I just watched ‘In Pursuit of Happyness’ for the tenth time and it got me thinking. Again.
A lot of people live a pattern. They graduate, study some high tech fancy stuff at an overseas university and join the ranks of the ambitious, almost robotic army of workers, rushing to climb the ladder of success and be "settled" by 30. By the time their shiny car summits the ’30-year’ hilltop, the next haul from there is downhill. Suddenly, they begin to pause and slow down to contemplate. They may find an unspoken, unrealised discontent under all those fast-paced heart beats that the work targets and fat pay cheques brought on. The car begins to hesitate. And one day, the successful corporate slave gives up everything to go live on top of a desolate mountain. Or backpack across the country, absorbing new culture, music and well, life.
These guys discover that a secure job and money isn't everything. They find that answering to a boss won't do anymore. They want to answer to their own call, inside their heart. This is evolution that perhaps springs from urban disenchantment, monotony and exhaustion. Or maybe the need to do more meaningful things to make life complete.
And then there are people like me. A successful friend from the corporate sector told me recently that I was way better in life for having avoided becoming a corporate drone through my 20s. He said it was an achievement.
I followed my heart from the time I had to choose my subject in school. Opting for things that didn't appeal to me out of peer pressure was never an option. Things like that just never happened to me. I lived my 20s like a free bird, a gypsy following her heart, not only in life, but also in my career. I felt strongly about the environment and nature and worked on that, while my friends worked nights and weekends in stuffy corporate environs. I walked through warm forests, saw living creatures as God made them, lay on the banks of rivers listening to crocs or elephants bathing in the moonlight. I earned peanuts but I was happy. Because what I was doing actually made me happy. And it made some minute difference to the conservation battle we were fighting.
And gradually, what started happening to my corporate friends started happening to me – only backwards. I began to realise how important money is. And the magnitude of things a person can do in life if the pockets are heavy. To add to that, the creative demon arose and wanted to be enslaved no more. I wanted to design and write and create beautiful things - and to be answerable to nobody. That’s when the launch into entrepreneurship happened – unplanned, vague and dreamy. Just like the quintessential artist, who is stupid when it comes to business and the ways of the world. Things didn’t go as well as I’d envisioned. Reality struck, and honestly, it’s been striking since then.
Working on your own, for yourself is strewn with challenges and some pretty sharp thorns. Even today, payments from clients reach my bank account after running a marathon after them. It is probably seeing how clients undervalue your work and skills, or just that the bills never stop piling up, that a certain disenchantment sets in. You can no longer pursue anything extra besides bread and butter and the longing for a dash of fruit jam or a bowl of scrambled eggs sets in. A familiar discontent that I’ve seen in people stuck in conference rooms. Funnily enough, I guess we passed each other at this junction of discontent, striding in opposite directions.
So the focus shifts from living like a free-spirited hippie to getting "serious", so that you and your work are also taken "seriously". And you are actually paid what you deserve, for a change (most clients will make you work for free if they can get away with it!) You want a certain standard of living, to make it to countries beyond Nepal and Bhutan, to never worry about bills again, to have comfortable savings to bank upon for the future. To travel on a whim. A financial security that the early days never had, nor cared to pursue.
So can money grant happiness? It’s debatable. The answers may vary from this side of the cubicle to that. Ten years ago, I’d unflinchingly say ‘no way!’ Today, I’d say 'yes'. If I had money, I would take a week off to a forest and live there in a hut in the midst of all those beautiful sounds. Or I’d fly off to Italy with my friend and fill the pages of my travel journal with memories I could never imagine earlier to make. If I had money, I’d force my parents to retire and chill, while I’d take care of them for the rest of their lives. I’d donate regularly to animal shelters and build their infrastructure. And all this – the cumulative sum of all this – that would make me happy. And my pursuit for that part of my life, that small part, has begun.
This is my evolution. And I embrace it.
A hippie at heart,
Never to be chained,
Money is a part,
Of what shall be attained.
Flight tickets to exciting places,
Or a shopping spree for mom,
To rivers and green spaces,
I never departed from.
Corporate to gypsy,
Or gypsy to corporate,
The balance is tipsy,
But it’s never too late.