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Considering it is 13 years since I started my Corporate journey, it is only obvious that once in a while I stop to take stock of where I am headed. Mostly, this bout of contemplation ends abruptly, because the boss calls about an escalation that needs to be looked into. Or Zo calls about a word she did not understand in the book she’s reading. Or the Dude calls because he has something funny to show. You know, the usual. But quite clearly, I know the real answer. I have known it for a while. Nowhere.

I think I have written about it in the past. The fact that mid-life crisis has hit, and shouldn’t I be doing something I love because life’s so short, or is what I am doing worthwhile at all? So many questions. Nothing new, or different from what all the other people my age and stage in life are going through. Atleast most of them. Accepted, a few of them are thoroughly sorted, and to them, I salute. But most of us, are either in this jittery ‘where’s my life headed’ mode. Or they are in the ‘ignorance is bliss’ mode, which one can also call ‘too busy to notice the crisis’ mode.

I oscillate. The former feeling dominating my life more than the latter. But then, I wonder. Why did it take me so long to come to this realization? Did I really believe at any point that I’d be passionate about the work I do? I mean, I know I have to do it, I prepped for this for a good 7 years. And I do it fairly well (or so I’d like to believe). I definitely don’t mind it. But do I love this?

The culprit here, is this over-exposure to thoughts and ideas and people that we are all subjected to these days, in this world of too much information. Frankly, I always prided myself for being immune to the banes of social media. I mean, there was this point of time when people I knew were quitting Facebook because pictures of others’ vacations where making them depressed, and I laughed. I found it ridiculous. I believed, still do, that they should look at it for the pretti-ness it offered, take it all with a pinch of salt, and eventually just be inspired to plan something for yourself. Like I do. Simple, no? No.

Because, turns out, vacation pictures aren’t the only thing that you can envy. And while I hate to say it, I truly envy people who are able to pursue their passions and make the world pay them for it. Basically people, who love their job. Not like, not be content with, not excel at what they do. But truly, love  it. Like, I do my job because it is just amazing fun to do, and if given a choice I could do it all day. Because it gives me joy. Direct joy, not joy through the lavish lifestyle I can afford because it pays so well. Or joy, because everyone thinks I am amazing at it. Pure, direct happiness that I get from doing the thing I am doing. AND, I get paid for it.

And there are those folks who have a very high tolerance for risk. The ones that quit their Corporate job to start farming. The ones who moved to the mountains and are living the minimalist life and finding it wonderful. The ones who have decided they have had enough of the future and they would rather live in the present. Unfortunately, I am not one of those too. My heavily conservative, middle-class upbringing has always explained to me the relevance of being ‘financially independent’, planning for the future and being the ant in the story of the ant and the grasshopper. And it was all fine until the grasshoppers of the world started sharing amazing photographs from the wonderful places they were in week after week.

But like I said, these thoughts are relatively recent. Yes, agreed,  I have spent the last 3 years wondering whether I was where I wanted to be, whether I was doing what I wanted to do, whether I even knew what I wanted from life, but slowly, acceptance has been settling in. I have started to wonder ( I know, so much time to wonder I seem to have!) if it is even worth thinking so much about things that are so unclear. I mean, shouldn’t I first atleast know what I want to do with my life? Is the fact that this thing that I am doing right now might not be giving me the joy I look forward to, reason enough for me to stop doing it? Because what if I never find the thing I love doing?

So yes, I am choosing the easy way out. Of not making a choice, until it presents itself to me. Of not sitting and wondering if it ever will, maybe it won’t. Or maybe it will. Of not bothering that though I know that I’m not really headed anywhere,  there’s nothing much I can do about it.

Because maybe I don’t want to. Maybe, this is as good as it gets.

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Tuesday evening thoughts

Google Chrome wants me to go to Kuala Lumpur – or maybe it’s the reader I am using. Just for 6999/-, it says. Either way, I cannot go. I am here, at my work desk – waiting to tick off the last of my to-dos for today. That might happen, or might not. Because my checklist, it needs me to talk to others, tell them all that has happened, or what I think about all that’s happening. All that needs to be done. By them, and by me.

