Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Michigan State University; Independent journalist - environment, science and international news.

Fellow - International League of Conservation Writers.

Member - Society of Environmental Journalists, International Communication Association.

Borderline Pessimist - what a simple break in chronology can do.

They say that adversity really teaches you a lot. Honestly, I don't know who "they" are and what the "lot" is. I am not sure if the current circumstances that constitute my life qualify as 'adversity', but I'm going to say they do. Why? Simple- this is the first time I've been in at the bottom of this particular well and the process of dealing with it is pretty daunting.
'Unemployed' is a status that I have never had to associate with myself before now. Quite naturally, the frustrations and sheer availability of time that come with being unemployed, are new to me. Both throw me off to some extent because they bring a very intimidating sense of unpredictability and an uneasy feeling of inconsistency into my very existence. I understand that change is the only constant and all of that metaphorical pseudo-comforting stuff.
I'm not saying I want every inch of my plans to work out to the T. I know better than to think that by this time but it wouldn't hurt, after all this while, to have at least some consistency.
Apart from feeling like a nomad who belongs neither to the United States nor to India, I have ambitions piling up inside my by the dozen and being jobless is kind of burying them. It's like having no outlet for a body of ambitions bursting at the seams.
Sounds a little 'rich kid who grew up in luxury' but look closer and tilt your head a little and you might just see what I do.
This is definitely not the first time in my life that I am dealing with a difficult situation. Life has been very generous with those. (Yes, I'm sure everyone thinks that. And I'm very sure that I have it way better than most will or ever did.) Even so, this particular phase is, like I said, new.
I haven't been at these depths of this well before so I don't know where the ladder is. I don't know how long the ladder is and how long it will take me to get back up so I can hoist myself out of this well.
I assume that it takes a while to find one's footing when one is scrambling for grip on a slippery, moss-covered floor. Hands flailing around, gauging the width; legs busy with the primary task of staying afloat in this chin-deep water.
Thing is, it's comparatively easy to be this third person with an aerial view of the 'person-in-the-well' and be practical about the fact that stability takes time. Problem is, when this third person herself, falls into the well - it's like telling a drowning person that it's going to be ok. You don't know that and they sure as hell don't.
This matter-of-fact attitude is helpful, yes, but it's difficult to keep it intact when fear, frustration, impatience and desperation start to squeeze their way into your thought process.
It's like an all-out attack by invasive species (thoughts) to take over the indigenous species' habitat. Tried and tested pesticides (organic or not) don't seem to get rid of these double-edged invasive thoughts. Clearly, this calls for a "new" strategy. (I'm already getting sick of that word in quotation marks.)
So what is this unknown and as-yet-imaginary strategy?
Well, if I had figured that one out, I wouldn't be sitting at my computer on a Saturday night writing this, listening to the Chennai Express soundtrack to reduce the volatile effects of reading the world news. Occupational hazard, I guess.
These last few weeks have given me plenty of time to think about stuff, for one. I'll admit that I didn't always think about the most productive things or the most important issues. I spent several hour watching absolutely ridiculous Hindi films, some wonderful films, reading 23 pages of a book I have had for a year and doing something I NEVER got to do while I was in graduate school - sleeping.
I have had the "luxury" of going to bed at whatever time I want and waking up whenever I want. I have had the opportunity to catch up with friends back home and feel, even if just for an hour, like I'm with them, at our typical hangouts, laughing animatedly about rubbish. I've read most of the articles, pages, URLs that I so lovingly dragged and dropped into the 'Bookmarks' folder. I have had time to make masoor dal, chicken kheema and pudina chutney, among other things.
The only thing that's wrong with all this available time is that aside from the intense job application period interspersed with phases of abstinence from anything "job-like", I would much rather NOT be spending my time sleeping, cooking, watching films and singing at the top of my voice.
I'm a restless breed of workaholics. And the only thing that can keep me from going mad and driving other people loony, is having work. And by work, I don't mean cleaning kitchens and bathrooms and vacuuming the house. I'm a workaholic forced to stand at the start-ling indefinitely till the pistol fires its signal and I can chase my work down that track.
And because I am not a Yash Raj Films prodigy, I cannot just wake up one day, get a guitar and start crooning on the streets of Missoula in a fake Punjabi accent to make $500 worth of rent. That only happens to Shahrukh Khan.
In film terms, here's where I am right - I have Aamir Khan's individuality and spirit from 3 idiots, Akshay Kumar's energy from the Khiladi series, Karan Johar's tear glands, Ayushman Khurana's sense of humor and Rajpal Yadav's luck from Hungama.
I don't know if my being Indian has anything to do with this insatiable urge to work but I know it has a lot to do with just being who I am. A period of 24 years is a long enough time scale for conclusive observations. Over this time period, I've realized I have been happiest when I have had work in some significant form.
I am certainly grateful to life for this long overdue lull because it let me finally do normal stuff again without feeling like I was cheating on my assignments. But having said that, I don't think I handle the concept of 'relax' very well. After a while, I have absolutely no idea as to what on earth I'm supposed to be 'doing'. Like everything else in the world of journalism, with me, even 'funemployment' has to have a deadline. (Credit to Allison Mills for coining that term)
And now, because I know I'm going to be woken up early tomorrow morning by a phone call from my mom, I'm going to sign off for tonight.
Recreational writing after ages - another advantage of being unemployed? (Borderline pessimist....)

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