Love vs Career

I feel a little small writing this at a time like this, when our country is slowly being set on fire by fascist forces. But nothing I write will ever do justice to the suffering and pain being inflicted upon scores of people in Delhi. Honestly speaking, this was a volcano waiting to erupt the moment BJP came into power. This is what they wanted. This is what their entire machinery was gearing towards..

Coming to the topic at hand – Love vs Career; it seems to have become the most important and relevant question for our generation. What do you choose, when you are a crossroads such as this? What matters more?

But my question this – why should one have to choose only one? The truth is, neither of these choices alone can bring you complete fulfillment and happiness for a lifetime. If you choose love, and completely sideline your career, it will haunt you forever in the form of resentment. You may also feel like you didn’t achieve your highest potential and let go of the chance to do something great. Nobody wants to feel like that, especially if you derive a great part of your self-esteem from your career or ambition. Eventually a relationship in which one sacrificed his or her career completely, is going to tank. On the flip side, if you choose career over love, it will all feel pointless and hollow after a point, when you will have nobody to share your success with. Happiness is best experienced when you have someone who feels it with you, someone who understands you completely.

A lot of times, couples find themselves in situations where they find it impossible to balance the two. One may have gotten an opportunity to go abroad (or a different city) while the other may want to stay back or one may want to settle down while the other may still want time to build their career. There can be many examples. So what should one do? After years of torturing myself over this question, I came across the answer one fine day in my therapy session. It’s called finding ‘common ground’. Let me explain. The idea that all we go according to our plan in life is the biggest farce. The truth is, there are a lot of factors in life that are completely outside your control. I have learnt that the only two things you can truly control in life are your actions and your reactions. You can’t control the outcome.

My point is, the only time people think they have to make a hard choice between love and career, is when they want to stick to the plan they have made for themselves. No, I don’t say that having goals is pointless, all your goals are achievable. But, the journey may not be as you mapped it out to be. It can meander, change, take U-turns and even offer massive roadblocks. Which doesn’t mean you won’t get to your goal, it simply means you’ll find a different way. I am a massive control freak and like to plan everything in advance, so accepting this concept was like climbing Everest for me. A lot of this acceptance comes with letting go of the imaginary control we think we have over the outcomes of our decisions.

Coming back to the term ‘common ground’. Now I think a lot of us live our lives with the either-or theory. I surely did for the longest time. The thing is, no matter where you are in life, certain adjustments are inevitable. Happiness isn’t a magical island where you’ll arrive one fine day after all your hard work. It’s a choice that needs to be made every single day. To make that choice, you may need to sometimes put others’ needs above your own, sometimes your own. For example, it’s your loved one’s birthday, but it’s also an important day at work. So what do you do? Instead of sacrificing one for the other, you find an alternate solution – you call your loved one to your workplace so that you can be with each other while you work and then go out and celebrate his or her birthday.

In another situation, you may have got an opportunity to go abroad to study or work, but your partner either 1) wants to stay back or 2) still needs time to figure out an opportunity for themselves abroad. In the first situation, you can either figure out an equally lucrative opportunity in your homeland or discuss the feasibility of a long distance relationship. But while discussing that option, you must also know the end goal. A long distance relationship succeeds only when there is a plan to get back to each other in the end. If both agree to work towards that end, then it can work. (I, personally, do not subscribe to the idea of long distance relationships. But that’s just me) In the second situation, you can surely put your partner’s needs above your own and defer your admission or joining date until your partner, too, figures out an option. This way, you don’t sacrifice anything.

I firmly believe that relationships sustain only when you put in hard work. The moment we start taking relationships for granted, they slip away. If you think your relationship will work out on it’s own or your love will survive the distance no matter what, then you’re wrong. We need to prioritize work and relationships differently in different situations. You cannot put your career on the #1 spot for your entire life and expect your relationship to flourish, and vice versa. And quite honestly, there is no support system in life like a strong relationship. If you have a steady, honest and real relationship in your life, it will help you scale heights that you couldn’t have done alone. Your partner will become both your anchor and your wings.

