Monday, September 17, 2012

A new chapter....

So the Cambridge chapter of my life has begun. On Friday the 14th of September I was officially matriculated into the system... while signing a printout may not seem all that 'Vavoom!' trust me, it is. After several hic-cups, things finally got sorted out... in my case primarily because my better (at IT) half sorted it out for me. Left to my own devices I would probably have done something drastic like smashing something smashable or just given up all hope and gone home. The highlight of the day, for me at least, was the Matriculation Dinner. Not for the formality and the style and the rest of that blabitty blah blah blah. Oh no. I (The sole Goan in the batch - yes I am that awesome ;-P) thoroughly enjoyed myself because of the food and the conversation. Perhaps I was just lucky but I had a totally hilarious bunch of people around me. 

The conversation started off innocently enough with the basic introductions and the bread. Then came the first course - this awesome tart with onions caramelised in brie or something equally exotic...anyway, it was awesome. Conversational content was also upped a notch. I had a tutor diagonally opposite me with two Americans on either side of him. Unfortunately for him, both were climbing nuts - something he knew absolutely nothing about. He was however an ex-bond fund manager, so obviously we had a lot to talk about. So there was this very earnest T-shaped conversational thing going on, with the tutor describing his career to the guy at my side and me whenever necessary and the two bouldering nuts talking around him about various climbing and bouldering options in and around Cambridge. So you had things like the Russian debt default interspersed with chalk bags and climbing shoes. I tell you solemnly, the situation was hilarious. Neither part of the T-Conversation knew a thing about what was going on in the other conversation but their respective discussions were too interesting to let go off. That then shifted to a squarish conversation about Americans and English in America. You know how when you go places and locals find out that you are Indian, the first question you sometimes get is 'Do you know Amitabh Bachchan?' Well apparently British get asked if they know the Queen or anyone from the Royal family. Needless to say that conversation quickly deteriorated into accent imitations. One of the Americans was half Scottish and his vocal renditions of Scots versus American was quite, quite priceless. 

Just when I thought it couldn't get any funnier, another 'spirited discussion' erupted on my other side. I must mention that I had the Praelector on my other side with an Australian batchmate opposite him. The Australian managed to get himself totally tangled in his own argument and the Praelector was having a jolly good chuckle at his expense. This was now more interesting than the 'American idiosyncrasies' discussion. So obviously, I got into it. The Praelector specialises in medieval history. Apparently there's a whole other debate on what actually constitutes the medieval period. That led to a discussion on medieval politics and economics. Did you know that most warlords fought for control of sheep? Makes sense actually - food and clothing... like a two for one deal! Score!!! Eitherway, that then led to a thorough study of land grab strategy and liege lords and wars and then inheritance laws, both in England and in its colonies, and how English laws spread to Portugal and France etc. And did you know that London wasn't always in the place where it is now? Apparently at some point in the time before texts, it was somewhere else and was then shifted. But people are still trying to figure out exactly where! I can just imagine the heated arguments describing exactly why A thinks London was there aned B refuting it saying London was actually several miles to the left. Stirring stuff! 

And that wasn't the end of it! Oh no! The grace was said (in Latin) and some people don't agree with several of the statements in it!!!!! I was like...really!?! The last time I encountered Latin was when I was signing a bunch of forms before getting married! And here I am studying for an MBA when there are people doing PhD's in Latin and Medieval history and Bio Chemistry and Microbiology and I don't know what the heck else! Trust me, nothing can show you just how insignificant a blot on the landscape you are, like two faculty members arguing a point in Latin.   

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A work in progress....

I learnt a very important lesson at a very young age. I was lucky. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but in hindsight I was bloody lucky to have learnt it when I did. The lesson is this. No one gives a shit about you. You are the only one responsible for your life. Merely being born into this world entitles you to precisely nothing. The sooner you realize this, the better.

Now, I’m not saying “Screw the rest of the world, I’m all that matters.” No. That’s not it at all. What I am saying is know yourself - your limitations, your strengths and most importantly, what makes you happy. I stopped watching general news and reading general news papers years ago! Why? Because all that I read/heard was about rapes, murders, scandals, scams, suffering, misery and more scandal. They’d even reduced the funnies to a quarter of a page and removed Calvin & Hobbes from the lists! Philistines!!!

