking about people generally cribbing or being greedy for more.  I'm talking about the unhappiness resulting from wanting to do something different.  Something more meaningful or fun, or something reflecting our innate nature and individuality.  And i'm talking about the kind of people who can never be at peace with the fact that they are working on a pre-designed job description in a pre-designed grade structure, and knowing that they can be effortlessly substituted by another dummy in a tie and a good shirt, who'll probably do the job as well, if not better.

I'm not in any way trying to suggest that a corporate job is bad.  If you have a job profile that you like and are getting paid to your satisfaction, it can be really great.  Promotions, bonuses, responsibilities, status....lots of good things to look forward to.

But if you are continuously unsatisfied and are pining to do something else, which will probably give you much more happiness and peace even if it is at a lower income, i hope you are lucky enough to have the courage to make that change.  I'm still working on tightening my balls enough to finally break free.  I want to give a shot at some long standing plans.  If they dont work out, i know i'll be able to pick up a job again, satisfied that atleast i tried.

And that situation need not be all bad.  For example, the place where i work is amazing.  Bosses are great (though you cant have the same bosses forever....who knows if there is gonna be a terrible one in the future), culture is nice, have some good friends amongst the colleagues, etc.  This is the kind of place where I can work for 20-30 years without being desperate to move.  But inspite of all that, for a long time now there has been a constant unhappiness lingering under the surface.  I know i have to try doing something on my own.  And i know i have to explore my creative side.  I just have to do it.  Its now or never.  There's a lot of clarity about that, but its still so damn difficult to take that final call....

Why are silly things like losing a year or having a gap in our CV so scary to us?  One of the things we are probably most afraid of is falling behind our batchmates and peers and being thought of as a laggard.  Fk it all.

This one is from the eyes of my friend boozy, and is for every person stuck and slogging it off in a deadbeat job...


Aching to break free...

I get out of my home and
There's an eerie calm on the street
I head towards the station
Dragging my tired and aching feet

It feels so strange to climb
The railway bridge all alone
Noone pushes or gropes me
Or even tries to flick my phone

Even the train pullin in slowly
Has a lazy air around it
No need to hunt for a toehold
Its so unreal...there's place to sit

My heart is sinkin fast
As the office block gets closer
The security guy signing me in
Seems to whisper "what a loser!"

Project reports & Status reports
& data analysis spreadsheets
Deliverables & deadlines
Hammer down like drum beats

The dull glow from the monitor
Lights up my swollen eye sacs
The keyboard rests on the monster
That I've grown instead of 6-packs

I am utterly exhausted
And my poor back needs some healing
But all thats nothing compared to
This deap-seated unhappy feeling

My tired body and weary mind
Are screaming out a warning
Yet, what am i doing in office again
on a beautiful Sunday morning?

The only great thing today is
I dont have to stand in line
The coffe machine, the photocopier,
food counters & urinals are all mine

But I wonder where i'm heading to
Is this what i'd set out for?
The momentum has somehow built up so
Things dont make sense any more

Get an email from an old friend
Has some pics of the good ol' days
A guitar, drums, beer bottles,
Great buddies who've parted ways

I wanted to play guitar and to write..
I wanted to do something cool
Something to pour my soul in
But i'm sitting here like a fool

The empty feeling inside me
Is screaming out a warning
Yet, what am i doing in office again
on a beautiful Sunday morning?

- Vivek Rao



Anonymous said...

Great post. Stuff we've talked about for a while now, and downed countless drinks over.

Your balls are tight enough man, going by the discussion we had while I was in Pune. You are right, one must give it a shot.

Like you, all my friends I've spoken to recently wish they were doing something else. All of them.

I remember that cheesy line seen on several t-shirts: "I was born intelligent, education ruined me". Always used to laugh at that. Now, it makes complete sense. The post- graduate course we've completed is great and all, but we've become to freakin' methodical in our approach to everything as a result. Gotta start thinking with our hearts as well.

Nips is on his way, and I hope you follow suit soon.

