I'm not ambitious and that keeps me very happy
What happens when your idea of success is different from everyone else’s?
I’m 30 years old and most days, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a child; then a painter and at some point, an English teacher. Nothing really stuck. I grew up to be claustrophobic so a metal cylinder jetting off into the universe was out of the question. I severely overestimated my artistic abilities and don’t have the patience to be a good teacher. Good thing I’m not very ambitious.
Years later when I turned down a promotion from senior copywriter to a manager position at a popular marketing company, people were scandalised. Everyone asked me why I would say no, why wouldn’t I want to move ahead in my career? The answer is simple. I’m happy where I am. The pay bump wasn’t large enough to match the increased job responsibilities.
A friend once scolded me for being a ‘disgrace’ to feminism. “All these women, past and present, have worked hard to give you these opportunities and you turn them down?! Being so privileged must be wonderful.”
It’s true. I’ve had a safety net of emotional and financial support created by the women I grew up around. But I’ve also been saving money ever since my first summer job at the age of 16. Even though Indian parents are programmed to put birthday/festival/Dubai return chacha’s gift money directly into fixed deposits, in my case, it was the other way around. I’d harass my mother, jumping around her until she’d deposit my little collection of squashed-up notes into the bank. It’s grown into a reasonable sum and I reinvest, adding a bit, even if it’s just 500 rupees every month. This little way of saving has served me well in the long run.
I don’t dream of yacht trips around the world nor do I want a mansion (it seems like a lot of maintenance, even with staff). I’m happy in my one-bedroom house with my cats. The hustle isn’t for me. People view ‘ambitious’ as one of the most celebrated personality traits, but shouldn’t it be equally OK to be happy with yourself?
Those women in power suits splashed across magazines seemingly have it all. The years of hard work and late nights are applauded as they should be, but what about the others, living an ordinary life of buying groceries, paying bills, cooking for one and being content, I wonder?
My parents were a bit disappointed when I turned down the promotion. For them, my future security and independence are important. On the other hand, I’ve been brought up in a south Indian household of strong working women who taught me to stand by my convictions, be a free thinker and follow my own path. These ideologies were conflicting for my parents, but once I made them understand my position, they’ve accepted that I know what is best for me.
See, it’s not that I don’t have ambition, it’s just not about a career. I make minimal pay volunteering at a shelter and I love it. I don’t find joy in winning bids and projects, and meeting deadlines and impressing bosses. It’s in bathing a little kitten rescued from a gutter or encouraging an abused dog to start trusting people again. Aiding the vet and other volunteers in treating neglected animals, conducting rescue operations and feeding strays around my neighbourhood. We’re all equals in this team.
There’s a chance I’ll regret my choices 5-10 years down the line. I do wonder at times what my life would look like had I just accepted that promotion. Maybe in a few years, I’ll have a massive switch and my life will completely change, but I’m not actively seeking it either.
I choose which projects I want to work on, make a decent living out of it and can pay my monthly expenses myself while living away from home. I find joy in the things around me, friends and family, and refuse to feel bad about not being underpaid, overworked and burning out by the end of it. It’s OK to not be ambitious and I wish people would stop telling me otherwise.
Stylist: Divya Gursahani; Hair: Krisann Figueiredo; Makeup: Riddhima Sharma; Model – Archana Nair/Inega; On Archana – Sari and blouse, Raw Mango