The ‘F’ word

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It’s been close to six months since I finished my MBA studies. However, a lot of people still ask me if an MBA is worth the time, effort, and money. While I do not have a black and white answer to this question, I think it was a journey of self-discovery for me in many different ways. The most important being coming to terms with my fears – some inherent and some imposed. But in this process of discovering and conquering my fears, I have countlessly questioned the reasons for the very existence of fears. What force of land gave birth to my fears? Or for that matter, why all of us at some point in life are marred by fears to the extent that we come to the verge of losing ourselves? Has fear really dethroned the original four lettered ‘F’ word that our generation is well versed with?

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During the MBA program, for the very first time in my life I came across the fear of not being able to get a job in a foreign land. I had sleepless nights thinking of what would become of me if I did not secure a job? Will I be forced back to work in India? Will I be forced back to the same career that I did not want? Every single day I was plagued with these questions to the extent that I was left mentally exhausted at times. But I could still not diagnose the reason for the recurring fear for months till the very end of the program. May be I was trying to find a cure to a disease whose origin and nature was totally unknown.

Today, as I look back at the past one year of survival and cure, I realize that all of us at different junctions of life encounter an inherent and imposed fear. An inherent fear comes naturally to us. It may be as basic as fear of heights or fear of spiders. But an imposed fear arises from the belief that one’s action will be judged by people and society in general. Think of an unprepared couple who is pressurized to have a child to avert being labeled as ‘impotent’ by the society. A gifted pianist born into the family of doctors is pressurized to study medicine to avoid being judged as ‘misfit’. A burnt out professional wanting to take a break from work is tricked by a boss to take a week off to protect the ‘dignity’ of the resume. A bruised wife is advised not to seek divorce to protect the dignity of the ‘family name’. And hence there is a mounting pressure to conform one’s action to the expectation of society to avoid a backlash. When I think of it more, I realize that our world is full of imposed fears and we struggle each day to live up to the standards with the fear of being considered an outcast.

With so many instances in hindsight, I realized that even my fear was nothing but an imposed fear. Fear of being judged if I did not get a job, if I moved back to India and if I restart my career from where I left it. While an inherent fear may not be curable, but there does exist an elixir for imposed fear that I fortunately discovered at the end of the program  in the form of growing up wisdom that has made me unshakable and fearless of being judged. After all, there is no one who can judge us as better as ourselves! 🙂

PS – I am still afraid of heights and spiders.

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How fair are Fairy tales?

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While cleaning my bookshelf yesterday, I laid my hands on the very first fairy tale I had read as a kid. Its blue cover shined back at me just like it did 20 years back.  It was so precious to me, that even today I have kept it safely secured. The pages are still as fresh as the childhood fantasies of flying to Neverland. But when I reflect back on time, I realize that real life is so different from a fairy tale – there are no super heroes, no fairies, and no forever after’s. In fact, the entire life seems to play on the pirate ship of deadly Captain James Hook who cannot wait to knock you off the ship and see you become a feast for the white sharks.

Thinking about the havoc fairy tales can bring in real life for people who believe in them, I could not help but wonder how fair can fairy tales be in real life? Should we stop believing in them and if so, then why were they ever recited to us when we were kids? In fact, recently one of my friends mentioned that how fed up she is with people who keep telling her real life is not a fairy tale. Of course she knows this very well just like every 26 year old adult would, but why is it that at every junction of life, we have to be reminded about it? Or is it that these people have never personally experienced a magical moment in real life that they fail to realize the power of fairy tales?

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When I think about fairness, fairy tales have never failed to portray that life is not at all hunky-dory. The protagonists are riddled with problems in their life – be it a damsel in distress waiting for her prince charming to rescue her from her wicked uncle or the prince turned frog waiting for a kiss from her beloved to break the curse.  Every protagonist undergoes years of suffering before they experience happiness in life. So in true sense, this closely relates to real life. All of us encounter problems every day in different form – sometimes at workplace and sometimes in relationships. But does that mean we give up on our problems easily? No. We always try to work out a solution even in situations where we know that even hoping for a miracle may be futile. But  just like Rapunzel or Wendy, we never give up on hope. And maybe that is when we unknowingly practice the lessons that fairy tales impart – there is always a solution to a problem and we should never give up.

Unfortunately, fairy tales need to have an end after 50 pages. But life is a little longer  and hence it turns up into an ensemble of  fairy tales – one ends and the other begins. So the truth is just as fair a fairy tale can be in a fantasy world, it is equally fair in real life- the only difference being that it runs into years than a few pages and we are our own Peter Pan fighting against the crooked Hook.  And maybe this is the reason why such fantasy tales were recited to us as children. It was a way of giving a glimpse of life of an adult that is full of highs and lows. But more importantly, it was meant to teach us that we should never give up our hopes, dreams and aspiration because that is what drives us all the way.

