Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Recalibrating My Skills

I wish to write about two mistakes. First, I thought I would not have a mid-life crisis. Wrong. Second, after everyone else, I think it is impossible to change course of my career as late as this in my life. Wrong again. It is harder, surely, but not impossible.

First, the interesting news - that I have a mid-life crisis. I know I am creating trouble for myself here by baring it. One cardinal rule for career building is perhaps to present oneself in a neat format, best things upwards, vulnerabilities folded away. Talking about the crisis I am facing is like turning up in the interview shirtless. But, I would like to believe I am among friends in this blog - no matter who you are, if you turn up to read my banter, you are a friend - and talking about vulnerabilities is fine, therefore.

I wanted to live a creative life. This is the motivation behind my journeys, my forays into different interesting things, my refusal to be grounded by affections or mortgages, my obsession with books and blogs, and my continuing quest of the next thing. Being an introvert, it did not matter whether I am with people all the time, because I did not need stimulation from outside. What I needed, desired, sought out all my life is intelligent company and intelligent conversations.

But, as I come to the middle of my life (I hope this is the middle and I have enough time left), my work gets more and more defined by my past than my future. So, I become an India specialist, a country I was born in and know well, but it is my past. My past experience of setting up networks of education centres across India becomes all important, notwithstanding my desire to move on. My ability to understand other people define me a salesman, prioritising style over substance. Again and again in my career, where I came from and what I did became more important than where I am going.

It is no crisis though if I just accepted it. If I settled, tried to cash in my expertise, and found the meaning of life in mortgages. But, as I said before and I say now, I am too attached to the life ahead. I seek the joys of creation, knowing new land and cultures, meeting new people, observing lives heroic and trivial, learning new craft, and all that. Where is the creation in rehashing my old expertise again and again in a slightly different context? And, this question causes the crisis - as I do exactly this for a living. And, always dream of an escape.

This escape brings me to the hard part of my enterprise, that of re-calibrating my skills. Despite all my adventures, I have failed perhaps to take chances with my career (though this is not exactly true, given my periodic forays into entrepreneurship). There is a touch of panic here too - I do not want to go down in the genealogical tables as a man of uncertain means - and I am attempting to do something which I can be good at. The chances I took are financial, and even when I started businesses, I took the safe path of being in territories I knew, education and India featuring prominently in my plans. This time around, though, I am seeking to do something completely different - learn about a new country perhaps, with its language and literature, go into work that I have not done before, build friendships outside my own comfort zones, and all that. 

As one could guess, I am drawing up new year resolutions a little early - vowing to make 2016 different from the other years. This means a few things in my mind right now. To start with, this would mean a break, a sabbatical, from this India business. I can not go away, indeed, but the detachment is needed, if I really needed to live a global life. This means a greater commitment to my writing, the only creative enterprise open to me at this time, and taking it more seriously than this blog. I am not sure whether I am going to start a magazine, research for a book or go back to school to learn creative writing, but it will be one of those things. I can not fully escape education, as I love what I do so deeply - but my next life will be to create the Creative School I so keenly want to create. This is a long journey, and I know there will be compromises on the way - but I have enough feeling of a crisis of meaninglessness to take the future as seriously as I can.


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