Friday, August 28, 2009

Thinking on my feet

Warning: A lot of retrospection and useless information (that is not fun or funny) coming up.

For the past 3 weeks I've been running 5-6 days a week. I seem to need no motivation. I seem not to be tempted to skip a day. At 7pm every day, I don my shoes, grab my trusty iPhone and am off. I've discovered that running for me is full of lucid moments.

Here are some of my thoughts crystallized from recent runs...

At all points in time I need a goal, a plan and measurable results. This is my OCD. At the same time, it is my crutch. It has thus far been the panacea to all my woes- personal, academic, professional,
emotional, you name it. The pre-2007 posts in this blog, with their color coded excel grids and constant progress reports of my b-school applications, will attest my claim. You could say I overanalyze and that I do not know how to "go with the flow". You will be right, of course. But I have unshakable faith in my three pronged defense mechanism. For I've turned even the most uncertain phases of my life into saner, manageable times by breaking my life up into goals, plans and results.

It's been a little over three months since I graduated and I have no idea what I will be doing next. As I try to take stock of my situation I realize that I'm no novice to professional uncertainty. In fact my post-MBA days are merely a deja vu of my post-undergrad days. In my final year of college I gave up the job I got on campus because I decided I did not want to work for that firm. I voluntarily signed up for six months of being clueless about what I will be doing next. You could say I was 20 and didn't know what I was doing. You could say I somehow found the strength to veer away from compromise. Whatever be the case, I turned out fine. Then I did not want to stay in a technical job for too long. It took me three years of focus- the first two spent simply aspiring and patiently waiting followed by one year of micro-planning and executing, before I was admitted to the MBA program of my choice. During my MBA, it took me four months of grueling effort to get the internship I dreamed of. The odds were completely against me. The world of Finance was crumbling under recessionary forces. I was a career switcher and amongst the youngest students in my class. You could say I was 25 and cocky. You could say I somehow found the strength to stick to my guns. Whatever be the case, I got what I wanted.

Beware, this is hindsight painting a rosy picture of the bygones. When I was actually going through each of these episodes it felt like the end of the world, every time. It felt like I was forever swimming upstream. But swim, I did and still do tirelessly. Maybe I have to do it the hard way every time. Maybe I have to learn the same lessons in patience and perseverance to cross every milestone of life. I simply will have to find the strength. But as long as I
have a goal and a plan that I'm implementing diligently and hopefully, the results should come by sooner or later.

Such is the nature of things I think about when I run. Which brings me to the question- Why do I run?

I run
to sweat out my futile tears. I run to let out the anger I sometimes feel at the aberrant world. I run to be alone. I run to ward off inertia. I run to savor the impatience of one foot to get ahead of the other. I run for the silly pleasure of a fellow runner's wheezing smile. I run for the tiny success of beating my 9.5 minute mile with a 9 minute mile. I run for that unmistakably measurable progress. I run to overcome my fears that are, those that have been and others that are to be. If nothing else, I run to have the breeze in my hair.

Until next time....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Onslaught of the short hair fetish movement

I recently chopped off my hair to a third of its length. I did it purely to cut in half the time I spend tending to my hair and vacuuming my house. My friends from all over the globe were naturally curious to see how the new me looked. My friends were (naturally) primarily of the male gender, at least the ones that wanted to see a picture. I dutifully sent one out. My inadvertent findings owing to this innocent, well-meant act of mine are startling. I got a bunch of comments. Most were something to the effect of :

"Oh! Didn't realize you had a long face. That's a compliment, take it from me" What a stunning discovery after all these years!

"Hey! Your nose looks sharper." My dream come true. Thank you.

"Well, if I've not mentioned this before... you look really young." Should I swoon now?

"Hey, heard about your cool hair style. Where did you get it done?" The only sensible question. It came from a girl, of course.

"You do know I've always been into girls with short hair, don't you? " Ahem. Ahem.

