I've had many a conversation with my women friends in which they sighed deeply and said, “You know, I’ve always had this passion that I didn’t pursue. If only…” Their voices trailed off and a wistful expression came into their eyes. The dream was evidently not dead yet.
So I asked some of them to give their imagination a free rein. Which dream would they revive today if they could? And what practical steps would they take to realise it?
An all-or-nothing attitude can be harmful
“I’ve had a long standing desire to learn pottery” said Sangeeta Sundaram, co-founder of Nucleus Insights. “In fact, I’ve wanted to do this for more than twenty years! But something more important always seemed to take precedence, and my dream kind of fell by the wayside.”
“Looking back, I realise that there were phases when I did have more time on hand that I could have utilised towards fulfilling this desire. Done some short-term courses. However, I haven’t yet given up on this desire. While it is true that pottery is an art that needs a leisurely approach and I lead a very busy lifestyle, the way out as I see it is to break down the learning process into chunks. Learn what I can when I have a small pocket of time available, and pick up where I left off when another such opportunity presents itself. The trick is not to adopt an all or nothing attitude.”
There is no age for going back to college
Time is something Anju Agarwal, a homemaker based in Kandivali, has plenty of at hand currently. With two grown-up children who don’t need her constant supervision, she feels she is finally at the stage in life where she can give herself precedence.
“I was a brilliant student all through my school life and wanted to become a chartered accountant,” she told me. “But back in the day, girls from my community were expected to marry early and then devote their lives to their family. I was no different and that’s exactly the trajectory my life has followed. But now I want to do something intellectually fulfilling, and last year, I went back to college to study psychology. The idea is to keep myself mentally stimulated, and not necessarily make money through my new pursuit. I am thoroughly enjoying studying this new subject and that is the biggest pay-off.”
Money is not the only goal
Khushnoor Adrianvala—Deputy General Manager, Tata Communications Ltd.—couldn’t agree more. “In my childhood, even “passions” were evaluated on the basis of their money-making or resume-enhancing potential. If one wanted to take up music, for example, it wasn’t purely for the joy of the endeavour. Exams had to be prepared for and passed. Certificates had to be obtained. It all became a chore that put me off” she said.
“Today, I approach my passions differently. I went back to learning music purely because it gives me joy. Took up woodworking because I love the experience. And who knows, I might even take up the latter professionally. But the prime focus is on the enjoyment.”
Physical activity for mental stimulation
While Shilpa Halbe, Senior Technical Writer, Siemens Industry Software, both enjoyed and had a natural affinity for sports, it was not a career that was deemed viable back in the day. “Although I was naturally athletic and could have excelled in any sport given the requisite training, my family background was not one that actively encouraged sports as a career option. My folks were more academically inclined and thus I fell in with their plans for me,” she said.
“I’ve been out of touch with any form of sports for the longest time now, and I miss the physical rush. But I plan to go back to the most basic of all sports—running. This requires no special equipment… I can just get up and go. And that’s what I plan to do, literally. Get up a little earlier everyday and go for a brief run.”
My takeaways from talking to all these accomplished women
It’s never too late to pursue your passions; paucity of time need not be a reason to forgo something exciting—you can always break down your dream into smaller, more manageable chunks and pursue them one at a time; and lastly, following your passion isn’t necessarily about monetary gain. Some things serve as soul food and really, nothing is as satisfying as feeding your soul.
Talking to these women has inspired me to reignite one of my own passions that I had kind of given up on, thinking that it’s too late to start now—singing. I’ve always had an ear for music and can carry a tune, but somehow felt my voice was not “good enough” to invest music lessons on.
But now I realise that life isn’t meant to be lived that way: you do some things just because they give you joy. That is the biggest payoff possible. Who cares if I never actually sing before an audience? I can always sing for me, Radhika Oltikar, the most important person in my life!