Let’s not forget, it’s only when we’re happy and content in our personal lives, that we can find happiness and meaning in our professional lives.

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.

A Leap of Faith

I sometimes wonder if I walked into this world with a special type of kismat – one that guaranteed non-stop action and chaos. I feel like I’m constantly on a roller coaster ride, and even though I enjoyed it in the beginning, now it’s simply wearing me off and making my nauseous. In Geet’s words in Jab We Met, “Bahut excitement ho gaya ab is raat mein. Boring bana do ji is raat ko ab”

A boring life would be such a relief. I wish I didn’t want to be a professional dancer. That way, I could do what my parents wanted me to without the burden of that choice. How simple and straightforward life would be, if all I had to do was follow a pre-laid, well structured and 100% positive-results-guaranteed wala plan towards success and happiness. Then I could build my life around getting good grades/a high flying degree and then getting a well-paid job that would give me just enough liberty to take a month off every year to go an exotic location like The Maldives or Bahamas and take endless selfies for my jealous colleagues to see. In a nutshell, how I wish I wasn’t someone who endorsed and practiced the idea of ‘choice’, because it comes with a truck load of responsibility and accountability that can suck the happiness right out of you like a dementor.

This post isn’t about how pathetic my life is. It’s about what I’ve learnt, time and again, from my experiences. A lot of people advocate the idea of free will (just like me). But there are very less people who are willing to face the consequences of their choices. These are the ones who shout “Mah lyfe, Mah rulezz” until reality kicks in and they scurry away like rats. Life is unfortunately a bitch and even though in an ideal world, the ability to make one’s own choices would be celebrated, we live in a far-from ideal world and even farther-from ideal country. A country where a 15 year old student does not have the liberty to pick the stream that he/she wants without the consent of at least 51% of his/her (existing) family. A country where a woman does not have the liberty to wear what she wants without the entire city ogling her. A country where a couple cannot decide to marry without the 100% consent of their (even the dead ones) families. A country where a person does not feel supported or encouraged enough to follow his/her passion. A country where a director cannot make a film with the following – sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, history, religion, politics, poverty and cows – without having either the censor board or some political wing/religious fanatics/people who have nothing to do with their lives and are sexually frustrated, jumping down his/her throat.

A country where someone cannot express his/her opinion without the fear of being physically attacked.

Even then, people who strongly believe in their choices and beliefs, stand by them no matter the cost. Whether it is a gay couple fighting for section 377 to be scraped off or a straight couple fighting with their families to let them get married – These are people who make their choices and stick to them for life.

Then there are people who make their choices and later chicken out because of the fear of (a) family, (b) extended family, (c) society and/or (d) failure. Interestingly I’ve seen how the combination of ‘fear of family’ and ‘fear of failure’ works wonders when it comes to someone changing their stand. Our society has manufactured some very standardized templates of “success” and anyone who strays too far from them risks the chance of ending up a loser AKA not earning enough money and a ‘respectable’ job. Let’s just make it simple.

Success = Money {jhooti izzat + commendable social standing (AKA foreign return) + expensive clothes + tons of hypocrisy + PROPERTY (oh, heaven)}

Just multiple everything with money. I took it common.

As a dancer, I’ve come across many people who give up on their passion and talent simply because the idea of taking it up professionally scares the heebie jeebies out of them. It’s a risky career in terms of every parameter. There is absolutely no guarantee of success and even if it does come, it does not fetch too much money. It is a life full of uncertainty, disappointment and lack of money. People don’t take our profession seriously and think we’re wasting our lives. That kind of pressure is too much of a burden to carry apart from the challenges that the profession has to offer. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting along with being physically demanding. Most people want to keep doing it “on the side” along with their mainstream profession. Some people choose to go ahead with it, but crack under the strain midway.

And then there are people who sail through despite all odds. They may have been kicked out of their houses, looked down upon by immediate society, faced failure multiple times, been discouraged by peers and colleagues – whatever the situation may have been, they make it out alive. And there is only one driving force behind them – conviction and commitment.

