As a child, when people asked me what I would be when I grew up, I used to say I would be a detective or a scientist… or simply, a million other things. I could be anything I wished to be. If you thought you needed a PHD to become a scientist, I’d have proved you wrong then; all I needed was a white lab coat. And if you thought you needed superpowers to become a superhero, I’d have given you a ‘meh!’; all I needed was a towel that I tied around my neck like a cape.
Then, life happened, time passed, and I grew up.
Before I dive in deeper, let me tell you — if you do not believe in destiny, you have to come to India and witness it.
And I was on the path that was dictated by my destiny, the same path that was a part of every other Indian’s destiny — to become an engineer (more technically, to simply graduate with an engineering degree).
Initially, I did not have a problem with it. I liked to score well. I liked to be the bookish smart guy. I studied well, worked hard and got myself into a reputed university. But, things changed once I joined the undergraduate course. I stopped liking it by the end of the second year and started hating it by the beginning of the third year. But, I dragged my ass till the fourth year and somehow managed to land a software dev job too.
Life was mostly okay, I guess. I had fun a decent amount of the time. I did occasionally enjoy work as well, but that was not very common. But, I did have fun when I was not at work. Still, I spent about 40 hrs a week, at work that I was not really motivated to do.
Every now and then, I used to think how I’m stuck with the software industry. One day, I decided to take charge. I, enthusiastically, sat down to do some research into what else I can do. My options were — either study more Engineering or steer my way into an MBA. With all the paths leading me back to the corporate slavery, I couldn’t muster any more energy to sit, and fell down on my back, with my eyes open. Anyone who saw me that day would have said I was staring at the ceiling of my room, but believe me, you, my stare went much beyond the ceiling; I was staring into an absolute darkness that you’d find only beyond the event horizon. I was stuck. There was no hope.
I realised no one asked me, anymore, what I would be when I grow older — because I was already the thing that I was going to be, a corporate slave. I tried to find some defying examples, but in vain. All the elders I knew, they spent their life in the same career for about 40 years.
I meditated on why I hated the work I was doing, as much as I did. The only reason I could find was that I had no freedom. When I was a child and studying to get into Engineering, I still had the freedom(or the illusion of freedom, as some might argue) to become anything else I wanted. Now, I knew I was what I was and that I’d continue to be so forever.
As I was trying to fight back life, losing miserably, came Covid-19.
In the blink of an eye, our lives changed, in absolutely unexpected ways.
Suddenly, we couldn’t go out anymore. We had to cook our own food and wash the utensils.
But, I was more than willing to look at things from the glass-half-full perspective.
So, for me, on the bright side, I didn’t have to go out anymore(I am not one of those people who breathe in social interaction instead of oxygen, and I hated going to office).
I had an excuse to give to my parents why I grew my hair so long.
So, I was naturally having some fun.
After the lockdown lifted(WFH still continues), I moved back in with my parents in my hometown.
My dad was pretty much shocked with my routine — sleeping late, not working out, always in front of the laptop. He tried to talk me into changing it, which I desperately needed as well as wanted to do.
Now, there’s one thing about habits. It’s difficult to change them in the same setting. Just logic is not good enough to beat them, when the triggers are all still there enticing you to fall back into the same eternal loop.
But, it’s equally easy to change them and develop new ones if the setting’s changed, if you do not have the old triggers anymore, unless you mess up once again, without an ounce of willpower and create new triggers around those old habits.
So, here was a chance that was given to me by the Gods. I was with my parents and I could go back to those triggers that had kept me a disciplined child in the past. I decided it’s the best time to beat status quo.
I started reading again.
I slept early and woke up early.
I started working out.
I stopped squandering my time sitting and spending it on useless entertainment.
I started writing.
I was trying out new things. I was taking the help of books like Ikigai and Atomic Habits, to help me build my new habits, to keep a steady progress. Many a time, I lost the battle of will, and gave in to my old habits, but I also developed a new habit, to push myself back into the track, to fight the battle until I win.
And as I kept learning, I stumbled upon Ido Portal’s Movement Culture. It’s one of the most motivating things I’d found in the last 5–6 years. It gave me a new perspective on movement and health(both physical and mental wellbeing). Now, I’m learning to be a mover.
And as I continued to learn, I recently got a thought back in my mind. I said to myself, “If I continue to learn and get better at this, maybe I’ll become a movement trainer”, the first time since the onset of my adulthood that I thought I could be anything I wanted, once again.
I do not know if this is simply a fad, or something that’s going to stick with me for life. But this pandemic proved to me that life can take turns beyond our expectations.
I’m not dreaded about how I am stuck in this career now.
Who knows — maybe I’ll become a standup comedian by my 30s, or a musician by my 40s, a fitness trainer by my 50s or maybe nothing at all. But, life’s not hopeless. There’s hope for change. Maybe I’ll end up being a software developer forever, but I do not hate it anymore. It’s not so bad a life as long as I have the hope to be what I want to be, if and when I really want to be.