The teens, 20s and 30s – changing ambitions and the pursuit of happiness

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What is the earliest time that you remember having given a thought towards your career choice in life? At the end of high school? While choosing a college to join? Or earlier than that? Most of us start thinking about careers in our teens. Lately I have been thinking about how career choices and ambitions progress and change in our lives from teens to, now the 30s and I have plotted a trajectory for the same.

Disclaimer : I don’t think this happens to everyone. However I do know a lot of individuals who identify themselves with this trajectory so far! Do let me know your thoughts 🙂

“What do you want to do when you grow up? Do you want to be a doctor like your daddy or a teacher like your mom?”

These kinds of questions begin early in our lives, at least here in India. As early as age 5 maybe? They begin at a time when we as kids are absolutely incapable of understanding what growing up and doing something professionally actually means. Yet, these answers are important. We as kids were all forced to make up our mind and give an answer to this question. Not all little children take these questions very seriously at age 5 probably; but as they enter primary and secondary school, this question is asked too often. That is probably the age where most of us began to think about what to do in life. Ambitions about careers are very easy and straightforward when we are little – we want to be the superhero that we see in our lives. A doctor who stitched back your torn skin when you fell while playing, a teacher who teaches you the essentials in life, a brave soldier who fights for your country, a talented scientist who discovers the cure to a disease, an astronaut who roams about the universe as if it were his or her backyard are some examples. Till sometime around primary school, most school children dream of becoming some such superhero that they have taken a liking to.

Of course this fascination is temporary and as we progress into higher grades in school; we start having some realizations. That there are some things that we like more over the others. And somewhere in this process, we learn to create dreams that are specific to our interests. An active teenager bubbling with newly found (and often screwed up!) perspectives of the world feels the sky is the limit and is often impulsively drawn to careers. Most of us, knowingly or unknowingly base our initial decisions of higher studies on the subjects that we like the most in school. In teenage, various other facets of careers are also considered which include – the popularity of the career, time required to complete higher studies, the money associated with the job, the glamour and fame quotient of the job, history of the job in the family (some are intensely drawn to their family jobs while others show a complete repulsion) and the overall satisfaction quotient of that career for yourself. We enter colleges as teenagers with dreams of excelling in the courses that we picked. This is essentially the first construction of a rudimentary career dream that we start chasing.

Come the 20s and we have moved out of college and entered the real professional world. The difference between these two starts to hit you. We begin to evaluate various aspects of the career choice that we have been thinking about. This includes the feasibility of the job based on the skills that you possess, ease of settling down in this career, the growth of monetary gains in this career and of course the importance of work culture and co-workers. This is often reality check no. 1 for us in our career lives. Some of us realize early on in this stage itself; that a career change is needed and that this field may not work out for us! For the others, we realize that there is a whole spectrum of different things that you can potentially do in the same kind of career, and we become conscious about choosing our comfort niche. The depths and variations of different kinds of work become clear and we define goals towards a particular aspect of our career. The 20s are probably the time where you feel most energetic and ambitious about navigating through your career path. A new dream emerges which has some more professional definition as compared to what you dreamt during college. Meanwhile life on the non professional side of life also begins to get somewhat more responsible now as we progress through the 20s. Most of us make important decisions such as whether to spend your life by yourself or with a partner; which country to live in for life and so on. We often try to align these personal life decisions with our professional goals in this quest for dream fulfillment. And for most of the fortunate ones, this alignment happens quite smoothly. Career paths are quite set and happiness is on the way.

Then the 20s come to an end and we have spent a substantial amount of time in a particular kind of work. Now is the time to scale up on your career. We start a different kind of evaluation now. This new evaluation is comprised of measuring all that you need to re-prioritize as you plan to go up on your career ladder. E.g. a promotion in your late twenties has resulted in you becoming a manager from a technician post. Way back in your early 20s, this seemed like the dream progress card of your life. Something that you were longing to achieve since you started this job; and which felt like your ultimate key to happiness. But by the time you reach there you are close to touching 30s and reality check no. 2 in life strikes you. Taking this position might mean a lot more work pressure, staying away from family, not being able to see your parents for long and for some unfortunate ones, not even seeing your country for very long. It also probably means less time for weekend footballs. It also means postponing getting married or having babies because you probably won’t have much time now. It also means having to reschedule your vacations quite often. It also means putting up with the senior nooks more often now! Although these are technically very small issues to live with; if they all accumulate they lead to a collapse of your internal peace. Now it comes to you in a different perspective. Are you willing to give up what it takes to reach there? Or would you rather take a different trajectory? Or do you need to settle out other fronts in life and then take steps up your career path? Probably yes. You need to re prioritize and attempt really hard to strike a balance.  Basically this is the time when you realize that no professional success comes without a price. And you need an evaluation of yourself to understand if you are willing to pay these prices. Sometimes I feel entering the 30s makes you aware of different facets of your planned career path that you were unable to notice in your 20s. And that’s why this cross road of life necessitates some looking back and doing the necessary upgrades to your dreams or to your current life. Sometimes you need to make changes to your career paths itself, or sometimes you need to make changes to your everyday life. Either ways, we become aware that some kind of change or up-gradation is essential to maintain the balance in life. Do that kind of upgrade to your attitude, personality and decisions and you will probably get back on your happiness track in life.

