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The Rat Race

Ah. The rat race. To quote of a mine “Screw the rat race.The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. This cant be life.” This was in the middle of a candid conversation with the said friend a while ago. On the surface everything seemed rosy. He had got a graduate job in his field of study after graduating from university a few years ago and he had been steadily employed ever since. But here he was telling me that he wasn’t happy working in an office all day with no opportunity to grow creatively.That already in his short working life the 9-5 routine was already starting to feel a bit mundane.That he felt he was caught up in the rat race.

What is the rat race? Right off the bat It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. As an analogy to modern city life the rat race echoes how some of us feel about our work. We sometimes feel like rats in a single maze expending a lot of effort running around, but ultimately achieve nothing either collectively or individually. An endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit.

With this rant about the rat race still echoing in my head I started to think about what success is , and proceeded to quiz some of my other mates as to what it meant to them. One friend described success for her as a comfortable place, where she can live the way she wants and be happy.This got me thinking about the relationship between success and happiness. Often I have had friends say “I’ll be happy when I find a job.” “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion.” “I’ll be happy when my thesis is finished.” In short they will be happy when they are successful in a given task.This raised the question , does being successful equal happiness ?The formula in this case seems clear: work harder, then you’ll be successful, then you’ll be happier, but is it?

A lot of justify our commitment in running the rat race under this guise of a pursuit of happiness. How many times have we all mouthed the following “I’m working my ass off now so I can be happy when…[fill in the blank with a six figure banking job, make a scientific breakthrough, get into law school, etc.].

Another colleagues definition of success though was more succinct. He said that for him success is having an honest monogamous relationship with millions of dollars which allows us the freedom to travel and explore. I think this is a definition of success that the media and society in general forces on us. As a result we measure success with the make of your car,size of your bank account, your house, level and quality of your education and neighbourhoods. When we attain all this material wealth everything looks good from the outside in but is this really success or are we working toward the idea of what we have been told success is?

For me this how I choose to define success for me. If you love your work and stay true to your beliefs in spite of what you are pressured to do around you, that is success. Success is speaking your truth, not denying yourself. Contentment and having a set point of peace at the center of your being, pure in love, where daily challenges are met with integrity and creativity. Happiness is the ultimate success.

The rat race often leaves us stressed with its constant structure, little or no free time, slaving away trying to get that promotion, but human interaction and casual ability to relax is missing. It’s very hard to find happiness when you are still caught up in the rat race. Some of us might even go on to justify the rat race by indicating that we are doing so we can provide for our loved ones. Here is the thing though. Providing that’s not love. Being there that’s way more important. On the flip side you cant really be “there” if you cant provide for your family. So the balance then must lie somewhere in the middle. Money will never buy happiness. At most it can just be a down payment that can make it easier for you to be happy. That being said I refuse to accept that the rat race is the answer.

A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are human beings. Let us reject the insidious pressures of society that continue blunt our critical faculties to all the happenings around us that results in us sacrificing our happiness.

Success should not just be financially measured but is about developing oneself into the person you are here to be. There should only be one success we aim for , to be able to spend your life in our own way.

The rat race might be the default setting most of us find ourselves in but even so we shouldn’t be to afraid to press that reset button. If you hate your job then think of it as jail. Take it as punishment for being scared to pursue your dreams. Do your time! Then work your way out of it. But be responsible. Whilst I m not advocating for people to quit their jobs , without a workable plan. There are alternatives. Case in point my father. He worked almost 25 years for the “man”. But finally had the courage to preset reset and venture out on his own and became an entrepreneur. Something by his own admission that has given him great satisfaction and less job related mental strain. For some it might not be that in you are in the wrong career, just might be time to stop working for the “man “and maybe be the organiser of the rat race. Having spent a lot of time in laboratories , I can tell you this.You would rather be the guy running the experiment than the lab rat.

The lasting effect of that rant my mate had about the rat race, is that it reminded me that it is important for each of us to define success for ourselves , aggressively pursue our passions and remain responsible while doing it.That we can’t live life for others, but only for ourselves. Success can never really be , if we forfeit our happiness in the process.

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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The curious case of the Writer who doesn’t write…

I have been meaning to get started on blogging seriously for the last six months or so. I have been procrastinating, the reasons for which are varied.Whatever inspiration and ideas I had just remained that.What I have done though during this time is read, compulsively.Which in a way was tantamount to being a voyeur as I have always considered myself a writer first.

