The other day, a friend of mine from B-School who is soon to be married was brooding about her post-wedding plans. Specifically, she was wondering how she would balance her corporate career with her personal life. She said this to me then: "You were among the batch toppers on campus, among the first to land a great job with a leading company. You could have made a grand career for yourself. But I admire the selflessness with which you quit it all, for being able to prioritize your family life with such conviction."
I was humbled by her appreciation and can assure you that I am not as accomplished as she makes me out to be. But for some time after, her admiration rankled me. Why? Because I realized that it was NOT a great, martyr-like sacrifice, but a personal choice that I had made.
I realized that it was NOT a great, martyr-like sacrifice, but a personal choice that I had made.
To give you a snapshot of what led me to this moment, I am a graduate in English Honours from Lady Shriram College and have completed my master's degree in Human Resource Management from the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon. I went on to get placed as an HR Manager at Citibank NA. I worked with this esteemed organization for about a year before marriage and about two years after.
By the end of the said time period, I had realized that while I was good at my job and showed promise, I was not happy. Yes, there were moments when I made a difference in people's lives and felt satisfied about my contribution, but most of the time I just saw myself labouring with excel sheets, power point presentations and office politics. Holed into a cubicle in a 20-story building from morning to evening was crushing the creativity and joy out of me. I was becoming increasingly irritable, restless and dissatisfied.
I may have been good at managing human resources, but the construct of a corporate job went against who I was and who I wanted to be.
So when my husband was offered the opportunity to join a company in Africa, I did not martyr my aspirations to his. On the contrary, I viewed it as the opening of a window, a chance for me to give vent to the artistic self that was writhing within me. As long as we were in Delhi, we would have been hard-pressed to survive on a single salary. Even if I hadn't considered the extra money coming in from a second salary, I would probably not have had the courage to break free and give myself a new beginning.
I thank [my husband] every single day for the gift of freedom he has made to me.
I moved to Africa and turned to a proficiency I'd had, but never thought about making a career of. Writing. After all, in our country, one doesn't usually declare after their bachelor's degree that they are going to become an author! So like many others, I took up a professional course, leading to a well-paying occupation.
But now I was going to do what gave me happiness, if not money: I was going to write.
I published one novel and then another. I started blogging and writing travel articles. I got hired as a freelance writer. Today, I am a writer by profession. I work according to my own convenience, and the satisfaction I get from knowing that someone read a book or an article penned by me far exceeds the satisfaction I ever got from making a great presentation in office.
Do I expect my husband to be grateful that I left my career, my home, my country and followed him? No.
Instead, I thank him every single day for the gift of freedom he has made to me. I am unrestricted today to pursue my dreams, to write without the pressure of having to earn a living. And yes, no doubt, I love being able to give the kind of attention and time to my home and family that I could not spare earlier.
If you are at similar crossroads or you too have taken the decision to drop a flourishing career for homeward inclinations, here's what I have to say to you.
Don't look at it as an obligation, but as an opportunity.
Don't view it as enforcement, but as a choice.
If we escape the temptation to make self-effacing idols of ourselves, expecting gratitude from our husbands or children, we will find ourselves in a positive frame of mind, released from self-imposed mental shackles to reach within and rediscover ourselves.
I found an artist within me, waiting to be set free.
Who knows what you may find?
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