Thursday, September 30, 2021

My Career Review in 10 Minutes


I have restarted my career thrice successfully, the third one as a Senior Curriculum developer with Chimple learning app at the age of 54. As a student, I did well in academics and was topping the class most of the time. I had a dream of becoming a scientist and working for space programs. I was highly inspired by the Cosmos show presented by Carl Sagan on DD. I had a dream career carved for myself as an astrophysicist. Meanwhile I started coaching children and also embarked on a mini stunt of successfully selling mixers and juicers when I was barely 13 year old. I had tasted the joy of earning at a young age. 

But life never goes as we predict it for many of us. I had everything in me to start a great career, but I ended up being a PUC dropout. My marriage was fixed with a guy working in Dubai and the conditions laid down before me were -

  • Do not study further

  • No working outside home 

  • No interacting with men

Working women carried a stigma in those times in middle class society, especially from where I came. For very few of those who worked other than in schools, we heard juicy gossip very often

I was good at academics but never smart about finances or good choices I could make about my own life. Soon I was married and living the life of someone else. I did a lot of things I did not believe in, just to please people, especially my husband. But again, life is unpredictable. We had a series of cancer running in my family. First my dad was diagnosed with cancer, in 1992, my sister in 1994 and myself in 1996. Believe me, 1998 was dreadful for me though I never expressed it. In between all the chaos, my daughter was diagnosed with special needs in 1995. She was 11 months old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Whew.. that was a hurricane hitting me at full force.

Things started to change soon after cancer. I realized that I had not much control over my life. My husband went back to the gulf during my treatment and I did not hear from him for nearly two years. I was completely confused at that stage. My ego prevented me from approaching him for help. Cancer changed me. 

With a special child to take care and attend to, a bald head due to chemotherapy and no proper education to boast off, I had to look out for a job. Now we see a lot of opportunities created for women as returnees, but back I heard nothing of that sort. Neither had I anything solid to return to. I decided to take up anything that I could do to start off. I started stitching clothes and making soft toys and selling them. It was a huge fall from my dream job, but it worked out well financially. Meanwhile my husband came back from the gulf and continued as though nothing had happened. My own insecurities of going through cancer and not knowing the lifespan I had earned through my treatment, made me keep quiet and welcome the parent. 

I did my diploma in Counseling skills and started working part-time as play-therapist and counselor/trainer in schools. Soon all the hell broke loose because I was the woman who broke the promise I made during my marriage. I cheated. I was wronging my husband. I blame myself for the mistake I made all over again. I gave up everything I had created in Bangalore, moved to the village  to my husband’s ancestral home to give my marriage, my children and my life a second chance. Being burnt once was not a lesson I learned. Believe me, I am super embarrassed talking about this.

Things started on a positive note, but slowly started to slide down. Once again, I had lost all control over my life. It was difficult coming back to Bangalore because I had no home to stay there. My mom passed away and my family moved to different places. I couldn't find a good job in a village and even if I did, my husband threatened to stop his support if I worked. The accusations of breaking promises came up again and again. On top of it, I had a special child to take care of. It was easy for me to give up and surrender my life to the circumstances. I had enough excuses to make up for not just one but two lives. 

But something in me kept prodding me not to give up. I started again with tuitions for children. I soon became very popular with students from my coaching class doing good not just academically but also in debates and competitions. My son, who was in 10th back then, once asked me why I was not doing something with the skills and talent I had. I told him about the conditions and promises. Believe me, at that young age, he had the wisdom to ask me, “Maa, did you know that you would go through cancer and bring up a special child when you made those promises? Did you expect this life? Don’t you deserve better?”

I answered, “I do, but how can I break a promise?” But he went to explain to me that there are rules, laws and promises and a consequence for breaking it. What would be the consequence for me breaking the promise? Was it discussed? How would I be rewarded for keeping the promise. Was that discussed. At that moment, I felt stupid. I was holding on to something and suffering for no reason. I decided to pay the fine like millions who break traffic rules everyday. I decided to kick the promise and get back my life.

Meanwhile, I learned about computers and started blogging. I slowly started getting offers for content writing as well. I realized my skills for learning had never diminished, because soon I was very familiar with Microsoft Office and computer functioning. I was good at internet research as well. I had a steady income of my own in a short period of time. I felt like the father of the prodigal son. Wow.. it meant a lot to me. 

As my son entered college, I started studying again. I completed my graduation. A lot of threats, pressure, withdrawal of support happened during the period but I did not give up. Two more years and I completed my post graduation as well. Within a month, I landed with a steady job paying me 45K. It was almost 5 times the money my husband sent from Dubai. Since then, I have never looked back financially. I am grateful to my son for giving me the much needed push and also being supportive throughout those days when I studied once again. It was not just the job, but it was my own life I got back again. Like  Edmund Hillary said, it is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. With the security of the job, I could be the main character in my life. Not many who haven’t been where I have been can understand how tough it is to lose your freedom because you are financially dependent on someone else. 

I had a dream of starting an inclusive preschool for children. I took the risk and started a preschool and daycare in 2017 with the money I had saved.

I ran a preschool for 3 years with inclusive education. It was tough at the beginning but then I tasted success with good admissions. Unfortunately, the lockdown forced me to close the school. With the future of reopening schools not clear, I started looking for a job once again. 

I wanted to make a difference in the education sector for children. I had heard about the Chimple learning app, the winners of X-prize and approached them for a job. I was lucky to be hired in a short period of time and I am very proud to be a part of Mr. Srikanth Talapadi’s team which is making revolutionary changes in early literacy and numeracy for children. I love and respect my job as a Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple. 

Resilience, tenacity and determination helped me get back steady with my career once again at the age of 54. What helped me the most is, even though I was not working at a regular 9-5 job, I never stopped working. I did something or other to keep me engaged like training, coaching, counseling and teaching. I also ran a canteen in a hospital before cancer made me give it away. Even when I was not attending college, I kept learning. I never hesitated to check new waters like the internet and computers. So, when I was ready to work full time, I had enough skills to bring out good results. I never hesitate to learn even to this day. The continuous learning gave me confidence when I was interviewed I could say ‘yes’ to most of the questions. 

If the iPhone wouldn’t upgrade as often as it did, would it still be as popular? The same applies to us. Upgrading ourselves is the key to success. 

Lock up your excuses and reasons before you think of success. If you have them handy, things will always be difficult to work out. Have a shield against the guilt that will be thrown your way. You are never going to be a hero for making your life and your career a priority.

I may not have achieved the dream of becoming a astrophysicist, but the life I live now is close to it. 

What I have to say to anyone who is listening or reading this is - Do not underestimate the power of financial independence. If you are dependent on someone yet you can make your decisions and are in control, then it is fine. If you have to someone's bidding against your own choices because you are dependent on them for your finances, then it is time to wake up and take control of your life. No matter how small you start, it will finally be worth it!


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