Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Changing Lanes

There comes a time in your life when you need to make a difficult decision.

Someone once asked me, if I am happy with my life.

It took me quite some time to figure out the answer to the question.

My mind was playing with deductive reasoning. Is happiness and contentment the same?

Arguably, one can be contented but not necessarily happy. But does being happy mean that it's tantamount to contentment?

There have been several situations where I needed to decide on matter like these.

For many of us, who have done the same thing over and over again, I believe that we probably don't move out of that comfort zone - not because we are happy about it, rather, we are contented with what we have or where we are. So to put it, we refuse to rock the boat.

Work is one example. Career change when one reaches the age of say, 50 is a definite no no. But I know many people who have shifted from one profession to another, in the hope of finding better opportunities for themselves and their families. Doctors who decide to give up their practice to become nurses because of better financial opportunities in a foreign land.

I am a Mathematics major but my career shift to a medical degree and eventually to a subspecialty that probably has no career in a developing country like ours except in the academe was the highlight of my first lane change. When I had the opportunity to join a multinational pharmaceutical company, I was initially nervous. Was it going to be the right choice? What happens if I don't make it in the corporate world? At 48, this probably would have a devastating impact on my life if I failed. After 23 years with the academe, was it the wrong time or was midlife crisis sinking in?

I probably needed to push myself to see what I can do with my life. Contentment was not going to be an issue. I needed to be happy.

I have moved forward and never looked back since my decision to retire with the academe.

I still meet my students, friends, colleagues, and even teachers.

While there are still conversations on my leaving the teaching career and joining the corporate world, I have settled in nicely with this new found challenge.

Found new acquaintances. New colleagues. New friends. And yes, new teachers.

Even in relationships, the concept of changing lanes is applicable. Do we hold on to a relationship because we are contented or because we are truly happy? If we are simply contented because the relationship provides us a security blanket for some reason or another, are we holding on because of this or because the other partner makes you feel special, makes you feel real, makes you feel wanted, makes you feel important as well? Are you real partners in the relationship, or is it a one way street that you're traveling?

Believe me when I say that, the thought of changing lanes is scary. It takes a lot of courage to move from one busy lane to another. A piece of us just dies a little, only to make another part of us better and feel alive.

Just like a highway, you need to go with the flow you have chosen. You cannot keep changing lanes just because you want to go with the tide. You'll end up in circles and eventually get nowhere.

Or always back to square one. And end up being miserable all your life.

Remember, the final destination should take you home - to being happy.

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