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.

Great Expectations

When I was a kid, one of my cousins said she wanted to be a journalist. It sounded so appealing. So fancy. I wanted to be a journalist too. Then I wanted to be a doctor, an actress, a singer, an F1 racer, an astronaut, a movie producer, an advertising creative head.. A full circle that ended in “I want to be a Journalist.” It was my first dream as a kid. It is my dream as an adult. I also want to write a book but that’s more a desire than an ambition.

Many of you would know, writers don’t get paid much. I knew that at some point I was going to have to give up my ideas of living like the Kardashians (You can call them my guilty pleasure) . No private jets, no Bora Bora vacations and definitely no million dollar wedding. My luck was that I always told myself, If you’re content, consider it enough because, sometimes, even billionaires don’t get there. So it was not THAT difficult for me to accept it and I always thought that was enough.

Turns out, I was wrong. You accepting your life choices is the easy part. Getting everyone else to where you are, now that’s a challenge. I remember reading somewhere : When I picked up my kid, I realized my father would have felt the same way I feel now and it makes me wish I had been a better child to him.

I didn’t have to pick up a kid to know that my father had big dreams for me. I was the smart one. I would go places. The world would look at me and say “Your parents must be so proud” and my father would stand beside me nodding his head yes. Instead, I defied him every chance I got. I chose an industry he didn’t particularly approve of. I chose a lifestyle he didn’t enjoy. I now chose a dream he knows would never get me to where he hoped I would be. I became someone he didn’t understand and in all things short, I will openly say : That dream that he had when he first picked me up at the hospital and looked at my face – I crashed it. Hard. And someday, I might regret this. But today, I choose to be that rebellious kid that says “But Dad, I’m happy !”

I came across this picture recently.. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m someone who believes one must always do what they love, not what they’re forced into. So it’s not a surprise that I automatically took to this picture.

 

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I’m doing what I love and what I believe I’m good at. Yes, I’m terribly broke but when I get up every morning, the only thing I don’t want to do that day is take a time consuming shower. I’m always so excited to go to my internship because going there means writing and I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I realize that the #WIN is something that I might not get to. It is a space that only a few people actually make it to and maybe I will, but the chances are slim and I can accept that. But how do you convince the people who have raised you and loved you and dreamt big things for you that you’re going to be a normal working class person and you don’t mind and neither should they ?!

With great expectation comes great disappointment. It really is true isn’t it? I wish it could be different. As a kid, I enjoyed studying. As a teenager I hated school with every cell in my body. As a university student, I loved it again. And now, I just want to move forward. I want to find a job that allows me to do what I love. All through my years as a student, I never succumbed to expectations. Until now..

I want to say something to you.. Something that I am now repeating to myself, every single day of my life. People will always have their expectations. There are the ones who expect you to be better at what you do and there are the ones who expect you to be doing something better than what you do. Mute those voices. Some call them motivating but I think if those voices didn’t exist, you’d be more happy doing things your way. They always pressurize you with their great expectations of who you should be. And I believe in taking a stand for who you are. Who you are might change the world, might cure cancer and might even make penguins fly. But you won’t get there if you let others manipulate the way you think, constantly. Sure, you might still get to your destination with those voices. But the journey without them might have been a more peaceful one and it’s always the journey that defines how you feel about the destination.

Every time I send a resume somewhere, I remember my father’s face. I realize how he deserves much more than this. He deserves to be by my side as the world looks to me the way he wanted it to. I think of what the future might hold. The expectations the people in my life will have. The example I set for my siblings. How I wish I could mute them and do what I love like I always did..

As I write this, I can still hear people telling me this isn’t enough. This isn’t success. But I’m going to try and not care about it. Because this.. this makes me content. And that’s more success than I could ever ask for..

Life Choices : Choose Happiness

My friend and I were just having a very heated argument about life choices. The guy I have the world’s biggest crush on works at a giant corporate and gets paid a pretty decent amount. He can ask the company to send him a cab every morning to take him to work and back, he gets a bonus for every holiday, health insurance – pretty much the whole package. Here’s the catch : He hates his job ! He always talks about how every minute he spends there he feels like he’s going insane. So why on Earth can he not quit his job and do something he loves? “The money it pays.”

I’m an intern at an advertising agency. I don’t get paid at all. But I find a reason to wake up every morning and show up here because I love what I do. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be like? Doesn’t every person deserve the right to happiness? Should money really dictate his life? That was my side of the argument when my friend fired back at me, “What about his family crisis? What if they need the money he makes?” I did not have an answer to that. So I paused as I ran that idea through my mind. My parents don’t expect my money. So I can make a choice that makes me happy. But can everyone afford to do that? Can everyone choose to be selfish when in fact, maybe his parents have been waiting for him to graduate so he can contribute to the income in his household? How can I suggest that he stop doing that?

Here’s how. Sure, they need the money. But parents who have waited for four years for him to complete his university, can wait a few more for him to make this kind of money again. Except, this time around, he’ll make that money happily. My friend got a job that he loves. But he can’t take it. I asked him why and he told me that his dad had made a comment : “When you’re getting your sister married, you expect the guy to have triple degrees. What’s to say that the girl who marries you won’t expect the same of you? You have to study more.” (This is in accordance to the Indian arranged marriage system) But shouldn’t the girl he’s with care that her husband is someone that is mentally happy and peaceful? Should she just look at his bank account? Should he marry someone like that?

My crush isn’t the only person I’ve known to complain of these things. My friends who work in similar companies pretty much all hate their jobs. “I have to work weekends.” “I have to work night shifts.” “I don’t get a holiday for New Year.” But why? If majority of the employees feel this way, why can’t the companies make a difference? What are the organizations doing that keeps their employees so mentally depressed and stressed? Why aren’t the employees (who are in majority) taking a stand against it and saying “I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY !” ?

My dad’s friend was talking about how his son had quit Harvard Law to pursue music, about how much he hated his son for giving up what so many other kids in this world would kill for. But in the end, he understood that his son is now happy. He smiled at his happiness. He said “Isn’t that what we parents want in the end? A happy child?!” I assure you three quarters of the parents in this world are no different to this one. They might be furious in the beginning, but in the end, they’ll be happy that you’re happy. So why is it so difficult for us to make this choice?

Why do we fail to see thirty years into the future? You need the money now. Sure. You’re unhappy now, but you earn enough to save for the future. What future? You’re not going to quit when you’re forty and take a trip around the world. You’re stuck in a job you hate already and thirty years from now, you’re still going to be stuck in a job you hate. Only then, you’ll be taking your stress and depression home and instead of depressing only yourself, you’re going to be depressing your entire family.

So think wisely now. Make life choices not based on financials or current situation, but plan them for what your life would be like ten or fifteen years from now. Choose to be happy rather than rich. When you’re working out of your mind with no time for anyone, you’re not living. But even if you don’t make enough money and don’t live in a fancy beach side duplex, when you’re happy, you’ll attract people and those people will always be there for you. You’ll have all the love in the world. Isn’t that what life’s all about anyway?!