I have always had the tendency of drifting and getting lost in my own thoughts.In my head I am always creating or revising a scene of some kind. I am writing or revising dialogue, constantly imagining how to verbalise emotions.I have always sort to deconstruct what I have read and always tried to give it my own voice or more appropriately put it my own words. This is not to be mistaken for being a butcher of sorts of other writers literally works, quite the contrary, I am a great admirer of writers who write in their own distinctive style.

Recently I came across an article by a fellow blogger entitled Black people read.But do they write? This struck a chord , and was to be the catalyst in a chain reaction the result of which was,me finally breaking away from the bondage of that wily old foe procrastination. By appealing to the Pan Africanist in me , it provided the just the push I needed to confront the dilemma I have been battling with for a while.That of being a writer who does not write .

Now in addressing this dilemma I will try and be concise, but somehow feel that is unlikely given its nature .The question I have grappled with is this. What is the degree to which a Writer can write as a hobby and be satisfied, without disrupting all other aspects of their life.?

To gain a better understanding of this I feel the need to give some back story. First, the present. I am a scientist by profession.For all but a dalliance that lasted a couple of years, I am and have always been a Writer who doesn’t write (credit to John Irving, who first articulated that very apt concept). How do I know I am a Writer? I love words .From an early age I have spent almost the entirety of my interstitial moments making up and reading stories.Every time I have read I have always had a quite admiration of the architects behind these stories and always felt inspired to express my own ideas in my own words.As for my stories some of them were terrible, some interesting, but all authentic and amusing to me in some way. It seems to be something my brain needs to do to relax and a platform to put together logically the random ideas that are always causing havoc in the space between my ears.

For a long time, perhaps even until my university years , I romantically viewed myself as an observer of life (versus a participator). In retrospect this was probably a protective mechanism. Still, I observed and I created and I lived vicariously through my own imagination. Oddly, I did have a social life, with friends, girlfriends and a lot of partying, so I was participating to a degree. State of mind, I guess.

I always believed I would eventually find a platform for my ideas and write more frequently but then my talents in math and science compelled me forward into a more stable career path. Very pragmatic of me I know .Interestingly enough though I remember the thrill I would get when I got a good grade in English class or got to be part of the debate team in high school. Something funnily enough that meant so much more to me than similar outcome in Biology or Statistics .

This is further highlighted by two particular incidences that happened just after I had completed high school.The first was my young brother informing me that my former English teacher had referenced some of my essays from my time in his class as an example to his current class.The second and more memorable was a conversation I had with the same English teacher, shortly before I left for university.He expressed surprise when I told him I was going to major in Biotechnology at university , he responded, “I assumed you would be an English major,” and in that brief moment I flirted with that idea.I remember thinking to myself really? me?.Needless to say, the idea of being an English major at the time seemed to terrifying and intimidating.

So I stuck with my original plan and went all the way with it.I must add as a side note that my career advisor telling me Biotechnology was the future and one of the fastest growing areas of science and that lasting image of my Dad nodding approvingly reassured me I was taking the right path.(Though a conversation we had halfway through my uni degree wasn’t as reassuring as he innocently asked me what is I would work as when I graduate)

That said I have turned out to be a decent scientist, its something that gives me joy and I am passionate about .It is the only thing other than writing I could imagine myself doing.But not enough it seems for me to completely neglect that burning desire to write.I must point out that I do “write” a lot in my day job but as you can imagine the creative licence here is very limited to almost non existent.

Recently the advent of the “internets” and in particular social media has served to stoke the dying ambers of my passion for writing again through the provision of simple platforms for all and sundry to express themselves.Mainly in the form of all the currently available microblogging and social networking sites which have the added advantage of an existing audience.It is thus easier to communicate and share ideas with like minded people , but even more significantly and maybe self indulgently for me as writer this has provided a simple platform to share my passion with the world.

To be clear, I do not have delusions of grandeur in this. What I could write might not be great literature. I doubt I m the next great novelist /blogger of our time.I am acutely aware that just because you love to do something with all your heart and soul does not mean you will be any good at it. Life’s cruelest irony. But I am optimistic in that anything born out of passion brings with it a sense of personal gratification when completed, at the very least .I also believe I have a voice and I owe to myself to pursue this and just maybe I could also entertain or inspire in the process.

So given that I have no delusions of gaining fame or money by this endevaour, it must then be a hobby. People paint as a hobby, right? When they retire. They don’t have to be any good, they just enjoy the act of it. So I can do that with writing right?

There is only one way to find out.Let the blogging begin…

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in HIS-story

 

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