Thursday, December 31, 2015
It is cliche, but I can not still believe that here we are on the last day of the year already. It is a sunny day here in London, an unexpected gift. Cold but not too cold, which is also a good thing given how mild this December so far has been, and yet, the predicted bitter-cold winter of an El Nino year is also nowhere in sight. Having spent most of the year in warmer climates, this feels just right for me, a very welcome situation at the end of a year on the road.
The year that ends, for me, was a stop-gap year. I spent the year in, using a computing metaphor, recovery mode, without trying to do anything special, just surviving, keeping my head down. This was exactly like the year I spent immediately after coming to UK, a decade ago, my previous big adventure that led to some disappointments and several serendipity. My learning from that was not to give up on adventures, but to be ready to step back and recover, if needed.
This may indeed make no sense to my friends and family, who would rather conceive life as a gently rising line, getting better every single year. I would have embraced that life too, if I did not want to change my life significantly, say two lifetimes' worth in one, and indeed, this was what I was trying to do in the first few years of my working life, rising along the hierarchy step by step, measuring myself by increments, getting married etc. Now, of course, after setting myself loose from my moorings, I am either in adventure mode, or I am going home. And, this model of iterative failure is an essential part of my being on the road.
That perhaps is putting it too darkly. I do all the supposedly 'silly things', as my father would call them, not to fail, but to accumulate. One dimension of accumulation is wealth, but the other is experience, and I wanted both. My expectation curve is also gently rising, just that it combines both, and it rises unevenly, rather poorly in dog years, but dramatically when I reach the promised land. For this, there is a third step in the sequence of failing and recovering, and this is the moment I arrive at now.
For this, my favoured term is, borrowing from computing again, Pivot. I do not mean this in the sense the start-ups refer to it, a change of strategy. Rather, for me, it is a breakpoint, a point of departure. And, this, for me, comes not immediately after the failure, but after a period of recovery, when the disappointment has subsided. I am angry, at myself, at others, when I just failed. Or, worse, I am still in love with my old life and assumptions, when I just failed. Trying to change course, at that point, is like the way start-ups do, change the way but keep the goal. But all too often the goal needs changing too, and this is often obscured in the close proximity of a moment of disappointment, when the mistakes of our ways, and of others, are far too obvious, but not the various other roads not taken.
A year of reflection affords me this. When I mention recovery, people around me, all too often, think about recovery of my bank account and credit scores, but not of me. While I find such faith redeeming, my repeated efforts at failing better risks myself. One of the perks of living the way I do is I can love what I do with my senses - my work is I at any given moment - and I bring my whole self to it at any given moment. So, a break is also a break with myself, a change of work is a mini-rebirth, with all the pains of a mini-death and the sacrifices of a mini-birth. And, a Pivot is not a new way of doing the old thing, but finding a new purpose to live for.
This point is one such. The welcoming, sunny, cold morning, turning into a busy afternoon with all the work lining up, is an invitation to such a start. It is not one of those periodical resolutions that I subject myself to, not the fantastical belief that a January morning would reset everything, but a feeling of readiness, redemptiveness if there is such a feeling, a clear-to-fly signal from myself. A narrative, as yet unformed, starts to form, with not faith or circumstance, but me, as the writer.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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