February 13, 2009


Today is my last day at my first job.

I suppose the first line itself is an admission of failure on some part – something somewhere went wrong, obviously, for it to have to come to this. I keep switching between an overwhelming sense of relief at finally taking this step, and a gnawing sense of having made a stupid, stupid decision.

Even the people I talk to are divided: unconvinced and unsure until I steer their opinion towards justifying my own with some exaggerated hyperbole. ‘Do you know what they said when I asked them for help?’ ‘Can you believe the organization actually went ahead with this?’ etc etc. Not all of it is untrue, of course – but definitely amplified beyond their contexts.

Their argument is simple, direct and potent: ‘You’ve got a good gig going here.Why would you want to leave?’ My response begins with a ‘Err..Um…you see…’ and goes downhill thereon. I’ve used the rather meagre excuse of being unable to articulate my reasons quite a bit, and it needs to stop. I’ve been told that this general feeling of discomfort even in the face of an overwhelming positive surface-level experience is quite common in job-land, and that sometimes, you just have to move.

It’s not that simple for me, and contrary to what most people believe, it has been a rather difficult decision to make. I DO have a good..er.. gig going, and any inertia in my progress is most likely entirely my own fault and not my employer’s. I’ll admit I haven’t been overly frank with them, I’ve sullenly accepted most of my experiences here: both the fair and unfair ones. I haven’t complained to the bosses and powers-that-be, even though I’ve been asked rather directly to sometimes. But I did have one jarring moment of surprising frankness with my boss, when I told her that the organization…depressed me, in some manner.

I can’t attempt to pinpoint specific incidents, or draw inferences from sets of them: that would be pointless…but there is one…explanation I can offer for this.

I quit because I was lonely.

And I don’t say this in a frivolous manner. My employer is a lonely organization, priding itself in its aloofness from others of its kind – imperious with the knowledge that it doesn’t like to fraternize with these sort, thank you very much. My first few months there were devastatingly lonely in another way: I’m, till date, their youngest employee: and there was really no one I seemed to share any remote frame of reference with (My friends from college were largely the ONLY reason I stayed on – wouldn not have survived without them)

I did try, perhaps not hard enough, and found myself awkward and stumbling and unable to make conversation. My…juniority in ‘work experience’ also became a barrier. It struck me only when I fumbled, grasping at straws to get those elusive ‘exclusives’ my employer loved. My co-workers couldn’t understand what the problem was…their solutions to my convoluted ills were one phone call to a well-placed contact away. By the time I traversed the hierarchies of corporate communication and the corridors of bureaucracy, the story had passed, and interest waned. This became a vicious circle after a while. The learning curve I needed seemed to drop off in some places, and disappear altogether. Maybe I just couldn’t keep up.

But overall, I think I did reasonably well here. Sure, I spent quite a bit of time staring blankly at a computer screen, fed by a steady drip-feed of RSS subscriptions. I dodged deadlines often, whined about stories that didn’t interest me. I used company resources for personal work: shamelessly used a lot of p2p networks to read comics (Scott Pilgrim, ftw). Took a detour on assignment in Gurgaon to go visit a friend.

Suffered bouts of this strange sense of disconnection with work that was at odds with how they expected me to be (i.e an eager beaver) But I did decent work. I delivered some good stories, chased some pesky sources…even wrote a 1400-word piece from scratch overnight in an emergency situation (It remains one of the best I’ve written).

I sniggered at all the pretense corporatey-ness: the performance reviews, the culture, the stiff lingo of intra-office communication, the clear lines of command and control. It did become important catalyst for my decision – I emailed an old professor of mine for a bit of advice, and he told me to ‘beware the corporate straitjacket’.

It’s been challenging, difficult, and sometimes full of despair. I have to apologize to this little stretch of wall near the side staircase that leads to the canteen: I’ve kicked it way more times than it deserves. I’ve dreaded going to work on some days, and I became sullen and snappy for a brief, horrible period in between.

But I’ve also had some happy moments here, met some really interesting people, and had some unexpectedly brilliant conversations. In a larger set of circumstances, a lot of great stuff has been possible only because of being here. Maybe its harsh to contrast it like that – to make it look like a endlessly grey place with a few patches of colour. Or maybe it’s a fair assessment.

Either way.

kthxbai, I suppose.


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