About a decade ago, I was happily living my life in Bangalore. The city has everything that a 20 something could ask for. Moving from Mumbai, the city was much more affordable, it has a cosmopolitan outlook, lot of places to hang out and the city was safer for women than say Delhi.
Yes, I was not growing professionally but other than that life was as happy as it could be. I was at peace with myself and my surroundings. To top it all I had a lovely apartment with a balcony overlooking a beautiful garden and a swimming pool. A Mumbaikar can not ask for more. Just as I was thanking the Gods above for the life I was living, the Gods played a cruel joke and sent across a job offer from London.
Everything about the London based job was exactly what I was looking for: reputed organization, global role, growth and opportunity to be trained and to work with the best. However, those were only the pros, the cons were going away from friends and family, living in a city with one of the highest cost of living in the world, a place where you will always be an immigrant and a culture that you have to make an effort to get used to.
When we are young we don’t necessarily understand the importance of the cushion of family (immediate and extended) and close friends in our life. We assume we can take everything in our stride and all that matters is the professional, material or monetary success at the end of the day.
After a lot of over thinking, I did what I thought was right for my career, I moved to London. There was the usual excitement of a new move, but after a while the euphoria died, and reality struck. I was away from loved ones, learning the ropes in a new place, trying to find solace in work, at times trying to fit in socially (certain aspects of that culture could be alien even for people who live in big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore). Not a day passed when I did not miss my life in Bangalore.
I remember walking down South bank one foggy evening and asking myself, “I am in the most beautiful city in the world, yet why am I unhappy”. The reason was simple I WAS LONELY, and I was not doing anything about it. It is also not too easy to befriend people when you are in an unhappy state of mind. In this world you will have few friends if you are only seeking (emotionally or materially) from them, however it will be the opposite when you are in a position of strength. The obvious option for any individual in such a situation is to get more active virtually, but virtual existence cannot replace real existence.
My only learning in this entire experience was that “when your heart is empty, your head does not work”.
Professional and personal life are two wheels in a bicycle which need to move in sync for you to go places. A unicycle is good for street performers, but it does not really get you places
Just a few days back I was watching a Hindi movie “Dear Zindagi”. It’s a story of a woman who is in a professional dilemma. Her career and material aspect of life would probably be better off, if she were to move to another country, however personally she may not be happiest making that choice. When she talks to a psychologist about her dilemma, he asks her a very profound question, “Why do you have to choose the hard option in life, which you know will bring personal unhappiness, when you do have the option of an easier way as well?, Why are you being harsh on yourself and whom do you have a point to prove?
Growing up in the developing world I feel the importance of being with family and friends is never emphasized enough. We are only motivated to work hard, beat all competition, achieve extraordinary success in life and be applauded and celebrated for what is perceived to be “successful” by others. But no one ever tells us that the road to so called extraordinary success may at times be lonely, should you not make an active effort to ensure that’s not the case. There is no fun in celebrating success if you don’t have someone to share it with. And success is not just professional.
All the while I was abroad I used to wonder what it really means to have a fulfilling life. I would often think that a small grocery store owner in any city in India probably has more in life than me to look forward to. He toils for his own business (his legacy), goes back to his family, spends time with extended family and is there when they need them, has children in time and watches them grow, has time to socialize, as he grows old he has time, company and avenues available for spiritual, religious or philanthropic activities and later on he has a business to pass on to his children. Agreed a lot of phases in the grocery store owner’s life may have also occurred because of lack of choice.
However, comparing the store owner’s life with a completely achievement-oriented life which over a period becomes so self-centered that there is not much time for kids, spouse, extended family, friends or self for that matter. All that matters are goals, achievement, position, success and it goes on………. And when you start ageing, there is always some young blood to replace you. Life spent working hard but not much created in terms of legacy. I feel the small grocery shop owner trumps here in terms of fulfillment.
The more I thought about it and the more I observed I realized that probably what in the eyes of the world is a life that is not too extraordinary, is probably more fulfilling.
There is no greater joy than coming back to a kid who is waiting for you and jumps as soon as you walk in the door, there is no greater joy than celebrating festivals with family, just hanging out with friends, just cooking for family, being there when friend and family need you-just letting them know that you are there for them, come what may. There is no greater joy to know that you are needed in someone’s life, you make a difference to their existence. There is no greater joy than the small things in life that we do not always give importance to. Once we stop chasing the extra-ordinary and start being peaceful and joyful with our state of being, every day is a success, and everything is a celebration.
About the author:
Monica – is a consumer insights professional based in Mumbai. She has worked with FMCG organizations like Colgate Palmolive and Reckitt Benckiser in India and Coca Cola and Unilever in the UK. She has also done stints with organizations like Nielsen, Hewlett Packard and the Lodha group in India.
She took a maternal break and is currently freelancing with Nykaa.com and also running her own startup called Ubicon, wherein she intends to connect with people through the virtual medium for garnering insights. Apart from work, Monica loves barb-e-cueing, networking, swimming and yoga.
(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)
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Originally published at hersecondinnings.com