So the world and its third cousin knows that my sabbatical got over as quickly as it started – at least in my head. Four months of unadulterated freedom but the financial kind (unless you count depleting savings as financial independence) but I was ready to hit the sack – the one that comes in the form of a cubicle. In a world full of maids and cabbies and a ton of people (x100000 if you live in India), shared spaces, and not a moment’s peace, that cubicle is almost like a haven of peace and solitude. A place where your brain is conditioned to work and your body, to rest. Unlike the last few weeks of my sabbatical where my body was restless and my brain refused to work. I learned that about myself during the break. That few things are as important to me as structure. Just waking up every morning and having a purpose that is all mine. In a world where not much seems to be in your control, your biological clock, your social engagements, your plumbing schedule, your house hunting results, I need to have a career that seems like something I can control. It feeds the control freak in me.
But what I also figured is that for a news junkie like me, being in the industry I work in, solves the problem of me tripping on every trending story and losing my sleep and peace of mind over it. When it’s not brand and business stories that fill the days of a news junkie like me, I get over-involved in every other kind of news. And it’s a dark, dark place these days. Like a friend mentioned, we Indians were never masters of measured responses. But with social media, everyone has a voice (which I think is great) but there is also a lot of noise (which is hardly a good thing). So even when you decide not to engage constantly, you end up internalizing a lot of those opinions. They sometimes cloud your judgment, sometimes they just exhaust you. But when your mind is full of stories outside of the “news/ crime/ society/ world” beats, it is easier to move on. To not let the outrage get to you. Or the outrage over the outrage.
Anyway, so I knew soon enough that I needed to be at work. And even more quickly, the career gods blessed me (I think) and for the first time in life, I made a decision that was very, very unlike me. It made me realize, for the first time ever, that invincible as I think I am, I know my limits, I am not as fearless as they come, my priorities have changed a little, and I can also have trouble balancing my yin and yang. But I retain the ability to make seemingly unpopular decisions – without feeling the need to explain the reasons to anyone other than those who must know. Which is alright, if you think about it. Unfortunately, there isn’t anymore I can say on this topic in public. Probably in a private post, at some point.
So yes, I have been back at work for almost a week now. And I have realized that starting at a new workplace is never easy. Not for me at least. Of course there are the good parts – the happy noises, the catered food, the 4 pm coffee, the camaraderie. But then there are also parts that queasy for the slightly apologetic somewhat-an-introvert in me, in an industry mostly filled with extroverts. And what is ironic is that when you join a huge corporate, you end up dealing with fewer people than you do when you join a mid-size agency. There are teams, there is admin, there are clients, and there are more clients. For the first time ever, I am having trouble with names! And if you have the amazing luck to work on a marquee, decade old agency account, just multiply the number by 4. And if you live in India, well x10000000. Yes, I am still quite taken in by just how populated we are – on the roads and inside organizations. The last four years away did sort of skew my perspective on crowds. A shared cab, for now, feels like crowd. But let’s not digress here.
So I am slowly settling in. Call it age or call it a position of more responsibility, but every other time, I have hit the ground running (around in circles, often). This time around, the transition seems more structured. I am not complaining. This is probably what my role demands and probably how things change as you go higher up in the value chain. More dynamics, less ordinary, everyday madness. More thinking through and tasks that need a little more perspective than what was expected of me 4 years ago, when I last joined a new workplace.
It’s beginning to feel like an exciting challenge and I am happy to report that 9 years since I started working and 6 since I started out in this industry, my wide eyed wonder refuses to go away. I thrive when there is action action, when there is excitement. There are days when this fills me with doubt because I am always towing the edge between enough gravitas to be taken seriously, and not taking myself too seriously. But more often than not, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The fazed, age and experience related apparent disinterest is not for me. And much as it might seem like it, it’s not necessarily a sign of “being ready”. This kind of confidence, it comes and goes. So I am putting it down here so the next time I feel uncertain, I can come back and remind myself that it is ok to be excitable and enthusiastic. Because why not, right?