Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Unemployed Chronicles - Week 1

It's only during a period like this that one realizes how sleep deprived one gets while working 9 - 5. I am in the throes of an extended sleep-over, all my activities are punctuated by naps, and my overall energy level is on the up. If there is one thing I really want to do during this time, it's spending quality time with the few people that matter most to me. I want to say this even though it might not be necessary - it's because of my friends that I haven't gone into a shell of self-loathing and introspection - I don't know about eternal gratitude, but each of you, you know who you are, have earned a place in my heart for just being there, and saving me from the darkness that lies within.

Maybe you've heard me say this, maybe you haven't, but I live life to the Lees because I know it is too short. Everyone's definition of living a full life is different, but this living a large life concept is a potential reason why I fail at relationships. I keep the exit option always open - if the pain of being in a relationship becomes more than the pleasure I accrue, I get out. I've had 5 jobs in 6 years at Microsoft, and I finally quit because things became irreparably sour. I've dated a multitude of girls in the same time period; all of the relationships were fun while they lasted, but when I was out of them, I felt both sad and relieved. There is a pattern in all of this, and though this might seem self-critical, I am just making an observation.

My thoughts keep returning to the Latin aphorism - nosce te ipsum - to know oneself. I know myself, and I know I did the right thing by calling off my engagement. A lot of time this past week has been spent wondering if I did the right thing. Distance can be but *one* reason for the sheen to wear off, but it wasn't just that. You know what it all boiled down to - conversations. A sustainable conversation thread is one is cerebrally stimulating, that picks on the heart's cords, that ... My relationship failed because at the end of the day, it wasn't that we didn't lust for each other or pine for each other's physical touch; we just couldn't stimulate each other conversationally, and in my opinion, that's the only thing that truly matters.

My insight into the human condition teaches me that our unique attributes make us human, but they also create chasms that we must learn to bridge when dealing with another, intimately. Nothing just works, and not to abuse the term, everything requires work. There are times when you hit a purple patch in a relationship, when you don't have to try and even if you do, the payback is worth the price of admission - that's the relationship you want to keep. Back to me, because this is personal - I want to be in a relationship that enriches me, that wants me to be a better person. We all have our faults, but the one thing that we hate is those faults being highlighted more than our virtues. Call it hubris, call it a deluded sense of self-worth, but this is a verity of life. What might be lacking in me is the will to work things out, to make compromises, to adjust to another's whims and fancies, even grow to like those idiosyncrasies, but in my defense, I do try; maybe I need to try harder.

One could argue that the longest standing relationship I have had in my adult life has been with my employer - Microsoft. No surprise then that it came as a surprise to many when I announced my decision to quit. My colleague Jordan asked me why I was leaving, to which I said that I got tired of a culture that thrived on negative reinforcement. I tried to change the culture, I changed teams till I could find one that thrived on positivity, but after 6 years of trying and failing, I gave up. People at Microsoft are like sharks, just waiting for you to make a mistake at which point, they attack. There is hardly any recognition of good work, of the effort someone puts in to go the extra mile. This is the reason why so many of us had a folder aptly titled "Compliments" so that we could store the rare emails that were sent to us congratulating an accomplishment. That's just sad...

As for what's next, I only know that there are bigger and better things waiting each of us in the future. With so much change afoot, one could argue that I am going through a mid-life crisis, that the structure of my life has collapsed. There might be a measure of truth in such analyses, but being the optimist that I am, I have just one retort - the foundation is strong. Given time, a new structure will rise from the "rubble", and with all that I have learnt till this point, it might just be stronger.

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