Career pathahahaha

I am a firm believer in fate; it is just so much easier to blame it for your own failures. But more than that, I believe in fate because if the choice was left to me to steer my life the way I wished to, I would’ve been in a completely different place, doing a completely different thing and been a completely different person from who I am today. I can almost imagine myself in an alternate universe, nearly fainting at the sight of flowing blood while bravely trying to carry out a surgical operation with toothpicks and shaving blades in a grimy state-run hospital, because obviously I had decided at the tender age of 4 that I wanted to be a doctor when I grow up, accomplishing never-done-before feats and saving the world single-handedly.

Safe to say, ever since I found out that dissecting frogs was the first step towards becoming a medical messiah, I pretty much buried any such aspirations.

nope

I can recall the time when I was watching the Olympics approximately twenty years ago, I thought to myself that I could very well get Pakistan its first gold medal in gymnastics because gosh could I do those cartwheels! For the longest time I assumed I just had to just that and I would be selected, but of course that was not the case. And while I was still moping over my shattered dreams, I was told by my very proper mother that young ladies should not be trying the contorted positions I was attempting to do with my feminine body. It’s quite another story now that my very proper mother tries to explain the difference between gymnastics and exercise and how I desperately need to start doing the latter so I can stop resembling a sack of potatoes.

My dream to become a figure skater was also short-lived because it occurred to me that one needs grace, poise and balance to even go a yard on those skates; I don’t possess any of these qualities. Also, one should have career aspirations suited to the climate one resides in…it is really hard to find an ice skating rink in a city where the coldest of winter nights can be comfortably spent in a hoodie and sweatpants. And where the winter season lasts as long as the new iPhone in stores on its launch.

let's skate no thanks k.

So I sought comfort in socializing with the dead, I mean not exactly socializing, I just spent a lot of time reading about the history of humankind. Suddenly I found my calling in the ruins of Rome and the pits of the Pyramids; I was gonna be an archaeologist.

It seemed quite a promising choice considering Pakistan was home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, namely the Indus civilization. But then I noticed nobody was interested in clay figures and crumbling bricks, there was no proper education and there was no career opportunity. Everything uncover-able in Moen-jo-Daro had been uncovered, everything loot-able had also been looted, I was a couple of decades too late in being part of the great discovery. It wasn’t helped by my brothers who ‘encouraged’ me to become an archaeologist by telling me that I would take so much time brushing away the dirt on some stone idol that it would add even more value to the antiquity, because let’s face it, where historical things are concerned, the older the better.

I'm ruined

So I poured my emotions onto my sketchpad, pleasantly surprised at my own artistic abilities. Gee, I could totally grace the walls of art galleries worldwide with my black and white sketches. So it was decided, I was going to be an artist.

The only problem with this lovely picture was that I refused to pursue an education in art. I had seen people hating their talent when forced to sit and draw still-life when they were itching to paint the world in abstracts. To me at that age, the idea of being taught by another in something that I was gifted by God was just too stupid to comprehend. If I draw an obese Cinderella well, why should someone force me to draw the Misty Mountains? Who are you to tell me that hair cannot look like the wayward rays of the sun? This argument was of course somehow translated into me being too stubborn for my own good and to this day I think it better to pick up a pencil and sketchpad when I feel the need to draw, instead of splashing paint onto canvas because my livelihood depends on it.

nobody likes mountains

And so I found solace in the written word, consuming books and novels by the dozen, stealing the abridged works of Shakespeare from my brother’s desk (he never noticed of course) and reading and then re-reading the plays by the age of ten. I was a Reader and I would happily indulge in my love for reading at the cost of my eyesight, which is now so poor that my own arm ends in a beige blur when I can’t find my glasses. Near-sighted people would understand the paradox of needing glasses to find glasses whenever we lose them. It is also the reason I cannot enjoy the measly splashes we call rainfall in Karachi.

its raining

Btw, being a Reader doesn’t pay well I learnt. Actually it doesn’t pay at all. In fact, you PAY to read, so basically let’s just strike that off our list of career choices. And yes I have considered being an editor, even served as one in college, but that’s just too much responsibility, and to be honest, I am overcome by hysteria when confronted by spelling and grammar errors, so yeah, I’m quite happy reading nicely edited books at my leisure which do not put my sanity at risk.