PS – To my friend who is often reminded that life is not a fairy tale, you now know it is a blatant lie. We are all in fact the protagonist of our own fairy tales working towards completing our story! And you too will have great one 🙂

Quarter life crisis – a new epidemic?

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Of these 26 years of existence, my 20s continue to be the most eventful phase of life. While I have enjoyed my share of highs, I have experienced the lows too. And when I think about lows, I am reminded of a term I first came across in 2007 when I had just started my blog. A fellow blogger had shared a post about “Quarter Life Crisis” and how this devil had left her mentally and emotionally drained. As I recollect my memory, I remember having a very insensitive reaction to her post despite having very little understanding of this term. I must confess I stopped visiting her blog thinking that her writing was depressing and reflected her negative approach towards life. Unfortunately, for someone who has lived in a glass world, a little rub with reality seemed like a threat to break the glass walls. However, little did I knew that ten years later, I will be eventually writing about it.

Quarter-life-crisisWhile I am sure a lot of readers might be well versed with this phase, but for the ease of understanding of all, Wikipedia defines quarter life crisis as a “period ranging from 20s to 30s in which a person begins to feel doubtful about his life brought on by the stress of becoming an adult”. While our parent’s generation may not have substantially experienced it, but today when I talk to so many people of my age, I realize it has become an epidemic that impacts all alike – the sorted and the messed.

I see young people confused and struggling on their way to accept adulthood in different ways. We desire love and companionship, but we do not know if we are grown up enough to handle it sensitively. We want money, but we are still confused between passion and profession. We want freedom to make our choices, but we are not strong enough to own up to its consequences. In short, we are stuck right in the middle of the bridge that wobbles as we take a step every day to become an adult in true sense.

While most of us would usually assimilate this phase in our life and would cross the bridge with ease, however, there would some of us who would be plagued by the very idea of becoming an adult. And it is this lot that would slip, fall, and slip again till they accept that they cannot stand on the bridge forever. But till the time this realization would dawn, they will continue to struggle. They would want to seek help but would hesitate to reach out because of the fear of being judged. And thus the struggle would be prolonged in the form of bouts of depression, anxiety attacks and a constant feeling of insecurity.

While I wouldn’t share my own personal story of survival as it is painted all over my blog, but having been there and done that, I have realized that it is important to shun the fear of being judged and to shamelessly reach out for help. And trust me, as Dumbledore said ‘Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it’, so the moment you will open up yourself to someone who can understand you, that is the time you will effortlessly cross the bridge.

PS- If you are someone stuck on the bridge and still hesitant to ask for help, just remember everyone is buried in the same shit – only the quantity and quality may differ. Hope this will ease your struggle 🙂

R&H – The Forbidden Fruit

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A couple of days ago while sorting out my email box I came across a folder named ‘R&H’ in the archive section. The flash of the folder stirred the same excitement when I would see the collection of my old childhood photographs. The only difference being that this folder contained memories that I may not like to relive again. But I succumbed to the excitement of discovering the forbidden fruit and ended up taking a bite of it.

The moment I took the first bite, a message popped up “Thank you for attending the interview with XYZ Consulting. We enjoyed having a conversation with you and appreciate the interest you have expressed. Unfortunately, on this occasion, based on the discussions with you and within our team, we are unable to match your skills/experience with the specific opportunity. Once again, thank you for your interest in XYZ Consulting and we wish you all the very best in your future endeavors’. Before I could even digest the message that came with the first bite, I went on to take another bite. The fruit tasted ridiculously bad but I could not resist it and with the second bite, another message popped up. “Our Admissions Committee has reviewed your application with careful consideration.  In view of the very keen competition, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a place in our Full-time MBA class for intake 2016. We have received more applications from qualified candidates than our capacity allows us to accept, thus we have had to turn down a number of admirable applicants. Thank you again for your interest in our MBA program and we wish you every success in your future endeavors!”.

Well, this didn’t end here and I spent an entire afternoon finishing the forbidden fruit and uncovering the skeletons of my efforts. The same day after sorting out the email box and discovering the forbidden folder, I began to think about Rejections and the customary Heartache. Why are rejections looked down upon in general? Why do we feel sad when we are rejected? Can this ‘R’ someday bring a smile to our face like the childhood photographs?

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As I pondered over these questions, I realized that this problem roots to our perception. In fact, there could be two schools of thoughts. The first one may categorize rejection as a reflection of our vices and shortcomings in life. It would invoke nothing but a feeling of misery and deep sadness. But then there is another school of thought that may categorize rejection as a blessing and an indication that one has to knock many wrong doors before the right one opens up. May be, there is really a paradise called “true match” which would take tireless efforts before one can finally dive in its cold oasis. But unfortunately, our human emotions always push us towards the former thought process when we face a rejection in life. We tend to belittle ourselves and try to find  faults in our abilities and personality till we feel a pinch of heartache. While we can effortlessly stick to this painful experience, but it takes efforts equivalent to moving mountains when we try to justify the latter thought process and take on the journey to discover the paradise. May be, this is the reason that ‘R’ is never associated with a sense of joy and pride.

