The Calling and the Fallback

I recently got back to watching ‘The Wonder Years’. Only difference is, this time I am actually able to connect with a lot of the characters on the screen. I saw one of the episodes where Arnold goes along with his dad to the workplace to see what his dad did for a living. Sentimental ALERT ! This brought back a lot of memories of when dad would take me to his workplace. I remember, for as long as Dad was in industry, he’s taken me to every workplace he’s been. I would remember running along, my 3 steps equal to his one stride, the power and respect which dad would have when he walked through the reception right to his office, everyone wishing you good morning. And all the offices dad had were absolutely amazing. The fondest memory I remember having was of his office in Coca-Cola. He had a fridge which was stocked up with Coke, Fanta and Sprite. I obviously thought that it was the greatest job on earth, access to all that fizz. But then I noticed, as the day progressed, not once did dad take a drink. He was always busy signing papers of some sort, reading and highlighting long lines of numbers in files that the poor assistant had to carry, serious conversations over the phone, being nice to the boss, sarcastically telling the boss off, getting guys to do stuff. And the sort of power that came with that job was truly amazing. I guess it was somewhere here that I decided that if all else fails, I want that job. Maybe that was Dad, with his own subliminal intentions, showing me a piece of days to come.

I need to explain something here, which is sort of a slow realization. All of us grew up wanting to be something and someone, with a definite outrageous career. And we all had a back up plan, if plan A fails, there is always plan B. But then, looking at dad way back then, looking at this episode of Wonder Years and looking at me…. Somehow, for the great majority, even Plan X, Y and Z don’t work out. I remember Dad telling me that when he was a kid, his greatest ambition in life was to become the guy who punched tickets at the theater – imagine all the movies you could see. This soon evolved into wanting to be a guard on a train – imagine all the traveling you could do. But then, life sort of just carried him along and he ended up being a finance and accounts manager for some of the great companies in the world. Many of which my friends envy…namely ITC and Shaw Wallace Breweries. I’m still all Coca-cola.

In the TV serial, Kevin’s dad tells him; his calling was to be a Professional Baseball Player. While Kevin automatically assumed that the fallback was to be the head of distribution at some company, the truth was that the back up was to be a captain of a ship. And thinking of its relevance to yours truly, I still want to be a Rockstar…travel the world with my guitar….. and my fallback would be to become a writer. I remember my career ambitions spawning from astronaut to archeologist ( I thought their lives were like Indiana Jones) to chef to Fashion Designer ( Yes….the designing minus the gay part) and what not. But right now, here I am - reading up on stuff like GDP, inflation, bell-curves, BCG marketing models, and what-not. While my calling would still remain rockstar, I guess the fallback has sort of been modified to become CEO of a top company.

Its fascinating how one thing leads to another and we end up doing something totally different from where we begun. Taking my Dad’s example, he was born into a humble family where Grandpa was the head of the works floor, Dad merely went and wrote the exam for one of the top B-schools because all his friends were writing it, and he got through…and nearly 30 years hence, he’s worked with some of the greatest companies and done some great stuff. And I don’t think he planned any of this out. And I think I too should stop always looking towards the future. Live in the moment and let life take its course. God knows who I’ll be down the line… there are times you sacrifice ambition for something a little more precious. Maybe it isn’t what you wanted and maybe it isn’t the best thing, but it is the right thing. Come to think of it, I don’t think any of us until a few years ago wanted to say, “ I want to become a manager doing dirty work to satisfy some stockholder…” but then, here we are. 260 of us.

Many times, I’d wonder why even after having such an awesome job, Dad would come home with his mood-off. I’d think to myself in my own little world, if I worked at Coca-Cola, life would be bliss…all that Coke and Sprite. But then, the puerile benefits aside, somewhere deep down maybe this isn’t what Dad wanted to do. It sure was a great job and there were people in the world who would kill for it, but then the truth remains that you are sometimes too good for the place you work in. But you can’t leave it, because if you do, there are responsibilities which only you can take care off which would not be taken care of. And because of this, you smile, grin and bear and go on with life. Sometimes, you don’t choose your career, life chooses it for you. And having worked for 3 years, I now understand what goes through my Dad’s head at the end of the day.

Like they said on the serial, “You can’t go around doing every silly little thing you wanted to do. You have to make your choices and you have to try and be happy with them. And some times you'll find out you've done pretty well....”