Saturday, September 17, 2011

Of Careers and Passions

For a short while during my third year of Engineering, I had gone crazy. At least, in the sense they use the word. Avoided contact with people altogether, got extremely irritated with phone calls (still do), bunked classes, started binging and of course, was online 24/7. And no, it was not some new game addiction or some secret obsession with an online chat buddy. I was on a mission - mission to find the ideal career.

I was quite sure by then that I could never spend the rest of my life in some smelling-of-chemical lab, wearing a white coat and culturing bacteria. Of course, it was a different matter altogether that when I initially joined Biotechnology, I had dreamt of finding a cure to AIDS and getting the Nobel prize and all that but well, never mind. 

So yes, coming back to the crazy period, my favourite cache word then was 'Passion'. Passion! I am going to find my passion, I would tell myself. At times, a reluctant voice would ask from within "Umm.. do people set out on a voyage to find their passion? Isn't it something that should be so burning within that you simply can't ignore it?". 

Frankly, yes, it was a very valid question. But maybe my passion fire didn't have enough fuel (read support or encouragement) and so was just a tiny flame and needed a bit of my help. So I set out. I went to the local library and got all books on finding the right career, following the path,etc. My laptop was forever showing me sites with tests that showed me my destination with a five minute test (It crashed two months later). 

What is interesting is, many of those tests DID help. Perhaps the results were wrong. However, the process of answering the questions is where you start thinking. And introspecting. And doing it over and over again every day suddenly brings sudden insights to you - little hints that you might have missed all along.

The results aren't all that bad either. They are not the impulsive creation of some pop psychologists. Many of them are validated and have had years of research behind.

The thing is, life is helping us know ourselves at every moment. All this time, there is one person we have been most attentive to; one person whom we have carefully monitored the reactions of and remember - ourselves. So the fact is, if you are really connected,  you already know the broad truths of what we enjoy and what we do not. By taking time to think and imagine ourselves in hypothetical situations and careers, we can really tell if we would like being there or not.

 The problem sets in either if we are too sure of our ability to cope and succeed where we have not been too comfortable with in the past. For e.g, say I am by nature a shy person. Of course, I know I am shy. I have seen and felt it taking hold of me at various points in time. If you ask me whether I will be the person jumping on the centre table in a party, no, that is never going to be me. Yet, a sales job comes in. I have to sell perfumes to women in front of a mall. Will I take it? Mostly no! However, if something about the job makes me 'desire' it, like say I had always had a passion for perfumes (just saying), then my need to satisfy that desire over rides my caution from past experience and makes me believe "I can be bold if I want to".

That is when I buy self-suggestion books like 'The Secret' and re-affirm every night before going to bed "I am a bold sales woman who can sell 50 perfumes bottles today".

The need might not always have to be satisfaction of a desire. It could also be desperation. If I am starving for the next meal, then I am not surely going to be foolish enough to wait for a temperament-fit perfect job. I will do anything it takes to buy the next grub.

Again, in the previous case, if it just is not about having basal money but a 'desire' to get rich enough, then I start working hard on the job, though it doesn't come natural to me. 

I am thinking for many people, money and respect (status) from others for having a 'reputed' job continue to be the main 'desire' driving factors for sticking to something. This is not to say that they are unhappy within. You are unhappy only when there is a conflict; when you KNOW you are in the wrong place and still continue there. What I am saying is, these people don't even realize, perhaps.  For them, stuff like 'ideal' job is a dreamer's fantasy. 

"Every job has its negatives. Of course, mine gets boring at times. What to do? That is life! I get good money, I have a good house and take vacation twice a year. I indulge in photography for hobby and have time to read. What more can I ask for?", they say.

Another favorite dialogue of theirs -  "There is nothing you cannot do. It is just a mental trap."

In a way, I kinda agree. There is nothing we cannot do. That is, once we have become so liberated that our mind gets detached from everything and approaches everything with interest. Nirvana. The brain starts functioning at a higher place and you break the barriers of temperament and aptitude.

However, are all these people liberated? I find it hard to believe that. They are just in the other end of the spectrum - restricted thought and imagination.

IMO, at mortal levels we are not suited for all jobs equally. Some definitely go better with us than others. It is a fact and not an idealistic fantasy. I know. Because, today, I am definitely feeling more complete than I did at Engineering.


karthick r said...

To be honest, I never ever felt serious about anything. Yeah! I'm mad about San Francisco [Golden Gate] mostly because my cousin went there when I was in my 9th Std.
Joined Infosys. Loved programming , which I still do.
But of late, the one thing that I enjoy doing the most is coming up with spoofs. Like the ones in FN and Page2-Cricinfo.
Does that count as Passion? If yes, hell yeah! I've found mine.

Srinidhi said...

I am at a desk job at a newspaper. I edit. not write. I think writing is my single passion. I don't know if I see myself ever doing anything else. I have a career with a good paying job. But I want something else. I can't explain it. I just want it. I am not satisfied where I am. So I dream about being elsewhere. Is that crazy? I have questioned it everyday. But I know not the answer.

I love this post. Really. Cause It made me think we all question our careers and our passions. Thats part of being us, I guess.

Thanks. For telling me a "every job has its negatives" and "I can do whatever I want to do". Today, I needed to hear both! :)

Sindu said...

@karthick: Ah, interesting. Hmmm... perhaps its a good life not having to regret too deeply about anything. :) Enjoy! Nice sites btw.

