Whenever I feel a bit blue, I find it quite therapeutic to open up Wikipedia and read the biographies of people I admire. Being in the art field myself, it is usually someone whose work I admire, be it a singer like Kailash Kher, a photographer like Josef Koudelka or even a Formula One driver like Ayrton Senna. Reading the story of their lives, the hardships they faced, and how they overcame their problems to become the person that the world admires is a wonderful way of being thankful for what I have. Its a reminder that the person I am today and the life that I live today is not a result of what I did. It is my parents hard work and careful upbringing that has afforded me the luxuries of today. One hopes that my hard work will allow me to live the same way tomorrow.
For the first two decades of my life, I had a defined system of benchmarks by which I was able to measure my relative success or failure. The grading and ranking system in our schools and Universities proved to be the perfect way for me to understand where I stood in life and gave me a tangible goal to work towards. For example, to work towards getting a higher grade in a subject or first rank in class. Even my brief tryst with the corporate world had a system of appraisal and feedback which placed me in various ranks relative to my colleagues, leading to healthy competition and motivation. But so far in my life, the granddaddy of ranking and grading was the Presidential Elections at the University of Essex Students’ Union in 2010. Without doubt, it was perhaps the most accurately measurable goal that I have channeled my efforts towards. I (along with my fellow candidates and supporters) had a clear target in mind, worked together in a team to achieve the goal and successfully managed to win the elections with a laudable margin, leading to one of the proudest moments of my life. Over time, I have come to realize that the human mind, by default, seeks approval and an undying need to know where we stand relative to our peers in this journey of life.
For the past two years, I have been a self employed photographer and suddenly, this well oiled system of measuring targets that I had been working in sync with my entire life was no more. I had to invent a new set of goals myself. And that is harder than it sounds. I didn’t want to set financial goals because I have always believed working that solely towards money is a secondary concern as long one follows their heart. Without a solid set of goals, everything feels pointless. Fortunately, I always have my parents who have supported me in my every endeavour, time tested friends who have been by my side through thick and thin, and a lovely girlfriend who encourages me to discover the best in me. But to move ahead in life, I needed more.
It is at this juncture where inspiration comes to play. When I look up the biographies of people that inspire me, it is always interesting to see what they were up to at my age and then set a benchmark for myself relative to what they were doing. Of course, one cannot simply hope to emulate someone else’s life given that they may have had a completely different set of circumstances to deal with. But at the end of the day, it is better than wandering aimlessly. Having said that, I find that it is immensely important not to get lost in the stories of others but rather use the inspiration to build our own story and find our own voice in the chaos. A delicate balance of learning and doing is needed.
In this day and age of social media, one cannot deny the fact we are constantly inundated with information from a plethora of sources (Facebook being the primary of them). More often that not, I find myself discouraged by what I find online. The facade that people display online leads one to believe that the world around us is apparently achieving more than we had ever dreamed of. It is inevitable for one to feel that we were being left behind in this race to the top and it pushes me to do more, work faster and forget about sleep/health/family. When in reality, the bigger picture is being forgotten by engaging myself in this petty online race for publicity. Social media makes us feel that we need to work all the time and come out with new pieces of work every day. This can prove to be counter productive and in reality, removing ourselves from the perceived pressures of social media and giving ourselves the time to work on a project of our own can lead to an output that we can be proud of.
So go ahead. Turn off the PC. Put your phone on Airplane mode. Don’t feel pressurized by others. Find the courage to shoot the story that you have always wanted to show the world. Take your time to publish. Revel in the joy that you did the right thing.
Currently listening to – Disorder by Joy Division. Bonus fact – I share my birthday with the lead singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis.