Remembering the last couple of months before my graduation, I remember the mindset that was forced onto me by variuos external factors: family, friends and distant relatives/acquaintances, the overarching goal to immediately get a job. For the following consecutive family/friend/relative gatherings, reunions or dinners we would have after graduation, there was the dynamics of cooking food together, sharing life stories and the latest escapades Uncle John had coming back from his trip from a dilute village in France or some other European country. And the most important of all, the dreaded conversations on the dinner table (or standing up with a cold beer on your right hand) “have you got a job yet?” This question was a catalyst, for a make or break point for many graduates in an era of unemployment and competition although I bravely answered (with shame I may have to add now speaking from my current self 5 years later), “No Uncle John, although I am volunteering at the moment” or ” I have been having interviews lately but nothing concrete” or “I would like to give you the gift of an Oxford Dictionary Uncle John, you asked me that question yesterday; what makes you think a 12 hour difference would make?” Ok, maybe the last question was not said out loud.
At the time, all I knew that had to be done was what was the most prevailing force in my immediate environment was. Some months later, I got a job. Uncle John was “happy”. The me at that time was also ecstatic – the loops the job market make you jump was surely not the same open ended loops one might think comparing the state of things economically and politically in London focusing on the last 10 years at the time – so between 2002-2012 back then. Therefore, one can imagine the incredible feelings getting a job brought – that eureka and fist-pumps moments. But this was a different sense of happy. It was happiness as in; “phew I can finally avoid those dreaded awkward conversations about what are you doing now” which might I add with a sense of awkward suspicious smug feelings of “I now have a job” as I look for Uncle John in my vicinity in the following meetings we had in the next 5 years. It turns out I was made to feel anxious and petty for nothing. I haven’t seen Uncle John much since and in our irregular accidental encounters – he would look at me so awkwardly and just shy away from talking to me. They were looks that make you feel great about yourself because you see through the guilt in their remorseful (debatable) eyes. Probably for making unhelpful criticisms on your most vulnerable moment of life – that instead of being supportive they were being judgmental and the complete opposite. Uncle John is an embodiment of what can be damaging and wrong to society or influencing motivations of people – he is a group of people, a feeling, a concept.
The surrounding issues revolving around the idea of job satisfaction and doing something you love in the millennial generation are not the experiences I had gone through: “getting a job for the sake of getting a job” or fear of criticism although the idea behind developing your passion for a job once you actually do them should also be taken into account here. A famous quote I always like to bring into these kinds of conversations is “find a job you like and you’ll never work again” by Confucius. Unfortunately, 5 years back I was not able to pursue this mindset – firstly, I was not brave enough to stand up against what I really wanted to do (before graduation I wanted to write a novel, learn the guitar, learn a new language, take a breather before I embark on my next journey) secondly, though I had some preconceived plans of what I wanted to do after graduation I lacked the resources I need to carry out such tasks and activities and finally, the collective consensus for the principle of sensible living in westernized cultures values the need for individuals to be practical and realistic – after all, you have bills to pay, loan to manage, and other financial commitments; for people of working class backgrounds these may entirely be the case and any room for creativity would have been devoured in night-marish dreams of “I can’t afford to pursue my dreams” and “I have to be able to sustain myself and gather up all the resources I need before I can focus on my projects”. The sad reality of attaining the “American Dream” or the “9-5 work life balance” is that (unless you already are doing something you love) you are just transferring from a smaller cell to a relatively bigger one under a fantasy hallucination of a better life. Yes, the irony.
Without going off further away from the tangent and taking into account this history as hindsight, what does it feel like doing a project while fully employed? The answer is a resounding subjectiveness. Not long ago I read a blog post about a software developer working for Microsoft who had quitted his job to pursue a startup. Much of his experiences was familiar to me as I am in the same position as he once was (link to his article can be found from the beginning of this post). I quote:
When my friends and family came to know about this decision, they would say with a knowing smile on their faces, “You must have something up your sleeve – do you already have funding? Is the product ready to be released?”. Some other concerned friends asked me whether I was doing a startup for the right reasons. Apparently some right reasons are – wanting to change the world, scratch a personal itch. One wrong reason is – wanting to do a startup. This ushered in a period of severe self-doubt – none of these things were true for me. I did not have funding, heck I did not even have a product definition. And I sure am not the “change the world – lets put a dent in the universe” type.
The truth is, finding that work/life balance can be daunting at times whilst employed on a full time job. Most of my working days I would get back home feeling tired and drained – I would have very little energy or interest in doing my personal projects. So for me it is challenging. I honestly don’t have time. However, there were days that I was picking up momentum as a by-product produced by a repetitive work schedule and in these periods of time I would be motivated to be productive. Hence, I was able to create and maintain this website. Finding that base that keeps all your other projects, plans and projects is important because its easy to lose sight of where you left off – its always good to have something to come back to to remind you of your goal. For me its this website.