Left to ponder the greater mysteries of life which involved my future, I suddenly found myself drawn towards the stars, not in a romantic way mind, but more in the Stephen-Hawking-and-Black-Holes kind of way. I was convinced I was going to be an astrophysicist because it was just so cool. Over time I realized astrophysics is not limited to NASA only and that a citizen of a third-world country spends more time on the lower levels of the Maslow hierarchy than to ever bothering to climb up and into a space shuttle and shoot off into self-actualization.

spaaaaace

So when that ship failed to sail I looked deeper within and wondered about atoms and electrons. Nuclear physics seemed pretty fascinating, why not think about pursuing that eh? It just so happened that I failed chemistry and at the same time come to know about the destructive powers of this field of physics. Nope, I was not going to venture into mushroom clouds, I am quite content with the Cirrus, Comulus, Stratus et al, thank you very much.

But I was still the only geek in high school who aced the physics test out of sixty students and seemed to be like a bunny on Red Bull when left in the physics lab. With my final exams under way, I needed to pick a career and choose a university for my undergrad, so I decided to put my artistic skills and love for physics together in the quest to become an architect. The entrance test for the art school was going to be in December, I still had half a year to waste.

On a sleepy Sunday in the summer of 2006, I was forcefully sent to sit for an entrance test of one of the top business schools in Pakistan. I was half-asleep, still in my pjs when I sat for that test.

I cleared it.

Wait-what

Convinced it was a fluke that I was part of the lucky 5%  who got in out of 3000 hopefuls, I spent the first semester in IBA always ready to go home when the REAL slim shady turned up to claim his enrolment that I had stolen.

Four years passed.

Finally accepting that I was the real slim shady, I was now a finance graduate, hoping to become an investment banker. Finance just made sense, marketing to me was more intuitive, and I was bad with emotions anyway.

Then the industry collapsed, investment banking in Pakistan was no place for a fresh graduate, who was also kind of weak in maths (I know, I know, I should have thought this through). I was left unemployed and confused, thinking what now. So I did a couple of internships in the financial sector

Lo and Behold! I got hired as a graduate recruit in the top global technology giant as a consultant for banks. A business graduate in IT. Rumor has it that I did it for the lulz. Fellow male recruits speculated that I was ‘Equal Opportunity Employment’ in action. A year and a half later I was a pro in my field, sort of, but I was still only just an undergrad. But would they make me a senior consultant without a Masters degree? HAHAHANO . So the decision was made, I was going back to school for my MBA.

Having spent so long away from finance I couldn’t reconnect, and my marketing graduate friends seemed to have much more glamorous careers so I decided to take the plunge. I was going to become a marketer.

I swore never to go back into the banking sector, and slowly let go of my love for finance like a gold-digger who gets no inheritance. Spurred on by friends I was sure that I would acquire the coveted title of Brand Manager at one of the top MNCs in Pakistan. I dove right into the Philip Kotler collection.

cant study

Two years passed.

I was now an MBA, with a major in Marketing, an above average student who cleared all aptitude tests thrown my way. I was interviewed at all top companies. I was on a roll. Everyone was sure I would be one of the first to get a job, one of the few to get into an MNC, one of the few with an enviable salary package.

You remember what I said about fate running our lives? That’s exactly what I told myself whenever I found out I didn’t make the final cut for one or the other reason. In fact I wrote about my job-search experience in this post a while back. I decided to put it all on fate; if I didn’t get a particular position at some company, it wasn’t meant for me.

In the end I found myself in a completely different place from where I had first imagined myself to be. All for the best I hope. For sure being a marketing manager is on the opposite end of the spectrum from where a doctor would have been, if I had been left to my own devices. Who knows, ten years later I might actually become an anthropologist, studying indigenous tribes in the Amazon. Who knows? For now I shall perform a surgical operation on this marketing plan on my desk and hope it doesn’t bleed the company to death.

i regret nothing

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Words have failed me

The worst kind of affliction a writer can suffer from is being left incoherent, speechless, incapable of putting into words the thoughts and feelings that flow so effortlessly on any other day. It is not writer’s block, it is not even the lack of ideas, it is so much worse than that: It is the murder of 131 schoolchildren and 10 of their teachers, as it happened on the 16th of December, 2014, in Peshawar, Pakistan.

