To Find Meaning

I’ve been reading this book called Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. If you haven’t read it and belong to the generation that does not understand stress-free life, I would strongly suggest giving it a go. It has made me admit to myself something people have said to me before (while I constantly denied it and called them insane).

I am a workaholic (that wasn’t the admission but we’ll get to that in a minute). I love working. I can complain about my job, my pay and even toxic environments but when you ask me to stop working, I’ll only come up with reasons why I can’t. I can’t stop. I was in a meeting until 7pm today. I was dragging my feet to the train but my ego was flying. I was so busy, I had to be in a meeting until 7pm. Like that makes me feel really good.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all like different things and I like to be busy working. It makes me feel important and productive and like I’m doing something with my life.

Now let’s get to the thing people complain about that I don’t like admitting – my work defines everything I do outside of it. I was on the train at 7.30pm and told myself, “Don’t check your emails. Shut it off and focus on the music and the words on your Kindle.” You know what I felt? Not anxious, not peaceful and definitely, not focused. I felt guilty.

I feel guilty when I don’t respond to emails beyond work hours. I feel guilty when I turn off at the end of the day. I feel guilty when I take a day off because the doctors thought I might have cancer. I feel guilty when I am not working for not working because my work defines every other aspect of my life.

Before I read Ikigai, I had read Man’s Search for Meaning – thank you Abhishek, if you ever read this. Viktor Franckl talks about logotherapy which is mentioned a lot in Ikigai. The core concept of both these books are the same. (Can I please mention I didn’t go looking for these books? It came to me through suggestions and surprisingly they had the same messaging.) That when you have a why to live, you’ll do so no matter how. So I spent time thinking about my why.

I often tell people I want to be really rich. That’s the purpose to my existence. Money. I want the kind of money that people I grew up with can’t even imagine. To be so rich and yet so humble. To buy the things I see and I see a lot. To own my own place – massive with floor to ceiling windows and a view you would kill for. I don’t want to inherit it. I don’t want to be married into it. I want to earn it. My work will bring that money that will be mine.

Except, I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t really true.

I work at an amazing place in Singapore. It’s great. I get to go to these incredible events with speeches by amazing human beings. One such event in October addressed purpose and stress. She asked us to look at the person next to us and talk about our purpose. My answer was easy. “Money.”

Then the person next to me mentioned, “I want to do good through my job.” I stopped and realised that it’s what I really wanted but didn’t like admitting because it doesn’t offend my parents as easily. I wanted to do good for the beings on four legs that can’t speak for themselves. I couldn’t admit it to myself, I wasn’t going to tell her that. So I said, “Cool.” But I kept thinking. I always told people I wanted to start a rehabilitation zoo. For abused animals. To recreate a forest in a closed environment so they were home without being subjected to hunters or abusers.

That carried into Viktor Franckl’s explanation of logotherapy. I continued to think about the things that really make me wake up to that insane alarm at 6am. And now as I read Ikigai and they repeatedly talk about the thing that keeps you going, the meaning, the reason and the purpose behind my need to keep existing in this seriously not-so-great planet, I am realising the truth and I don’t know if it’s the wine typing or really me but…

Remember how I mentioned that I got very used to answering “Money” because it offended my parents? Imagine my surprise when I realised the purpose to my existence was really them.

It didn’t matter how much money. It mattered what I could buy with it for them. It didn’t matter how big an apartment. It mattered how successful it made me appear and how much prouder it made them by default because…

I wasn’t an easy kid. I was smart that wasted the smarts and emotional that made stupid decisions based on those emotions. And my life, this incredibly weird thing I didn’t ask for that they gave to me, I spend working like a mad person because it gets me closer to making them look like they birthed a fricking genius – a result of which makes them stand taller than the others in any room – something they deserve.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this post to get so real as well but I just wanted to put this out there.

Sometimes, it’s good to find the meaning behind the things you do. It may make them that much more worthwhile.

So, yeah, I’ll say it. I’m a workaholic. I chase after success and I will slave my soul away until I reach it. My purpose is money. But there’s a meaning behind it.

Find yours.

(4/6) The Firebranders

Patience.

That was the first thing I learnt when I waited half hour for him to show up for my interview.

Patience.

It’s what I saw when he told me to come back to work when I know I should have been fired.

Patience.

It’s what they all embraced while I created havoc.

But never once was I stopped.

In a world where degrees were a necessity, Arvind hired me for my ability. Never once were my squashed dreams a hiccup. It was always what I could do and couldn’t do. And if I couldn’t do something, he was right there, willing to teach.