I have seen that we feel the need to upgrade our ambitions in life based on three main kinds of reasons – 1) your self evaluation in your 20s itself was rudimentary and biased resulting in you choosing a career without complete thought into how it would be in the future 2) the current job you are doing is not enough to give you a full satisfaction feeling about life. You want to do more. E.g. You may want to do theater professionally along with your job as a finance manager. Some of us develop a desire to excel in more than one forms of work and feel like pursuing more than one passion with equal intensity 3) your priorities in life may have undergone changes due to family, unexpected financial crisis, natural calamities and your current job structure is not able to cater to the needs of your new priorities.

The ambition upgrades may come from any of reasons 1-3 or even a combination of these. In such a case, how wise is it to update your ambitions in your pursuit of happiness? I think it’s perfectly okay.

I don’t know if it’s just me or do these kinds of reality checks hit everyone? Or is it just my over analytical mind that gets myself into these conundrums? Today when I think back upon all the career related decisions taken over the last decade and half of my life, I realize that they were based on very pertinent dreams that I had seen at that particular time. However what is coming out glaringly now is that some of the dreams that I saw in my 20s are not that exciting anymore. I don’t wish to belittle any of my own ambitions, past or present. But there definitely is no denying to the fact that my dreams need an upgrade depending on what stage of life I am in. It would be a futile exercise to latch on to old dreams and adamantly chase them simply because at one stage in life this dream seemed like the ultimate thing to achieve in this world. What matters more is how relevant is everything now? Does your current pursuit of happiness include this dream?

I wish to point out a fine distinction between a revision of ambitions and compromises. Whenever I have discussed this aspect with a variety of people, the very first response is often ‘Yes as you grow into your 30s and have other issues in life, compromising on career is necessary’. No it’s not compromise or the more noble word – “sacrifice” that I am talking about here. I am talking about an active redoing and revamping of one’s career path that is a consequence of conscious prioritization and self evaluation. The larger picture in life is always a pursuit of happiness. A pursuit of your career dreams is one part of it. For a large number of people, these two completely overlap. But for most of us, after about a decade of being in the pursuit of career dreams; we begin to see facets which are also a contributory factor to our bigger pursuit of happiness. And, as I complete three decades of existence on the Earth in this month, it is these realizations that are coming too often to me. Will spending another decade again lead to a necessity of upgrades when we stand at the entry to the 40s? Maybe yes. Because this decade of 30s is going to be one big churn up of new beginnings, new issues, financial concerns and what not!

So will I continue to have this introspective feeling about my ambitions every few years? I guess yes. Because life around is going to change. A lot of un anticipated changes are going to creep in. We are going to lose stuff, and also gain stuff. In such an ever changing world, isn’t it wise to also allow ourselves to update our ambitions if the need be? I am not forcing anyone here to keep changing things every 10 years. No, definitely not. In fact I have a lot of super focused friends who have picked and planned their career trajectories with such diligent thoughts, that these issues will never bother them. All I am saying is if the need be, give yourself the allowance to do so. Don’t kill yourself over dreams that, due to whatever reasons, don’t give you as much happiness anymore. Allow yourself to acknowledge the context and build up dreams that are more pertinent to your present state!

So what is my bottom line here? It is simple – If you necessitate a change in your career paths or lifestyle to achieve happiness in your life, allow yourself to do it. Because the realizations that we get through age and experience are important. And ignoring them might get our out-dated desires fulfilled but will leave happiness way behind. Because all said and done, the pursuit of happiness is the greater interest for us in life. Wouldn’t it be more peaceful for us to keep our ambitions negotiable with our age and accumulated wisdom rather than being adamant and keeping the happiness itself negotiable?

