Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will – Nelson Mandela
I can’t put my finger on it. This lingering sense of disquiet, an emptiness, a longing.
Is it the waiting? “Waiting” is not my favorite status. Waiting patiently is excruciating. Waiting with no end in sight is almost impossible. That is exactly what I am doing right now. Waiting for a job, to be gainfully employed. To do meaningful work that also pays.
Is it the lack of a regular income? I like making my own money and have been self-sufficient financially from the time I left my parents home. Money represents value for my time and skills. Money helps pay for mundane but necessary stuff – DQ’s college tuition, HH’s birthday present, travel and bling.
Is it because I am unemployed? Work gives me a focus for my attention, an outlet for my energy and the opportunity to complete a job to my satisfaction. I meet people, I contribute to something outside of my little world and I find balance in the multiple personas that I juggle.
Is it because I have to list my occupation as “housewife”? Although my own mother was happy to be one, I always knew that my work would distinguish me from her and so many others. Housewife indicates an area of specialization on the home front, a level of expertise which I am sure I will never acquire even if I spend more years with the title.
Is it a consequence of spending so much time at home? I appreciate the rewards of solitude but not the hours spent in solitary confinement as most weekdays seem to be. I turn on the TV during lunch just to have voices around me, how depressing!
A critical ingredient that completes the recipe of my life is missing, something small and insignificant by itself, like salt, but one that adds flavor and zest to everything else.
If I seem to be bitching about the life of privilege I am currently leading, I agree. Sometimes I feel I am being unnecessarily grumpy about a phase which I know will pass like all the ones before this one.
I find myself unhappy when I am a human “being”. I would much rather be a human “doing”. I prefer to be actively pursuing something, moving towards a tangible goal, not necessarily a material one. Striving for something, self-improvement, personal development or whatever you call it, seems to be a worthy way of living. Passive existence is lame, as a teenager may label it. If I look back at my life, there have been times of intense activity followed by a period of dormancy. Not of my choice but brought about by circumstances. How often have I waited for an event, a milestone, like a child on Christmas morning, piling all my hopes on it? And how many times have I learnt (in retrospect of course) that the very same object of my fascination becomes superfluous, a burden even, inciting a reverse activity of sorts, to change things again?
There was that time when I waited impatiently for my green card. I thought it would solve all my problems. It made life a little bit easier for a few years once I got it. But a few years later, I found myself turning it in to the officer at the US consulate in India who accepted it wordlessly. The green card no longer served any purpose for the life I was living. My life got simpler without it.
About a decade back, I left my lucrative job in San Francisco, confident of taking a well-deserved break after the move back to India. I didn’t have a job. I was in a new city with no friends, no income, no specific goal. It was a painful wait. One day I landed a great job and the life of leisure I had envisioned soon morphed into an overwhelming work life remarkably similar to the one that I had left behind in another continent. I resigned from that job after a few years, choosing to make my own way, not employed by a giant corporate but being my own boss, the much-anticipated job cast aside easily.
As I look at career options in Singapore, exasperated by the lack of opportunities, I fret, I clam up, I vent my pent-up frustration. It’s not just about the money. It’s the lack of prospects. A part of me knows that what I yearn for now will be just another episode in the drama of my life. I need the structure and support of work that confers financial independence to the insecure me, the one who had once been left to fend for herself and her child. I need a physical space, a productive place where I interact with people and get rewarded for doing what I am good at.
Just as salt added to the food we eat unites the flavors, money is the key ingredient that gives a material dimension and a quantitative perspective to our work. A little is nice, just the right amount makes life easier but a whole lot more is neither necessary nor good.
So I wait – impatiently perhaps, while the next act unfolds, anxious for a honest day’s work.