Sunday, October 12, 2008

Residual Romanticism

This is a post I wrote last placement season then forgot all about it. This year the incidents that motivated me to write this post raised its heads again and led to the publishing of the post finally! Please note this post refers to people I know personally.

I have noticed a phase in life that some young men in Kerala go through! I have termed this phase “Residual Romanticism”. Someone who read the draft of this post tells me that this is Quixote Complex. But then I am no psychoanalyst, so I will stick to the terminology that came to my mind when I first observed this phenomenon.

Residual romanticism can be observed in guys and to a lesser extent girls in their late teens and can last up to their mid twenties. It is a phases of angst and restlessness and rebellious thoughts against the predictable march of life. The phase sets in during final year of college or maybe earlier for some. Typical symptoms are talk about boredom and or unsuitability with their professional course or jobs and a restlessness to pursue something more ‘meaningful/suitable’. Definition of ‘meaningful’ not known to these restless folks. Some people start feeling restless from day one on the job. Some during training. Some for years after that. All of them feel trapped in their present roles by circumstances beyond their control.

“Residual romanticism” is nothing but the residues of wonder and awe that are evoked in childhood when these young men were younger and read or heard about the exploits and achievements of heroes, conquerors, Formula one stars, Sport stars, famous investigative journalists, social workers, advertising legends etc. All of us have gone through this stage. Including me. We read or hear about these achievers and want to be like them when we grow up. Most of us outgrow this stage as we mature into people who can appreciate that these achievers were extraordinary people. However some young men do not outgrow those wonder year dreams and reality, like college and a job comes as a bitter boring pill to swallow. They think that they are cut out for a more illustrious future than coding or marketing or whatever! They feel that the “real them” was sacrificed at the altar of their parent’s desire for their economic security.

They are sure they could have made it big as writers, sportsmen, painters or musicians. This leads to restlessness and a feeling of extreme disappointment. They sit in cubicles and wonder why they cannot be in the great outdoors doing things that their heroes did. Then comes bitterness. You get mails telling you how miserable he is at his job and how he wishes he could do something more “worthwhile”. As I write this I realize that daily life is pretty humdrum when you compare it to the fables you hear in childhood. And when your mind is still stuck in the wonder years and its shining stars it is no wonder that you are miserable as an adult.

These people are yet to appreciate or understand is that routine life is normal. That there is nothing wrong with going to office on a 9 - 6 job like others. That all of us cannot make it as novelists, Ornithologists, Journalists and copywriters. And the irony in this scenario is that these very people can be seen lazing away at weekends instead of pursuing their passions. I have some cousins like this. One such guy is a guitarist who thinks that his parent’s ambitions (engineering college and a job) have nipped his talents in the bud. When I ask him if he practices and pursues his passion during weekend, he says that he does not. If he really was a budding musician, it was in the head. I know several passionate musicians and sportsmen. All of them have jobs and pursue their passion during weekend and on holidays.

I am not suggesting that most of these people flounder due to this tendency. They do stick onto their jobs, but hate it passionately for some time. And a terrible amount of time is wasted in angst. Some of these people do pursue their passions and return beleaguered to their professions older and wiser. I have to admire them for trying though they waste precious amount of time away from work and have to start at the bottom. These past two years I have spent considerable amount of time drilling sense into some of these people in the family. And succeeded too. But the energy I spent was exhausting.

I wish teachers and parents who exhort their kids to be like larger than life heroes and heroines put some reality checks in their exhortations as there are quite a few young impressionable minds that take these stories to heart and to adulthood and often end up comparing themselves to these legends and falling short in their own eyes.

Ramesh Menon is a New Delhi-based journalist and documentary filmmaker. He received the 2006 Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism for an article in India Together in which he reported on pesticide poisoning in Punjab. Here’s what he has to say about Kerala’s Development Paradox. Link courtesy a reader of this blog.

p.s do check out a report on the quite extinction of an endangered species in Kerala.


Rajesh Mohan said...

Very True. After all these years, I still sometimes feel that work life is so monotonous. It's an "on and off" feeling.
Like you said, learning to love the job even if it means putting a little more effort ( while we are already sticking on to it) should make a difference.
Easier said than done ?
Actually this is a very eye-opening post. Thanks.

freespirit said...

:) Ha, I almost felt like you were telling me about myself. Only that my tale would be slightly different. I didnt feel bugged in my 12-12 job (I worked in the IT industry) coz I was yearning to be a hero, but because my job was truly bugging :) and not something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. And I think its a similar kinda situation for a lot of people. E.g. Of the million coders we might have in the IT industry, I am sure there are only a few who are there for the love of it. The rest are happy to have a job, to be earning well and so on.

I've decided to do something about my boredom and believe I am on my way to breaking out of the 9-6 thingie and doing something that I would actually enjoy doing. (not heroic, but simple and enjoyable.). Most people don't do anything about it thinking exactly the same way your post suggests that not all of us can be heroes. Doing things differently doesnt always mean being heroic. I would argue that you indeed can do what you truly enjoy doing, and maybe u'd have to compromise on a few things, maybe give up on a routine life, maybe give up on some luxury in life etc. But it would be still worth the sacrifice coz according to me doing what you enjoy doing is the only way you can be happy.

