It has been several months since the onset of ‘acute career angst’; the roots of which I can trace back to decisions made years ago in a daze of moral righteousness and the appeal of job security. However in time my buried dreams gathered steam, percolated and gained its momentum to form a life of their own, whistling in my head and refusing to just die or let me delude myself that I am indeed fulfilled. I am now no longer in self-denial and my feelings are a vortex of excitement, fear and anxiety punctured by heavy deliberations. As I write, it has also dawned on me that this acute state of being is not necessarily bad for the psyche since it is often from turbulence, chaos, that new life and insight emerges. At least that is the Freudian hope. Psychoanalysis apart, I am reminded of a similar phase years ago…it was shortly after that I decided to leave Tibet, which was without a doubt a major life changing decision for me.
The disquiet and inner conflict I experienced in the past months and my decision to search for the “muchness” I have lost (a la Lewis Carroll) made me venture further into the rabbit hole. I wonder how many Tibetans go through similar ‘upheaval’ and have serious second thoughts about their life and vocation. Furthermore are such realizations powerful enough for them to break through years of utilitarian conditioning? It must be difficult for anyone and maybe particularly tough for those who are in careers that are viewed as rewarding and of tangible value to society.
My (overly simplified) theory is, when we became refugees the unpredictability of our fate may have caused us to place emphasis on communal goodwill and unity at the cost of individual choice and freedom. Poverty and survival were great motivators to rebuild our society but it also may have meant that realism had a more important place than idealism hence dreams were measured not by their height but by their down to earth weight for the community. You and I are products of such endeavors raised to be well meaning, within-the –bell-curve Tibetan, who are by and large tailored to be future teachers, nurses and civil servants for the new society. There may have been a few anomalies amongst us but quite frankly they are the rare outliers. For the majority, the scale of our thoughts and ambition even at its peak seldom cross the national geographic boundary. Of course it is all very understandable and even essential given the context of the time. One may even argue that those who traveled the prescribed path may have led happy lives and that though it may be political propaganda, idealism is inseparable from the notion that we are fighting for the six million Tibetans and are the ‘true’ representation and voice for the voiceless.
But what happens when you leave that cocoon and your worldview shifts as it is bound to with time when you move further and further away from history? What happens when you become aware of possibilities but paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of choices previously unknown? For it is only the naïve and the inexperienced who think options make life easier. This post is for those who have made compromises and have been restless ever since. It is for those who more often think of what they could be doing instead of what they do no matter how meaningful it may seem. At whatever stage you are in this cycle of self-realization, I wish you resolution and freedom. Resolution and freedom to undo what may have been planted within you with the best of intentions but has since become a weed festering on your happiness and development.
Continuing on with my theme to break through conservatism, here is my reading of Dhondup Gyal’s popular poem Waterfall of Youth. The poet’s message to Tibetan youth, his vision of the future and possibilities is apt considering the post. My other agenda in doing so is to promote poetry as an alternative for those who can’t sing if they life depended on it. Often when we gather as a community or as a group we sing Tibetan songs and perform dances but popular poetry/prose recitation doesn’t happen as much. This video is to plant that seed… perhaps at the next gathering you can opt to recite a stanza of Tibetan Poetry
Spoiler Alert and an Auditory Warning:
My central Tibetan accent may not capture Gyal’s Amdo aesthetics but it would be defeatist not to try. Wouldn’t it?