Travel – and what I seek from it

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Travel is undoubtedly one of the most talked about things today. Any gathering of friends, relatives, and cousins sees these discussions springing up about some ‘fantastic group place for our kind of group that my friend recommended’. At the start of the year, every employee marks the long weekends of the year and starts to plan with family or friends as to which places can be visited around that time of the year. Then there are the solo travelers who also make sure they have their long weekends invested in going to good places. And then of course, there are the wannabes who want to go to new places simply to flood their Instagram accounts!

We primarily see young people engaged in these discussions and plans, but essentially people from other ages are also no exception. Regardless of the purpose that each one has in this activity, travel is definitely on everyone’s mind. My grandmother likes to call it the drug of this decade that everyone is addicted to 😛 We hear the words ‘restless feet’ ‘wanderlust’ ‘nomad’ ‘vagabond’ ‘backpacker’ so much more often these days than say, 10 years ago.

There are reasons to this increased travel interest and awareness though. One important reason is the remarkable ease of travel and bookings. With online bookings on the rise, gone are the days when ticket bookings meant contacting agents or standing in long queues in the wee hours of the morning. We may all curse and swear at the IRCTC website every now and then; but we have to admit that its existence has made bookings so much easier for us. And then comes stuff like Makemytrip and Goibibo. Planning a trip is just a click away. The second reason for this increased awareness is intense documentation and availability of a plethora of information on travelling through a variety of websites. Besides, the popularization of travel on social media is tremendous. People have begun to communicate their travel experiences on the web with so much detail; and accessing these is also easy (I would assume 80% of people from our generation have at least one travel blogger among their friends!). In the earlier days, travelogues and some articles in magazines were all that people could lay their hands on to read about places to visit. But that’s not the case anymore. Social media sites are also full of pictures of destinations that people have visited, giving you not just information but also stirring all your travel desires to go and see these places yourself.  The third one is the evolution of work structures these days that allows people to have some degree of flexibility in planning their work. When we were little kids for example, a typical Indian middle class home could afford a vacation only once a year – and that too with intense planning centered on which part of the year was suitable for our parents to take a break; and when our schools also had vacations. Planning of work such that work shifts are suitable, working remotely, working in advance and taking compensatory breaks later is possible with some ease now than earlier. Which makes you give travel a little more priority when needed.

Different people seek different things from a travel experience. Some are the conscious travelers planning to every detail; while some will just not plan and let the day decide what their schedule is going to be like. Some are adventurous and will pick the toughest terrain in the most challenging season; while others are the play safe ones. For some people, visiting civilizations and new cities is fun, while for some others it’s purely being amidst the wild with Mother Nature that is priority. Then there are photographers of each kind who also often have their preference of travel place (sometimes dictated by the availability of their camera lenses :P). To each man his own, every traveler is unique.

I am no exception to this new age travel bug. Visiting new places has been an interest since long; and like I said earlier; it is now complemented very well by the ease of traveling. My range of travel interests is quite wide; and I have listed here top 12 things that I seek to gain from my travel experiences. I would love to hear from you all, what you seek from your travel experiences.

  1. Travel – the excitement of the concept

Yes the very first thing I gain from travels is daydreams and excitement. Seriously. Once the trip is planned, I spend a significant amount of time in imagining how the visit is going to be, and I find that very exciting!!! I daydream a lot, and the concept of going to a different place is enough to give me a pre-trip high 😛 Packing, making to-do and to-pack lists, splurging in the name of ‘trip essentials’ all contribute to this pre-trip high. And I so love it!

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Planning, listing, packing. The travel high!

  1. Journey

I like traveling in all modes of transport – walking, cycling, bikes, cars, trains, aeroplanes (not including a ship here since haven’t really traveled in a ship yet :P). Fortunately for me I don’t have motion sickness so any mode of travel maintains the comfort of the journey, and I don’t really have a preference here. Or maybe I guess I love trains the most!!

As we cross various other parts of the roads/tracks, we leave behind something and look forward to something. This journey part is where my retrospective self is at its peak of activity. I often get the most needed introspective thoughts in journeys. I also sub consciously get answers to a lot of questions that I am stuck at during a journey.

On the non retrospective side, I also enjoy noisy journeys with friends and family; with a lot of games, leg-pulling, unveiling of secrets and random (non) sense chatter!!