But others won’t always be around – like right now, they are away – maybe ticking off their own to-dos. Their checklists would be long too, I presume, all checklists are. It’s just the content that differs, slightly. And for all you know, I do not feature anywhere on them. Which is why I will wait, atleast for a while. Till the urgency of the issue passes by. Till the time that thing that’s kept me awake, that thing I wanted to say, is just one of the may things that happen to you in a day. And eventually, I will give up, shut down my laptop, call it a day.

My to-do list – it will stay. On the right hand corner of my screen. Flagged red.Waiting for that tick, that will help it go away. Somewhat like me. Almost like me. Atleast like that part of me, that wants to click on that screaming red banner that says – ‘Fly to Kuala Lumpur. Just for 6999/-‘.

Actually, maybe not to Kuala Lumpur. But somewhere. Some day.

Work rant

Over the last 2 years, I have had the thought of quitting work more often than ever. And I have also wondered why I feel the way I do. Is it the work itself? Is it the folks at work? Is it the stress? Is it the fact that it eats into my time with Zo? Is it the people around me making sad, sorry faces when I tell them I work?

I don’t have an answer. I guess it is way too many things together that give this feeling. Yes, so I have started feeling this way a lot more since Zo came, and definitely more since she grew up a bit. But it’s not the only reason. It is the general attitude of people towards work.

I have spent 12 years in a relatively ‘less stressful industry’, as they like to call themselves. But I cannot think of one month, or day when I was completely off work, mentally. It doesn’t work that way for me as an individual. But unfortunately, those are things only I am aware of.

The great Indian working scenario, I believe is still sarkaari at heart. I also find the analogy extremely offensive because the folks who define sarkaari as a bunch of seat warmers who will leave when the clock strikes 5, are pretty much doing the same thing today; albeit in larger MNCs with better air conditioning. Maybe not as much 9 to 5, as 11 to 8, or 12 to 9 – only now this is the timing of choice because who can get up and rush to work so early anyway? Also, the plethora of entertainment options at work – ranging from online shopping to social media to Youtube videos means that they can hang around for even longer hours -10,12,14, and do exactly what they would have done back home, only there will be no one nagging in the background to lend a hand in the kitchen.

Slowly being at the workplace becomes the definition of hard work, rather than getting work done. And God forbid you fall in the latter category, because then, you are destined to be deemed as average.

I have a life beyond work, I always have. I was quite proud of it, still am. But as I grow up the ladder, this seems like an odd thing to accept. Doesn’t matter if I am dot on time to work, have lunch at my desk, skip tea and have my calendar blocked continuously through the 9 hours; just so that I am done on time. Doesn’t matter if I do all that I am expected to and even more, just because I know that I will be one of the few folks who will leave when it strikes 7 to go home.

Go home for those little things that matter just as much, if not more than work. Like checking Zo’s homework, or reading with her, or reading for myself, watching a TV show with the Dude. But no, it seems to amaze people that I want to do these things, and not hang around chatting a bit more because you know, networking? Apparently, how can you expect to grow if you are not giving it your everything?

Thing is, I cannot give work my ‘everything’ because it is not my ‘everything’. It will never be. I refuse to make work the most important thing in my life, at most give it a sort of low position in the top 5, but nothing more. And the more vocal I get about it, the more hurt I get in the process. This is where the Indian-ness of the people comes across, because I have worked with folks in the west, and there everyone – men and women, seem to think the priority is to get your work done and head to your family. Here, eh, not so much. Here, having an hour long tea break takes precedence over wanting to help your kid with homework, because your wife will do that.

And whatever I do to make up for it is not enough. Doesn’t matter if I am taking calls every day after Zo goes to sleep, because well you left office on time right? Doesn’t matter if I take up more projects than any other damn person because, well, you won’t come for the sports event on Saturday right? Doesn’t matter if I come in early so I can leave on time, because well the others work from 2 to 11, so they can’t be expected to stretch right? Eventually it’s about how you have taken a call to not grow beyond a point by being restrictive in the time you spend sitting at your work desk.

