Thursday, May 26, 2016

My insights on "broke, hungry and on trend"

My friend Parth shared this:
This article struck a chord somewhere... felt like sharing with all of you :)
https://www.buzzfeed.com/gayatrijayaraman/broke-hungry-and-on-trend

I found the article very good and helpful. Here's why.

1. It serves as a very good non-example for the young adults (I mean late teens too) who are just getting started with figuring out how they want to chart their careers. A non-example means: an example of what the instructor wants to teach the learner to NOT do. So, simple message : avoid damaging yourself / bankrupting yourself just to fit in. Bankrupting in monetary terms as well in other forms of wealth, like health, emotions, ideas, self-respect.

2. Exposure matters. Some people are able to figure out that there can be a better way to do things well in time. Some don't. Many realize something is wrong, but are not able to put it into words exactly what is wrong, and have not been lucky yet to come across alternative ways.

Some background:
For almost a year from mid-2011 to around Feb 2012, I was in the state I just described, as a primary school teacher in an educational fellowship program that had told me that there's just one way to do things. I was just not able to make things work, my heart was objecting the whole time but I didn't know why, I was not able to do anything in flow, even the simplest of things for other Fellows seemed just too difficult for me.

And then a book literally fell into my lap : John T Gatto's "Dumbing Us Down".
My colleague had been gifted it by some faraway friend and for her it was just side material, as in her own experience she had succeeded very well at the fellowship. But when I read the first pages, my entire being came alive, like some light had just been switched on. I felt like this book was telling my story, and putting into words what I had not been able to since months. And it told me something lifesaving : that I wasn't failing at doing a good thing; but I was failing at doing something I wasn't supposed to do in the first place. I still have the email I wrote to my colleague in which I told her this thing is going to fundamentally shift the future course of my life.

Getting a brief idea of where to go next empowered me to end my fellowship that year and walk out, and then I met Jinan, Urmila, Murtaza who then pointed me to Swaraj. (there were some other events related to management's tactics too, but it was the book that gave me the clarity to see that those events were merely a fractal reflection of what we were doing in the classroom anyways, so rather than treating them as separate point I was able to see their systemic nature)

Bottom line : I needed the exposure. I needed to bump into this thing.

What was I doing before I got that exposure? Well, I was doing things that are the teaching equivalent of going hungry and bankrupt while appearing at starbucks with colleagues as per schedule and buying a mocha as per norm. Giving new tests ('assessments') to students while 10 previous ones piled up unchecked in my room, while their parents kept asking "can I get the paper you gave to my child last week so I can work on it with her at home?", "How much did my child score in the last one? What areas does she need to do more work in?" and I kept inventing generic bullshit to answer them while trying to appear busy. Trying one method of classroom control and another the next week without really knowing why the first one failed and finally calling in the aunty (school maids) to do the dirty work for me (technically I couldn't beat my kids into silence, but hey, the rulebook never said I couldn't get someone else to do it!). I was digging myself into a hole, and doing stupid things because I had no clue what else I could possibly do, no one to properly talk about this to, as I knew all the typical answers are just not going to work with me the way they work with everybody else.

Whew! Flashback to some pretty stormy times!

So when I read that article, I can relate with the people described there. They're as stuck inside a zero-sum game as I was. There are others in the same place as them who can manage things much better, just as there were other Fellows all around me, being no better than me in IQ EQ knowledge skills whatever, who could manage the same situations much better. But for these folks that the article talks about, it's just not working, and they're going to need an exposure to something to shake themselves out of the blind daze and realize they belong elsewhere. Maybe the article will do that.. like Dumbing Us Down did for me, it might speak to them what their heart wasn't being able to put into words all this time.

3. It's important to also get an exposure to alternative ways of being. Dumbing Us Down then proceeded to talk about 'all this shit is actually unnecessary' : by showcasing democratic schools and unschooling. So there we have a chance to go BEYOND that article, to convey that all that shit is actually unnecessary, that a totally different way of living and managing one's life and career is possible. And here I have great hope : The people identified by this article.. belong elsewhere, are the ugly ducklings (referring to the old childrens tale). If they get to check out some swans, they'll shift to the other worlds that we need to populate anyways. So dropping pointers to alternatives is what I'll recommend putting in as comments or responses to that article. Not rejoining in complaining, but pointing out to the ugly ducklings who have read that and thought "hey this is me!", that they are actually swans, that there are alternatives out there and they can thrive better there.

PS: Are YOU one of the ugly ducklings, for whom things are just not working out in the regular college / corporate job / family business scenario? Check out: http://www.swarajuniversity.org/

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