I walked in on a bunch of guys that acted like a stranger had crashed their secret club. I actually had to complain to the boss that they wouldn’t talk to me. Not even to get work done! I was hoping he would talk to them in private. But you see, that was never Arvind’s style. In he walked, to the middle of our space, and announced out loud, “Shame, you guys. A girl has to complain that you won’t talk to her. What are you all doing?”

I bet sometimes he wished he hadn’t done that. Because that became the beginning of one of the best years of my life.

There weren’t that many of us. It gave us the ability to get to know each other.
The Philosopher (Hey Raj!)
The Married Man (Girish Thaatha)
The Patient Yogi (*coughs*Arun*coughs*)
The Brat (Mannoooj)
The Boss Man (He hates being called that)
The Fun Traveler (She doesn’t mind being called that)
And how can I ever forget… The Intern (Meri Shaaaamil)

Shamil was the only other girl in the gang. She also was the first person to talk to me besides the boss. We’re almost the same age. She laughed at all my jokes. She flicked me every time I swore. We got along brilliantly.

The two of us began to work our way into the secret club. With post-its about smoking, tsk-ing about nothing and laughing over everything, the wall was finally broken and the boys remain friendly until today for which Sham and I take full credit. You’re welcome newbies.

Amidst our achievements I found out that my boss wasn’t actually my boss. Arvind told me she’ll come to office at some point during the week. I expected a stuck-up and bossy human to come dictate my life. The person who walked in was anything but. She is chaotic fun redefined. “Poornima! Nice to meet you! You’ll come to my reception no?” I’d only met her ten seconds ago.

Karishma. She is your dream boss. She is my dream boss. She doesn’t care if you show up at noon. She doesn’t care if you’re working at night and wasting all day. She doesn’t care if you take a trip in the middle of the week. You can be in Antarctica, drinking with Panda bears, she won’t say a thing. “Just get the work done and have the client approve.” It was the best! 

She is downright the most chilled out boss you’ll ever meet. She’ll even be your therapist if you’re struggling with something. Her reception is also where the ice was finally broken and the team became a team

I learnt social media at this company. I learnt how good I am with ppts at this company. I learnt how to get work done at this company. And most importantly, I learnt how not to judge a book by its cover here.

The shared office space meant more people – Bushu, Laaloo and Tanya. All the people I first looked at thinking, “I bet they’re snooty af.” All the people I call with problems and gossip today. I haven’t bought something they don’t have a picture of so far. There’s not much about my life they don’t know. I can’t imagine a world where they’re not on my last ten whatsapped. The number of coffee breaks we’d take just for the heck of it. Their boss hated it so much.

Mine would join us. Both of them. That was the best part about my year. My bosses never acted completely like bosses. I’d get yelled at, obviously. But if we walked out of that meeting, they didn’t carry that fight with them. It was one of the first things Arvind told me at my interview. “We’ll argue. We’ll fight. But that’s not personal. Work is work. You can’t take it against the person in this company.” And that’s how it was. Always. Like a big gang of friends.

When I curled up sobbing about a boy, when I couldn’t finish a particular work because I wasn’t feeling upto it, when I felt sick, when I needed to go on a date, when I needed to vent – Oh my God! The number of times I needed to vent! – when I needed a punching bag, when I acted childish, when I demanded things I couldn’t afford, when I started things others couldn’t be bothered with – Nothing scared them. Nothing made them go, “Absolutely not!” I got them to play Charlie Charlie, a game that invites the demon, and they did!

And when I told them I’m leaving them in a hurry because I get to go back to study and couldn’t do much hand holding to the next guy, they smiled instead of complain. That’s why this place is so amazing.

I still go to the office. More often than most people do. I miss faces like Deepika, Tharini, Ramya Akka, Duggu and Reshma when I walk in. But they’re replaced with faces I got to know towards the end of my time there like Renuga and Vinoth. It always feels comfortable.

I still call my bosses to chit chat. When I find things that make sense to me, I always pass it their way.

I got to keep so much from my time with them. The golisoda bottle, the tiny despicable me character, the secret Santa presents, the insane birthday memories. The best of all? The friends. Sharath, Akku, Manoj, Raj and the entire lot.

The first time I saw High School Musical, I wanted to be Gabriella somewhere. I got to be her at Firebrand Labs. I got to be me at Firebrand Labs.

To finish it off the HSM way,
Once a Firebrander, ALWAYS a Firebrander.

