2018: A somewhat final note
I am psychologically there already, to the end. Or, rather at the beginning of the next.
But, it is different this year. Since I migrated, I always measured my progress asking a question to myself - have I done better than the previous year? In most years, the answer was yes. Except in 2017, which started badly and ended indifferently for me, and I had this distinct sense of going backwards rather than forward. Remarkably for a single year, not one but two projects that I spent time on failed to take off; I lingered on unnecessarily in a job even when my wages were in arrears; I still had my dreams intact but it seemed I was chasing shadows interminably. So, at the end of 2017, I was not sure - I was drifting and dabbling, not paying attention, not making progress - and I wanted the year to end, quickly.
In that sense, this was a completely different sensation. 2018 has been a good year for me, not just in terms of recovering from my mini mid-life crisis, but also to regain a direction. Through the year, I ended or withdrew from myriad little enterprises that I signed up to in my months of drifting. So, remarkably, today, if someone asks me what I do, I could give a comprehensible answer. I am living a simple life of working and studying. Indeed, a few things still linger - A school governorship that I feel guilty about leaving prematurely, few engagements that involve longstanding friendships - but I am hoping that my simplified life would allow me to engage with these more meaningfully in 2019.
Also, importantly, and unlike in 2017, this year was one of completions. My history degree is now complete. It's late in life, but I feel happy to have completed something that I always wanted to do, and have spent last two years working on. The project I took on around middle of the year came to a successful conclusion, which is a bit of change after those inconclusive pursuits in 2017, and while it has now expanded in scope and my contract extended well into 2019, I feel much more in control of my work and its direction. So, in a nutshell, I look forward to completing the holidays quickly and getting on to the next chapter in 2019.
In a way, therefore, time to make plans. The work I am doing now is ideal for a pivot in life: It allows me great opportunities to apply my skills and experience, but, at the same time, being of a completely different nature than anything I have done before, offers enormous opportunities to learn. My curiousity, which got me in trouble in 2017, is now an advantage: I don't mind being told new ways to do things and seeing these through as experiments. At the end of the day, as I step back and reflect, I see I am learning new skills every day, almost living a completely different life than anything I have done before, trying out different ways of doing things.
This is what I want to continue doing, at least for another year or more. But I also want to commit more meaningfully to my Doctoral studies. I have not abandoned my aspirations to getting back to Higher Education, and believe that my current exposure to learning technologies and transforming employers practices at the sharp end, would be an enormous advantage when I eventually do so. But I believe that to be in Higher Education, one must learn the ropes. It is not good enough to have a corporate career, or being a banker, as pre-qualification for running an institution: One must live through a scholarly pursuit for long enough. This is what I have done so far, and will continue to do this for the next few years. Indeed, this means doing to my reading what I am doing with my work - giving a focus, reading within a disciplinary ring-fence - which may be a good or a bad thing. In fact, philosophically, I see modern higher education being too fragmented, a practice that is unnecessarily bureaucratised and structured to deny the unity of knowledge, and my commitment to a focused pursuit is likely to run counter to my curiousity which tends to take me down different paths all the time. But I somewhat recognise that I am now going to pursue a specialised path, and unless I adjust myself to a focused approach, I am going to be lost.
From this vantage point, then, 2019 looks simpler: My work with learning technologies and my pursuit of a doctorate in history. I would perhaps stay away from India for a while - my visits only excite me with apparent possibilities that I have no means to act upon in the immediate term - and only go back there in the summer. This is another change, but I hope all that I do now and the coming days is just a long preparation to re-engage with India more meaningfully. In fact, that aspiration will keep me going and will give meaning to what may otherwise look a very instrumentalist approach to life.