are they actually what they seem like?
Over lunch, an acquaintance told us, “Ah, all IITians seem to have that problem.” They were referring to the problem of “What am I doing in life? The others are doing much more impactful work.” Popularly put as “The grass always seems greener on the other side” in some circles, I’m not immune to this issue.
It depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I’d tell you that I’d always wished to get a Ph.D. And don’t get me wrong, I still do, but would that be better than what I currently have? Now that requires more careful thinking, which I’ve been doing lately for lack of better things to do.
The grass does seem greener on the other side. Most people will say I have achieved so many things already; I should not whine about anything and focus on a good life. To an extent, that is perhaps true, but I feel like I’m just getting started. A few years ago, all my efforts went into ensuring that I could take care of my family and that I won’t starve a few years later.
Now that I’m past that point (it seems), I have a different vision for how my life should pan out. The other day I told my mom about how I wished to do things beyond just making money. She probably did not understand most of it for the right reasons. I mean, you attend these “elite” institutions, and if you do not make a ton of money after that, was your time in these institutions even worth it?
I’m also cautious — I’m very early in my career, and so many things are out of my control. I’ve wished to do a Ph.D. for as long as I can recall — I don’t know where that came from. Maybe it was because, growing up, I did not have a lot of people to look up to, especially in terms of academic qualifications. A Ph.D. is supposed to be the pinnacle of academic qualifications, right? If you line up all the people in the world and ask me to sort them in order of respect I’d bestow, PhDs would probably be near the top, if not the topmost.
At this stage, it is all hypothetical, but some days I like to think about these other “greener fields of grass” because I found out that things generally work out, and so why not think about whatever it is that I wish to do eventually? Would my life be best spent in public service?
After all, why not? India will soon become the most populous country on Earth. I do not claim to be able to revolutionize India, but if I can help in some way — working for its people, representing the 1.4+ Bn people on a global stage so that we prosper together, wouldn’t that be a great thing? Or will I just become another cog in the wheel?
Increasingly, it seems that every career choice has pros and cons, and I must choose what to optimize for — money, impact in terms of touching lives, working hours, independence, etc. These are interdependent, and I’ve come to realize that there probably doesn’t exist a job that meets every optimization criterion.
And it seems daunting to commit to a single area for the rest of my life but on the flip side, I am relatively young and have the luxury of diving into multiple fields before doubling down on one and doing something meaningful.
Then again, what is a meaningful job? The answer would depend on whom you ask. For me, at least as of now, it means a job that pays me enough to meet my essential needs, challenges me to apply skills that I learned in school, and lets me stay close to my mom. Again, as I age, these might change, maybe for the staying close to mom part. So what do I do then?
I know some of what I said are hypothetical, and some are connected, but I’m not the only one facing these dilemmas. Bankers are eyeing PhDs, PhDs are eying for that well-paying MBA job, and MBAs are well… MBAs.
Does anyone actually know anything concrete?
I have a question for the adults — how did you figure it out? Do you have it figured out yet?