Because I’m Happy

Happiness. That’s the ultimate goal. We all want to be happy. The moment we throw our heads back and laugh without a care for the world. When we cry with joy and sigh with contentment. When everything feels calm. When life feels serene. Sounds so perfect, doesn’t it?

So what does that for you? What makes you happy?

My mother’s friend was planning on sending her son to university in a foreign country. Unfortunate for them, the plan was cancelled last minute and he got stuck here. During a fight about the whole situation, he said “I cannot live here. This place does not make me happy. I need to go there to be happy.”

Do you remember a time in your life when you were so happy that it was undescribable? When nothing you will ever say could sum up what you felt at that very moment? Was it the place? Was it the people? Was it you?

I remember, when I was a kid, my grandmother and I used to play cricket with a plastic bat and ball in the living room. There were only two rules. When I held the bat, everything was a winning hit. When she held the bat, she lost in the first play. I was so happy. It was a tiny house with a living room the size of my current bathroom. We didn’t have a lot of money and we didn’t have a lot of things. It was the happiest time of my life.

I feel like, as we grow up, we begin to feel more miserable by the day. What we feel no longer depends on the people who love us or the moments we have. Our happiness starts being defined by the person sitting next to us. She has an iPad. He has a Ferrari. They have a Phd. His family is bigger. They are more in love than we are. I don’t have those things. My life isn’t like theirs. I have nothing. I don’t feel enough. My house is smaller. My car is older. And I won’t be happy until I get that particular iPhone with the slow motion capture or that fancy car with those amazing speakers. I won’t be happy until I am loved as much as he is.

“You wrecked my happiness by not giving me enough !”

That is not right. I do not agree with the concept that I will only be happy when I have what someone else does too. That I can only be happy when I’m loved like someone else is. It’s not how it works.

I’ve had some very unhappy moments. But they came from within, not from the outside. When I’m upset, I can’t blame the next person for it. I will always have more than someone else and if I don’t know how to use the opportunities presented to me, that’s my fault. There is always someone looking at us and thinking “I want what they have so I can be happy.” Instead of gloating in that feeling, wouldn’t it be nice to set an example ?!

And often, people get the feeling of happy and lonely mixed up. They presume that if you’re lonely, you’re depressed. But that’s not true. You can be so utterly happy and yet feel unbelievably lonely because you don’t have someone to share that happiness with.

We don’t need that man, that woman, that mansion, his car, her earrings, their life – because you can have it all and feel absolutely miserable. You can be sitting on top of the world and be the most unhappiest person on the planet. Take a look at a poverty stricken area in your neighborhood. I will assure you there are more people laughing there than in that of a fancy gated community. They are not happy from the money. They are not happy from the fancy phones or cars that they cannot have. They are happy from within.

Any moment of joy you will ever feel has to come from you. Because I can give you the best of the best but know that with time, something better will come along and you will be exactly where you were all over again.

I’ll say it now and I’ll say it always. Life is shitty. It’s miserable for the most part. There’s always the lack of something or someone. If we want to start picking on all the things that are wrong, we will spend the rest of our lives feeling so irrepairably miserable and depressed. There’s never a moment in your life when something is not right. Find that. Hold on to that little positive thought. And choose to smile. Be happy. Not because it’s what’s expected. Not because you’ve got something someone else doesn’t. Not because you’re loved like no one else is.

Be happy because you can be.

Daily Prompt : Happy Happy Joy Joy | Well…

This was a good Daily Prompt topic. What does “happiness” look like to me..? Hmmm…

Happiness is..

The giggling child in a theme park..

The smiling man walking in rain..

The long walk along Santorini Island, Greece, by myself..

The groom’s face when the bride walks in..

The bride’s face when the groom says “I do”..

The mother’s face as she holds her baby for the first time..

The father’s face as he registers “I have a baby”and makes up his mind “I’m going to take care of her/him”..

The couple’s emotions when they hear they’ve been approved for adoption..

The student who worked so hard for four years and graduated top of his class..

The girl’s face as she walks home after an incredible first date..

The teenager who loves going “home” to his/her family..

The couple that just said “I love you”

The old man walking along the streets that used to look so different in his young days and smiling at the memories that happened there..

The kid that learnt to ride the bicycle by himself..

The parents who watch their little one live his/her dream..

The feeling of content when you are surrounded by your loved ones..

Happiness doesn’t always look like a fancy bayside condo or villa.. It doesn’t always look like a brand-new top of the line Porsche.. Happiness is waking up and realizing just how beautiful this complicated life is.. Happiness is in the smallest of things and moments.. Happiness is all around you.. You just need to look closer.. 🙂