‘You’re so competitive, you’ll be great in the corporate world’
‘You have a degree from LUMS, companies would love to have you on board’
‘You’re a smart girl, you’d fit right in’
Just when you’re about to graduate and you hear such obnoxious and superficial comments about your career trajectory, you’re bound to get a little self absorbed and somewhat delusional. So, you can’t really blame me when I daydreamed about being this immaculately dressed, heels clad, and briefcase adorning executive, making some kickass comments at a board meeting.
Come graduation and a surprisingly quick wedding afterwards, here I was sitting for my interview at a big multi-national company. Unsurprisingly (excuse the pompousness), the interview went quite well and I was shortly offered a job and this unbelievably high salary.
And I was literally screaming to myself,
‘I love my life!’
I’d be lying to you if I said that my job wasn’t all that I ever wanted. It allowed me tonetwork with senior executives, work on key projects, arrange company wide events and even travel. Who doesn’t love to travel and get paid for it, right?
But as these exciting days rolled into mundane months, I felt like something was amiss. To the world, I was supremely lucky and profoundly blessed. To me, I was this constantly stressed person, struggling to outshine others and myself, each day, every day.
The money, as remarkably a lot as it was, never seemed enough. Every moment felt like a competition with colossal ramifications and I didn’t know how long I could hold on or even wanted to, for that matter.
Well I guess I wasn’t as cut out for the corporate world as people thought I would be, as I hoped I would be.
I suppose this is the reason that when my daughter was born, I decided not to go back. I knew I couldn’t balance a kid and a job, especially a job I wasn’t passionate about anymore. This was by far one of the toughest decisions especially when the entire world kept telling me that I was making a mistake.
I know they all meant well, when they said:
‘Please, don’t waste your education’
‘People would kill to be in your place, don’t be so ungrateful.’
‘You’ll eventually get so bored and yearn for all of this again’
However, what they all didn’t understand is that my decision to leave a highly lucrative job wasn’t whimsical. It didn’t make me a failure or a disappointment.
On the contrary, I believe that it requires immense courage and will power to walk away from what the society thought was in my best interests and what I personally did value at one point in my life: money, admiration and even envy by others.
When I finally had all of these, I didn’t get a feeling of elation or a sense of achievement; rather I kept craving for more and more. And I knew there was no end to it, unless I put an end to it myself.
Today, three years down the line, I’m working with an NPO called Let’s Awake, which aims to give out of school, working children another chance at education and hopefully better future living standards.
What drove me to their cause was the realization that while my prestigious education could land me a job at most top companies, there were millions of children without even access to a proper school. While I had the luxury to pursue my passions without any monetary considerations, these children did not even have a choice.
I am still as competitive as ever (some habits die hard), but somehow this desire to compete and excel seems to be worth the effort now. I still crave for admiration and a sense of validation but this desire is more humbling this time.
I am neither negating the value of money nor belittling career-oriented individuals.
All I seek to highlight is that it is unfortunate that our society equates financial growth with success and fancy jobs with respect.
Undoubtedly, these aspects might offer contentment to some people, but these should not be translated into universal parameters of judging someone’s happiness, success and right to respect.
Rather than constantly scrutinizing one another on our life choices, we need to make an effort to understand and support each other. Each of us deserves admiration and respect for choosing to do what we believe in.
I’ve come a long way and I’ve grown to accept that I am not what I once envisioned myself to be. Today, I feel that I am no less successful than that ideal woman who has striven hard to get to the top of corporate ladder and who does make ‘kickass comments in board meetings’.
I hope the society gets this too some day.