Earning my Freedom

prison

Finally, it is the kind of Sunday I have been waiting for.

I quit my job in April. While I haven’t resigned yet on paper, I resigned in my mind a long time ago. I have no plans of stepping back into the monotony of that job. The days since have been full. When I think of the dull routine of that job and the hours I would sit from 9 am to 4 pm, six days a week, trying to find something meaningful or entertaining to do, I feel the days since have been so productive in contrast. Ironical, isn’t it?

I regard the last few months as the most beautiful phase of my life. It was like being at sea on a self-charted voyage, with the exciting possibility of stumbling on new lands and setting foot on new frontiers, but also with the heavy risk of being at the mercy of the weather. I tasted freedom in its true sense and I realized how much courage it takes to truly liberate oneself from all entrapment.

For the first time, I saw life as a broad canvas on which one painted with a free hand. There were no practised strokes, no pictures to take cues from, no preconceived color schemes. There was just the canvas, the brush and the colors. I had to trust my hand. I had to trust my mind. I had to let it flow, anticipating the possibility of smudges and blotches. I had to be willing to take off the smudged canvas and start afresh on a new canvas. It was in these times that I came closest to Paulo Coelho’s words:

And when you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

The hardest part of the journey in these few months was that there was no income coming in. I was spending for all my endeavours, but with nothing coming in. Of course, I didn’t have to worry about it under my current circumstances, but what if I had to? I couldn’t go on like this. There were moments I felt worthless and confused. I had all the education and credentials to earn me a good job where I could be productive, but that wasn’t happening. If a job provided an income, it wasn’t providing anything for the soul. If a job gave me something for the soul, there was no income. How long could I go on like this? I consoled myself that this was a temporary state of affairs. I thought of people who could not have done this, even if they wanted to. At least I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to worry about my materialistic needs being met, despite the absence of an income. So I told myself that I would quit these endeavors only after I had savored their joy to some extent.

My life was like a circus in these months. I was taking on roles at random, depending on the immediate need. I was approaching schools, trying to convince Principals and Managements of the need to provide children something beyond their academic curriculum. This was hard because I had to prove to them that I had something concrete to offer. Sometimes I would take on the role of a communicative language teacher, hoping to connect language to students’ functional needs in terms of expression. Sometimes I would be a motivational speaker, speaking to them about topics such as school, education, or reading, hoping to connect these concepts to their motivation. Sometimes I would be an NIE teacher, using the newspaper as a tool to develop critical thinking ability in students. Sometimes, I would be a counselor and mentor, addressing their individual challenges. It wasn’t that I was trained in any of these. These were not the skill areas in which I was trained. But the drive to make a difference was so high that I just plunged in, trusting my instincts. I suppose the feelings of worthlessness were also a factor. I had to prove to myself that I had quit my job for a good reason. And when I was not doing any of these, I was a student. I sought courses that could upgrade my skills and prove useful to the roles I wished to play. This played its part in keeping my morale high. Learning new skills has always been my greatest high. So this played its part in keeping my feelings of worthlessness at bay. Towards the end, I also decided to tutor medical students on my own, for the pure joy of teaching. What I could not do in my institution, I wanted to do on my own. Teach to educate, rather than teach for a degree. There is an ocean of difference between the two. This has been an uphill task because students have been conditioned to structure their learning to suit exams (that unfortunately have nothing to do with testing of concepts) and therefore demonstrate resistance to true learning.

As I look back at my life, I see it as a circus. A circus, where I took roles at random, depending on the immediate need of the hour. Roles that sometimes demanded skills I had not been trained in. But life doesn’t give you that choice, does it? You just play the part and trust yourself to perform. But in retrospect, these untrained roles taught me the most. I suppose I always saw life as a long movie where I had the freedom to work on the character and the script, as well as act the character. So, in a sense, I enjoyed it. At different phases, I played different characters. I could look at my role objectively, revise the script and the character, and impact the outcome. I had the freedom to enhance the beauty of the character. And so, with each character, I let life pass through me in all its intensity, and I allowed it to transform me. To enrich me as a character. To add depth to it. That is when the true beauty of life dawned on me.

Towards the end of this phase, the clouds seemed to lift off, and some sunshine streamed in. I suddenly had the luxury to pause and look back at these last few months. I feel like a seasoned traveler now, wise from the diversity of the expeditions I have undertaken. Like that moment in ‘The pursuit of happyness’, it is that moment when the test has come to an end. I may soon be taking up a new role in life.

And as the possibility of this new role sets in, long-forgotten doors open and a familiar fragrance floods my senses. The world behind those doors is so precious and sacred that I do not dare to step in yet. For so long, I have been kept away from that world, imprisoned in a cell where I did not dare to dream of freedom. My feeling now is akin to that of a prisoner whose sentence and term in prison is reduced abruptly and the orders for release come, when he least expects it. The impact of the prison is so high that one is fearful of exposing oneself to the joys of the world outside. One is fearful of attaching yet again to that world; fearful of it being snatched away yet again. That is my current state. As I think of all the things that may come back into my life again, I can only sit and cry. I am too scared to be happy. It will take quite some time for this reality to sink in. At the same time, a part of me feels the joy of having earned it. This time, I deserve that world, for I earned it. It wasn’t just given to me for nothing.

Finally, it is the kind of Sunday I have been waiting for.

In case you wanted to know why, this is the first Sunday in months where I haven’t had to worry about the week ahead. There is no planning to do, no uncertainty to deal with. My mind is still. And I feel free to chase the butterflies within my mind- the multicolored emotions that I call butterflies. I hope you have a great Sunday too, chasing your own butterflies!

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