I try not to think of it but it is true. Companies on paper these days are much more flexible, but what goes on in the heads of those you work with is best known to them only, and no policy, no ‘best place to work’ ranking , no mention in the ‘list of most women friendly organization’ fixes this. Once they have made up their mind that the person will always do less than the others because she needs to go home, there is no looking back.

Like I said, it sucks, and it makes me very unhappy. It makes all versions of me sad for being made to feel not good enough – the professional, the mother, the wife, the individual. And I have absolutely no idea how I can get out of this rut, except for maybe wish for a miracle.

Employment status

Over the last year at my new work place, I have concluded upon one thing. Working as a concept has changed, a lot.

And it sucks.

Here’s a list of pre-defined conditions that seem to govern the work ethic of way too many folks who have just started working.

A normal day at work will and must include

  • An hour for lunch
  • A half hour for tea
  • An half hour to generally loiter around ‘networking’
  • An hour on social media

I cannot come in the earlier shift (earlier meaning anytime before 12 PM) even if the business needs it because –

  • I cannot wake up so early!
  • I live so far away
  • We get water in our apartment at this time and I need to fill bottles

I am late to work every day because –

  • There is just too much traffic on the roads
  • My clothes were not ironed
  • I overslept and didn’t hear the alarm

I am really stressed because –

  • I stretched for an extra hour for 3 days in a row.
  • I did not even take a tea break, just lunch.
  • My wife has a terrible headache

I thought I was doing my best and I’m unable to see why you are not happy. All that went wrong were a few numbers on the P&L. It can happen to anybody.

I logged in late into the call/meeting because

  • I was having tea
  • I did not see the pop up
  • You mentioned it was around 3:30, so I thought it was 3:30, and did not check my calendar to see that it was actually at 3

I can’t believe you guys had to work 14 hours during month close when you started! It must be because

  • You had different priorities
  • Maybe you weren’t as efficient back then

Yes, I am looking at leaving early because

  • There’s no work
  • We all need downtime
  • Oh by the way, please sign off my overtime for that extra half hour I worked this month on that day.

So these are only some of the very real statements that I have experienced in the recent past. And all of it makes me wonder what just happened? Is it just that we had it all wrong when we started working? Or did we hire wrong? Or were people different back then?

My only explanation to myself, is that when we started, we ended up spending more time with folks who were more like us (which in the words of the guys might as well be inefficient, with wrong priorities and unnecessarily high benchmarks for ourselves), so we never encountered this species. And now that we handle large teams, it is obvious that there will be a big mix of people, and hence this situation.

Oh, and to wrap up the rant, and also specify what brought it out. Now that it is Appraisal season, each and every of these individuals has rated themselves ‘Exceeded expectations’ on every damn parameter on the self-evaluation sheet.

This brings me to my questions –

  • Whose expectations have they exceeded?
  • Where can I find this person and gun him down?

Leaving on a jet plane (for work)

Quite contrary to my usual interest in travel and my heartfelt announcements about how I would do anything to go see new places, one of the things I dislike the most is travelling for work. While it works in my favor (or so you would think) that I have always travelled on business outside of the country only, it is actually quite a bit of a pain. One, because I am a clingy old woman, who somehow refuses to let go of the routine life that she otherwise complains about. Also, traveling for work means being away from The Dude, and Zo, and nothing sucks as much as that. Again, with a disclaimer that I usually crave for ‘me time’, turns out that at the end of all that ‘me time’, I need to see those two faces before I fall asleep because Oh My God how old and clingy am I?

The other thing that I hate more than travelling for work is traveling for work to the same God forsaken place over and over again. I am not even saying that it’s the place per se, it’s the fact that I have been there before that kills it for me. Yes, the place might be a decider to some extent. For example, I’m thinking, I’m only thinking not claiming, that may be going to London more than one time might not hurt as much, because London, well, I have a special affinity to that place. It was the first place outside of India I visited, and that too for work. It was a long month, but there were friends, and then there were colleagues who became friends and it didn’t hurt as much, though I was dying to get back for my wedding in 2 months time, and by the way, The Dude was visiting the US at the same time. So I managed somehow, and returned a pretty happy and much fatter person who wouldn’t fit into her wedding lehenga because of all the cheese that was consumed.

