A few days back, my wife , who is in Tanzania doing research on antelopes tried calling me on her cell phone, after a gruelling day in the field. In an attempt to get a cell phone signal, she climbed on top of a nearby hill and made the call. Just as we were speaking she told me that on the other side of the hill, she could see more than 500 elephants grazing ! 500!! After sharing her joy initially I grew a little jealous. The first thought that occured to me after the call was whether I was stuck in a wrong career. How many times would I get a chance to see something like that working away behind a computer? Probably never. How and why did I choose my career? How do most people choose what they do for a living? At any point of time, in the entire workforce of the world, how many people have always wanted to do what they are do for a living?
When I was a child, I wanted to a policeman. More specifically I wanted to be a Sub-Inspector and not an Inspector, because I thought that Sub-Inspectors were higher in the hierarchy. Well, Sub-Inspector has an extra word in front of it and 'Sub' in Hindi meant 'All'. So it was only natural that an All-Inspector was bigger than just a mere Inspector.
The inspector dream faded away soon and my next ambition was to be a cricketer. More specifically a fast bowler. I thought I was a decent fast bowler for my age. But the probability of being successful was next to zero. Imagine a cricket-crazy country with the second highest population in the world and only 11 players play for the country. Well, 14 if you count the substitutes. So you have almost a zero percent chance of making it. In those days, there was no money in the domestic leagues, and if you did not make it to the national team, you were as good as broke. So it was either success or nothing at all. There was no middle ground. And so cricket succumbed, giving way to the higher priority of making a decent living.
And then a close family friend became an engineer and that is what I wanted to become all of a sudden. The next several years were dedicated to that and since it was an achievable target, I graduated with an ngineering degree. I was quite proud of myself. Taking a few computer programming classes in college made me feel that programming was such an exciting field and my dream job would be something to do wiith programming. Lo and behold, after working in the civil engineering sector for 6 months, I switched to software and that is what I have been doing for the last 11 years. But I wonder now if it was something I really wanted or was it just an infatuation? I still love the challenges it throws up and right now, I can't think of anything else I would rather do, except for maybe watch 500 or so elephants from the top of a hill, or listen to lions growling a few hundred metres away as I lie in my tent trying to sleep.
Of course, I am only focussing on the glamourous parts of my wife's stories of seeing lions, hyenas, elephants, antelopes etc. in the wild, while clearly ignoring her daily struggles of doing even the simplest things that we take for granted; ignoring the stress of doing lab work against a deadline, when something as basic as electricity is not guaranteed. The huge amounts of paperwork to do research, the lack of timely funds, the lack of any monetary gain (monetary loss, in fact, inspite of being paid a salary), while ironically being stuck in a place where the common man thinks you have lots of money to spare.
Maybe that is it. The grass always looks greener on the other side. Nothing comes without drawbacks. No matter what you do for a living, there will always be something else which you think you would love to do for a living. Just like me, Usain Bolt wanted to be a fast bowler, when he was young. If not for his cricket coach who suggested sprinting as an alternative, he would or most probably would not ,seeing as the coach suggested a different sport, have made it to the West Indies Cricket team. And Jamaica would never have a son to make it so proud in the 2008 Olympics. And we would never be fortunate to see a man run as fast as the 'Lightning Bolt'. And to think, that his career was shaped just by a suggestion from his cricket coach. Since we are talking about Bolt, here is an amusing video of him playing in a charity cricket match and giving a send-off to the West Indies captain!
Maybe most people end up in their choice of a career just like that. By chance. By just plainly going through life and taking the opportunities that are granted to them and making the most of it.