This is the kind of force that enables us to make decisions and stick to them in all areas of life – career, relationships, friendships and even the commitments we make to ourselves. Whether it is to lose 5 kgs in 20 days or to begin a start up with a small idea. If we believe in what we want and where our heart lies, then we would find that mustering up courage is not such a difficult thing to do. We just know that we’re doing is right. The end.

Unfortunately, nowadays people “know” a lot but stand for nothing. They have a lot of information but no knowledge. They have degrees but not real education. They want many things and forget about what they need. They make money but not wealth. They invest in property but not in themselves. I remember reading about the difference between a “crowd” and a “group”. A group has a face; it stands for something. A crowd has no face. Just people scurrying around trying to nab the closest possible gratification.

I guess that’s what all of us want now – immediate gratification. If something doesn’t fetch success immediately, it’s useless. If someone doesn’t make you happy anymore, they’re not worth it. If a relationship is causing trouble in your life, drop it. If a job is putting you under too much strain, change it. If your wardrobe isn’t getting you any attention, get a new one. If your profile picture on facebook isn’t getting enough likes, click a new one.

We have nothing worth fighting for in our lives. We have nothing we would put our necks out on the line for. There is no commitment, passion, loyalty and most importantly, love for anyone or anything. None of us know what we want, or why we want it. We just know it will make us instantly happy and therefore it is something we are willing to take a step forward for. Taking a leap of faith for something though? No, that’s just not practical anymore.

 

The curse of the 20’s

So you’re now in your 20’s. The teens are over, so according to your social learning, you should now turn into a responsible person overnight. “Bade ho gaye ho beta, zimmedari ko samjho” – becomes your daily music. Friends, parties and most importantly selfies begin to take a backseat, while your career starts crawling to the forefront. There are options to be explored, potential ROI of your chosen field to be discussed and very importantly, wedding planning to start.

Each year that passes by without you having achieved any of the subsets of the above, your forebodings and fears increase. What if I’m a failure? What if I never get anywhere in life? What if I’ll always be financially dependent on my parents? What if I never get married? What if I’m impotent? Unless you’re a rich dude from a rich family, these thoughts will plague your mind like the Ebola virus. Having entered the 20’s club myself a couple years ago, I deal with these thoughts every single day of my life. I try to imagine my life 5 years from now, and can’t seem to see anything but a couch and a pillow.

For a long time, I was under the impression that I was born to do something great, that I was different. But now that I’m letting the years pass me by, I’m beginning to wonder whether all I was suffering from was delusions of grandeur. I have ideas that I want to explore and pursue, places that I want to visit, different fields that I want to experiment with; but none of that ever materializes. It’s all just in my head. Like everyone else in my age group, I too am shackled by the ‘karna hi hai’ thought process.

What makes everything seem worse is when I see people around me doing well for themselves. FB feed has officially shoved me into depression. I see people getting new jobs or getting married every single day. It’s a harsh reminder of my own imperfection. I’m surfing reddit, twitter and instagram while people are out there doing something worthwhile.

We’re living in a century that has spoilt us for choices beyond imagination. Every single time you go out to do something, you have hundreds of options glaring at you from every direction. Which one to pick? Which one will offer maximum utility? The truth is, no matter what you choose, you will always feel buyer’s remorse. If you choose to do MBA, you may spend years thinking about how it would been if you chose MA. If you choose to become a driver, thoughts of becoming a waiter will torture you forever. And on and on it goes. In the end, despite having a plethora of choices at your feet, you choose to not take a step in any direction at all.

I want to be a writer, a dancer, a psychologist, a cook and a driver. But I don’t know which way to go first; which opportunity is worth giving up for something else. And it just seems as though I’m letting this confusion rule my life instead of working towards something. Can’t I get a mysterious signal from gravity so that I can find my way towards a high-functioning facility that will transport me to another planet via a worm hole or something?