The place I visited most for work was Switzerland. Not the dreamy, snowy, DDLJ-eqsue Switzerland they show you in the movies, but an industrial town on the banks of Rhine which did not have the slightest glimpse of the Alps or snow or anything remotely Switzerland. In fact it had summers which hit 35 degrees (yes, Celsius) and tiny table fans that folks kept at their work desks because the air conditioning wasn’t as effective. This place, I went to over and over again. And since we travelled on actuals, there wasn’t much tourism that I ever indulged in because somehow, I always travelled alone. And when I do, there isn’t much I want to see except for my work floor and the hotel room. Also, the Swiss believe in shutting down all signs of life on the streets as soon as the weekend arrived and from India where you do not have a spot with no people to Basel where you would not spot people, it was always a depressing transition.

Fortunately, there was a nice trip to Spain, which The Dude joined for an extended vacation because who would miss out on Barcelona yes? And then there was New Jersey, where I had a weekend to spare and Manhattan a bus ride away. Also, there was some company for some part of it, and that made life more bearable.

And now there’s this trip. Dubai was never on my must visit places, but we’re here, and I usually don’t complain as much for short 4 day trips. I mean, I do complain, just not as much. So despite much more advanced technology which lets me see my guy and my girl as if they were right there in front of me (including the Dude talking to me distractedly while watching TV because some things don’t really change right), I still dislike being away. This time, I have company, so there’s some basic walking around, and hopefully a visit to the Burj Khalifa (today, fingers crossed). And there’s also a highly anticipated evening to be a spent with a very good friend just before I leave, which makes all of this much easier to accept and survive.

But then, being away is being away, and change is change. And I am not too fond of both, however short. So I have decided to be agreeable and tag this visit as acceptable. Not nice, just acceptable. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed hoping that fate doesn’t decide to take that as a positive sign, and think it can do it to me more often.

Day 17 – What the hell am I doing here, I don’t belong here

There is nothing that comes around faster than Sunday evening. And along with it comes the dread of Monday morning. So in order to make it hurt a wee bit lesser, let’s talk about the good part of the week starting again.

  • Monday means you can start resolving to workout, eat healthy, drink enough water again. While the world waits for a New Year to strike to be able to make resolutions, I adjust with the new week most of the time. And that gives me enough opportunity to break resolutions every week too
  • Monday means I can wear the clothes I bought over the weekend. As I told in the last post, I love hoarding clothes, mostly formal since the most I step out is during the week. So only when work starts am I able to use up the spoils of my weekend.
  • Monday means that there’s enough time to finish pending work items that threaten the weekend. I work in an environment where the most convenient way of handling work pressure seems to be saying ‘there’s the weekend for that right?’ While the truth is that no the weekend is not ‘there’, the weekend is mine and I refuse to share it with anyone. But Monday means no one gets to say that, because  at this time, the week is ‘there’ and that is when you are supposed to finish your work somehow
  • Monday means I can plan better. Much as I hate it, I am turning into a chronic planner, the kind who makes to-do lists, assigns the work, follows up, and cannot rest until each item is ticked off. On Mondays, I pick a fresh page, get the pending items forward, and add the new items to the page. And that gives me a sort of an organized start to the week.
  • Monday means Sunday evening is over, and quite honestly, that’s most depressing time of the week. I have said this before and it is true that impending doom feels much worse than the actual doom. So once you step into the week that you have been reading, it seizes to hurt as much as it did when you were waiting for it.
  • Finally, Monday means we have embarked on our journey to the next weekend. It means that the worse is over and it is all uphill from here, tiring, but towards the top of the world, which you will reach in 5 days. So Monday is a promise for the better things to come, which you need to work for and towards.

And to think that all you need to do to reach this wonderful, hopeful day is go to sleep; that’s frankly is as positive as you can be at the start of a work week.

