Evacuate! Evacuate! Evacuate!
The pilot thought.
Evacuate! Evacuate! Evacuate!
The pilot thought.
Some might say I’m heartless. That I don’t care for those I’ve known for over five years working with through some fun-filled campaigns and stressful product releases. Some might say that I’m so stoic that I can’t even feel sad about leaving.
I’m not sad.
I’m moving to a new place. That meant letting go of my benefits as a full-time employee for a life of freelancing. Although my physical location is changing, I know that in this age we are never out of touch with anyone. There’s always something or the other that’ll pull us back into each other’s paths. I’ll still be working with the same crew, for the same company, and be a phone call away.
Sure, I’ll miss my current work style. I’ll miss not waking up at the same time every day, walking to work, nodding at my friends at the security desk, and devouring the free office munchies. Who wouldn’t? I’ll miss chatting with colleagues across the desk, laughing and pulling pranks on each other, and sharing ideas and experience with people much more knowledgeable than I.
I’ll miss the droning regularity of office food; I’ll miss expecting the clock to strike 4 for snack time; I’ll miss walking 10 minutes, all way across the campus for a 20-minute meeting; I’ll miss the sound of construction workers drilling on Saturdays, and the banging hammers all through the week. I’ll miss concocting my own coffee and wincing when I get the proportions wrong. I’ll miss the office gossip and complaining that there’s too much gossip.
I’ll miss work, and there’s no doubt about it.
However, I’m also happy for what lies ahead. I’m excited to figure out my life as I go. There’s sadness about leaving my routine of five years behind, but there’s also the delight of exploring the next part of my life. I don’t want to cry over one chapter when I know there’re more to come in this large book of life. After all, in the end, it’s a bunch of varied chapters that constitute a book.
“What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land.”
Robert M. Pirsig says it well in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
I’ve known V for over five years. When I walked into the campus scared and nervous, she assured me everything would work out well. She guided me to the restroom so I could wash the sweat and tiredness from my face after a 45-minute commute in the dusty local trains of the city.
Everything was new—the scorching heat of the city, the slums on its edge, the barrenness that exemplified the smoke issuing from vehicles so old they shouldn’t even be on the street. It was my first time in the city, and I knew within minutes that I’d have a hard time living here, if at all. But I was also eager for the job interview to go well—it was an excellent opportunity, and I didn’t want to mess it up. And V’s simple gesture was a tremendous comfort.
I got the job, and since, the company’s employee count had grown over four times. V and I, however, are still here. It’s strange, but although V was so nice to me on that first day, we never became close friends. We were in different teams, under different supervisors. Our roles were different—she a developer and I a marketing writer. We shared no common whatsoever except an employer.
However, if we ever cross each other’s paths, we’d smile, and I’d oblige to some small talk.
That was the problem—the small talk. I’ve grown less interested in crossing paths with V not because I developed a disliking to her, but because not everyone’s satisfied with just a smile—the inherent human quality to frolic in frivolous conversations stretches awkwardness to new extents.
And now every time I see her dread rises from deep within me, and my mind entertains thousands of possible topics we could discuss, each punier than the previous.
And that’s why I prefer a longer route if I can avoid running into old friends like V. I don’t want to humour meaningless exchanges over other people’s careers when I could just sit and stare at space.
Ever felt that way about someone?
Up and down we go
round and round as carousel
life, a wild goose chase.
It was an important day. I was flying to the United States again, and I couldn’t be more nervous. It happens every time. A huge believer in Murphy’s Law, I always consider everything that could go wrong and dwell on anything that will go wrong.
This time, it was immigration. What if the officer asked a question and I stumbled because I was too nervous? What if they think I’m lying? Argh, the horror of having to face my friends, after bragging to them about the trip—every little immaterial flashed in my mind as I stood in the lengthy queue outside the Chennai International Airport.
While I struggled to get my head in order, people around me were having the time of their lives. Kids played with bulging baggage as their adults chit-chatted away without so much of a second glance. A couple of women debated in a frantic foreign tongue. Assuring her companion, the first woman made a phone call and after a few rushed moments later, disconnected it and smiled at her friend—all was well.
Except it wasn’t. My stomach was still refusing to digest the butterflies that’d taken to it as home.
Just then a line of professionals appeared—they strode with mild aloofness and sheer confidence. The security gave them precedence, and off they went, smiling, sharing jokes, and even making swooshing gestures with their hands.
It was the flight crew—pilots and stewards making their way to the next city on their schedule. They had not a care in the world, except they had to care for those flying the world.
It was strange. Watching the pilots, I thought how much they’re like any of us—with a job as any of us. They carry the weight of thousands of lives every day, and yet, it’s only a job. Here I was panicking about a simple trip, but in front of me relaxed were those who assumed such massive responsibility. And they took it in their stride. How much experience and gut courage would they have, I wondered. They don’t let the fear of the unknown and the unchallengeable affect their peace of mind. They’ll give their best every time. And that’s how you keep your cool—you be you and take life as it comes.
And with that realisation, I walked a little easier towards security. I only had to be calm and speak the truth. I might stumble and fumble, but it’s what it is—it happens. And when it does, I will move past it. It’s no big deal.