Sunday, February 7

Raspberry Beret

It is not easy to be empathetic. Instinctively, we tend to think of ourselves first and others afterwards. Especially when we are going through bad times or are under stress.

What is stress? Psychology Today defines it as a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. Stress is not always a bad thing. The reaction to it has saved many a pair of buttocks from messy ends. Chronic stress is a different kettle of fish. Our reactions to it manifest themselves in many ways, none pleasant.

The point to note is that stress is a stimulus. It needs you. I guess this situation has spawned an industry of philosophies and activities, all of which seem to boil down to similar themes.

1. Reacting (or how one does so) to a stressful situation is a choice.
2. That one can deal with it (because we cannot always avoid getting stressed).

For the sake of argument, I will assume that no one wants to be or enjoys being constantly stressed. While some people work better under pressure, I hope there isn't anyone who is at their best only when stressed. If you are, okay, good luck.

My job is stressful. Not just because of the present work culture but also thanks to the view that things were much nicer in the past. Of course, the opinion that work-life was better 20 years ago could be (and probably is) biased. Nostalgia taints memories. But we can't get away from it because we deal in ideas. And, when we organically develop a good creative idea, only to find that the ad has been done, not in the previous year or decade but even 30 years ago, it is deflating. This happens often enough for the gleam of interest to transform into the glaze of acceptance.  

Anyway, when we're stressed, we resent pragmatism. Our problem is not only that we have it bad, but also that some geezer always has it worse. We want a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on, not smart and reasonable views that things are not as bad as we imagine. When complaining about my lot in life, it certainly was hard (still is) for me to realize that the other person's life could be no better. That, in the end, every-fucking-one of us is juggling different chainsaws.

I channel some of the stress into writing, though when the ink is bitter, the piece won't be all joy, jollity and song (to borrow from P.G.W) either. Yes, I could (and have) turn it into a humorous bit, letting sarcasm, irony and comic pathos do a whitewash over my feelings. But false humour is a strain in itself. I can't keep it up forever. While I don't always agree with them, I do admire the people who constantly project a serene surface while a maelstrom is churning underneath.

I have trained myself to go out of my way and enquire about other people's lives. In a typically shitty human way, I feel better knowing that life is equally if not more stressful for others. For now, sympathy is easier than empathy. 

This post is a reaction to a thought provoking article by Charles Assisi in Mint on Sunday.

Song for the moment: Shooting star - Bad Company

Saturday, February 6

Mista Bone

I am a bogeyman for organizations. A hex for hire. Any workplace I join soon loses its joie de vivre and descends into a circle of hell Dante probably didn't envision. When I signed up at my current agency, my team was admired and envied by the rest. It was a rock-solid art-copy boss team (which is becoming increasingly rare) and a balanced number of juniors, self included. I was astonishingly optimistic about life and set myself a target of 3 years at this place at least. I wanted to do good work, maybe win a few metals and, after the stresses and strains of the previous agency, just catch my breath.

And here we are, a full year and something later, staring at a sickeningly familiar scenario. The art head left in May and the team crumbled like a Parle-G left to soak too long in the teacup. The other senior, not the cheeriest man at the best of times rapidly sank into an endless miasma of depression from which he won't extricate himself any time soon. Two of my colleagues left for greener pastures and one is being diabolically victimized by the Management for reasons unknown.

From the form team, we've become the pity case. My boss and I are working ourselves to the bone, struggling to juggle 11 active accounts. Our ideas are stale, our creativity is evaporating fast. The advertising industry pool is quite intimate and word has gotten out that the agency is 'servicing-driven', a phrase that's anathema to creative teams. No one wants to join the agency, never mind my team and, over the last 3 months, I feel as thinly spread as a hopelessly tiny sliver of butter on toast. Worse, I must find a better agency to work at. Which, to me is as distasteful as it is wearying. 

That's why I really, really appreciate days like today. I am home. The atmosphere is peaceful. The weather is just perfect. The sun is a heavenly golden light playing a smooth combo with the green of the trees. The birds are singing. And, if I stretch my imagination a bit, it feels like I can actually touch the lovely hush.

Of course, it'd be just as wonderful without the angst described above. However, beggars cannot be choosers. I will count my blessings. 

Song for the moment: Wasted Time - The Eagles