Thursday, July 28, 2011

28 and Unemployed: Part 3/3

Part 1/3 ........

Part 2/3 ......

Part 3/3 .........

By January, I found myself sitting in music class, cleaning the cobwebs off my voice and relearning my Sa-Re-Ga-Ma. I used to sing with my grandfather as a kid. He took with him the culture of evening riyaaz when he died. 24 years later, I started my classical music lessons. Now that I was singing, I wanted to dance too. I felt self-conscious, I had gained a lot of weight in the last few years, but I had always wanted to dance with the local dance wing, and realized this could be my only chance. I auditioned with them for a show, and the weekdays saw me singing and dancing to the tunes of music for the upcoming show. My muscles screamed in pain, I no longer felt that nimble and flexible I used to feel years ago, and came so close to giving up at times but dragged on for that day I would be on stage feeling proud of myself. February saw me live that moment of pride, performing on stage.

I had a lot of time now but no money, so I started living with a close friend. I helped her take care of her baby, another unique experience for me. Baby and I became best friends, and I learnt skills like feeding a 1 year old, keeping her entertained, talking to her, making her learn new words, and singing to her. By the end of my one-month long stay with her, she was singing Sa-Re-Ga-Ma with full confidence. I had circulated the gift of music I had got from my music teacher, to baby. Taking care of the little one taught me love, patience, and the art of understanding little humans who do not talk to communicate or make themselves understood, not to mention bits and pieces of Tamil. Next, I moved to another friend’s place where I had another baby to take care of, not a little human, but a very understanding and communicative cat. Anyone who knows me would know how scared I am of animals, and I would not even go close to a harmless, innocent animal, let alone live with one. However, I saw this as another opportunity to get over my fears and take temporary responsibility of a living being. Kitty and I had the house to ourselves and we would often sit together in the evenings watching television, playing, or talking to each other. I told her stories and she responded by purring and mewing. We even watched a Bengali movie together once.

By the end of March, I had heard back that I was not granted an extension of my US visa. I was expected to leave the US, my home for the last 4 years. It was yet another calamity that came as an opportunity. I looked at Google maps and asked myself if the world was a playground lying invitingly in front of me, where would I like to play next. I had my answer. I sold most my stuff, packed the rest of my life in boxes at a friend’s garage, left my car in another friend’s driveway, and took off. I took a flight to New York, and another flight that didn’t stop till it reached India. I was in India after 4 years, meeting my family and friends. I rejuvenated myself, felt nurtured with unadulterated love and support that a family provides, and went back to work voluntarily at my old school where I used to teach 4 years ago. I saw this as a unique opportunity to re-establish my contacts, and to do something I was passionate about- teach. All it took me to be happy and feel useful was to discover something I loved to do, and start doing it again.

Before I knew, I had spent months with family, possibly more time than anyone living outside home could ever imagine. It was time to move on. The next 2 weeks saw me backpacking, living, and breathing in the places I had only read about and dreamt of, but had never thought I would visit in this life. I had always wanted to walk the streets of Vienna where my favorite movie “Before Sunrise” was shot, and I did it. I had always wanted to visit an active volcano, and here I was climbing Mount Etna in Sicily. I walked the streets of Dresden, had Gelato in Rome, got a first hand experience of marveling at awe inspiring work of Michelangelo in Rome, stood mesmerized by the beauty of Salzburg, visited the castles of Prague, walked inside the world’s largest ice caves in Werfen, hiked the Alps, even took a train that boarded a ferry while leaving mainland Italy towards Sicily. Map in hand and an indomitable wanderlust, my dream of backpacking Europe, traveling in trains, and living on a shoestring budget had come true.