@Srinidhi: It is not crazy at all. It is your calling and it is what you are meant to heed. Listen more closely, patiently and follow. You will surely understand the call better. We have all been born for a reason and if we do not fulfill it, something gets restless within! :)

However, like Karthick says above, and like I did in my post, not everyone is dissatisfied, which is all the more a reason why you should take your displeasure seriously. It could take you to places, you know! :)

True. Every job has its negatives. However, with some, you will never mind because that was what you were born to do! So go on! Good luck! You have a calling.

Abhishek said...

Truth is , you dont meet people who know what their " passion " is . I asked somebody a while ago " what are you into these days ? " . He answered " Oh Tennis ! I've been watchin all the games nd I've even gotten myself a tennis racket " . So I say " Thats nice ! so you gonna become a tennis instructor/tennis player when you get older ? " nd he goes silent .

When you think about it , having a job comes down to your need to eat, and getting the money to live life by your own rules instead of someone else's .

" Passion " is just something we make most of on our own time , outside school and work hours .

Its all come down to this : I write/sing/dance/act because I want to , and I work 'cause I have to .

NOTE: thse rules dont apply to writers/singers/other artists as they were the ones who defied what common sense told them , and for what its worth , it paid off .

harishsram said...

I should check on the topics u have in ur drafts someday :D the idea seem to have uncanny similarity :)

coming to the pt is it that one spark alone? why are ppl so constricted to one passion alone? lets say i have a passion for science, music, literature, films. why should i choose the strongest from these fields? when i see conglomerates like ITC they say their main product is cigarettes but their shares dont fall drastically if there is some prob with cigarette industry coz their field is so wide n diverse! is jack of all trade bad compared to king in just 1 trade?

am leaving this thought open as i dont want to paste my entire article here :)

Anonymous said...

@Abhishek - Guruji, where are your lotus feet? I'd like to surrender unto them.

Its all come down to this : I write/sing/dance/act because I want to , and I work 'cause I have to .

Seriously - you've described so lucidly, what I've been wanting to express.


Sindu said...

@Abhishek: I am speechless Abhishek. Really. I don't know what to say. You are gifted. You have wisdom coming from somewhere way above. :)

@Harish Ram: Why am I not surprised. Btw, I know exactly what you mean. And I have an answer. Your passion is - Knowledge. Yes, perhaps you were born to figure out the world; Read a lot, understand, analyze and learn the world around you. Passion need not be a field. It might be some 'doing' too. Something you do, that makes you evolve.

@V: He really is something, right? :)

Anonymous said...

@Sindu - About him - do I need to reiterate the obvious ?

And Sindu, you've opened up a totally new line of thought through your reply to Harish Ram: Passion need not be a field. It might be some 'doing' too. Something you do, that makes you evolve.

*sigh*. Not only do I feel old, I also feel dumb. Anyway cheers to the future generation of India. :)


Sindu said...

@V : Someone who weaves magic being anonymous can definitely not be dumb, Uncle OTEE! :)

siddharth said...

"For a short while during my third year of Engineering, I had gone crazy". Well you're lucky, as i STILL find myself crazy! :)

Abhishek's explanation has me quite confused though. Isn't the instance mentioned by him more an example of a hobby and not passion? As a good friend says, "While a hobby is something you 'like' doing, passion is something you cant do without. Something that you wouldnt mind doing even for free!" Though that might sound far fetched, i do agree.

@Harish Ram - I guess the answer to your question would be that ITC's not human!:) One might have multiple interests, just lack of time and resources to excel all of them.

Sindu said...

@Sid:I think his first para is to show how people confuse hobby and passion and he goes on to say how even 'passion' has been reduced to a hobby since we need money to go on. However yes, I agree with you...if that is the case, then these were never passion at all in the first place.

Anonymous said...

One person who, in my opinion, has passion for her work has written this series - Writing for a living-1. Do have a look, if you haven't already.

-Uncle OTEE

Ajay Nair said...

@ Abhishek.
I loved your comment.

@ Anonymous. you said it...

"@Abhishek - Guruji, where are your lotus feet? I'd like to surrender unto them.

Its all come down to this : I write/sing/dance/act because I want to , and I work 'cause I have to .

Seriously - you've described so lucidly, what I've been wanting to express."

Arumugam said...

Read this book,if u can get your hands on it.I loved it so much that I own 3 copies of it:D

Title-"The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work " By Alain De Botton.

Book description copied from Amazon
We spend most of our waking lives at work—in occupations often chosen by our unthinking younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations mean to us.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace, beautifully evoking what other people wake up to do each day—and night—to make the frenzied contemporary world function. With a philosophical eye and his signature combination of wit and wisdom, Alain de Botton leads us on a journey around a deliberately eclectic range of occupations, from rocket science to biscuit manufacture, accountancy to art—in search of what make jobs either fulfilling or soul-destroying.

Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet? Characteristically lucid, witty and inventive, Alain de Botton’s “song for occupations” is a celebration and exploration of an aspect of life which is all too often ignored and a book that shines a revealing light on the essential meaning of work in our lives."

Sindu said...

@Arumugam: Extremely interesting description. Wish I could get my hands on it. Is it on flipkart? Got to see.

Arumugam said...

Oh yes,I got it through flipkart myself.Amazon shipping is equal to or sometimes more than the cost of the book:-)
A real savior for book lovers in India:D