It’s not a fancy contrivance, quitting a cushioned, conveniently secure and comfortably salaried job – despite good riddance from the mindfucking corporate politics in its wake – to choose to disburse time into chasing a contrasting ambition. I quit my job to be a writer may sound ludicrously attractive and perhaps inspiring on some superficial level. However, any remote fantasy of it is far from conjuring the unsentimental accuracy it holds within. Like a flashy book cover with a catchy title and abstract cover design, its interpretation abandoned to the reader’s thought-process, the story inside can turn out to be tangential or worse, parallel. When we imagine a bird let loose in an acceptably spacious, golden cage, its colours seem entertaining, much like its vocation. We do not mind observing its behavioural pattern once in a while to let our minds wander for a respite. That momentary flutter and ruffle of its wings, the faint tit-tit of its beak as it scrounges for food, and its uninhibited gaze with that velvety plumage bobbing nonstop amuses us. It flies from one end to the other – and back – now and then, only to latch onto some part of the lustrous bar in less than a minute from the time it takes flight. In other words, our time-out here is accredited at the mercy of a flittering and confined vertebrate, despite the space we allocate it and the colour we coat on its outer case. Working in a salaried job is similar. The cage sounds golden and spacious. Nonetheless, it is what it is; an imposed one at that. There exists a pen in an occupation of a self-designed path as well. However, it transpires with a slight difference in its meaning, its interpretation ranging from a confined workspace, lack of association to one encompassed within the fitful human mind.
Having quit the corporate for close to two years now to write full-time, the greenness on this side of the grass is discernible. Its maintenance apprehensions are equal, if not more. Especially for those of us whose fickle-mindedness is second to nature. While in a daily job we may embrace the idea of dressing up for work, however drab the routine seems on days at end, changing attires is inherently ruled out when self-employment spotlights. Presuming, self-employment here means operating out of home. The act of alternating to, from and into garbs nullifies, which otherwise is a style of prepping our mindset into accomplishing that chore, aka showing up at the workplace. No sooner than we change into formal wear than we are set to set out for work. Embarking on one’s career sojourn can bring the joy of bed and breakfast bearing no obligations of rushing anywhere afterwards. But the fickle mind can choose not to shower and stay in the night dress for as long as it hovers on the channel of laziness. In other words, work procrastinates. Our lethargy can creep up to the extent of pocketing inside our idea of being self-employed until some facaded distance into the horizon. Shower or no shower. Nightdress or birthday-suited. Operating from home or stepping out. Chasing the bus or denning in. Comforted by the air conditioner or embracing a hot morning. Breakfasting in bed or skipping one altogether. If only, the fickle mind gets to work, unmounting without ado the factors within our circle of control that otherwise seize our disloyal attention. If only, as a budding (freelance) writer, I show up at my designated workspace – daily – obliterating the fallback option of my salaried partner. If only, disciplined consistency were handed out as free will.
Hailing from a generation that craves for financial independence, how lower can I stoop?
Home is where the heart is, they say. While hitchhiking on self-employment, work is where home is. Consider elemental pauses and varietal suspensions in this loop-lined motif of working from home. Like, the company of ageing parents. Like, a lifestyle in a joint family. Like, a break to the routine scattered with a timely trip to the bazaar for groceries. Consider having relations – near and afar – visit over with open-ended dates. Consider confinement that lacks privacy or time-out from the ongoing chatters, whether conversational or material, interrogational or interventional. Consider unlimited access to the internet. Consider Netflix. Consider ad hoc plans by the family excused under cover of obtaining some fresh, polluted air. To what extent can one ruminate inflexibility? Consider a workstation comprising of a desk to rest the computer. Or, a more restricted space limited to a room’s corner with the working device slumped upon one’s lap. Consider lack of people to talk to, discounting family. If the chosen profession is writing, consider the need for isolation – on loop. Consider your cohort’s presence sprinkled with occasional phone calls. Consider an uncommon reach out from a colleague for a freelancing opportunity, presuming you’re still accepting them. Consider those couple hours of a rarity after days, maybe weeks, of follow-ons and follow-ups to arrive at a consensus of catching up with a friend. Consider being seated in your delineated enclosure sans a means for detours except to eat, pee, bathe or step out for a bout of dailies. Consider the absence of adjoining cabins or business units to walk into on the upper floor, let alone next building. Consider non-attendance of meeting anyone over a make-do coffee dispensed from a vending machine. These, are only the tangibles. Consider the cycle of intangibles hitting the already dehydrated shore of the insoluble human mind now and then.
On the flip side, consider that attractive bird encased within the golden cage. In all in its naivety, it might have never ceased entertaining admirers with its shenanigans. Passers-by might have looked at it in awe, sometimes wishing for wings like it to soar. But under those layers of their optical appeasement, consider the reckless, candid lot overlooking the source of the caged fowl’s guaranteed spruce of food. The corporate cage still stings as avid and golden.
By all means, there are possibilities of introducing relative comfort when it comes to one-for-oneself’s category of career lifestyle. You might question opting to write from a cafe, at Crossroads, a lending library, at a public park, by the sea or for that matter, the poolside. But when you hail from a background underlining just-above-the-water savings, priorities alter. It isn’t all right for socio-moralities’ sake to visit a cafe for three months and still order a glass of water to refill. When the countryside is your preferred residence, a lending library or a bookstore isn’t to pop up nearby in the immediate future. You’re also likely to rely on public transport making a beeline for an hour before reaching your nearest library. And when the weather screams tropical temperatures, heading out anytime but late evenings is like asking the sweltering heatwave to be meltingly kind-hearted.
There can be reasons, causes, excuses and cover-ups. Even so, the choice to make it on our own rests upon us. It has to. Far from attempting to induce self-pity or even empathy, if the dead end as a result of the bumpy ride through pitted roads and sunken potholes releases our endorphins, dopamines and serotonin, why not give Robert Frost his due?
If this were a session in progress on Confession Anonymous, I’d have been a shameless front-seater confessing to my unit – I am Madhvi, an aspiring author. I haven’t shown up to work in three months.