By Kanchan Gautam
As I am nearing my 30s, I find myself contemplating a lot about life accomplishments and what it means to be truly fulfilled and content with my life. This sort of crisis seem inevitable for anyone going through major life changes such as death, big move, divorce, pregnancy, birthdays, etc. Most people I have talked to have expressed similar dilemma and concern regarding where they are in their lives no matter what age; wondering if they are happy with what they have accomplished so far in life or if their career serves a bigger purpose than just to have financial security. At some point most of us start to wonder if we “sold out” on our childhood goals and dreams and if a younger version of ourselves would be proud of what we have become.
These life dilemmas seem to be part of life and growing up. Many social terms exist to explain this phenomenon. There are even movies and TV shows dedicated to mocking and portraying these moments for the purpose of entertainment. I think these are supposed to make us all feel better and think “I’m not alone, others go through with it too, and at least I didn’t get a hideous tattoo or do ridiculous amounts of drugs to fill the void or to find some answers”.
If we were to go outside and ask different individuals what makes someone accomplished, each of their answers would vary; some might say their education or what career field they are in or their salary or some might say family or even travel. A lot of our beliefs about life come from our families and how we were raised. As we grow up and make sense of the world on our own we realize we can have independent thoughts and beliefs from the ones we were raised with. However, many ideologies and opinions stick with us whether we want to or not, some of us struggle to override these social conventions and norms learned from childhood. For me personally this has always been a struggle, growing up in a family where one’s prosperity is measured by one’s profession, financial security and property ownership. I have always struggled to accept and embrace where I have been with my career, education and life in general. It is easy to undermine yourself according to other people’s beliefs. I have come to terms that my definition of success and happiness will never be the same as my family or anyone else for that matter. I think for me the hardest thing was accepting this without realizing it. I knew this when I was 19-20, but just recently I came to the realization that no matter what, some people are so rigid in their beliefs you will never please them with your accomplishments and success. Once I came to terms and accepted this, it was time for me to let go of my own hang-ups and start proactively living a life that I wanted to live.
For a long time with everything I did, I always kept my family on my mind wondering if they would be proud of this or that or happy with this decision or that. I have many family members, relatives, and even friends who probably don’t think much of what I have done so far in my life or accomplished, but then again they probably have their own ghosts they are trying to please somewhere in their head. All of us have accomplished many different milestones and as long as we are all living a vibrant and blissful life we should all be very proud of what we have become. Our reliance on other’s approval for happiness will only take us so far.
This past summer I experienced a big relocation that was unavoidable, at first this caused a lot of turmoil in my life. I had to move to an unfamiliar place across the country and turn down a raise/promotion and quit my job. Additionally, having people in my life bombard me with questions regarding job applications, career and my age made the whole transition tougher as it was forcing me to focus on all the negative aspects of such a big change rather than the positives. All this uncertainty brought out a lot of my insecurities and fear, I was angry and upset at my spouse for he was the reason for this relocation. After moving I struggled to come to gripes with being unemployed for fear of disappointing my family.
During all my free time as a newly unemployed person I have had a lot of time to reflect and I realized I had slowly started becoming one of those people: I wanted more money even though I was making a comfortable living, but truly unhappy with where I was working and my career. Yet I didn’t make any changes. I had stayed at a job where I wasn’t happy nor fulfilled with for over a year and in all honestly I probably would have not left for a long time due to the comfort of financial security and my family’s idea that it was a good “career move” if it hadn’t been for the relocation that forced me to quit.
Sometimes fear prevents us from moving on to better things or things we have always truly wanted for ourselves. I am learning now that living in a perpetual fear of disappointing others isn’t even half as bad as living a life you are disappointed for yourself. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the material and inane things and lose your inner voice. All of us can easily become overwhelmed and handicapped by fear and uncertainty of how our life is going to turn out if we make that plunge we have always wanted to. However holding on to something because of the fear of being portrayed as a failure to our family or society will just keep us from our happiness. I realized my frustration towards my spouse was misplaced and needless to say I felt awful for it.
So now here I am, slowly but surely I have learned to accept where I am and decided to embrace my FUN-employment regardless if I end up disappointing a few people along the way. Instead of jumping to another job right away I am taking this free time to really think about what direction I want my life to take and revisiting a few past hobbies. That’s another thing I have noticed is how many of us give up on our hobbies because we are stretched thin from work. These are things that give us not just joy, but really make our soul happy. So, I have once again found my love for running, painting and giving back by volunteering in the community. All these things have always been very therapeutic for me and it makes me sad to think I turned my back to them for so long.
Just recently with some persuasion from my significant other I decided to run my first half marathon and have started training for which I am extremely excited. Hopefully I will continue on and graduate to a full marathon and maybe a 30K or even a 50K one-day. In a long time, I am truly happy with the few things I accomplish in my daily life like the mileage I put on for my training or the new “art-work” I create (no matter how awful they are) or contributing to the organization I am volunteering for.
I still have my moments and days where my inner insecurities come to surface and I wonder who I am disappointing by living the way I am living. Slowly I am learning to push those insecurities and other people’s dogma out of my head and be free of guilt and judgments. Being human is already hard enough, the least I can do for myself is do what makes me happy.
*Share your thoughts. Have you been funemployed? Are you doing things you love? How do you handle disappointing others?