The next thing I stopped doing (and this was on the advice of a senior) was to stop listening to the poisonous sorts. You know, friends and colleagues who have no conversation other than gossip about someone else’s good fortune, envy at your own and who are just never happy with what they have. Generally those who leave you feeling lower than mud once they’re done with you. Kinda like something from an episode of Supernatural – or MIB… they just CANNOT be Human! If you’re miserable after every conversation, stop talking to them. Load a ‘Fake Call’ app on your phone and use it. Frequently! It’s a brilliant escape route. Failing that think up complicated and funny insults that won’t get you into trouble with human resources but will make you feel better. Or imagine introducing them to the business end of a blunt instrument and entertain yourself until they’re done. I’ve found that being vague is a big help.

After that I stopped listening to ‘well meaning’ family members (this term is used pretty loosely to encompass everyone who decides to consider you family irrespective of how tenuous the bonds). If they don’t/can’t accept you for whom or what you are, forget them. They don’t deserve any more than the barest courtesy. They may be idiotic but that’s not reason for bad manners. My yardstick when it comes to listening to ‘family’ members is this; if I am in deep doodie, will you be there to pull me out? Are you going to come rushing to my aid from whatever corner of the country/world you are currently in? If the answer is yes, then I will listen to everything they say. I may even take notes for future reference. If the answer is no… well then, up yours honey…. You can just keep on yakking till the cows come home, it means nothing to me and neither do you.  

I began applying this to work as well. I realized that doing highly stressful things that seemed like they needed vast amounts of intelligence and effort and other related stuff was just killing me. Literally! The stress and weird hours were causing all kinds of chaos in my endocrine system. And you know that once that one goes the rest tend to follow. So I took a step back and asked myself, do I really need this? If I don’t, then why the heck am I still sticking on? Here’s one thing that I’ve realized about myself. Once I’ve figured out the format - or the system if you will - I can tackle pretty much anything! I now do seemingly herculean tasks in a jiffy! How do I manage it? Simple. Focus on the target and don’t get distracted with who’s irritating me, what’s irritating me, who’s screwed up or any of that crap. Just switch into machine mode and get the job done. It’s brilliant! Why didn’t I do this earlier? Well it’s kind of because I couldn’t use the fake call app too often and a number of my colleagues were quite fatally poisonous. It was sort of like trying to climb out of a 12 foot deep pit filled to capacity rattle snakes and pit vipers. It’s difficult not to get bitten.  

So my plan going forward:
  • If something on TV is depressing– change the channel
  • If someone talking to me depresses me – change the subject. If that doesn’t work – walk away. If they follow – use violence. Remember unarmed combat can be classified as self defence.
  • If someone keeps bugging me on FB or on any social network trying to get me to do something I have absolutely no interest in doing – unfriend them
  • If someone keeps trying to guilt trip or blackmail me into contributing to something I have no interest in contributing to or attending something I have no interest in attending – Just say no. If they are the sort to not take no for an answer – say yes and promptly forget about it
  • I now read news papers online. That way I’m not paying for something that will ruin my day. The ‘Delete’ button was a wonderful invention.
  • I plan to make being happy a goal. I’m going to read stuff I like, listen to music I like, watch stuff that I like and surround myself with people as crazy as me. Enough with conformity. I am not like you and I have no intention of being like you. So if you can’t handle me just as I am… too effing bad
  • Most of all, I’m not going to let anyone use me again. During all of the upheaval last year, I turned to my network for help. Many came through for me and I am eternally grateful for that. A few however, wanted me to join their teams and turned incredibly nasty when I decided not to join them but instead to pursue higher studies. It was like reaching for a favorite teddy and having it morph into a particularly nasty grisly. It’s more than a little disorienting. Tends to completely throw you off your stride right when you need to be a citadel of confidence and capability. Not good.

So that’s the plan going forward. I've already worked through my contact lists. My email account will take too long so I’m just putting in filters.

No more conforming. The downside is that I’m now entirely responsible for my own screw ups… trust me… that is SCARY! Freakishly scary! Fortunately I have managed to figure out who’s got my back and who can be depended on to step up when the going gets tough. So maybe I won’t be quite so alone out there on my limb. Adventure beckons…. And like all adventures, you have absolutely no choice about which one you get, the sinking ship or the winning lottery ticket.