Great poem. Here's to another round of Monday blues.

Anonymous said...

typo: too freakin' methodical

Unknown said...

The bigger problem is the extrapolation of that minor error which happens as one experiments, enough to create a stereotype that sticks to one for the rest of one's life. So, one's inability to live up to even one of conventional definitions of success/happiness would get extrapolated to other spheres of one's life. After which, one may have to contend living with the fact that that one error has changed not the reality but more importantly the complete perception of others about oneself. And then for the rest of your life, you're judged for not just that one stupid thing which in hindsight didn't matter, but for everything else that you do as people are look at you now through that coloured glass, answering those irritating half sympathy, half gloating "what happened!" questions, putting you on a defensive everytime you interact with someone. Bigger Question is whether one is comfortable living with those stereotypes and these perceptions rather than the reality of a small failure itself... Gotta go sleep... Need to be fresh for my rat race tomorrw morning...

Savitha said...

Could not have put it any better myself !!! My thoughts exactly !! i would say go for whatever it is you long to do coz life is too short ! Break free !!

Vivek Rao said...

Thanks for the compliment abt my balls boozy. My wife hasn't read my post, but just happened to see your comment and went "what the F..."

DD, bloody hell, that was heavy! I'll need a looooong drinking session with you to fully understand that one....

Thanks Savitha, will keep you posted if i do!

Unknown said...

Amazing post Vivek, loved it. And herd you on a roll, to fix your monster. ;-)

Minal said...

Vivek: As I wrote in my mail I repeat - Are you telepathic? Over the last few months I'm troubling my better half with the confusion that is on in my mind! I simply am not enjoying the rat race anymore -seems a waste of the little talent that I might be blessed with;-)
But I also know I may not take the risk for atleast some more months!

Point is at the end of it all one must feel happy doing his work and not be going through it to look better in everyone else's mind. It does not matter what others think -I'd care two hoots for them.

Success and failures are defined by us and how we choose to look at them - the rest do not matter!

What matters is our contentment and satisfaction at the end of the day and we need to define what gives it to us!

Btw is tht DD from our batch?? I dunno why, but it seemed just the kind of thesis we would've written in one of our papers during our MBA days;-) I think even I might need a drink to understand the gist of what DD wrote!:-) DD peace!

And on a complete tangent - went through some of your posts - you are a freaking good poet - considered getting them out on a serious note? publishing etc!

Vivek Rao said...

Thanks percy.... Yeah i've started jogging and exercising. Tryin to change some of my perfect round shape!

Minal, do let me know when you take the leap. Would be inspirational. And yes, that is DD from JB. And of course you'll need a stiff drink to understand what he's saying.

Would love to publish something somewhere. Just dunno what and where. :-) Thanks for the compliment, though.

About what you wrote: 'love what you do' and 'care two hoots about others' etc is stuff which all of us talk about and like to believe, but whatever image we create about ourselves, opinions matter to us. They do matter to each of us. It is natural and understandable. Trick to be learnt is not to let it define the course of our lives.

gayatri said...

Your post had a sense of Deja Vu. It felt like you are echoing my thoughts of the week - accumulating courage to break the monotony and follow my heart.Every one is running after a mirage in a rush to reach no where. One has to have courage to listen to the heart and take a risk to do what one would really like to do.And hopefully,soon I would not be regretting and saying what am I doing in the office on a beautiful sunday morning :)

Anonymous said...

It is then ironical that while at work we are hammered to fit in to the box..and then they go out and hire someone to think out of the box !

Anonymous said...

may be its just a question about what we actually want to do and what the people want use to do...
its our choice but than...most of us tend to feel small in front of the whole world when we compare and then again embroil oourselves into that shit race...

too good :)
I think u want to be the fisherman..
read it:

Archana Rao said...

Vivek.. great post... nice poem....U write well.. and certainly u shud do something abt it...

I know it is a little difficult to quit ur job and do what you realllyyy reallllyyy want.... and from what we have had discussions about.. i think u r going in the right direction.. so go for it man!!!