The best things in life were spread out for me as a buffet, and in 8 months I got a taste of almost everything I had ever desired. Music, dance performance, babies and pets, meeting family, teaching, and walking the streets of Europe. But I still had to figure out my life and decide what I would do after this transitory honeymoon phase. This was my chance to start something new, and learn from scratch, since I had already made up my mind not to go back to doing bench science again. After 8 months of a journey that seemed more like a never ending fun vacation, I wanted to be a student again, but not in the same field studying cells and molecules and writing scientific documents. I wanted to learn more about how people learnt. I applied to a dozen schools, got around half a dozen admits, and went back to school. It was time to start working on that unfinished dream of a PhD. Life had given me another chance to do something I loved, and I grabbed that opportunity and converted my passion for teaching to the pursuit of research. These days, I work on how to make the process of learning more effective. By changing fields, I relearned my sciences from scratch.

My greatest lesson from this journey of unemployment was to see things I built over years, things valuable to me, crumble in front of me, and for me to learn to build from rubble and from the ashes of unfulfilled dreams again. It taught me how to be significantly detached from my dreams to be able to work on rebuilding newer dreams again. I have learnt that it’s okay to have nightmares about losing your job or not succeeding in life or see people leaving you, because your insecurities mirrored through these nightmares will only make you wake up and work harder towards your commitments to ensure that things don’t screw up in real life. I feel like a new person, free of baggage, unfettered from the thoughts of how the world perceives me, and secure in the knowledge that I have taken good care of myself through these months and haven’t failed myself.

My journey through these 8 months of unemployment changed the way I learned to count my blessings. The door that had marked the end of things was also the same door that marked the beginning of brand new, and a better life for me.

sunshine

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beutiful series. you are truly admirable.
-Deepika

the.orchestra.of.life said...

best wishes for the future too ! :)

Abhishek Mukherjee said...

Very well-written. Seldom have I been so absorbed in someone's memoirs, but the style and your thoughts and emotions through the events kept me hooked throughout.

Way to go, kid!

rt said...

Loved your revisiting that part of your life...
Kudos to ur spirit!

Pavana said...

Very well written. I admire your writing skills.
All the very best for your future.

Pavana

Dew said...

Your posts and experiences have always been an inspiration to me. You have an amazing caliber to bounce back when things go wrong in life. I love the way you deal with the life. You will go a long way. All the best!

Rajarshi said...

Sunshine,

It was a nice read, as usual. One thing I have often wondered about you is the way you have switched your career paths and didn't get strait-jacketed like most of us. :)

Biddu said...

This series is one of those which can give lot of courage and hope to persons going through similar tough phases in life...you are successful to communicate your 28-and-unemployed state-of-mind with your readers effectively...very well written!

Raconteur said...

Hey Sunshine,

Reading your blog after a long time,insighful, motivating especially as I am going through the same unemployment phase like you had before.

Regards
Your Blogstealer friend from Pune. I hope you remember me ...)

Cinderella said...

.. just loved your post :)

Fabulous Sunshine said...

Beautiful...

sunshine said...

Thank you everyone :) The career switch turned out to be for the better actually. The learning curve has been steep, but hey, is anything worthwhile in life easy?

Binster said...

You really do describe unemployment the way it is, the stripping of confidence and self esteem. As an unemployed 28 year old with a degree, your writing really resonates with me. No one can truly understand the self doubt that takes over your entire being during unemployment except someone like yourself, someone who has actually experienced it. You turned everything around and that is truly inspiring. It really is about figuring out what you want to do with your life and that doesn't have to be a grueling process; the journey can be joyful and amazing. Thank you for your words. You have made me realize that it is in fact a choice to look at unemployment as a burden or a blessing.

jhabru said...

Reading your blog almost after three (or may be more) years.. and its amazing to see that even writing grows, beautifully :)...though obvious do not require stating; this series is one of the very well written pieces in your blog..loved it thoroughly. Keep writing.

jhabru said...

Reading your blog after three years(or maybe more) and its amazing to see that even "writing" grows, beautifully :)...though obvious do not require to be stated but cant help, this series has been one of the most well written pieces in your blog...loved it thoroughly. Keep writing :)