An explanation that no one asked for

I wrote about how I may just be lazy yesterday and my weird identity crisis. At the end of the day, I saw multiple shares on this article by Anurag Behar which talks about making a transition into the social sector.

I felt strangely terrified and guilty even though I knew for a fact that he wouldn’t have read my blog or any such thing. But the fear and guilt mixed made me think of what is it that bothered me so much.

I agree with pretty much everything he has written. I have met enough people who think they are “martyring” themselves when they decide to move from corporate to social world and think they are a gift to society simply by making this choice. I have also had people think I moved from a MNC to the Teach for India Fellowship because I wanted a “break” or wanted to take things slow. This of course cannot be more wrong considering I worked more in the two years of Fellowship than I ever did before! But it is hard to convince anyone about it because teaching is seen as a 9 – 3 sort of job and generally followed by “what do you do after school anyway, you must be so free…”

My decision to not continue teaching was clearly linked to the scale of impact I wanted to bring and the preoccupations that the he suggests in his article are something even I am weary of because despite my short stint on ground I realise that none of the problems in development and education are uni-dimensional.

Then what was it that was bothering me…it were these lines:

“The second is those who say that they want to move to the social sector because they have had enough of the intensity of the world of business, and they want a better work-life balance, that is, something less intense. Trying to change the world is less intense than selling soap or structured investment products, is it?”

After writing what I wrote yesterday, I read this article and felt so very guilty. My inner voice accused me of being shallow and reminded me of the scale of the problem and how I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.

In my three years in the corporate world, I loved my job but I was also hugely driven by fear. On a stand alone basis, I have always been that hardworking kid who would study with the same intensity for a 5 marks test or the board exam. I do not know how to distinguish level of effort as input. Combined with this was the fact that I was led by two terrifying people who were simply bullies. This meant that I had no time to invest in my personal life whatsoever. I used to wake up in sweat worrying about how sales wouldn’t have happened or the factory wouldn’t have sent the consignment of biscuits asked for.

In my two years in the Fellowship, I had the best experience of working independently and I saw that the sheer scale of problem made me work tirelessly. Once again I worked 14-16 hour days, 7 days a week but this time for a better reason and without fear.

Now, I am on a forced break and it has given me some time to think. I decided that in order to enjoy all aspects of my life, I couldn’t afford to run myself down over and over again. Meanwhile, I chose to stay in the education and development sector because I wanted to bring change and I know the best minds are needed to bring about transformation. I wanted to be a part of this.

The two lines of thought are mutually exclusive. Of course, I understand that changing the world is more intense than selling soaps. I am not saying I want a job that runs on cruise control i.e a 9-5 job. But to lead an inspired or engaged life, I believe I need happiness and I believe my happiness lies in being able to bring about change AND doing the other stuff I like. I do not think it needs to be either this or that. I am going to try and feel less guilty about it. It will be an effort, but when have we ever moved away from that 🙂

I know no one especially Anurag Behar asked for this justification or explanation but I feel forced to offer one anyway.

Thank you for hearing me out! It was truly cathartic.

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