Disclaimer: John’s character has been weaved by the writer based on people that the writer has interacted with and is in no way targeting any particular being. John is thus fictional but his experiences are very much real.
If you are a 20 something millennial who has recently entered the industry, you will relate to John’s story. His aim here is to not intimidate you but inspire you and make you ponder after you read his journey. So let’s get started. And let us finish with what ifs and why not’s…
John was brilliant in academia, great at sports and aced his extracurricular activities. With two degrees in hand and high morals, he was every parent’s dream. His journey seemed too good to be true. Everyone around him was confident that his life was chalked out for success. His only problem? His assumptions about happiness. Everything had been pretty smooth for focused John who hadn’t experienced major hurdles in life yet. He set targets, worked towards them with zero compromises, achieved them, gained validation from loved ones and was thus happy… At the end of each victory. What happened in between? John wore blinkers. The only thing in view was his goal. Everything else around him was a blur. It was secondary. This approach had worked for him so far and thus he intended on continuing to adopt it for the rest of his life. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Especially once you are an independent working professional. John was about to get the so called ‘reality check’ of life… A slice of the harsh truth. Life was about to take off his blinkers. He was not prepared for it. He struggled, stumbled, fell… Did he give up or get up? Let’s find out. (Spoiler: It’s not a happy ending)
It was John’s first day at work at a small firm working on a mega-project in a foreign land. He had high expectations. He was a star after all! To start with, he got a horrible boss who was verbally abusive towards him. His work was physically and mentally taxing since he was a new comer who had not learnt to delegate and organize yet. He worked 14 hour shifts every day (sometimes Sundays too) and was exhausted by the end of the day. John was clearly disappointed. He got depressed in an instant. He had hoped for a relaxed work environment, value-adding work, excellent colleagues to work with and productive weekends, spent well – exercising, socializing and travelling. Most importantly he needed a validation of his work. He was used to it- the pat on the back, an appreciation in life that he had made it. None of this was happening. So John put on his blinkers again and started on a quest, a quest to search for happiness and stability (clear goal, hazy background) He was yearning for balance and that perfect MNC on the other side was his balance (that’s what he thought). Being the planner he was, he systematically started applying for jobs in firms that were known for caring for their employees by providing an excellent work-life balance and rewarding them well. John believed that his little experience coupled with his solid academic foundation would be enough to get him there. He was wrong. He gave interviews and never heard back. He tried networking. Market was rough. Things did not work out for him. For the first time in his life, his blinkers had failed him. And so he had a breakdown. He lost focus and struggled to keep up with his work. He hardly exercised. He lazed around consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes on the weekends with people who hung out with him only when they wanted to. He was not ‘’happy’’. In short, perfect John’s life had hit rock bottom. 4…5…6 months passed by… And John… at last…. Gave up? Nah! He was a fighter (Thanks to his high school bullies) (The happy ending spoiler was to bum you out, reader!)
What John failed to understand (as clichéd as it may sound) was that it’s the journey that eventually matters. What is an 89 year old John going to cherish? His work at that dream MNC or the exhilarating moment when he got an acceptance call? It is not just one particular goal but goals embedded in your blur which together create a canvas of life. These goals are your career, your family, your friends, your love, your passions… They come into focus and merge with the blur. It’s a constant process. Who has the power to at least partially control this process? You do. How? You choose. You prioritize. You decide. You create the balance. Does it work? You don’t know but it’s a definite no if you wear those blinkers. Do you try? Yes, you do. Do you enjoy the process?
John never realised the importance of the blur. It is a crucial ingredient of the happiness recipe. It is the better half of your goals. What is this blur? It’s the in between. Those few seconds of euphoria when your team is about to lose but wins is your blur. Has it ever happened that you are about to step out of your car but stay back in for a while to finish your favourite track on the radio? That moment when you snooze your alarm and curl up in your warm sheets for a few minutes; the time when a classic dance number plays on the stereo, you look around and shake a leg when nobody’s looking. I bet all of us have stared at animals and wondered what they must be thinking. These are the blurs. They have become fillers to uplift our moods and get us back on track; fillers that prevent us from burning out as we race towards our goals. It’s high time we gave these blurs the importance they need, not for our survival but for our sanity, in the hyper technological world that we live in today.
Yes, you plan your future but don’t founder like John did. Work towards it, give your best and then let go as you let the universe do the talking. Things do not always go as planned. Things are never in total control. There are external forces that play a role in shaping your journey. Don’t regret over your past because it’s not going to come back. Learn, grow and move on. We all think we know what we want that will make us happy. A vacation with family? Check. A world tour? Check. Working with the under privileged. Check. A walk in the park. Check. Earning loads of money? Facebook likes? Fame? Check. Check. Check. You set targets for yourself. You work hard. You check things off your list. What next? Next holiday? Next job? There will always be a next. What we need to do is to celebrate the goals and the blur equally because those 80-90 years of your life comprise of both. There is a fast motion of sorts happening around you and it is not going to stop. You have to pause. Everything changes as time passes by but what needs to be constant is your ability to not give up, show up and walk tall every single day.
Everything around you will call for your attention. It’s not humanly possible to cater to it all. Choose the things worthy of your time wisely. Choose your goals wisely and be the lead actor of your own movie. Take charge. Don’t let people’s expectations shape your identity. Know your system. And while you do all of it don’t ignore the blur. Create your own web and live it. Customize it. It’s yours alone because it will make you happy. And let’s face it…you need the chaos and the calm. You need the motion around you. It completes you. So embrace it instead of dealing with it or even worse, letting it pass by.
So what is John up to these days? He has completed one year at his firm. He has gained some solid experience in his project at work. Companies have opened doors for him and he is in a position to choose and is not helpless like he was a few months ago. He quit smoking and drinks occasionally in good company. He has learnt to say no. He tries to squeeze in exercise in his perennially hectic work schedule (4.30am jogs anyone?) He does not get passive aggressive when things don’t go as planned. He reads a lot, appreciates silence and does not feel the need to be surrounded by people all the time. He has found friends that make him laugh, that push him to grow further and give selfless advice in times of need. Is John perfect? No. Has he found a balance? Maybe a little. Has he learnt to show up? Yes. He has merged with the blur by embracing it. Have you?