There has been a lot on my mind lately, and with alarming regularity, there’s been nothing too. Complete nothingness. Where just one thought gets into a loop and haunts you till you have an epiphany of some sort. A very real “Oh.. Ok! Right then.” moment.
Starting with “unemployment”. Back in February, I had this immaculately planned “funemployment” ahead of me – I was going to spend a week or two at home just unwinding. I was going to do a 2 month desh bhraman that included beaches and relatives and love and laughter. I was going to get started on some freelance work that I secured while I was still working. And I was going to cook, eat clean, work out and such while I made a decision about how I was going to “pursue my interest in writing and tech comms in the best possible way”. So in wanting to unwind and do things at my own pace, I had planned busy weeks that were going to give me no time for any real perspective on what I wanted to do. Or even just unwind. Just be.
So fate made different plans. Because it has a way of giving you not what you want or think you need, but just what you really, really need. Topping the list was this move to India (more on this later). A close second was hours of empty time to do as I please, watch what I wanted to, discover stories that heal and words that I needed to hear. I can’t find myself any new assignments right now because in my line work, a commitment would last anywhere between three to six months. And I don’t have that kind of time. I don’t feel the need to go out and look for something else to keep me busy and pay some money because I know that this break is turning out to be exactly what I needed. I have found out several things about myself. The biggest of all is that I perform the best when my to-do list is longer than average. How do you explain having better sorted meal plans and pantry, specific laundry days, and perfectly timed grocery shopping when I spent the whole week at work? Now? Now I am so excited by the possibilities that I make no lists, I refuse to do laundry on certain days of the week, and I definitely don’t do meal plans. And yet, I have been eating healthier, working out more often and while my hormones won’t let me lose a lot of weight just yet, I feel better than I ever did. That said, I know it is easy for me to slump into this blissful nothingness and lose track – I did NOT know this before. For the longest time, I thought working was necessary for me because I’d get bored sitting at home. But that’s not what it is. In reality, I am enjoying this nothingness far more than a normal person would, I think. But the days I spend in the singular pursuit of “doing nothing”, the days I spend at least 8 hours just watching a sitcom, do NOT end well. Do I love it when I do it? Sure! Do I feel like I can spend a whole lifetime having many, many days of this? No. Not just yet. I don’t feel any guilt. I just feel like I could be a better version of myself if I just did one productive thing the whole day. And somehow, in my head, a good meal doesn’t count for much. I do a decent job of it, I take around 20 minutes to do it, and I don’t feel that accomplished after it. Same goes for working out and most other productive things that are done at home.
I hate to admit it, but my pursuit of more stillness was probably a function of boredom. I got the itch. I am scratching it. And I am better, happier person for it. But can it last forever? No, now is not the time. It might make me older, sooner. The good thing is that once I accepted it and also the fact that I am probably still one of those mediocre 9-9ers who crib about the days of utter madness (while they still enjoy it) and then days of wonderful, pleasant surprises, what the learned called petty wins, small accomplishments, instant gratification, everything became simpler. Crystal clear. The break is helping me understand some things about my health better, I probably am a lot more mindful about what goes into my system. But am I ready to spend my life only in the pursuit of mindfulness? No. I just need a way to find the right balance while I continue to be an office going, house holding, mediocre 30-something. And you know what? As soon as I realised this, my break became way more fun. It’s true what they say about too much of a good thing. Especially for someone like me who unabashedly enjoys hyper activity – even when I know stillness is important and good for me in regular but minimal doses.
Which brings me to my second point. That agency life that I decided to get away from for a bit. Now, when I was growing up, working in advertising was a life goal once I realised IIT was neither going to happen nor was it “me”. Why I decided to pursue engineering before going after the pursuit of agency life, is anybody’s guess (hint – it meant getting out of Patna). Anyway, so I never thought I wanted to be an agency slave because “wow what big words they use!”. I found agency folks to be the epitome of coolness, and not in a cliched way. More themselves, braver, crazier than the usual crop of middle class Indians. Of course in my head back then, I only thought of creatives. It was after many years of working that I realised that agency folks were also very staid “suits”. I mean of course they say things like “be brave”, “disrupt”, and such, put up posters even. But more often than not, all they really do is to fall for cliches. And if you’re not one for the cliches, it’s often easy to doubt yourself. Wonder if it’s really something you are cut out for. You don’t even have to be a Bob Hoffman level cynic. It took a little getting away for me to realise that while not falling for the cliches and having a slightly different point of view on many, many things might make you an oddball sometimes, the industry is better for it. I am not saying it takes people like me to “transform” the industry. No, because 1. I hate that word. And 2. I have far too many interests to find that single minded focus you need to transform something. But I do know that the industry has a place for people like me, for people who question, for people who don’t recycle lines from thought leadership articles at dinner parties, for people who don’t think “what’s trending” should be the be all and end all of every campaign, of every day at work. Someone said this in so many words in a recent conversation I had. And sure as hell, neither that conversation nor that epiphany would have happened if it weren’t for this break. Yes, believe it or not, it seems like I am going to come out of a sabbatical with more perspective on the industry that I did when I started it. Or at least a better perspective on my place in it.
Oh and if you haven’t still seen this, please do. This is so far the best discovery that came purely out of mindless surfing. This is what I mean when I say “Bob Hoffman level cynicism”. I love the guy and his absolutely old school yet funnily “disruptive” POV on ad and marketing. And it’s amazing that we can say the exact same things about dinner parties of our era that Hoffman says about the advertising industry. The Golden Age of Bullshit is well and truly here and those who can, should fight harder and make it go away.
I have a lot more to say about the whole move to India and all the things I am feeling about it. But this post is long enough and I have lost the will to start yet another topic in the same post. So watch this space.