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The route is often more beautiful than the destination (Ranikhet, Uttarakhand, India)

  1. Nature – its beauty and adventures

My first choice towards a travel place is quite often dictated by the geography of the place. I love to experience different geographical terrains, as also structures that have been created by nature. Needless to say, mountains, rivers, beaches, valleys, forests have a special place in my heart. Trekking my way up on mountains or even casual mountain walking are equally enjoyable. And so are barefoot walks on the beach. I think walking amidst nature is the best way to ‘breathe in’ the place 🙂 I love the way the grandeur of nature reduces you to insignificance. One of the best reality-check feelings you can get in your life.

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Mountain walking in the monsoon greens, and the views from the top of a mountain (Rohida, Maharashtra, India)

  1. Adventure activities

An adrenaline kick is essential. The way it gives you a ‘zing’ up your head is just awesome. It sort of functions like the (Ctrl+ F5 = refresh) function on my life!!  Something whose mere memory as well can make you feel good later. And so rock climbing, rappelling, rafting, para gliding, snorkeling trips are important for me.

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Equipment for snorkeling!!

  1. New animals and birds

This is almost a follow up of the different geographical terrain category. Because with differences in geography and climate conditions, the animals and birds found in different regions also differ. One of my favourite interests is to observe these local variants of animals and birds and how they have had adaptive changes due to surroundings. And of course these are incredibly cute!! Their colours, fur and skin texture, food habits, level of domestication make for interesting self-study projects!

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Furry Himalayan sheep were superb posers for pictures!! (Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India)

  1. Quality time with family / friends

I seek this aspect over and over from my travels. Because with our present day lifestyles, we are so swept off with work and home commitments through the days, that casual conversations are often left behind. Even while living in the same house, we struggle to find time. Catching up with friends over lunch after many months often leaves you with a ‘we should at least get to spend a day together man! 3 hours are not enough’ feeling!! My better half and I have also been a part of this struggle for spending enough time with each other. And travel provides the perfect solution. I have seen traveling with friends or family lets you spend substantially more quality time with each other since you are free from other time commitments.

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Conversations and quality time 🙂 (Lavassa, Maharashtra, India)

  1. Food

One of the most important parts of any trip for me is to get acquainted with new kinds of food and the local produce of the place. Like they say, ‘you are what you eat’, food gets us a fantastic introduction to how the local people are. The life of any place and the hardships that people face is reflected very well in the food you get there. Gastronomical delights from different locations are a must. Trying out crazy cuisines and drinks is indeed a top priority in any travel.

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For the love of seafood! Calamari masala (Goa, India)

  1. Photography!

Photography or documentation of places is something that I really enjoy. Now  I am not your friend with the DSLR who carries his/her big camera and lenses everywhere though. I have a small basic digital camera and reasonably well equipped phone camera. And my photography interests are mainly capturing different elements of a place in a frame, and capturing colours.

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A simple camera is all I need for capturing memories!

9. Civilizations and lifestyles

I love to look at life and its variation all around me. Every place visited differs from your native place in several aspects of its civilization, lifestyle, people, local arts, town structure etc.  These are heavily influenced by the geography of the place. Every place in this world witnesses a different ‘everyday’ from another one and has had it’s own spectrum of evolution. Studying these variations, cultural differences, local artists and craftsmen gives you a greater insight into the personality of different regions.

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Local artists (Udaipur, Rajasthan, India)

  1. Monuments and history

This is one of the typical tourist-like interests that I have. Along with natural beauties, monuments, man made structures of grandeur, buildings that have survived and through years of human civilizations are an element of tremendous curiosity for me. It gives me goosebumps while stepping on places which have witnessed history. Since I like reading about history in general; I end up looking up a city’s past before visiting it; and going to man-made places of historical importance.

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The Charminar (Hyderabad, Telangana, India)

  1. Religion

Yes religion. But not ‘a’ religion. I am always curious about studying different religions, their places of origin, their predominant beliefs, ways of worshiping and so on. And that’s why looking at the religious sentiments and religious history of any place is of interest. I find it really fascinating to be at a place which has been implicated in religious scripts and is worshiped by people.

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The mesmerizing Ganga aarti (Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India)

12. Relaxations, a wee bit of luxury

Now who doesn’t love this? A little bit of relaxation is fun. Though this isn’t the top priority for most of our trips, some amount of grandeur and luxury is always appreciated 🙂 Just spending some time at a new place doing nothing in particular, just soaking up the place and the sun!

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Luxury resort islands (Maldives)

 

These are of course just the top 12 things that I seek from travel. But the real deeper impact that it has on you as a person is much deeper. Regardless of your age, travel is an enriching investment, and adds to your life a dimension that nothing else can. And hence I hereby wish all readers a fulfillment of all the travel desires in their lives 🙂 Bon voyage!