In these years, I have learnt that while rejections are not in our hand, however the power to pair it with Happiness or Heartache will always remain with us . And may be choosing happiness cannot reverse a rejection, but it can at least ease out the journey to paradise.

PS – After sorting out my email box, I renamed the folder from “R&H” to “Rejection & Happiness”.

PS Again – If you believed in my story of the email box, feel free to message or drop in your comments. I will pat myself for becoming a good storyteller 😛

Change – Friend, Foe or Frenemy?

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In the past few years, I have developed a peculiar habit. Whenever I witness a change in my life, I secretly pull out my memory catcher, fish out the emotional moment and silently put it aside in my box of memorabilia.

I did something similar a month ago during my last ride from the campus to the airport. While the cab was waiting at the crossing, I glanced back at the deserted road of the campus in the silence of the night. There was a sudden surge of emotions when out of nowhere, Stevie Wonder started singing, ‘I just called to say I love you and I mean it from the bottom of my heart’. And it was at that time I knew I was heading towards a change and I should freeze that moment forever.

So you see I have inculcated this habit of invisibly documenting changes in my life. As I think more about it, I am left more puzzled with this five letter word that has put me on an emotional roller coaster ride multiple times. So I finally decided to make friends with it and solve this puzzle once and for all. Just as I began to follow the clues to learn more about my new found friend, I felt it was just as double faced as us.

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At the very first instance, it introduced me to a familiar face that made me smile. It was the face that would pop up every time I would try to voluntarily introduce a change in my life. A change that could be as minuscule as losing body weight to as big as moving to a different country. No matter how big or small it was, I always welcomed it with open arms because it was voluntary. But just as I became comfortable with our friendship, it revealed a lesser known face that dissolved my smile. It was the same face that appeared when I stared at the deserted campus road. It was the face that made my heart heavy. It was a change that was involuntary and therefore was not welcomed.

Seeing the different faces of change, I felt that I could no longer sustain this friendship. It made me reconsider if I should let go of someone who despite being double faced was honest and upfront? Or did it deserve a second chance like all of us? During the prolonged period of deliberation, I realized that change has become an integral part of my life. I had unknowingly held its hand forever. But neither I could be friends with it nor we could be enemies. So considering the twin side of our connection, I have decided to officially stamp this relationship as ‘frenemies’ and appreciate its presence in my life .

PS – I still love my memory catcher and hope to use it more often. 🙂

Confessions of a Drug Addict

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Are you someone who feels incomplete if you do not have a plan? Do you panic when things do not go as planned? If your answer to these questions is in affirmative, fear not, you are still sane and sorted. In fact, you can pat your back for inculcating a business lesson in your life – ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. While majority of you must have breathed a sigh of relief, somewhere in that crowd there will be a poor soul among us who would be hesitant to shamelessly blurt a no. So I decided to end this month long hiatus from writing by analyzing what goes on behind the curtains when a person decides not to plan.

Just a couple of days back, one of my friends mentioned how planning becomes redundant as we grow and progress through different phases of life. Initially, I felt that the statement was completely flawed. I wanted to argue that planning becomes all the more stronger force as we progress . We lay out a perfect plan of how we want to see our life and relentlessly work as per it. And we become anxious the moment things go awry. I can literally vouch for the same as during my formative years, I meticulously planned each hour, day, month and the foreseeable future. But today I surprised myself when I sheepishly agreed with my friend and topped up the statement  with my own two cents, ‘It’s better to live in the moment’. There you go! I am the shameless soul who no longer feels incomplete without a plan and who doesn’t panic because I no longer have a plan at the first go.

When I reason out such a drastic shift, I realize that planning is like a drug. A drug which if used to experience abrupt periods of high in life will not do any harm. But if you 67612e203f939f9d5c92095294007f74--sugar-rush-perfect-kissbecome addicted to it, you will soon be seeking help. And now when I reflect on the past, I realize I had unknowingly become a drug addict. I enjoyed the momentary highs when the plan worked and experienced long periods of disappointment when it failed. Maybe this was a way of life teaching its own version of a business lesson – ‘failing to live in the moment is planning to fail in life’.

In my rehab years, I realized that while it is good to be methodical and planned in your approach towards life, but excessive planning overshadows the present. How can you expect to live in the moment when all you want to do is plan your tomorrow?

Thankfully, post rehab I have grown more cautious and have learned to appreciate that after a point, there are certain things in life that cannot be planned. It is important to let life take its own course while you can submerge yourself in the moment, worry a little less and smile a little more. It is okay to go with the flow but paddle in brief intervals. After all, only dead fishes go with the flow.

PS – I had tried to pen down my thoughts just based on the ending quote of this post a couple of months back, but it did not fit in and I ended up writing nothing. And today, it made its way effortlessly. 🙂