Monday, August 10, 2009

Response to a comment on "My mid life crisis"

Anonymous posted "You will feel alive when - you get out of your comfort zone ready to set new expectations and change."

I thought I addressed this in the post but let me elaborate a little -

Setting new expectations for yourself outside the norm and striving to meet it is, as I've pointed out, what will satisfy most people. Personally, being out of my comfort zone and challenging myself is currently in my comfort zone. So much so, that I fear that these challenges, in order to be satisfying and enriching, are going to have to get taller and come at intervals way more frequent than they are right now.

All this talk of setting new expectations and change usually refers to your personal life and your view of your personal self. I want to extend that to your professional life too. I see no point in attempting to re-define yourself in your non-professional life but go back to an existence where all you strive for is the corner window office, better pay, better benefits, aspire to become a manager or any equivalent of this whatever your domain maybe. Couple that with buying a house with a yard, getting a dog and raising a family then you get a life awash with the gray of mundanity. Think about everything that is the norm of your life - from going to the mall to check out the latest sale to drinking coffee from your favorite barrista - I hate the ordinariness of it all - it closets and stifles the possibilities of enriching life beyond keeping up with the joneses.

Following this pattern of life gets you what exactly? A facade of happiness? A facade of stability?

Not that there is anything wrong with this - this is exactly what floats many a boat. Just not mine.

I don't know what I want of and from life instead but the possibility of living this shell of a life just because I did not try to break out and redefine my life is positively terrifying. I feel trapped by this life - the only life I've known.

[Some other random thoughts]
Can I, at this stage of my life, be, say for example, a musician? *Maybe* Why exactly is it this hard? Because I've been following the harder/faster/better routine all my life (I haven't even gotten anywhere doing that). Staying in this rut has precluded so many possibilities, one of them being a life as a musician.

The point I make here is that the longer I stay in a lifestyle governed by these norms and accepted ways, the harder it becomes to break out and change your life in a fundamental way. You may compensate by launching onto themes that are finely nuanced to differentiate you from the rest of the herd but that is as far as you are going to get with this exclusivity. Even though this drive to be different and exclusive is not what drives the initial desire to be fundamentally different, this is the only resort available when you no longer are able to enrich your life in a fundamental way. This is why, I think, you see people in their 40s and 50s suddenly going berserk and going "out of their comfort zone" by going sky diving, buying a swanky new Porsche etc. What is the point of it all?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Category: IAmAlive

Following up on my last post, I am creating a new category of posts on this blog - "IAmAlive" - in this category, I plan to include posts on people that have seemingly broken out of their mold, turned their seemingly normal lives around and achieved something that is close to their heart.

Though I dislike self referential links, I present "The Torture Garden"

A bunch of Indian guys hook up with a few others online. Huh? where is the adventure in that you ask? Well, they are taking part in the 2009 edition of the Mongol Rally - 12,000 km, 16 countries, 6 weeks.

How about the Plymouth-Banjul challenge?

Feeling alive yet? More to follow.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

My mid life crisis

I wrote this post in a hurry. The sentences might seem rather long and my thought process rather choppy. Be warned. Proceed with low expectations on clarity of thought and expression.

I have, for some time now, been disillusioned with the road map of a normal life. You grow up doing the things most normal children do - you go to college with dreams of a successful career and comfortable life, you want to fulfill all your parental obligations and keep them happy. You try and reach higher for better colleges, better jobs, higher pay, better comforts etc. In my opinion, the ultimate worth of being a lead rat in this rat race is really nothing. Nada. Zip. You still, despite your best efforts, go through life much along the same lines as a lesser accomplished individual except that the degree of refinement in your life is higher.

Don't read this the wrong way - this is not to say that ambition is bad. In fact, I think it is the very essence of what makes us better individuals. People without any ambition are the worst offenders from the perspective of this post.

My point is that despite all the fruits of your ambition, your life is fundamentally no different and hence, no richer, texturally speaking, than a life confined and stifled by normalcy. Let me lay it out for y'all - this grand plan that governs just about everyone's life (including mine)

go to school-> (harder/faster/better routine) -> good college -> (continue to follow harder/faster/better routine) -> good high paying job -> higher studies (abroad) -> (you know the words - harder/faster/better) -> get into a job -> start worrying about immigration.

Meanwhile, your personal life follows this routine -
you hit 25 or something nearby -> you've already been dating or been in a few relationships -> look to get married -> get into this "save, save, save for your future" mentality -> get married (either because it's the right time or you've to fulfill parental obligations or your girlfriend/boyfriend is yanking your chain or maybe you really want to(!)) -> move into plush apartment -> furnish apartment with the latest and greatest that your combined salary can afford -> have elaborate parties, hob nob with sheeple and discuss politics and economics.

Aren't you already disgusted with the pointlessness of a life awash with the gray of boredom and accepted norms?

Depending on the green card situation, your job stability and the pressure from back home you (along with your spouse) decide to start a family. -> buy a house (this can take a long time and significant investment) -> deck up your house in the usual way - game room (with attendant giant screen TV), living room also with large flat screen TV, plush leather furniture etc etc -> pop babies -> green card approved (it could very well be that your green card is approved before you decide on a baby).

I hope you see where this is going - other individuals, whom you left on the wayside of accomplishment as you sped past them on wings of ambition, have, I'm sorry to say, a life that is darned similar to yours. In some cases, way better than yours.

Coming full circle, the ultimate worth of running this rat race? NOTHING. A life time of effort and sacrifice and yet, no sense of fulfillment, no real improvement in your sense of self worth.

Have you really thought of what makes you content in life? I am not talking about the happiness you get from taking that adventurous vacation or going sky diving or hand gliding or whatever is the current rage amongst sheeple trying to be different from the rest of the sheep and hence, exclusive. I am talking about happiness that can only come from being contented in and with life.

Most people over compensate for the abundance of boredom/discontentment/disillusionment that is a direct consequence of the stifling grip that a plain ol' vanilla life has on your life and future. I do too.

The following thoughts run quite tangentially to the point I was trying to make all this while.

Have you ever stopped and wondered what really separates you from a kid, any kid, growing up in a slum somewhere in the world? just pure chance. I'll repeat, just pure chance. I do not subscribe to the argument that one should be grateful for what one has and all that jazz. My point is more along the lines of what are you doing with it? Just living it as is? Just going through it with a mindlessness of a drone that wakes up periodically to the reality of its meaningless existence but by the sheer inertia of a lifetime of laziness, just sinks back to the torpor that has been the hallmark of its life?

The sheeple that most people are, end up pissing away their infinitely more valuable lives, one day at a time just by pursuing their fascination with self gratification through living life in the trenches of accepted norms. A normal life that guarantees them a secure, safe life peppered with episodes (often lengthy ones at that) of escapism when each tries to mold himself/herself into something exclusive in a vain attempt at being different from the herd. From what I've been told, being a normal sheep is highly over rated.

Some people are actually somewhat satisfied with their lives(!!!) and ever so often indulge themselves in some form of escapism to compensate for the boredom in their life. They feel renewed anew after an episode of escapism and feel like they can go through the drudgery they think is life for a little longer before they need another break. I think I am in this stage now. And if you are anything like me, this feels like exactly a drug habit - you need fixes faster than before and each with a bigger/better high than the last. You know where that story is going to end don't you?

Sigh! I sometimes find my cynicism too cynical.

But, my question is just this - What is the point of it all? Is there any? Is there meant to be any? Is terminal boredom a fact of life, a way of life even?

What does one have to do to BE alive? to FEEL alive?