Master of None

There have been many things that I thought I could develop into serious career options over the years. When I was around sixteen I considered growing up to be a professional skateboarder or a professional gamer. I only ever learned to do an Ollie, which I think I could still pull off with a few days of practise. I have since given up on these two as career options. Around eighteen I was really good at maths and physics and I thought I’d go study at an IIT and spend a decent amount of my life doing research and other science stuff. This too seems only a remote possibility at the moment. I was gifted Feynman’s Lectures on Physics many years ago and I still haven’t read them.

When I was in college I’d gotten pretty good at algorithms and AI for puzzle games and I thought I could build a career around that. I think I’m still pretty sharp with these skills. I could probably still do this if I was to leave my current job and be underpaid for a couple of years. It’s because this is somewhat similar to what I currently do (which is run an ecommerce website), that I still think of it as an achievable option.

I first started this blog in 2005 on Xanga. I’ve enjoyed writing since then but I’ve never done enough of it. I once made a submission to a science fiction short story writing competition and I won second prize. There was actual prize money and they mailed me a cheque. I thought I could write more things good enough to put out into the world at some point in my life. I never believed I’d make any serious money writing and so I thought that when I’m older and I’ve figured out the making money part of my life I’ll do some serious writing. I guess I still believe this.

In my early twenties I made a couple of simple websites built on WordPress as freelance projects. I then thought  that I could make websites or web applications for a living. I guess I was right about this one. I also worked as a software developer making a web application in Java for almost two years. The work was easy and paid decently well but I always knew that this couldn’t be all that I’ll do for the rest of my life. It was nowhere close to as exciting as any of the other things.

When I was really young my parents sent me for tabla classes. They were once a week and I went for years. I didn’t learn all that much but I developed a good sense of rhythm. I eventually bought a second hand guitar. I thought that if I don’t manage to write prose, I can write songs instead. Maybe they’ll be easier because they’re shorter. The fulfilment lay in telling stories. I wrote a few songs and some of them aren’t too bad but this didn’t go much further either.

When I first played the drums it felt like I could get the hang of it quickly. It could have been all the tabla knowledge I didn’t know I had. The drums don’t help me tell stories but they could help me make more complete songs. They’re also a lot of fun to learn and jam with.

This is not a comprehensive list. This is probably less than half of all the things I thought I could do and spent at least a little time learning, but these are most of the important ones. These are the ones that have stuck with me for long enough to really count. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then I’ve told you almost all of these things before at some point. I’m sorry about repeating them. I needed to tell you this story to get to the point of this blog post.

I’m the kind of person who wants to do a lot of things. And we live in a culture that glorifies people who do one thing really well. I partly believe that with a rather large dose of discipline and a few difficult choices I could still be one of these things; a socially acknowledged success. But that’s rather difficult and very little fun. I’ve tried making these difficult choices and working on one thing at a time. When I decided that I should make writing a top priority I’d feel guilty every time I started doing something else that was fun, even if it was something equally fulfilling and meaningful. When the guilt would drive me to try to write, I’d be staring at a blank screen. After backspacing a couple of sentences a dozen times I’d be back on Reddit again.

The realisation crept up to me that I’ll never get good enough at any of these things because when I stop and focus on only one thing, it still doesn’t work. I never openly accepted this to myself, but it was always at the back of my head, looming and melancholic. Too big and scary to deal with.

Learning something is also really rewarding at the start, after which it starts to plateau. It takes an increasing amount of time and effort to make what seems like diminishing progress. Add to this the knowledge that I’ll never be good enough to really make something of this skill and I’m at the point when I stop trying to get better. It’s now just another guitar standing in the corner of my room that I’ll pick up once every couple of months.

I want to say that it’s okay to be mediocre at something forever and I’ve tried believing that but it doesn’t work for me. I’d rather just watch TV and go out and drink with friends and spend hours browsing Reddit or Instagram than put in effort to be just a notch above the the level of mediocre that I used to be. So that’s what I did for over a year. I still didn’t want to admit that I’d abandoned most of my ambition, and so I never thought about it and things largely remained the way they were.

