Thursday, August 29, 2013

Is what I do (and don't do) worth all that?

I suppose it will be fair if I thought that my life has been far from a linear trajectory, mostly because of the decisions I have made, and continue to make, to chart my own path.

There are many downsides to this, yes, and one of them is this: how would I know that I am doing ok?  Is the trajectory the correct one, or am I being hurled into hell on earth?

The greatest folly that I can make in this assessment is if I use the conventional metric of "success" when my decisions have rarely ever been to follow conventions.  I can, and should, use only measures that are appropriate to the life I have fashioned for myself.

To illustrate the idea, allow me to present this--a typical day in the life of the highly ranked tennis star, Novak Djokovic:
A typical day:
7:30 Wake-up. Tepid glass of water. Stretching. A bowl of muesli with a handful of mixed nuts, some sunflower seeds, sliced fruit, and a small scoop of coconut oil. Chew very slowly.8:30 Meet with coach and physiotherapist. Hit with training partner. Drink two bottles of energy drink, adding a hydration drink with electrolytes if it’s humid.10:00 Stretching. Check color of urine.11:00 Sports massage.12:00 Lunch. Gluten-free pasta with vegetables.1:30 Work out. Drink organic protein shake made from water mixed with pea protein.2:30 Stretching.3:00 Hitting practice.4:30 Stretching.5:00 Business meetings.7:30 Dinner. No Alcohol. No Dessert. Protein. Vegetables, but not beets, potatoes, parsnips, squash or pumpkin, which are too high in carbs.
As I read that, my immediate thought was that the author has described it remarkably well:
The life style of an élite athlete rivals that of an inmate for abstemiousness and monotony. (Tennis players seem to spend half their lives in the shower.) If many of his competitors reside in a county jail of their own making, Djokovic inhabits a supermax prison. 
Indeed, it is almost as if Djokovic is being held in a maximum security prison, with a highly regimented daily life from which he cannot stray.

There is no way that I would want to trade places with him.  Check color of urine?  I don't even bother to look at what comes out when I peeing!

But, that is the life that Djokovic chose for himself. Thus, his measure of success and a good life is also different from mine.

I, for instance, eat whatever suits my fancy that particular moment, and even within my restricted food intake I seem to have an endless array of possibilities compared to what Djokovic allows himself.  I find immense pleasure in creating my own meals, and having coffee whenever it pleases me.  No dessert? No beets? Drink protein shake?

Boiled peanut salad
with red and yellow bell peppers, onion, cilantro, and semi-ripe mango

But, yes, being conventional, I think, will be far easier than to find my own interpretation of life.  It is difficult to even define what life ought to be, and then even more difficult to keep after it.  Bill Watterson--yes, that Calvin and Hobbes guy--put it well in his oft-cited commencement address two decades ago:
having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.
Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them.
To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.
It is not easy by any means.  But, yes, it is worth all the trouble.


Ramesh said...

Ha Ha. Djokovic's lifestyle has many positives too. For eg, he can get all the redheads he wants ........ :):):)

Of course, we must pursue happiness instead of just success - in whatever way others define it. To each his own, indeed.

You are a stunningly successful star my friend. If only the redhead problem can be solved ---- hahahahahaha

Sriram Khé said...

To paraphrase a quote attributed to President Truman's mother, if not getting a redhead is my greatest problem in life, I am one lucky guy ;)

But, seriously, I am beginning to think that the rich and the famous are less free than me--my comings and goings nobody (other than the NSA) cares about, I can eat what I want, live a life that I want ... they are prisoners of their wealth and fame, like how the author described Djokovic's life as one in a max. security prison?

I am all the happier now ... hehehe

Indu said...

First - a Hi Sriram!!!
Thought about this for a few days actually! Agree with you on that- it has to be worth it -worth it for yourself, not in someone else's eyes; also thought the life of the likes of Djo feels like existence in a glass menagerie more than life!!!
I have wondered many times, is what i do worth it - giving up career ambitions for family... At the end of the day - I am happy to have had a good argument with my son instead of sitting in a hotel room, alone wondering what he is up to. I read in an article a young writer was quite proud his wife is not busy making phulkas for her kids!!! I thought to myself, if thats what she wants, you dont judge her. There are after all a million idiots who run all the failing companies, there can be only one me -who can create a miracle for the future....
Indeed if you have the luxury of being able to say no to the usual temptations, to follow your dream - red head or not you are lucky indeed ;-) !!!

Indu said...

Btw- No offense meant to all the bloggers here, esp people like Ramesh!! I was just so bugged with that phulka remark....

Sriram Khé said...

Long time no hear, Indu.

Indeed, the older I get the more I realize the importance of individuals developing their own measures of happiness. If that comes from making phulkas, or not making phulkas, or running companies to the ground, or creating them from ground up, as long as we recognize that our happiness comes only from within and is measured by our own metrics ...

BTW, a good-hearted real redhead can certainly make me happier than how I am now ;)
Let me see ... maybe I should place an ad in the matrimonial section of the classified in The Hindu: "a divorced, remarkably attractive, and brilliant, American professor seeks a real redhead. Females only please!"
But, darn, no real redheads among the Hindu's readers!!!

ps: I have no idea why you think anybody might be offended by that phulka remark???? Hillary Clinton made a similar remark back when Bill was on the campaign trail for the presidency--she said that she chose to pursue a career instead of staying home and baking cookies. Boy did that create a lot of political noise, and she had to repent by baking cookies ;)

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