A couple of years ago, I quit a corporate internship that was everything the society considered perfect- a huge brand-name in the industry, decent pay, and security. My job as an auditor in a big-four accounting firm was considered very ‘respectable’ for a modern-day woman looking to build a career.
The lifestyle demanded by the corporate culture did not agree with me. Late nights, nasty politics, and understaffed teams were routine. I found the work boring and uninspiring. The team I worked with had dramatically traditional lifestyles as compared to mine. Even with the training I received in culture management, I was unable to fit in. A final unsavory incident was the tipping point and I decided to quit.
I did not stop there. Needing to catch a break from the surrounding pressure, I decided to travel. With limited funds at my disposal, I looked for cheaper, alternative travel options and came across World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
Before I knew it, I, a privileged girl who has never gotten her hands dirty, was on a plane to the other side of the world to volunteer on the blueberry farm of a stranger.
To think that this chain of events did not draw backlash would be naïve. People seemed to be largely affected by my decisions.
My manager at work bluntly stated:
“You want to be a journalist? It involves working hard every day outside in the sun like a man. You can’t even work in the air-conditioning here.”
“You’re a girl so you can get married if you want to. But you’re failing your parents by not fulfilling their dreams.”
“There is no growth outside this firm, you’re letting go of a golden opportunity.”
“You have to learn to give up on your personal life for your professional life.”
Intruding acquaintances didn’t spare an opportunity either:
“What will you do now? Who will employ you?”
“You’ll have to marry rich now, if you want to maintain this standard of living”
“You’ve to learn to compromise and deal with bullshit. You need these organizations more than they need you”
The judgement became worse when they found out that I was traveling solo to the other side of the world to put in “demeaning” physical labor on land owned by a white person.
“It’s not safe to go alone. Can’t a friend come with you?”
“Why do you want to do dirty work on a farm? There will be so many insects”
At this time, when I was already scared and unsure about my decisions, these responses only brought down my self-esteem.
The only unfailing support I received throughout this ordeal was from my parents and that’s where my courage to fight on stemmed from.
These decisions – to quit and travel – changed my life. The people I met, and the skills and experiences I’ve gained are unmatched. I learnt to look at life from a different perspective and to take a non-judgmental approach towards everyone and everything. My choices couldn’t have been righter.
The same people are now in awe of my new skills and stories. I, labelled the ‘bigdi hui ladki’, am now an example. It’s important that we fight these labels. After all, it is only those crazy ones who step off the beaten path, who have the ability to change the world.
We need to create a conducive, judgment-free environment for them to do so. If we want to evolve as a society, we must learn to let go of these stereotypes. It is only when people are given the opportunity to explore their individuality that we can make progress.