It’s honestly not that bad a place to be. The good thing about actually enjoying doing so many things is that even if I do one of them once in a few months it feels great. I just need to have forgotten exactly how good it felt the last time. If I do it more often then I’m hit with the realisation that I haven’t made any progress and I never will.

It took me a couple of years to fully understand that just because I’m not going to be as good at anything as I’d once hoped is not enough reason to stop trying entirely. I will never be enough of a musician or writer or skateboarder for that alone to be satisfactory. I am a part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie. There may be a few things to add to that description but it’s largely pretty rigid. I’ve tried to change it and failed. What I really need to do is be the best part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie you’ll ever meet. This is the only way to keep a distant-future-me from suddenly being struck with the crushing guilt of not having done enough in my life at a point when it’s to late to do anything about it.

In the course of my whole life, I can probably make twenty to thirty songs that a few hundred people will love and be really moved by. I can also manage to be a good enough drummer and guitarist to jam with for most part of it. I can also write a dozen short stories and maybe even a book or two out of which three will ever be liked by over a thousand people. I can also contribute in a very small way towards making software that significantly makes the world a better place. I can also be a forty-something who can have fun at a skate park and briefly explain the latest developments in particle physics. I can hopefully also use one or more of these skills to make enough money to live a decent life.

Any one of these things isn’t much but if I can do all of them, that’s really something. That’s also something that twenty-nine year old me feels is certainly achievable.


Wishing you luck with whatever you chose to do with the rest of your life,

The best part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie you’ll ever meet.


There’s many good things about being in my late twenties. One of them is not needing to answer to anybody about life-decisions. I guess this really starts in your early twenties or maybe even earlier for some but it takes a while for it to set in and to get the hang of making good life decisions. Another one is having enough money to do all those things you said you’d do when you’re older. I could afford a month long trip to Europe or Japan or South America. I can buy a new TV and a good speaker system and a Chromecast to go with it. I can buy a tablet and an Xbox. I can buy an electronic drum kit along with a good amp or studio quality monitoring headphones. I can pay rent to have my own place to keep the drum kit. I can have one room air conditioned and soundproofed and have the walls all padded and the whole floor be a bed so that I can literally bounce off the walls. I can put everything I just bought into this room and make it into a jam room and a bedroom and a party room at the same time.

Imagine it, the drums will be on a movable platform that can be lifted up to the ceiling when they’re not being used and the TV will go into a hidden panel behind the cushion walls. I’ll get perfectly spill-proof glasses to that nobody spills a drink on the 100 square feet of bed. There’ll be a hidden cupboard somewhere to keep all the music equipment and the fold able table if I ever want to bring food into this room. 

Yes, I’m getting carried away but my point is that i can’t do all of these things but I can do those few things that I really want to.

Life decisions…

Day 35: Live Cheap Week

I went to Atlantic City this weekend. It was fun. It wasn’t insane, it was fun. Atlantic City is about 2-3 hours away from New York, depending on traffic. It has a bunch of casinos and it’s on a beach. It’s the primary weekend getaway destination from New York. I didn’t really have much money in my pocket when I got there and when I went to an ATM and tried to withdraw $200 it told me that I didn’t have enough balance. When I tried to withdraw $100, it at least did that and told me I have $24 left in my account. Now this means that I spent my entire first month’s allowance in a little over one month. Yes, it has been more than a month and I should have got paid my second month’s allowance by now, but I haven’t. And yes, I did buy a guitar and spend about $400 on it, but lets not get distracted here. The point is that I’ve been spending way too much money eating and drinking in expensive places and going for concerts in far away places without having a plan to get back home and then spending $50 on a cab. There was only one concert and it was Flyleaf and it was totally worth it, but the problem that I’m broke still exists. And so, the plan is to live cheap for the next one week. I should survive until the end of Friday with $100. Wish me luck.

