Last week, I realised that seven years had passed since I graduated from college. Immediately, I asked myself a question. What have I done so far and where do I stand? It is a question that deserves an honest answer. I owe it to myself and the few people who have rooted for me all these days.
I thought hard about the answer. Then I wrote a few paragraphs. I wondered if the answer should be put on my blog. I hesitated for a few days before deciding to publish this post. It’s a story worth telling.
Phase 1: Understanding the real world. (2014-2017)
I had sailed through my placement process and got into a well-known truck maker (Daimler). I was all set to live in a new city (Chennai). I had no clue about life outside home, school and college. Living in a new city and starting a new job made me understand how to live on my own. Renting a place, cooking and reading widened my experiences. This phase helped me develop essential life skills. It was not easy. I sucked at basic things like small talk. It was hard to bond with teammates and older employees at the workplace.
I must say that I had a pretty good job and I was doing ok. Most of my weekends were spent on movies or Carnatic concerts. I managed to attend a literature fest and many theatre events during this period.
Amidst this flood of new experiences, I spent a considerable amount of time exploring the dating world. I dated some interesting girls in Chennai. There were a few hits and many misses in this domain. In retrospect, I realise how terrible I was in the dating game.
Inspite of my carefree fun life, I wanted more. This led to a lot of ‘activity’ in my free time. First, I enrolled to a writing course conducted by the author Anita Nair. It was a good exposure to the process of writing a book. I got into the process and wrote six chapters of the my ‘book’. However, I felt that it was a deeply personal story. I felt really uncomfortable with the idea of sharing it with the world. I dropped it.
Then I thought I could go to Germany and dive deeper into automobile engineering. I spent three months doing an A1 German course in Bengaluru (classes happened during weekends). However, I did not follow up on my applications further.
It was an era of half-hearted plans which never reached the point of completion. Something was going wrong. Or, I was unsure about the long term impact of these ‘plans’ that had been popping in my head. Probably, a mentor would have helped me achieve something more concrete. I was a naive guy searching for ‘meaning’ in my work. I constantly pondered over the impact of my career.
At some point, I realised that my job at Daimler would never help me fulfil my ambitions. I wrote GRE, applied for a few colleges and resigned from my job in Daimler in 2016. I left Chennai in a limbo. But I was relieved.
Phase 2: Experiments and Failures (2017-2019)
All my applications were rejected. In fact, I had applied to just three places (again, not a great idea). I did not understand what to do next. I could have done a MBA in India or MS from an average US university during this stage. But I didn’t find a very good reason to do it. Money alone wasn’t a good motivator to make these choices. Also, I had still not understood that money was an important factor in one’s life.
I searched for careers that would not only challenge me but also have a significant impact on the society. I had to test my assumptions and face failure.
Writing the Civil Service exam after quitting Daimler was not a planned decision. I went according to my gut feeling. I wrote the exam a couple of times. But I failed to clear the first step in the process. Once I realised it was not working I was brave enough to quit in 2018.
In the process of preparing for the civil services exam, I learnt a lot about sociology, history and economics. This process taught me about the inter-relationships between different ideas, subjects and concepts. Probably, all this knowledge will help someday. As Steve Jobs would say, ‘you can‘t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards‘.
Quitting the exam prep mode was easy. But finding a path to re-enter the job market was not. I did not have a wide supportive network of friends who could refer me to a job. In fact, I didn’t know what to do at that juncture. My NITK degree was the only ticket that could aid me in the process. And thankfully, it did.
I tried out a profession that I was passionate about : journalism. Though ‘journalism’ sounds sexy from the outside, I realised that it was rotten from the inside (and doesn’t pay well).
I spent nine months in this domain and worked for two right wing portals. The first one was OpIndia. OpIndia’s tone was too crass (it still is). I did not see myself in a long term association with such a publication.
Then I wrote to a much more respectable publication, Swarajya. They offered me an internship. But the pay was very low. If I wanted to do it, I would have to spend money from my own pocket.
By this time, I had spent most of my savings. I didn’t want to borrow money from my parents either. So, I decided to live in a pathetic PG. I suffered from bed bugs for the first time in my life! It was a traumatic experience. I walked from my room to Swarajya office everyday. My daily food budget was 100 rupees! I did this for six months!
Gradually, I realised that my writing ambitions were not being encouraged by the Swarajya management. There were times where I drowned into deep depression. I didn’t last long in this profession either. I needed a job with better pay. I started to hunt for one like a hungry predator.
Phase 3: Growth , enlightenment and clarity. (2019-2021)
Finally, I returned to a proper workplace. At 26, I joined BYJU’s as a ‘Content Trainee’. People younger than me were getting better pay in my team. I thought I would be some sort of an intellectual minion on my first day. But I was not. Within a month, I realised that I was far better than all other individuals in the team. Fortunately, my manager had drawn the same conclusion. He offered me a better role after the ‘trainee’ period ended.
Finally, I could afford better food and a better place to live. I enrolled to Yoga classes and enjoyed my job. To be honest, I am quite proud of the work I have done in BYJU’s over the last two years. Only a global pandemic could have disrupted my newfound enthusiasm for life.
In the last two years, I’ve realised my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve taken time to fix my problems and developed habits that can aid my growth. Finally, I’ve found clarity about what I want to do. l am confident that these new plans won’t fizzle out like my previous ones. Hopefully, I will be writing another post in 2028 listing how I capitalised on my growth and enlightenment during this period.