Life Beyond a Rat Race


I have written this article for VoiCE blog. You can find the original article here.

Ever wondered why you are one of those people who are caught in the race? You are an engineer. You did your graduation in Computer Science/ Civil/ Electrical/ Whatever from one of the many ‘very good’ colleges in the country. You completed your graduation copying journals from your seniors and projects from Google. You always dreamt of big things and yet appeared for the campus interviews. Probably you were the lucky one to get selected early or you were the one who scraped through. You joined an IT major and was one of the 25000 candidates selected that year to do an outsourced job. And then? You joined the rat race to appraisals, on-site opportunities, promotions and buying a flat… did you? Does it hurt to be in the rat race?

I’m a Civil Engineer. But I never built any thing more than a retaining wall 8 years ago. I’m also an MBA. But none of my job profiles offered me to ‘manage’ and ‘grow’ some thing until lately when I took the reigns in my hand. And now I have sat down to write an article for VoiCE, wondering what I did in last 6 years. Was it some thing I always wanted to do? Sadly, the answer is no. I was originally destined to be an Architect. Civil Engineering just happened to me. Peer pressure led me to MBA. When I was still a student of Pune University, I wanted to open a restaurant and had even made a business plan for it. But it didn’t materialize. It took long years for me to reality what I enjoyed the most. And I’m still not on it completely.

The life beyond the so called rat race only begins when we take a small but meaningful journey within us. It is important for us to know what exactly we want to do. For example, I enjoyed writing. I still dream of being a photo journalist. I want to travel around the world, capture different people, different locales, take pictures and write interesting stories about interesting people. I enjoy doing that. But no body made me realize it when I was still in my teens. I was learning structures and bridges when I should have been taking their pictures and writing stories of their makers. I might be earning well today. But some times on a rainy morning, like the ones these days, I don’t get motivated to go back to the same work.

The problem can be any where but within self. In the education system, in our parents, siblings, peers or any one who provokes us to join the rat race. A teen vies for the place in a coveted engineering college because he is told by his parents and relatives in the US that Engineering is the best degree to have. It will earn him a high paying job of a software coder. The guy is not given a chance to think out of his path and imagine a world he probably would have loved to be in. Once in the college, his only motto is to ‘pass’ the exams and grab one of the coveted job opportunities. Some engineers who have no idea of what to do next normally bow to peer pressure and go for a completely unrelated course, a management degree. They all start earning well and then leaving a high paying job to follow one’s dream becomes too much of a risk.

Every one imagines a life beyond a rat race. But hardly any one dares to try and live it. All we need to do it first know what we want and then take steps to do it. Money is secondary. If Edison invented electric bulb because he wanted to earn, he’d have never invented an electric bulb. Do it if your heart says. Do some thing new, some thing better and do it if it is fun. If you are good at it, the money will follow.

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13 thoughts on “Life Beyond a Rat Race

  1. Although I agree with most of the things related to rat race written here, still I feel that Parents, relatives should not be blamed for taking up wrong career choices, Parents or elders try to give us a goal, an aim to pursue, so that since the right age in our lives we start taking things seriously, and if a child is serious enough to take up career in other than so called mainstream career choices, parents would support him or her in that as well. If anybody has to be blamed its only self conscious or will power that could be blamed. And it’s nearly impossible to get an uninterested student into any of the good-very good colleges forcefully and after that to clear exams and aspire for good job in that is just too much to ask for, if student doesn’t have any interest in that.

    Moreover if you think that pursuing hobby at this stage in life is risk, I wonder how riskier it would be at the time when one has no base, no backup; and by the way why do you think it’s risky now, because it would not pay you enough to take care of your expenses, but then you only said that Money is secondary, if you are good at it money will follow, this is so true, I believe in this, but what if it doesn’t? Can you say that the life you are having today, you could have been better without it? Or you wanted same life but by doing what you wanted to do. In that case Mayur I feel you are the right example for others, you are doing, what you wanted to do (as far as I know you) pursuing your interest of writing and Photography and either you currently are or will be very soon out of that rate race, much earlier that people who entered in it at the same time. I feel it’s just the right way to life, I think it’s important not to get trapped in the rat- race and be in it forever rather not to enter it, which is very idealistic and tough.

    • I wonder where were you all these days Ana! Great comment. I only want to disagree that self must be blamed. In my opinion, the ‘self’ is made by the circumstances. If no one told me how to speak my language, I wouldn’t have learnt all the thoughts and philosophies. I was influenced by the elders to pray Krishna and not Jesus. As a child, I was told that I should love India. I assimilated all the values believing each one of them as truth. Why do you think I’ll not assimilate the fact that I should only study engineering and not medicine? After all these were the people I believed in… and I still do.

      Thanks for rating me above the rat race. The fact still remains that I AM in the rat race. The differentiator though is that I know I’m in a rat race and the others dont. 🙂

      • I have read through this article couple of times.. and every time I read it, gives me a different opinion…. Life is like a coin has 2 sides, now you can look at either side and decide what is right and what is wrong…. this is a common problem for a lot of people…. Now the reasons might be different but the problem remains the same… now again we can start to argue what is success… and what is happiness… if you can understand that one can be happy and satisfied with what life has given them. And trust me you can. A lot of times we have to balance our expectations with our liabilities.. and that is where we are all caught up… Once you can balance that… life will be much more fun…
        Just remember Mayur.. life comes once… this time will never come back… if you feel you should do it then there should be nothing to stop you from doing it… u can debate maybe I was not successful as an entrepreneur but you can be happy that you did try to be one…. “So you need to decide… Definition of happiness & success in your life”………

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  3. Thoughtful post and an even thoughtful comment from Anamika.

    I am one of the many stuck in this rat race you are talking about. But I don’t think I can blame my friends, parents or relatives wholly for it. It was a choice I made.

    Also to know what is the right thing for you at that time is difficult and a change later though difficult is not impossible or any more riskier than before. You just need to dare to take that step and make an unconventional move.

    • Sapna- It all depends on a single fact, whether you are enjoying your work or not. Most of the times we dont enjoy our routine job because we are bored and not because we have other aspirations.

      As far as choices are concerned, they are mostly influenced. Some times the influences are good. Some times they turn out to be disaster.

  4. Counter intuition – why is rat-race so bad?

    Only because we feel stressed and pressurised and feel there is nothing beyond this in life?
    in that case – why did we enter it in first instant?
    Its all self made decisions, we relenting to peer pressure , we taking opinion from others, we always expecting something better somewhere else . I really don’t remember an instance when my parents said anything against of what I wanted to do neither did my relatives, so why should I pull them into the condition what I am in? It was my decisions all the while.

    I believe parents only try helping us in clearing the confusion by suggesting, that should not be taken in a different sense.

    • Durga- we are not blaming our parents dear. We are only counting them as an influence to our decision making. Of course they did not push us to do some thing we dont like. But if they happened to persuade us for even 10%, it is because they want us to lead secure life.

      After all it is all about the choices that we make.

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  6. Self realization and self actualization has been sacrificed for money ….. its a message that came through clearly in 3 Idiots and which is why the movie was a hit! Its ironical – since this is the country where self realization was big in the ancient times

  7. I am a senior citizen now retired. You are 100% true. Youngsters and young parents miss many things in life because fo this rat race. Many infants spend the day with the maid-servants or at creches.

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