I primarily left the corporate world because of the people. I couldn’t bear the idea of living the rest of my life, centered around pettiness and politics and that’s all I saw around me. I drifted gradually into more creative circles. I met artists, writers, musicians, actors, performers. I also met a lot of people who were doing other things independent of the corporate world. Entrepreneurs, new industry pioneers, people who had either quit or said no to more traditional and lucrative (read responsible) life choices. Yes, there is no such a thing as a compartmentalised career, especially not in a place like Mumbai. What you do for a living defines the other aspects of your life and the roles you get to play in society too.
Here too, I found disillusionment in human beings, in how often we allowed ourselves to fall into small-time manipulation and bickering instead of chasing things that really inspired us. My sabbatical hit shock after shock. My father said,
“What do you expect? It’s people. You’ll find that everywhere.”
I had had about a decade of people experiences before I walked this path. Why then, did I expect the world outside the corporate structure would be different?
Here’s why. No one becomes an insurance agent or a market researcher or a project manager for the love of it. Sure, a lot of people find tremendous satisfaction in the jobs they are doing. But how many of them would continue doing so if they didn’t have to or if they didn’t get paid to do them?
On the other hand, I left what may have been a more comfortable life behind because I saw a tiny opportunity to spend it doing what I loved instead. I would have and I did write even when I wasn’t getting paid for it, even when I didn’t have to do it. Much before the internet and blogging were realities, I was writing. I imagine these worlds are populated by people like myself, who were pulled out of their steady lives by the dream of something that touched them more. I didn’t expect to find the kind of spiritual fatigue, the weary psyche that causes people to politic rather than inspire, here.
I’ve known a poet whose primary objective is to play victim. I’ve spoken to a standup comic who spends more time brooding over how his successful peers only got that way through contacts. I’ve been with a performer whose sole objective is to maintain the identity of an angry, downtrodden rapper to the exclusion of all else. I’ve hung around with countless entrepreneurs who’ve used their business/project as an excuse to write away all kinds of terrible behaviour (cheating, disrespect, fraud). And I’ve met countless writers who are — plain and simple — assholes. That’s it, that is their whole entire identity. An asshole who happens to write.
The last gives me a little clue into what’s happening, perhaps because I know this group best, being one myself (writer, I hope, not asshole). Most of us don’t really, truly know what we’re chasing. We give it the best, easiest or most socially acceptable label we can find. It’s not cool to say I’m seeking more popularity than I have here. Or that I want to be pampered and my life doesn’t give me that. Or that I think the world owes me a favour but if I have a regular job, I’m expected to give as I take so that doesn’t work for me.
It’s really the same things that people in the corporate world are searching for — fame, money, success but also acknowledgement, belonging, approval, respect, identity. The kind of structured universe that the corporate world is, just enforces some kind of order and following of rules with or without enrollment. Maybe it’s true. Those who can’t abide by that have bigger problems.
Then again, I guess it’s okay as long as you get what you’re looking for. There’s nothing poetic about a drama queen but that’s fine if you’re looking for attention, not beauty. Resentment is not funny either but maybe you’re not looking for a reason to laugh yourself. As for the angry rapper, well, maybe my idea of unhappiness is his idea of fulfilment.
Me? I chose peace and happiness. I’m not the best writer around but I’m being the best I know how to be. I’m not the most successful or even the best known but I try to remember that I was inspired by the thought of a lifetime of writing, not a fat bank balance. It’s feeling like things are more better than worse and I feel that way. Happiness is not a 24×7 party and I’m just glad I get to go to it.
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