Work life

I don’t normally do things I don’t want to. In fact, I try as hard as possible to not do things I don’t want to. I never really studied for exams after the point where I thought I would pass them, I never attended class if I didn’t feel like, I didn’t wear full pants when I didn’t feel like, I woke up when I felt like, and I slept when I wanted to for most of my life. All these people who tell you that you have to work hard to get what you want, and that if you torture yourself now you’ll have it easy in the end, I think they’ve all lost their minds. And I’m more sure about this now than I ever was. I’ve seen 30 year olds with bellies the size of pregnant women who sit at their desks for over 9 hours a day and live what you would all call the ideal life and I know that they haven’t known the pleasure that I would get when I made a song or wrote a short story or probably even a damn blog post for even a day in their lives.

I’m happy being happy. I believe in indulgence. And this is mostly why I know I can’t work a 9 hour a day job. No matter how good the work is, no matter what the benefits are. I can’t work in that environment, I think it’s absolutely inhibitory to any kind of productivity. Why would anyone be driven to work at a place where they care more about how much time you spend doing what you do rather than what you do? I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.  And I, being the person I know myself to be, would not go to work tomorrow. I know that even if I do go to work tomorrow, I won’t accomplish much there. There, where the clocks on the wall watch you work, with the air-conditioning and the artificial lighting and the artificial personalities and stale humour and well, I could go on.

I haven’t seen the sunset in weeks! I would understand why you wouldn’t think this is a big deal, but honestly, try it. Sunsets just have a way of making my mind work. I heard that in early Mayan civilisations they would have a particular time of day when everyone would stop whatever they were doing and watch the sun set. I don’t know how reliable this information is, but it makes sense. We tend to overlook these things living our busy lives in these big cities. I live about a kilometer from the sea and yet I hardly ever go to the beach anymore. Here, I actually found a research that links decreased exposure to sunlight with cognitive impairment among depressed individuals.

But here’s the thing, I probably will go to work tomorrow and I probably will sit there in office all day and do nothing productive. Just accept money for some time of my life. Who was the idiot who said “time is money?” He ought to be locked in solitary confinement and be paid in millions for it. And yes, I can think of buying myself a new guitar or an iTouch or a Wii, or even a fucking PS3 with a hi-def TV. If I wait a bit longer I’ll have enough to buy a car, not that I want a car, I’m just saying. I can go to Blue Frog and not be that bothered by how much they charge for entry or for alcohol inside. But I think I’m lucky enough to know that I don’t want any of that as much as I want the freedom to be able to do what I want and when I want. I wouldn’t mind having a 2GB mp3 player and traveling by buses and trains and living as stingily as I did in college.

I had decided that I would stay here until I figured stuff out and until I had enough money to do whatever else I might want to do after this. But I’ve had enough money for a while now, and I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life but I’m pretty sure that there’s no one thing I could do for the rest of my life. I know what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life and that, I’m sure that I’m sure about by now. (No, I didn’t type that twice by mistake, notice the comma.) So why haven’t I left yet? Well, because when I told them I wanted to leave my generous employers said that I would get to work with them in New York for two to three months in a complicated arrangement that means I have to stay with them till somewhere around November this year. And though this is a very sweet deal there’s a part of me that’s hoping that this won’t work out, hoping that all managers are indeed the rotten bastards I would like to believe they are and that they pull out of this deal at the last minute just so that I can show them the finger and go on and live the rest of my life being me.

But despite all this, I will go to work tomorrow. Do something that I wouldn’t normally do. Do something that’s not me, and watch time pass by as I grow a little more estranged from myself. I will show them the finger someday, before the end of this year, and that I’m sure of. And if you can relate to any of what I said then I suggest that one day you sit alone and watch the sun set and think about it. Because I think that watching the sunset is more important than any of this.