Where do you go when you’re done with the world, but the world is not done with you? The blessing of having a lot of life in your years is that you have a lot of life in your years. While others are playing it safe, treating life like the marathon that it is, I’m the one rushing from sprint to sprint knowing that the marathon could end quite unceremoniously at any moment.
The highs are frequent and exhausting, but so fulfilling. The lows creep up when you pause for a breath between the sprints and you notice that by comparison, you appear a tad crazy to those that are happy to be carried by the trickling current of complacency. Complacency always feels like a threat to me. It threatens to subdue my spirit in favour of a meaningless composure.
Composure is something that is obviously subjective, but also often misunderstood. For me, composure is a sense of quiet confidence and fulfilment about what I’m aware of, what I’m capable of, and what I want from a given moment. When those three things feel balanced, it becomes very difficult for anyone to disrupt that composed state. Of course this ruffles many feathers at times because sometimes people want you to look like you’re in disarray at the news of their challenges or drama.
The more grounded I find myself in a moment that demands a reaction, the more rational I find my response to be. For this reason I defend my personal space aggressively from such external interference that threatens to contaminate it with paranoia and entitlement. I found all of this coming to the fore more than ever in recent months, which resulted in me quitting my job in a corporate to finally pursue opportunities that I am passionate about.
What was important in my decision to quit was whether I was doing it because I felt compelled to, or because I wanted to. I’ve had previous run-ins with big egos in corporate settings that forced me to choose my sanity over my income, and each time my sanity was not for sale. Sanity in this case was not only my grasp on reality, but also my sense of dignity and authenticity. When either was threatened, it brought out a side of me that many found abrasive. The reason they found it abrasive was because they did not share my values and ideals. Before I realised this, I simply assumed them to be dishonest or insincere. Now that I’ve realised this, I simply judge them for not demanding more from themselves, but I refrain from correcting them.
This shift in engagement principles has been a significant change for me to embrace. When I embraced it, I realised that I was starting to compromise on the core of being me, and instead, I was starting to play the political games that make or break careers in the corporate world. That’s when the decision to exit became easy for me. It was no longer in response to a threat from colleagues, or from fear of being maligned or blamed for things out of my control. Instead, it was a solemn realisation that all the fight and passion that I have in me could be better spent in endeavours that had a chance of influencing the change that I wish to see in the world around me.
Emerging from a cocoon-like state in a protected environment and facing the world on your own terms is a daunting experience, especially when your responsibilities extend well beyond just your personal well being. I’ve seen so many feel bitterly entrapped in their jobs because of the responsibility that they have towards their families. I’ve also seen the same people grow distant and abrasive and entitled towards their families because of the self-imposed view that they are tied down to a job that they hate simply because they have responsibilities. That made their supposed sacrifices all the more meritorious, and any action or inaction that did not celebrate that sacrifice was seen as ingratitude. I couldn’t allow myself to get into that state.
Our perception of our options, I’ve discovered, are often informed by our ego. We fill ourselves with self-importance, and then use that self-importance to convince ourselves why we should not take risks. The risk aversion is not always related to the responsibilities that we have. Instead, it is related to our fear of failing at something other than what we are familiar with. When we hate what we’re familiar with, we find reason to defend our decision not to do something decisive about it, and often that defense is based on apportioning blame to others, or to circumstances because once again, it absolves us of the responsibility to act.
Where to from here? I don’t know. What I do know is that if I fail to recognise the value that I contributed to the corporate world over the last twenty odd years of my life, and if I fail to appreciate the re-usable skills that I acquired in that time, I’ll be looking for another hand-out job offer to keep me sane and relevant. My focus now is therefore on everything that I have proven myself to be capable of, and to find ways to apply that in a meaningful way to pursuits that are anything but conventional, while seeking to fulfil the conventional needs of those that don’t realise they have those needs yet.
It is a cryptic space, but not any more cryptic than life has been so far. The only reason we don’t recognise how cryptic life has been is because everyone was facing the same growing pains as we were. So there was collective comfort in knowing that we were not incompetent by ourselves. The cynic in me has returned, it seems. But this is a natural disposition that offers me insights into opportunities that would otherwise be hidden by the monotony of being normal. A return to myself is called for, and leaving a toxic environment on my terms was the first decisive step I needed to take to ensure that my life amounts to more than just a regular pay cheque from an unfulfilling job. There is relevance and significance to be earned outside of corporate. And that is where I’m heading with everything that I am.
Perhaps the world that I was done with, was in fact not the world at all.