It’s a wonderful life, kinda

I recently tweeted that I spend 3/4th of my life doing stuff that ensures that I am able to do the remaining 1/4th , by which I meant my weekends and vacations. I stood by that statement, quite strongly; till I read this.

 “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” @SethGodinBlog

 Usually, inspirational, motivational quotes put me off completely, so I’m judging those making the quotes, those circulating them, and those who follow them. Especially the people who apparently realize that these generic statements resonate with their life and then try to conclude that whatever fucked up shit is happening with them is meant to be and happens to everyone, and will sort itself out someday, and I’m like SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, IT’S NOT GOING AWAY.

 Anyway, vent out apart, my point is, I think stuff like that is flaff. However, this quote did what those motivational quotes seem to do to the rest of the world, it resonated with me. And in the same “Oh, he is talking about me” sort of way, only it did not make me feel better about my situation. Instead it said, “Not cool. Nuh-huh. You think you have your life and priorities laid out? Really? Take this.” And I felt very very sorry about myself.

 Which brings me back to the fact that I do need to set up my life in general. Considering the audience of the blog I do not think that I need to worry about responses like “What do you want to set up! Everything is so exactly how it should be for you!” I think that at every point in life, I tend to let the most prominent thing takeover beyond how much it should be taking over. And then I lazily amble back into this zone, which is not comfortable, not really nice, but has this big cloud encasing it, labelled “This is my excuse for not doing what I enjoy”. This time, that thing is work.

 Work and its issues seem to have taken over my life in such an aggressive manner that I flounder to spot life beyond it. My other love, Twitter, which used to annoy the Dude quite a bit, with my constant scrolling down the timeline, suddenly became a relief for him. As in, ‘Oh you’re checking Twitter, I was worried it was the Blackberry again’. Even little Zo is ok with Mumma checking the white phone, but not the black phone. The blinking red LED has become what it is meant to be, a danger sign.

That being said, I have to admit that I like what I do now. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of pride, and actually makes me realize that I am good at this stuff. However monotonous, however routine, this is stuff that I can manage, pretty well. The downside is I make the stress my cocoon, and refuse to get outside of it and, like it says above, live.

 I have stopped working out. So much that I danced around with Zo some days ago for like 10 minutes and all my bones ache at the moment. So much for the 20 minutes of running I did 2 years ago (without stopping, it was a big deal). I have stopped listening to music, which is so strange. Because before phones were allowed on the floor my worry was how I would keep up with my music. And now, I don’t even bother to know what the latest music releases are. I don’t even check out my favorite MTunes HD, though there I assume part of the issue is the love of my television-life MasterChef Australia. And then ofcourse, the blog. I just cannot seem to write. At all. Anything sensible, even remotely. Which also explains why I have been missing all this while.

 Then, we went on a vacation last week. A 9 day road trip from Pune to Delhi and back, via Chittorgarh, Jaipur, Udaipur and Baroda, a total of 3600 kilometers. Yes, with Zo. *Pause for applause* It was lovely, like vacations are, by default. There was a lot of time spent on the road (ofcourse), and the times I was not sleeping, or entertaining Zo, there were these phases of solitude, however brief, where I actually stared out of the window with nothing to distract me.

 And I spent some of this time contemplating how I could get some order about. I know I can’t change myself when it comes to work, it’s an ingrained thing. I am a chronic worrier. So the next best thing is to keep myself so busy, so busy, that I forget that should be fretting about the number of unread items in my inbox. Atleast when I am not at work. That way, I will be doing stuff I should be doing instead of feeling sorry for myself. And that way, I wouldn’t have to go on a vacation every time to make sense of things.

 It is easier said than done, I know. But I think giving it a shot is necessary. And better now than later, when I would still be doing the same thing, perhaps after another road-trip which again gives me time to think. And whenever I find myself deviating from this optimistic plan of making the most of everything, I will close my eyes and refer back to my happy place – with the long winding roads, the sound of the wheels on the tar, the sunset at a distance, music in the background, and the breeze in my hair.

Like a shot straight out of Instagram. #nofilters