I want to not think about it, but this number is bouncing around inside my skull, lighting up the darkest corners of my mind like a murderous pinball machine, racking up the score on the level of psychological pain it can induce. It has crossed the red into the blinding white where your existence becomes splintered like dried wood cracking, losing its identity. You feel yourself imploding, collapsing in on yourself and just ceasing to exist. Pain is just a word here, feeling is undefined.

I am not angry, I am not upset, I don’t feel patriotism bubbling up at the call for the national green in my blood to rise. I don’t feel anything. I’m not thinking who did it, or why they did it, I am not thinking about what should be done to those who did this and what must now be done to prevent it from ever happening again.

I am merely stunned at the fact that it has happened. My sense of self has dissipated, I simply feel broken. Like there is no point to anything. Like I cannot even continue typing these words out because they will stop making sense by the time this sentence ends. There is just no point to life when it is taken so easily, regardless of the number. You take one, you take all.

Everyone is praying, everyone is telling everyone else to pray. But for whom? Those who have left us are surely martyrs gone to heaven, the purest of souls untouched by vice. Isn’t that what a child really is? An angel without a halo or wings. They say we should pray for the families, but what could you really ask of God? The strength to bear this loss? Only a mother would know how it feels to lose a part of herself, only a father would know how it feels to bury his own child. You and I? No, we do not know, so all we do is pray for them.

But what could I pray for besides that? I suddenly feel so lost; rudderless in an ocean, vast and deep, and I do not even have the will to flail my limbs about, I do not even have the will to survive. And for what should I live? To feel this kind of sadness that is beyond sad? Despair beyond despair? Hopelessness beyond being hopeless? This is not a ripple in the fabric of humanity, it is shredding it, ripping it, tearing it apart at the seams. This is the kind of thing that makes a woman fight against her natural instinct of wanting to become a mother. Do I want to bring children into this world when I have to protect them from more than just bruised knees? I am perhaps being completely selfish in wanting to save myself from the idea of losing my child, from having to cry myself to sleep next to their empty beds, holding their bloody uniform, keeping their memory alive. I want to be selfish this way.

I thought I only needed to vent to feel better, but I felt exhausted even before I wrote a single word here, even before I began thinking about writing. So very exhausted, deep down in my soul, completely and utterly spent. No, I did not personally know any of the victims, I am not so arrogant as to claim that I can feel their pain. I don’t, I can’t, and I pray no one ever has to feel it ever again. I am just simply so shocked that I cannot wrap my head around it. I feel beyond helpless, I don’t even know what kind of help I could give that could make an iota of a difference to those whose lives have been changed forever.

I feel no rage, no anger, nothing. I am broken and shrivelled like something has died inside me. It is probably my soul, most likely my soul. I thought I could rationalize my emotions about it, like I do for everything else, but even after all this time I realize that work was just a distraction. The idea that this has happened is just too strange for my mind to understand, like how can something so unimaginable happen? But it HAS happened. And I keep telling myself that so I can keep my mind from becoming disjointed from my body. I already feel so disconnected from everything around me, as if I am living my life in third person.

It is such a different kind of sadness from anything one feels through the course of their life. I always have a reaction or response to sad occurrences, but right now I am incapable of giving a response, providing a reaction. People are yelling, screaming, raging, crying, sobbing, beating themselves up. I think I just skipped all these stages of grief and entered the zone of numbness, possibly denial. I am not special and neither have I attained some mystical nirvana to feel emotions beyond an average human, I have merely failed to cope with this, and how CAN one cope with this? I doubt there is any emotion on the spectrum of human feelings to effectively cope with this.

I am not asking what sort of God allows this kind of thing to happen, I’m not thinking that there is some grand scheme of things where this fits in; my own mind is scaring me because I just keep going back to the point where I think ‘IT’ happened. Not how, why, when, where or what. Just that it happened is a thought I am having difficulty formulating. The mind is not comparing it with other atrocities or wars or killings anywhere else on the planet; the mind is not rationalizing and neatly categorizing it as an act of terrorism that we need to fight back against.