*Phew* :) Looks like I am exemplifying the residual romanticism possesed soul eh! :)

mathew said...

Superbly written...I think you have made the explanation clear here..sometimes its better to have our feet on the ground...

Just my two cents..

people who actually ended up as heroes or doing something extraordinary...they made it their only after a struggle where they might have come across hindrances like desire for economic security.So its very much a risk which you put in there..most people prefer not to take that risk!!How much passionate and confident you are is how far you would go and take that risk ..

I know a cousin of mine who is very passionate about movies..and he is living in a dream about making it there..But at the sametime I am worried about his parents who are sad that their son is pursuing an illusion...Maybe its a bitter pill to swallow for him to shed such ambitions when the reality of real life is just facing you...

ancientmariner said...

you have a knack of putting other's thoughts into words!!

scorpiogenius said...

Hey, thanks for the Ramesh Menon link...:)

Abraham Menacherry said...

Do you know me???!!!!

I was EXACTLY like this after I got my job. Thoroughly unhappy that I did not get an authentic "electronics" job and instead landed a software job. But in time I got over it and my hobby electronics projects floundered and died a quiet death.

It is good to read the alchemist and throw away all in pursuit of ones destiny. It is equally good to read this post and feel happy and satisfied with what you have.

I currently subscribe to the idea that if a person badly wants to do something he will.. parents or no parents! And if he does not have that will, then it doesnt matter anyway... greatness will be elusive to such people.

Abraham Menacherry said...

Thanks for linking me!! I pleasantly surprised to land in my own page...:D

kumar said...

is it confined only to kerala?i see this among most of my cousins too.....

silverine said...

Rajesh: Perhaps we human beings were meant to be hunter gatherers and not cubicle occupiers! :)

freespirit: You hardly fit into the mold :) Doing things differently is very different from trying to emulate your heroes! I wouldn't call you a residual romanticist! :)

ancient mariner: so I am not the only one who has noticed this phenomenon! :)

Mathew: I have a cousin like yours too. So I know. We get frequent calls from aunts and uncles in Kerala, telling us to drill some sense into their sons heads! :)I have seen some parents actually supporting their children's dreams not knowing that their residual romantic kids themselves have no clue how to go about achieving it as they were more smitten by the famous people than by the profession.

Scorpiogenius: I found it to be an impassionate and well balanced article! :)

Abraham: "I currently subscribe to the idea that if a person badly wants to do something he will" Absolutley agree with you as I have seen this first hand. One of my classmates has a successful boutique and a senior a successful design studio. And these people worked really hard and were well versed in the professions of their choice. And the post was really good! :)

Kumar: I write what I observe! :)

Rosh said...

I feel kinda lucky with the job that I landed into rt after college.. I dint have any regrets, but on the other hand, it made me realize that's exactly what I wanted to be doing in life!

I believe in two things..
1: If you're good at something, make the best use of it as u can!
2: Know your limitations.
The 'Residual Romanticist', as you call, in anyone will not get a chance to be created once they know their true potential.

And I completely agree with Abraham on "if a person badly wants to do something he will". Reminds me of the Alchemist! :)

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Oh yes..... most often we are not 'cut out' for the job we do! And almost always, we do not have the courage to make a radical switch! At least I do not!

I long to go back to the hills, tend to a small plantation, watch the sunset ........... and a lot more!

Only time will tell!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your description of the situation. Its true.

But what i dont agree with is that you think people have lost out if they take two years off and pursue their passion. Because they have to start at the bottom.
In a 30 year work life 2 years are not going to shift your career graph by much. But the learning and the satisfaction that one gets by chasing their dream is invaluable and something which one has to experience to know.
You only live once and you owe it to yourself to achieve the maximum that you can.
To give you a context, Im thinking about people who want to be entrepreneurs or shift careers.


Cris said...

Alright here is another victim of residual romanticism. Nice name btw. But difference is I never dreamed big in childhood on hearing tales of big men and women. I just wanted to be a software engineer. And I did end up one. But somehow I felt a total misfit there and realized this was not meant for me - that the job was way too good for me. Maybe you can call it a case of reversal residual romanticism. So I quit and am now trying to "pursue my passion". Cause I sincerely believe you should be able to love your work, doesnt matter if its 9 to 6 or 9 to 9.

silverine said...

Rosh: You are lucky! :) I mean the two things you have pointed out is exactly what is lacking in residual romanticists! Plus research into what it takes to make it in a profession!

Rakesh: There is nothing wrong in making a radical switch. But I feel one must test the waters first. As Indians we have only ourselves and our salary packets to rely on!

Anon: I agree with you that maybe taking a couple of years off will not affect some people. But for some it does. And neither am I saying don't chase your dreams. But if you see a successful sportsman and want to be like him without knowing if you have the skills and ability then it is a pipe dream. I am talking of such people and not people who make informed decisions! :) Mathew's has summed up what I was trying to say quite well!

Cris: If you never dreamed big in childhood on hearing tales of big men and women then you are not a residual romanticist! :) You made some well thought out changes in your life. We all do that.