Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Social Time Frames

I have a strong urge to write today but I don't have a specific topic in mind. I've been thinking about one's dreams and whether there is such a thing as it being "too late" to pursue them. I don't really even know what my dreams are. I don't think that is the point of my train of thought today, although it would save me a lot of time and trouble if I knew what my dreams were.

I think the issue troubling me is the idea of there being a time limit to pursuing one's dreams. What makes it "too late" to do something? The smallest of examples is learning to play an instrument. I took up the piano, as so many children did, at around 3 or 4. I can't quite remember. I just remember the photocopied children's piano lesson book, my teacher, her house, her kids and my hatred of learning to read sheet music. I picked up the actual playing quickly; I refused - or was unable - to wrap my head around memorizing which notes lay on which lines. So I threw a fit as all little kids do and stopped going to piano lessons.

Years later, at about 16, I decided to try again. I was faced with the same problem. I had no problem playing by ear. I just could not read sheet music. One of my abhorrent habits is my dependance on being able to pick things up quickly. If it requires too much time or effort, I won't bother because my defense mechanism tells me that it isn't worth my precious brain power or that my brain doesn't function that way. Like maths or finance. If I am meant to be good at it, I'll instinctively know how to do it. So, my excuse at that point was that I was "too old" to be taking up an instrument now. At 16, I was already using the universal "it's too late" excuse.

Why is this ever an excuse though? Why does our social conditioning dictate when one is allowed to pick up a new hobby, to find their passion, to discover themselves? When a man goes out to understand his personality at 40, it is a midlife crisis. When he does the same at 21, he is embarking upon a journey of self discovery. Those are exactly the same with different labels - the former negative, the latter positive. What difference does it make? What if the 40 year old didn't have the opportunity to discover himself at 21? What if the 21 year old is just too lazy or too afraid to face the real world? Who says a journey needs to be limited to a certain stage in your life?

Today, I fear that by the time I figure out what it is I want to do with my life, it will be too late. That I will have missed my proverbial exit. That the train would have passed me by. It saddens me to think that there are countless of would-be talented people out there who did not achieve their potential because they felt they were too old to chase their dreams. Someone out there could have been the contemporary Beethoven, or another Poe, or the Adam Smith of the 21st century. But because we are molded to believe that everything has its rightful place and time, we are thusly bound by our social norms.

Maybe with the onset of a longer average human life expectancy, people will learn to extend their time frames to accommodate later self-discovery. Maybe on day we won't even have to ask the question, "isn't (s)he too old to be..." Let's hope that isn't too far off because I have a feeling I'm going to be one of those extremely late bloomers!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shit Shoveler, Extraordinaire!

I must have the words "shit shoveler" tattooed on my forehead because it seems to be the only thing people assume I am required to do at work.

At first I thought I was Pranjib, the back office presentation/formatting slave for just my department(s). I don't really mind that because I know these presentations are what make-or-break deals at my company. They're the presentations sent to the Board of Directors, used by our CEO at meetings, sent to investors, potential partners, etc... So they have to look as Investment Bank-y as possible and I'm the only person with the patience and anal-retentive need to have everything perfectly aligned and organized. In such situations, I know I am doing my part when I am Pranjib.

But increasingly, I've been reassigned as the shit shoveler company-wide rather than merely within my department(s). It began with reformatting and restructuring presentations for other Directors (see "Mercurial Life", for example). Then it turned into a nationwide conspiracy against my every brain cell. The world seems to be screaming "Die, bitch-ass motherfucking brain cells, DIE!"

Today, I spent a century and a quarter doing some HR chick's job because she was unable (or possibly unwilling) to spend the requisite 15 minutes digesting the message her presentation was supposed to send across and wanted to dump a bunch of random slides together and call it a day. For some inane reason, my boss felt it necessary to volunteer my services. Without consulting me. Without asking directly. He just CC'ed me informing the HR people that I would do the work with their counterpart.

Why in the Lord's Holy name would I be involved in a training proposal? Where in the company directory does it say, "for the copy room, call 1127. For employee account enquires, call Mr. Mohamed Zaki on 1789. For whatever presentation that pops into your head, call Ms. Eureka - aka Pranjib - at 4117."

I mean, is it not enough that I am simultaneously (and SINGLE-HANDEDLY I might add) writing the company's 2009 annual report, handling all my responsibilities, doing an insane amount of research on the legislation and certain industry regulations of a humongous and complicated country along with it's spending plans for that industry, AND carrying other people's slack?

Does all that take a backseat whenever some random person decides they can't handle spending an extra hour or so on their presentation?

Being the joker for my own people is fine. It means I'm flexible enough and a quick enough study to be able to have my hand in several projects and various activities at the same time. It means I'm able to learn more, know more, see and be seen by more. It's the useless, unappreciated, time consuming and mind-numbing auto-volunteering of my services that make me feel like the company prostitute.

Need a blow-job along with that presentation, sir? Just add a 69 at the end of your email's subject line.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Where Have All the Good Friends Gone?

Last night marked the reinstitution of my annual (albeit somewhat belated) Christmas dinner, which was established in 2003 and was skipped in 2008 due to scheduling conflicts (i.e.: I was too lazy to formulate a guest list. Trust me, it's much tougher than it seems).

As usual, my mother outdid herself. Yes, mother because I will never move a muscle if I can get away with it. Great setting, delicious food and zero effort from me. Who could ask for more?

What struck me most last night was the fact that it now requires an entire pre-planned dinner to gather my friends together. Not only are they all from different groups with divergent interests and dissimilar routines (I have a thing for alliteration), but since graduation, we have no common forum to find each other at on a regular basis.

Take Mrs. Fallon, for example. Since spending a week in London with her last November, I haven't seen her once. It took a dinner invitation to get together. It isn't like we live on different sides of the city, or we don't speak on a regular basis. We just haven't had the time or reason aside from a normal social call to hang out. Sad but true.

It's the same with Roonies and Bambi. From the summer of 2005 to the spring of 2007 we were inseparable. Then we graduated. Then Bambi went off to Geneva for a semester. Then work took over our lives. Today, we're lucky if we see each other once a month, even though Bambi and I work in the same building. Today, I only see Cheb Khaled on a regular basis, and that is likely to change sooner rather than later.

Flipping through Facebook, I cannot believe how many people I've lost touch with. So many people I counted as very close friends. People I've grown up with, had countless adventures with, helped through deaths, break-ups, exams and other difficult moments. People I at one point could not imagine my life without.

I've come to realize that I can be cruelly indifferent towards people, regardless of the intensity past or current relationships. Does that make me heartless? Does that put my compassion or humanity into question? Why can I go for such long stretches without feeling the need to be a social creature? I am just as happy lounging around my house watching shows or reading or just chilling with the family as I am out with my friends. I don't know if this is healthy because there are so few out there who would admit to feeling this way at my age.

Last year, my first resolution for 2009 was "I will rekindle my friendships and reestablish my social circles by going out more often". Although that was fulfilled to some degree, I still need work because I refuse to allow my hermit tendencies to resurface.

So, for 2010, let's keep the friendships rolling and who knows? Maybe even add a few more.

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