While all of this was happening, one of the guests came up to me, and asked me what I was doing at work. When I did tell him what I was doing he smiled sympathetically and told me, very gently, that it wasn’t good for anything, and that I should be considering alternatives if I wanted to make money, and if I really wanted to succeed. Look at me, he said, and went on to list all his dazzling achievements which he dazzlingly achieved during his dazzling days in the practice and even after he left practice, before he asked me if I had an exit plan in mind, and whether it was as dazzling as his own.
I started to make a bad joke about raising cows only to get cut off with a serious response about the potential of organic farming, and how his own organic farm (that will do dazzlingly in the future, I’m sure) is shaping up instead. Thankfully, my exit plan appeared a few minutes later in the form of his kid who wanted ice-cream and I slipped out of sight to another corner in the room with the hope that I wouldn’t have to see him again.
I get really unnerved when people who are senior to me discuss their career accomplishments with me, and more so when it is accompanied by advice (which is usually unsolicited). I think it probably is because of the fact that my personal definition of what constitutes an achievement has always been very fuzzy. I don’t know if that is because of the way I was brought up. My parents were never the ‘punishing’ type – failures, and awful marks would be met with disappointed faces and the statement – “It’s your future. We can only do so much.”. Good performances, and academic success was met with happiness, but they were never really surprised or even labelled such performances as “achievements”, or whatever it is that gives you the ego that comes along with having accomplished something.
My sister and I have never let good performances really get into our heads, but I remember the time when I’d just passed CA – I was extraordinarily smug and possessed the arrogance of someone who had touched the moon by building a ladder made entirely of toothpicks. My mother went on to prick my ego balloon by telling me that passing CA was the least I could’ve done, given my background – My father is a Chartered Accountant, and even if that wasn’t a factor, I attended the best classes one could attend/money could buy, had access to every book I’d ever need and the best environment required to study – The only odds I had to overcome were my own tendencies to sleep on my textbooks and not pay attention to my teachers and the fact that I failed despite everything that was provided to me was more of an achievement than my passing. You milked a cow and got milk, my mother had told me. Tell me about the day you milked a cow and got orange juice, and I’ll let you have an ego then.
Today, I’m still looking to really achieve, do things in ways that only I could’ve done, but it seems stupid to say oh, I want to achieve without even knowing what I want to achieve. I know quite a few people who seem to have it figured out, who seem to know exactly where they will be, ten, fifteen years from now. I don’t. What I do know, though, is that I don’t want to be in my forties giving unsolicited advice to young people about how they should be living their lives.
And that, I suppose, is as good a start as any.