August 5th 2002. The date we started earning money. We, as in, I and 7 others who joined you-know-which Chinese company. Fresh out of college, all deferential, and trying hard to be enthusiastic. There are some who are enthusiastic, and then there are those that just aren’t. Almost to the count, not a single one of us could summon up any reasonable ounce of enthusiasm. Am not talking about the basic stuff needed to get work done, we had enough of that, and some more. Am referring to that enthusiasm that makes people bubble and jump even when they are, on closer notice standing absolutely still. Almost all of us were mostly of even temperament with a fair degree of cynicism which we tried to hide, but realised soon enough that it’s par for the course.
Well, 14 years since I passed out of college. If I were Rama, I’d be returning home after defeating Ravana, memories of those days when I was booted out fading in the distance. Of course, given the nature of the adventures in the forests, am sure it would take some effort summoning up those days of adolescent joie de vivre.
You stopped having those carefree days of college and entered work. “Hey, it’s a 5 day week”, we gushed. Except that it goes on pretty much throughout the year! Those months of vacation between years or weeks between semesters, they’re just not there anymore. You can take vacations, mind you, but please to be back in 1-2 weeks, ok? In fact, there are so many I see who can’t figure out what to do with vacations more than 3-4 days! Yes, you can travel around, but let’s face it, hardly anyone is relentlessly traveling, or can. Once you have kids, as almost all my peers now do, you have to align with school holidays, and once the holidays start, swimming camp or tennis camp or whatever you enrolled your kids in to keep them off your hair.
It’s also interesting how despite lives diverging they were in fact in various states of parallel tracks before aligning back. Yes, your kids could be of a different age than your friends’, but hey, for me when you talk school, you only talk school, not of 3rd standard(or grade, or whatever is the fancy term for it), or the 5th. You finished college, started off on work locally, went abroad or did your Masters locally, then came right back to the same sort of jobs, realised whoever stayed put is also earning pretty much the same, justified it saying “those experiences in Masters, man!”, and got back to earning a living working for someone. In some cases, you said you’re not going to work for a boss, and worked for VCs at a higher rate. Your dream of being a LinkedIn influencer might happen soon. Of course you earn boatloads of money.
But that’s another tricky part. At least for my peers, you are easily in the top 1% in the country in terms of income already, and there is only that much you can buy which can make you happy. Yes, you can have more exotic vacations, but every one of your peers can do the same. Also there’s para 3 above. Or in other words, time and energy is the factor, not money anymore. And yes, you could give any fancy saying about not working for a boss, but let’s face it, it’s Money that’s the boss here. And you probably have a house to pay mortgage on or expensive fees to pay for kids. And sick parents you can’t leave behind. That’s what life does.
There will be variations of different styles, based on what narrative you want to give of your life. Sometimes you want to “check out of the rat race, yaar”, but no one can afford that. The time for Fuck-you fund activation is not there yet. That’s for the 40s and I hopefully will write about that when I get there.
At the moment, all am saying is, in fact all I have been saying all along is this – lifeu ishtene. (This is all there is to life)
But, no, I am not saying that you should not do anything or avoid all enjoyments or become a monk. Have never said that. All am saying is no matter how much you try to separate yourself from the “crowd”, it’s not gonna happen. You are part of the crowd. You are the crowd. If you branch out, you are part of a crowd of people who branch out. Let’s stop pretending each one is special, shall we?
Of course, this does not mean the end of the world, at least not figuratively. (Literally, yes, we seem to be heading there, but I wrote something last time on that. And the news there isn’t prettier, in fact worse than last month. It’s not a next-gen problem, so stop worrying about your kids and start worrying about yourselves.) It only means, we might have to go back to enjoying things for what they are.
And this is true of your monsoon rains or summer evenings in Bangalore(if you’re not stuck in traffic), as much as your vacation in Borneo. It makes life a lot more interesting, and keeps you happier more days than the ones you mark out for it. You can’t always keep running off to find happiness in any case! What happens when you can’t? What if you’re just stuck in life for a while? Such phases do happen. It could be some illness you are dealing with, or someone in the family’s, or a work thing that just won’t end. And as you grow older there’s a lot more stars that need to align. Will you just keep looking forward and even around at all those lives people are leading and feel resentful?
This is not an advice blog. Am not writing advice for others, am writing for myself. Yes, there are days I feel resentful about how the past few years have turned out. They aren’t what you can call ideal, letting you live the way you want to. But then, at some point you have to accept that that’s how things are. Might as well not lose one’s head about it. There will come a time for doing things you want and then times when you just have to do what needs to be done. The key is to not keep yearning for something that’s not going to happen. The key might be to find happiness everyday. Or redefine happiness, maybe? Or even forget about it entirely, maybe? More about this in my next post, maybe.