People are angry, consoling themselves with the fact that the perpetrators will go to hell. And then the mind starts questioning if even hell is enough. Even liars and petty thieves go to hell, we are hell-bound for comparatively smaller offences, but this, this is something else entirely. And these people are going to hell too? So maybe the deepest, darkest, hottest level, the very pits of hell, but is that enough? No, the mind truly does not have the capacity to process these thoughts running through my head. I know that the natural human response to this is the need for revenge, almost an animal instinct to avenge our loss, but I have failed to feel the hate and the rage, I am suddenly thinking on an existential level about where humanity stands. Or if it even exists any more in the human race. I am consciously suppressing such thoughts because I know my mind might collapse from the sheer magnitude of pondering the unknown. I cannot think of heaven or hell or even justice.

I. Cannot. Think.

Even after this whole tirade trying to rearrange and direct my thoughts and feelings, I am left with nothing coherent, substantial, understandable. Words, oh they have failed me so completely today.

(Details of the incident: http://www.dawn.com/news/1151361)

Only A Moment

It only takes a moment

to stop a beating heart

for happiness to leave us

for lovers to part

 

and it only takes a moment

for good times to pass

when memories are erased

and the end comes atlast

 

and it only takes a moment

for joys to turn away

when doom walks in

and life walks away

 

and it only takes a moment

for the men to fall

as the women grieve

for they’ve lost it all

 

and it only takes a moment

for the walls to collapse

as the roof caves in

dust fills in the gaps

 

and it only takes a moment

as blood runs like water

the mother mourns her son

the father, his daughter

 

and it only takes a moment

for a child to pick a gun

when his toys have been destroyed

his heart burns like the sun

 

and it only takes a moment

of sheer insanity

for you to lose control

and your humanity

 

and it only takes a moment

for brothers to be divided

as the protectors face

all enemies united

 

and it only takes a moment

for the first arrow to fly

and so it begins

when innocents die

 

and it only takes a moment

for your city to burn

the roads become deserted

and ghosts haunt every turn

 

and it only takes a moment

when all you knew was gone

all you had, you lost

nothing has been won

 

and it only takes a moment

for evil to reign supreme

when the good has fallen

your soul you can’t redeem

 

and it only takes a moment

for darkness to descend

the spark of life extinguished

we meet the fated end…

 …but it only takes a moment

for a young heart to start beating

the spark of life is ignited

witness a new beginning

(Note: This poem and its Urdu translation were presented at the International Forum of Youth Poetesses, 2013, held in Baku, Azerbaijan by the Great SilkWay International Youth Union.)

Perhaps I’m lost, perhaps I’ve found my way

They say life is a journey, with winding roads that lead us through forks and crossroads and dead ends. But that is not to say you have a map guiding you, through dips and turns, diversions and boobytraps. What you have are checkpoints instead. Random X’s marked on the sand and you have to find your own way to each mark, flag it with your name and move on to the next target.
I don’t understand how some people plan out their whole lives like a map; from which college majors to take, to which particular job in which particular company they want, to the color of the threadwork on their wedding dresses, right down to the pattern of the tiles they want in the picture perfect house in a specific suburb. Even to the number and gender of their future children with the exact kind of spouse they know with a certainty they will end up with.
I suppose such kind of permanence in thoughts about the future comes from supreme confidence in their own abilities to achieve every milestone they set for themselves.
I know I could never do that, as much as I dislike ambiguities, as organized as I may like my thought process to be, I know I could never be at ease with a fate I chisel into stone myself. Does that make me seem afraid to write my own destiny? Or lack confidence to reach my potential and go after what I know I want?
Perhaps it does, perhaps I seem like the kind of person who goes with the flow, wherever the wind takes me, or any number of cliches that define my existence in this manner.
Or perhaps I actually chose this instead; the option to not choose my path, control it, bend it to my will. Perhaps I chose to have faith in a higher power to prod me at the starting line, cheer me on at every juncture and to let me find my way.
My dreams are nebulous and my future is uncertain, for all my hopes and wishes they might never even intersect. But perhaps I would rest in peace knowing that this was meant to be, that my dreams are a figment of my own imagination, a manifestation of my desires right now; not a glimpse into what lies ahead, not a crystal ball that predicts what is yet to come.
Perhaps it is better this way, that my happiness is His responsibility and I could let go.
Perhaps, this is a word that encompasses how I feel about life.