The Outliers

An early morning conversation with my mom has my mental wheels whirring on and off all today. We were talking about a friend who had decided to pursue a rather non traditional career over the run of the mill IT work. My first thought hearing of it was good for him at least he gets to do what he is passionate about instead of being doomed to a life of staring at the monitor specially if he hated it.

My mother was rather apprehensive. He is young! What if he is not successful? What if he has blown his chance at a good career in pursuit of a whim? And then the standard who will give their daughter to him?

While I laughed then, thinking over it, in many ways society has not changed much has it? True there are more people breaking the mold and going out and doing things but the average guy/girl next door is still toeing the line. Picking science over arts, writing a GRE/GMAT to get a Masters, applying for and joining a well-known corporate, reviewing hundreds of parent approved partner profiles, getting married in an elaborate ceremony and ‘settling’ down to a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and a play yard at the back.

Not that there is anything wrong with it but the person who deviates from the norm is often treated with disdain, looked upon even before s/he has a chance to prove themselves and written off before they start. If you are not doing the traditional things, then something must be wrong. I am sure financial considerations drive most of these societal diktats but I wonder if as a society if we were more open to people pursuing their passions be it cricket or movies or music perhaps there would be a better way to monetize that passion? Perhaps a child interested in sports even if they are not a good player could make a good sports writer a la Raymond? Or somebody who loves food could be a food critic?

If I look at any average gathering I am part of in my life now, most people I know are IT professionals. I know a couple of doctors and pharmacists and perhaps a couple of accountants. Where are the professional photographers, the writers, the chefs, the film makers? Why is it that my crowd mirrors what I think society imposes on us?

Where are my outliers? 🙂

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9 thoughts on “The Outliers

  1. One place your outliers reside in is Washington DC 🙂 One reason why I miss the city so much. But as you mention, financial consideration truly drive choices – the more secure the previous generation feels financially, the more willing they are to let you pursue a no-soru-on-the-table interest.

  2. Financial considerations are the main reason, and lack of perceived growth and opportunities in other areas. Only a few with burning desire or passion do things different na, most of us take the path of least resistance. But i think in a generation or two, attitudes will change.

  3. I think Gen Next now is fine with following their passion and taking the risks. It’s the parents who are the problem (seems like that in all spheres of life – the kids are fine until we get into the picture!). As some one who moved into the non-profit sector (husband is a teacher) after ‘good’ qualifications, we test the financial consideration all the time. And we have it pretty good so long as we work a bit more to get what we like. And yes, a luxury foreign vacation is a reward we gave up when we took this path. I am quite amazed that we can actually still travel and we do!

    Things are changing but slowly. As parents, if we will be stronger and ‘allow
    our children those non-traditional wings, who can stop them? BTW, some of the happiest people I know are so clearly not IT types! 😀

  4. I was the only outlier coming out of engg school. while most of the classmates opted for govt/public sector jobs like Electricity board/VSNL etc or teaching jobs, I did not even appear for their tests. I wanted to work in private sector. My dad was hugely upset ( he still is to some extent). I remember he telling me ” look you will get a rent free family quarters to live and pension after retirement”. At 21, pension did not matter to me ( to him it did talking of financial security, prospect of getting good match etc etc).

    I opened my wings flew to north. then got out of india. Then few years later, i got tired of technical stuff and took a more front end job as a consultant.

    to cut story short, been an outlier ( or a non conformant) in some sense. I don’t development/coding but keep the security of being in IT industry.

    I love my job, but given a choice, I want to be a performing artist. Must admit I have no courage at this point of old age, yes like to stick to the well travelled/ well tested path.

    sorry for the long comment Laksh

    ** my dad takes great pride when visiting my friend who is a VSNL engineer.

  5. Imagine living what you love to do – but getting very little for that.. say 20K or 40K. You are used to a certain standard of living. You have a family to support. Kids – day care, school, that Ivy league college * 2 etc tec.. You think about all this – what would you do? Follow your heart or the money?

    To me, unless you have a solid backing – following your heart is essentially meaningless…

    There is nothing wrong is the way society thinks… Sometimes we just have to be practical that passionate.

    1. Agree with Choti above. I think for most of us, being practical trumps passion. That said, I hope (and think) the next generation, which might have a huge cushion, will have the band-width to follow their passion. Will be interesting to revisit this conversation after 10-20 years 🙂

  6. I have been through this topic atleast 10 times this week, its all I can think about. I am sorry but I believe in thinking differently. So what if a person wants to be a painter or a writer? If that their passion, then I think they should do it. Even if you are a lil low on money, atleast you lead a graceful life, sans the constant pressure, not being able to perform well because thats not what you like. Is it better to lead a comfortable life and be happy with what you do or is it better to be rich/”successful” and frustrated and regretting your decisions throughout life?
    And as far as what other people are saying is concerned, you need to adjust your life obviously. You win some, you lose some.

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