Conversations 22: Looking Back to Look Forward
The year isn't over yet, so I can't say I have survived it. But that was the theme of this year for me - survival! The optimism that I had this time last year - plotting different things to get the business off the ground - was lost somewhat halfway through 2014, primarily because I was having to do myriad things simply to keep my bills paid. But I look back to the time not with regret, but with some kind of affectionate pride. When I started the business, my business partner did ask me how I plan to survive with the limited savings I had. My reply essentially was that having survived my months as a penniless, jobless immigrant, I have started believing I could survive anything, resetting my life altogether if necessary. I almost had to, in 2014, and the fact that I may have survived yet again gives me a sense of achievement.
But then, I don't really want to just 'survive'! That's not why I set out on an unusual career course choosing to set up businesses as an immigrant. Survival is something I had to do when things did not work out as planned. The persistent theme of all my activities in the past - they may look disjointed but looking back, the dots join - has been a search to live a creative life. Survival, for all the adrenalin it provides, is at the same time, a departure from that search, necessary but temporary at the very point of conception, to be discarded as a mode of living the moment conditions allow.
The other thing about the survival mode is that I started doing too many things, almost anything that could help me move forward a bit. While this provides wonderful serendipity - it did - this is an enemy of a creative life in a way. Right now, as legacies from those earlier commitments persist, I get pulled to different directions, mostly through unhappy and unproductive associations carried forward from my immediate past.
So, as I look forward to the next year, which I pledge to make different from the one that just went, my focus is on minimising my exposure and doing less, not more. I am usually an ideas man, and this is part of the reason why I get involved in so many things: But as I learned through the past year in particular, doing more things don't give me any pleasure. My focus right now is winding down the legacies, and I am hoping to come clear in the next 45 days or so, completing all my engagements at hand pertaining to my temping days.
I am also keen to move from process-based to creative work in my own life. I am ill at ease in process-based work, which was a permanent feature all my career: While I have been usually advised by people who knew nothing other than process-based work that I must become better at it, and I kept trying too, my realisation lately is that I should start playing to my strengths. If creative and imaginative work floats my boat - no one really has to tell me to write this blog, for example - I am better off channelling my energies to such enterprises and not waste my time on trying to fill spreadsheets better. It is not that I believe one type of work is better than other, and in fact I spent most of my life thinking that being disciplined at process-based work is the key to success, but I have just come to realise that I torture myself unusually to fit into roles and do things which I am not good at, whereas, with a little more purpose and commitment, I can fashion a creative life. This is my goal in 2015.
I shall allow a certain amount of time for this transition. I don't have a magic wand to create a creative life, and all my work currently is process-based and transactional. My sense of responsibility would prevent me from walking away from what I started already, though that possibly is a hallmark of a creative life. However, I would love to approach this with a sense of purpose with an eventual goal of getting into a more creative life, and allow myself a reasonable amount of time to do so.
In summary, then, I want to change the way I live now, and I want to be able to write a similar post twelve months hence, completing this transformation. The details still need to be filled out, but I needed to make the commitment. I am not one to set objectives, I believe in serendipity and chance connections: This is about reflecting back on what's gone wrong to have a sense of what I need to set right. And, as I look back to the year I just lived, I know I have to focus my life on creative pursuits. That, in short, will be the story of 2015 for me.