It all started when a friend from the USA told me that his wife was considering moving back to India, to be, in her words, ‘an ordinary social worker.’ When we spoke, he told me that if this was her evolution as a person, she needed to be able to follow it.
Simple enough, but it made me consider the iron walls we must battle to choose to follow our personal journeys of growth.
For anyone in the same situation, I imagine they need to climb many mountains. In order of priority – the immense responsibility of children, the bonds of marriage, the onerous tunnel-like path of career, and financial security. After all of these mountains have been conquered, there is the inquisition of society – justifications to bosses, mentors, families, even neighbours. In all of these, financial security is actually the easiest hurdle to solve – one needs enough money to live independently, and put aside a small saving. With a modest lifestyle, even dedicating one’s life to being ‘an ordinary social worker’ is feasible financially.
At the Spectra event in Mumbai that I attended recently, the strangest sessions stayed with me. One of them was by Karan Bajaj, the founder of White Hat Jr, who was talking about his book ‘The Freedom Manifesto.’ I haven’t read the book yet, but in his session, he outlined his career graph, setting the context with how he always felt like he needed to follow his soul. He lit up the journey behind the $300Mn buyout of White Hat Jr – it was a series of what society would call disastrous career and life decisions, that made his success graph look like mountain ranges themselves. His life ranged from living on his sister’s couch to meditating in the Himalayas, from being the head of Discovery India to founding White Hat Jr, and dabbling in writing all the while. His point was that all of it added to the person he had become – it wasn’t a linear path, it was life.
The key takeaway for me from this session was about how immensely difficult it is for one to follow their own evolution as a person. In fact, in all of our lives, I am willing to bet that none of us ever knew this was even a choice.
As a child, I’d been called stubborn and obstinate. I didn’t pay much heed to the ‘you shoulds’ and ‘you musts’ that rained down upon me. I did follow my own path, but even so, when I think about it, this was influenced heavily by the definitions of ‘success’. I wanted to pursue higher education, have a career, and see my name followed by amazing designations – all of which I achieved.
What about my evolution as a person? I’m stumped.
When I leaped into entrepreneurship, this is what I looked forward to – the time to evolve as a person. Away from 3-hour a day commutes, non-stop conference calls, and swerving in and out of egos to accomplish a task. To evolve as a person means being able to drown out the cacophony of the guardrails we are raised with – expectations, traditions, societally mandated life-goals, and dedicate time to listening to yourself, steering away from logic and following your instincts, and bracing to take the irrational, non-traditional paths.
It’s like holding back an ocean.
Yesterday, my husband and I had a discussion with our son about piano and taekwondo, and how he needs to study and get good grades, and find something he excels at. Meanwhile, his soul is telling him to go play football with his friends, and make bead bracelets.
And now I’m a part of that tsunami that is taking over my child’s evolution as a person, while struggling to find a voice to release my own personal evolution, and to have this voice heard, for others who didn’t even know this was a choice.
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