In the hustle and bustle of Chennai, India we jumped off the cliff to live the lives we live today. We got the jobs we knew were ‘safe’. Financially secure. Adulthood FTW y’all! The safe jobs were the parachutes we strapped on, as we plummeted to our destiny that took us wherever the wind did. We didn’t really think it through, as to how to get to the happy spot if the miserable wind kept pushing us everywhere else. That’s when we knew, we needed our wings. The wings that had its growth stunted when we denied ourselves to do what we loved, when you, my friend, also chose the safer path. Your fears were no doubt reasonable: What if your wings weren’t strong enough to hold you up? What if you just dropped and it was too late to get up? It’s a simple thought ingrained by your family, society and yes, even friends, and it plagues most of us.
Winter 2016, I decided to unfasten the parachute and use my wings to fly. It was right after work one day when I got a call from my boss asking why I was always signing out an hour early.
“No, sir, I just leave the desk, but I’m still around in the office and only sign-out after my time’s up,” I lied. He was convinced, yet I knew it was time. I’ve been tricking myself into believing this is where I’d be happy, even though I had numerous sleepless nights with my brain doing flip-flops. I even tried counting the flip-flops as opposed to the proven method of counting sheep.
I got paid a lot at my job, and I was good at it. So, I should be happy, right? Right?!– No, I hated it. It took me a long time to admit that to myself. My job was to fix servers that were sick. It happened rarely and I realized I was wasting time, it no longer felt like I was spending time at work.
Three years and two companies later, writing had once again become my mistress. I was an expert IT guy in the virtual space but I loved to write. Forgive my lack of modesty, I was a good writer since college and unknowingly had written pretty good stuff in school English tests. I never realized the high it gave me until I looked back. Needless to say, my ‘real’ job treated me like an abusive spouse. Keeping me up on nights when I didn’t want to and waking me up before daybreak to fix machines that weren’t mine. I wrote and wrote yet nothing too fancy to put me out there. However, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was miserable and, didn’t know where and how to get started with writing. I came very close to calling it quits for good. I believed it was too late for me to start over a career and yet I was left with no choice, I was drifting further away in the wind and I reeeeally didn’t want to waste away my life.
It was time to weigh the pros and cons of my job, obviously IT won, but I wanted to win too. The second problem was breaking it to my parents. They weren’t the typical Indian parents who brought their kids up only to compete with the other kids all the while showing them off to their relatives and friends while completely ignoring what the child really wanted to do. Grades were everything and losing was an unforgivable sin, a shame to their very existence. There’s a lot of emotional blackmail too, it’s quite traumatic really. A lot of Indian parents attempt to accomplish their ambitions in life through their kids, it’s like their second chance. What they don’t realise is that the parents are obligated to nurture and bring their kids up in a healthy environment that brings out their propensity. Guidance, yes; Dictatorship, no. and yet the latter is quite common. Eventually most kids are made to cover every spark of talent with a wet cloth and flush out every idea to become a slave to this cruel society. I knew a kid while growing up who was forced to take up singing, Tae Kwon-Do and dance classes, and he didn’t even like them. He barely got time to rest and eventually became so bad at grades that he was asked to repeat a year. Bummer. My parents weren’t that bad, they were pretty nice and encouraging. However, the hunger to make me be the best in everything was there. I was pretty good too, –no brownie point for modesty– but it led nowhere. They brought me up asking me to be the best in whatever I did when I grew up, as long as I grew up to become an engineer. And I did. I never wanted to feel up computer mouses and keyboards all my life but circumstances led me to a job that wanted me to do exactly the same. I knew it was wrong deep down, dishonest to my soul, but hey the money was good! And growing up in a family where money wasn’t easy to come by, I believed this to be true happiness. A lot of us are/were stuck in the jobs we hated, to pay off education loans that never would have been there if we hadn’t taken up the stupid course. It’s a trap!
My parents were ecstatic, telling the world what a wonderful son they have; who earned more than enough, even though I earned enough. They could never see behind my dark circles but knew I was happy. So naturally, they were flabbergasted when I had to tell them I had quit my job now, three years later and I wasn’t going to do IT anymore. I was breaking up with their idea of the ideal son over the phone, I don’t need to tell you how messy breakups are. All those times they told their friends, family, and anyone who wants to listen about how I work with a beautiful multinational company.
There was a short time when I believed my parents were cool about anything I did, remember the ‘be anything you want to be’ thing, yeah, that got me fooled too. They freaked out big time.”You’re too old to be taking such risks, there is too much at stake, why would you quit something that good!”
I also heard what they didn’t say, moving out has made us crazy. I moved out almost two years ago to Bangalore, India. Fun fact: in India, kids live with their parents longer than necessary and sometimes even after their wedding, probably why our brains are too narrow. Moving out of my parent’s house was emotionally wrecking but it gave me new perspectives, the comfortable quilt had been lifted and I came to face-to-face with who I wanted to be. It took me months to acknowledge the shadow that followed me, and when I did, it became a beacon of light instead.
My parents like most of the parents out there wanted the safest life for their kids, not suffer the way they did and whatnot. I get that. What they didn’t get was their mercy was killing me. I needed to break free from the shackles that that held my wings down. I struggled to make them understand and sadly, I still do.
I needed a stable income but I wasn’t going back to IT, I didn’t know where to begin and my mind decided it’ll be amusing to sow new seeds of doubt and fear. They grew really, really fast, naturally. I soon realized whatever I wrote was apparently good enough to be out there, huh, who knew. I was picked by an advertising agency and told my parents, they didn’t even pretend to be excited. “How much do you get paid?” was what they asked, I got paid lesser than the IT job of course and no, I wasn’t going to tell them that. I wasn’t ready for another bout of meaningless arguments and worries that would obviously be hard on my already malleable head.
I had finally found my dream job. This was probably what I was meant to do. I am destined to write copies for F&B brands that need to sound smart to sell themselves to the millennials. I was… wait, what the heck was I doing. I quit in three months. I decided to start writing full-time the way I was intended to, properly this time. I now run a writing business and I’m my own boss, and yet I haven’t told my parents. I tell my parents everything and being the only child, we only ever have each other, –extended family are a bunch of morons, but that’s another story– and yet I can’t put them through the fear and tension that comes with being unable to understand my decisions. I do feel terrible about it but hey, eventually!
It’s a welcome relief having to do my own thing, there are dark days when some of the seeds begin to sprout again. My primitive mind never fails to give me the anxiety that comes when you don’t feel safe, I’m sure you get what I mean. I didn’t do this alone, I’d be lying if I said I did. A few mentors came and went but it’s my girlfriend who stuck by my side, urging me to keep my head on, bringing it back wherever I lost it, picking it up when it was lying around, broken. She sensed my pressures and tried to understand the things I didn’t even try to. Mostly, ‘cause she knew who I was deep under, she knew me for 9 years and somehow figured it out, also she probably didn’t want to deal with the train-wrecked version of me. Trust me, it’s scary and annoying, though she’d never admit it. Success stories are aplenty but the grind and the hustle that comes with is casually overlooked. I come in pieces after a grueling year, but the pieces that remain are mine to be made whole again.