My! My! What do I say about such a deceptive reality? I always wondered what is it that men saw in long silken tresses, soft bouncy curls and make- believe waves. I thought maybe they liked the distraction, something to to hold on to, you know? But was it a waste, the hours I spent on scrunching and smoothing and curling and brushing? Did the males of the world go and get themselves a taste upgrade? Or do I hang out with too many utilitarian geeks? If only I'd known that the success formula lay all along in showing the nape of my neck. Sigh...

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Week" is my new unit of time

These days I'm often reminded of the summer holidays of my childhood. I would behave like every day was the last day of the holidays. I would spend every hour of daylight on the roads, playing cricket and hide and seek with the boys. Or riding my bicycle till my legs were ready to fall off. The rest of the time I squandered away reading volumes and volumes of novels and comics. I could not sleep because I was afraid that the holidays will end before I did all that I wanted to. Invariably, the holidays were over too soon. With a heavy heart I would postpone my plans to the following summer.

I cannot help but compare. Now there is no school threatening to start next month, I have no place to be or deadlines to keep. This is the indefinite holiday, at least theoretically, that I always wanted. You would think I would slow down and savor such rare leisure. No! Not me. Time hurtles past at a manic pace, jumping one week at a time. Monday becomes Sunday within a blink of an eye. And I have a compulsive need to account for my time with a rapidly shrinking reading list of books, my overflowing browsing history of interesting nooks in the internet, a steadily increasing stamina for running and the rate at which I'm filling up my blogs.

What is this queer sense of urgency? Why this obsessive need to be busy? What is it that prevents people from enjoying an occasional slow phase of life? Why can't we just be? Is it the sudden absence of the travails of the corporate race that makes us grapple with the unfamiliar lull? Maybe we need tangibly productive items to check off on our mental time sheets. Or is it a fear of drifting a little far or for a little too long?

Whatever be the rationale, week after week I establish milestones and check points and pseudo-deliverables for myself. Maybe because I know no other way but to mercilessly tire myself to sleep, night after inevitable night...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Profundity in a garage closet

Today I was looking for a new bottle of mouthwash and recoiled from my chance discovery. I found 2 extra large bottles of Listerine, a pack of 8 toothbrushes, a 16 roll pack of toilet paper, 500 diapers and extra large packets of several other things. No I don't suffer from chronically bad breath or from perpetual diarrhea. I don't have a baby either. I am at my uncle's house and these were the contents of his family's storage closets.

The giant packets boomed "These people are not going anywhere!" They are not indeed. My uncle and his family have lived in the same city for eleven years and in the same house for seven. This seems like an unrealistic amount of time to me. Justifiably so, given that I've lived the life of a nomad for the past five years and the fact that I can fit my entire life in 3 not too large suitcases. I'm still not sure what is more incredulous to me- the stability of their lives or its complete absence in mine.

However, I don't seem to crave for stability, not the geographic kind for sure. When I was a child I always imagined myself living in Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta when I grew up. Then I wanted to live in many different countries when I grew up. When I was an adolescent I could never comprehend how people could "resign" themselves to spending the rest of their life with a single person. What if they get bored, I used to wonder. People say I'm a grown-up now. I still have no clue what or where I want to be "eventually". All I know is I want to be right here, doing what I'm doing right now. These days I
occasionally stop to wonder where I'm going or whether I'm going anywhere at all. But I certainly don't long for the kind of stability that makes me shop in Costco for a year's supply of everything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On the wrong side of 25

Yesterday I was filling out a health insurance application where I had to choose my age from the following bands: 0-17, 18, 19-25, 26-29 and so on. I just got bumped up a band! I've been 26 for a while now, but it was still oddly depressing to be so brutally confronted by reality. When I stopped obsessing about the number, the implications of it suddenly dawned on me. To be more precise, two little words popped into my mind- Money and Marriage.

