2021: Going back to go forward

2021 has started with a whimper, for me.

Fittingly I spent the last two weeks of 2020 in the sick bed, as the virus finally caught up with me. I never said so, but I had to learn first hand that this is no flu: It was a virulent disease that makes one feel really sick. Now that I am back in action, I am still feeling sub-par and tired all the time. 

That was, however, a fitting end of a year in waiting. Nothing moved forward and my life went in cycles. The worst nightmares I was having when deep in fever were not imaginary, but real - that feeling how pointless everything I do have become. It is as if I got caught in time and never moved forward since 2011, when I used to be optimistic. However, the good thing of this illness and recovery cycle is that one eventually looks forward. As I get back on my feet, I am telling myself that it's time to be optimistic again.

Of course, it's hard under the circumstances. Regardless of what I feel, the reality has not changed much outside. If anything, things have become worse with the British government losing control of the virus altogether. They are, of course, blaming it on a new strain, but new strains are not new and everyone always knew that there would be new strains, so the mess is entirely to be owned and lived with. For me, as I look out and try to get back to work, the new year has not started with a reopening and return to normalcy, but rather another round of lock-downs and restrictions on international flights and all that. 

And, besides, Donald Trump has decided to hang around and undermine the little bit of faith rest of the world had left for the sanity of the Americans! Come 20th January he may finally go - hundreds of millions richer through his elaborate con - but he - and his willing slaves of office-seekers - has perhaps damaged the perception of America forever. Good or bad, the Biden presidency will forever be consumed in fixing America's breakdown, with Trump and his cronies lurching in the shadows. Therefore, for all my optimism, I can't see the world going back to any business as usual form, even after Covid and Trump. 

Which means we have to make fresh starts! Not a bad thing in itself, but now we are generally scarred. I am forcing myself to get my optimism, which I had a decade ago, back again. Back then, I wanted to set up a truly global campus in London, wanted to infuse creativity, enterprise and globality in a distinctly new economy focused institution. I have tried various versions of the same dream in the meantime and still at it, but I am not sure I still believe in those core values. My fresh-eyed wonder about creativity is now tired and my enthusiasm about entrepreneurs and what they do feels cliched now. I have just been to too many conferences, met too many technologists who want to change the world without understanding it first. 

2021, therefore, is, first and foremost, about fixing my mindset. Finding a burning purpose again, I am telling myself, as I have lived for far too long just paying the bills and compromising my ambitions. I have taken on whatever came my way, not dreaming, not building, not moving forward. I have become consumed in the daily humdrum of work, not creating anything new - not imagining the educational experience as I thought I would do. And, that's what came to me as a nightmare in my fever-induced reveries: It was like a door leading out of the room that leads back again! I have been forever exiting and re-entering and trying to escape! As I wake up to 2021, I know my first job is to find the way out.

I don't know what shape this takes though. All my projects today are boring and unambitious. Things that I can do easily - I know the tasks inside out and I don't need to learn much anymore. Much of it is about nodding in agreement, feigning excitement at the reinvention of the wheel and dying, at the core of my heart, by dreadful boredom of corporate conformity. Suddenly, my years of living dangerously look sweet and I wish if I can get back my entrepreneurial urge again. I think that's the formula - the desire to do something new starts with the lightness of living dangerously, without the trappings of secure existence.

As it stands, of course, my project is unfinished and I hate unfinished stuff. And, therefore, I am not going to change my life in a hurry. Rather, I shall make a fresh start and hopefully I can grow with this year, 2021. Its very disappointing start will hopefully melt into a very unremarkable goings-on, as it always does. This time around, I am hoping that I shall arrive at faith through the sheer pointlessness of everyday. I mean, even going out for shopping for a little while is now a big departure for me, something I haven't done normally; my Covid-induced brain has not been exposed to a single good idea for a long time; I haven't dreamt of building anything useful for a long time - such a long time now!

So I am doing the little stuff and hoping that partly by force of circumstances, partly by luck, it will work out this time. We are at a different juncture and I am a different person; may be this is better than the optimism but unfounded exuberance of a decade ago. May be this time I shall find my groove and build the institution that I wanted to build then. Overall, 2021 is perhaps that year for me - of doing the boring and getting there through the little stuff. But then I shall keep writing.

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