Re-writing my life story
Written by
Mansi Bhatia
December 2010
Written by
Mansi Bhatia
December 2010

It was a gorgeous day in Santa Clara yesterday. Stark blue skies with wispy clouds thrown in for romance. A sun so bright, you could see its rays bounce off the golden leaves blanketing the sidewalks. The air so crisp, you could spread some Danish Blue cheese on it and enjoy it with a glass of Cabernet.

“It’s a crime to be locked up in the office on a day like this,” said a colleague.

I couldn’t agree more.

Since I’d already written my post about the tiring 9-5 routine earlier that morning, this comment triggered an even stronger urge to question my reason for being here … for compromising with an un-ideal situation … for sticking to the comfort of everyday monotony.

I could be home, working on the book my husband keeps pestering me to spit out of my head. I could be making travel plans. I could be painting – a passion I let go of when I “grew up.” I could be swimming, taking long walks, learning photography.

I could be doing so many things – things that I’ve never had time for. Things that seem so tempting and “fulfilling” from this desk.

When you write about how you’d like to travel, to meet new people, I think these are merely goals that all of us have in our lives of ‘things we want to do’. But I think for many of us it’s not what we see as our purpose, of what we want to put out there into the world. While I’m sure travelling would be memorable, fun, informative and enlightening, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few months later you find yourself back in this pit of discontent because all you did was divert yourself from pondering the question – what is the purpose behind what you want to do?

I didn’t have an instant answer to his probing question.

But I chewed on it last evening … and some more in the middle of the night when it kept coming back to haunt me.

What do I want to do that will make feel truly “fulfilled?” I have a vague idea … but unless I try it out, I won’t know for sure.

We might come up with a purpose that, assisted by our passion for something, helps us define our life … give some meaning to our existence. But how do we know it is the purpose that will sustain us?

In his post, How to Transform Passion into Purpose, Tanveer says:
For while passion might stir our emotions and get us seeing our jobs as the best ever, it doesn’t have the power to sustain us through those less pleasant moments; to make us want to stick it through and become the model of success that we want to be.

It’s all about doing something you love.

Gail Sheehy an American journalist, lecturer and the author of 16 books, including the revolutionary “Passages,” which remained on The New York Times bestsellers list for three years, asks “What activity do you do where time goes by without your even knowing it?" She calls it the “Time Flies Test.”

I’m sure playing Angry Birds for hours on end qualifies given that parameter, but jokes aside, what is it that gives you utmost peace … what can you immerse yourself in day in an day out and derive so much pleasure from it that you become oblivious to everything else?

Not all of us are at that stage in our lives where we’ve necessarily done something that gave us this feeling of complete and utter contentment. And some might argue that no matter how much you love something, doing anything repeatedly over time will cause some amount of monotony to set in. I say that’s why we have the concept of vacations. You do something you love for a while … take a break … and want to come back and do it again!

So, what is it that I think I’d love doing for a lifetime? What do I think gives me a sense of purpose?

I am not a doctor or a nurse, so I can’t derive that feeling of having made a “real” difference in someone’s life. All I have is the ability to write.

I enjoy telling people’s stories. I love sharing them with the world. I revel in crafting prose that triggers conversations and may, sometimes, even lead to action.

While traveling may seem like one of those things on everyone’s list before they die, for me it holds a different meaning.

I don’t want to be a passerby or visit different countries so I can update my World map with placemarks. I don't want to write for a travel magazine as Pat suggested, even though it might pay some bills.

I want to stay put, live like a local for a couple of months, find out the challenges unique to their community, savor the foods they eat, celebrate some of their festivals, find out what makes them and the place they live in so different from the rest of the world … and yet so similar.

I want to publish an anthology of what makes each one of us uniquely alike.

It’s my way of paying tribute to our hardy, yet frail, species.

And while my husband wholeheartedly supports the idea of my quitting my job for something I truly love doing, I am not so sure I have earned my due. I mean literally -- in terms of money.

For as long as I can remember, the idea of being financially independent was drilled into me by my mom. “Nobody values you if you don’t earn your own living,” Ma used to say.

Yes, I know that my husband appreciates the person I am, and encourages me at every step to be the person I want to be, but I still cannot come to terms with the idea that I will be completely dependent on him once I leave this 9-5.

Perhaps, I can devise an intermediary income-generation mode. Perhaps, I can freelance again. Perhaps, this dream doesn’t need to die in its infancy after all.

This isn’t just a post-vacation reactionary idea as anon1 pointed out in his comment:
...several of us have questioned status quo at some point in our lives (usually right after a long vacation ;-)), but a majority falls back into routine pretty darn quickly… Do not underestimate the power of inertia.

And I know this isn’t a stream of thought that will be suffocated by indolence. If anything, the fact that I am taking the time and making the effort to introspect publicly and rally some support, will spur me on the path to “freedom.”

I want to be able to taste glorious sunsets – and it can’t be done from behind the double-paned glass windows in my office.

Thank you, all, for your words of encouragement and wisdom.

My life story is at the precipice of being re-written.

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