Let's talk about money first. There was a time, not too long ago, when my bank balance went from five figures to zero every single month. Something like a rectified decreasing sawtooth graph:

Although my upbringing suggests no folly on my parents' part, I have grown into someone who puts most expenses to a simple test- "Does it pinch my pocket?" If the answer is no, I spend. If the answer is yes, I don't. The result? I bought most things that caught my eye giving not a thought to tomorrow. Sometimes I feel I picked up a $150,000 education with the same insouciance. I'm not too sure if my binary logic will work any longer, especially given my swelling student loan, all the trips I want to send my parents on, the house I need to buy and other impossible promises I've made myself and my friends. I even checked up on my mutual fund investments in India. Their abysmal values only increased my urgent zeal for financial prudence.
It's incongruous that moving up an age band should make me grow up so much. Well I guess it is not such a bad idea to put away something for an impulse African safari, or A's $35,000 lens fantasy, or the day my birth control fails.

Now that brings us to the burning question of marriage. The excessive amount of time I spent with my parents recently served to confirm what I've always known at some level. They will not be the ones to find me a husband. They are pretty unconventional and liberal for Indian parents. But the real reason is their reluctance to take such a heavy risk, knowing their daughter. This means I will have to fend for myself. That's not so much of a problem. Let's suppose I follow Rachel's 30th birthday plan in F.R.I.E.N.D.S where she wants a year and a half to plan the wedding and know the guy for a year or so before getting engaged. Uh oh! If I plug in my own numbers into that plan, I should be with THE guy and planning the wedding already. That's the point when I reached my threshold for seriousness and grown up thought.

Why do I have a sinking feeling that 26-29 is not going to be too different from 16-19?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back and Blogging!

I relegated this space to cyber-oblivion for more than a year and a half, which is most of my time at Wharton. It was not a hiatus I planned. In fact, it might have been great if I blogged through business school like Iday (Oh yeah! For those of you who know us from application days, we are still the best of friends). But I guess I've always been a private person hiding behind a veil of vivaciousness. A veil, that held me back from writing about the events in the soap opera that was my life in the past two years. However, I continued to write on two other blogs I own. Come to think of it, I almost feel like I have a personality disorder that mandates me to keep the different parts of my life in perfectly segregated compartments.

To begin at the beginning (of my absence), Wharton was great! Business school was everything they make it out to be- transformational, enriching, reformative, a personal renaissance of sorts. I'm rather happy to declare that I did exactly what I wanted to in the last two years. I took the courses I liked and made friends with some really smart people who I learned a lot from. I struggled for four long months to find the perfect internship and loved the experience. It shaped what I'm looking for in my career. Outside the classroom,
I was decadent. I took the opportunity to do a lot of things I always wanted to do. I traveled like it was my last chance to travel. I did a cross country road trip across the US, three trips to India/Asia, one to Peru and was out every weekend exploring new places on the East Coast. I also wrote a lot. The only thing that kind of suffered was my reading which is back on track now. On the personal front, to quote a cliche that sounds kind of wise, "I learned a lot about myself." No, I'm not sarcastic. I really did. To round it all off, notwithstanding many moments of doubt and despair, I graduated.

True to this blog's title, I find myself in between dreams yet again. Three months after graduation, I'm entrenched in a job search. Nothing uncommon, given the times we live in. Although I must admit, my situation is a result of a combination of the recession, crazy personal life crises and an uncompromising ambition to get what I want. I did a Private Equity internship and I want a related job i.e. a job non-existent for me, given the glut of talent out there. So that's that. But I'm not giving up, not yet.

So as you can guess, I've lately had time on my hands which is a shocking contrast to my life at Wharton. My parents were here since May and I took them to visit a zillion places. That could be another reason I don't have a job yet. They got sick of me and all the travel and went back to India last week. Ever since, I've been itching for things to do. So here I am back and blogging. However I'm not sure what I will write about. I remember the days when I was applying to b-school. I thought about what to write in my essays when I was running in the gym. Maybe now I can write about the stuff I think about when I'm running. Yes, I've come full circle! I guess I'll go wherever my pen takes me...