But i am sure it is difficult. I am not exactly the right person to comment on the rat race and desires to do what one really wants... because I Am doing what i want... so not too bad!!! But There is a lot of complexes you have to deal with. When i see other people my age/ my batch etc settled in well paying corporate jobs in the client side/ Banks/ MNC's etc i feel jealous sometimes,...... but then Screw it man! I enjoy what i am doing and thats what matters in the end.
I may never be able to work in a Corporate environment that gives me twice or three times my current pay, perks, benefits etc. Im good with advertising.... belly dancers in office.... bad or rather horrible working hours... stress.. fights... etc etc....
But inspite of all that it still is great.
Trust me Vivek when you have a hard day at work doing what you enjoy, it gives you a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. Happens with me quite a few times!
Go fot it man... do what you realllyyy want to do! whatever it is but just make sure you dont get into another rat race.

Amit Kumar Singh said...

Very Nice post.. :)
This is something I am feeling too...As I am going to join DRDO this year...I am little bit scared what would happen..I don't know..My friends who have joined their company are saying that "the best days(college-life) of life are over"...It is true that in this limited period of life we can not let ourselves indulge in something that we don't like...Why are we working? for joy and pleasure...and if the work itself makes us bored, distresses and desperate what is the significance of doing that work? feels so absurd, is n't it?And I feel a courageous man only can do so(Go for his interest)... Who can face the society...who can endure the pain of being called "insane and non-pragmatic"...

Vivek Rao said...

Thanks for your comments guys...

Gayatri, you are absolutely right; it is a mirage, no less. The Matrix "has" us :-) Best of luck for whatever you are planning to do!

Jasaala, our work lives are filled with so many of these contradictions! Beautifully captured by Scott Adams in The Dilbert Principle...

RSV, i checked out your fisherman. I would like to be a less extreme version of him, though!

Chan! Kameeni, i knew you'll somehow try to rub in the fact that you work in advertising, can wear shorts to work, have belly dancers performing at office functions, can officially drink beer in the afternoon, etc etc etc... Lucky bit*&! :-) Thanks. You'll always be updated about my plans anyways. Come over on the weekend and we'll have a nice loooong chat over some Absolut.

Amit, working at DRDO sounds interesting yaar. Definitely different from what any of us are doing. And if that is what you have wanted to do, dont worry at all and just give it your best. But keep your hobbies and creative interests alive by devoting some time there as well....

Anonymous said...

Nice work bhau... :)

quasibaba said...

Well written. I know how you feel and I hope soon, you can get your excitement in forging your own path.

Our elders (last generation) were luckier than us in the sense that most of them had no time for dissatisfied with what they did with their lives - they were busy earning the bread. Or rather, they had no choice but to stoically be dissatisfied. I can hardly believe the people who travel from Dombivili to VT daily. Even more other who do a Mumbai-Pune. I wonder why people are so accepting of their situations and lot in life. Is it because they see no path ahead? Is it that, really, this shitty world is unfair? Are they too week? Are they less selfish about what _they_ want? I guess it is a combination of all (and more) of these. Because unless you strive for change very hard, it aint gonna happen. The difficulties and thorns one has to face on the "I want change" path puts a whole new perspective on what we _really_want_ and what we _really_need_ and the price we are willing to pay for it all. For make no mistake: it is indeed a rough path. You have to believe in the change strong enough to pull everyone around you into it. Unless you see a vision for you and your people and your satisfaction comes from the strife and struggle and the victory over those to achieve that vision, you have little motivation to last through it all. The money and the rest may or may not come, but by the time you are well on to your path those things have been diminished in their importance. They are just a byproduct of what you do. Your real satisfaction and motivation will be the mark you left.

Vivek Rao said...

@ Quasi: Well said! :)
Yeah, i guess those times were different...

Vivek Rao said...

For records: I did eventually manage to muster up the balls required for the change. Quit from Citi; last day there was on 3rd June. Trying to adapt to working on my own since then!

Very excited (and a bit scared) about what the future holds...