“What have you been up to?”
Recently, that question was popped to me. It’s a basic question. But I had not thought about the basics for quite some time — in fact, ever since I decided to leave my corporate job almost 30 months back to volunteer, travel, write and explore parallel paths.
Last year, I did pen down some thoughts on the decision itself; why I decided in the first place to take the road less traveled and the process that went behind that decision to take the plunge. A lot of people reached out with supportive messages and there were a lot of meaningful discussions that happened.
I had planned to follow-up those posts with some more information on my journey as well as tips from my learning. But, maybe, I was not ready to take stock, or I had not reached any meaningful end in my journey.
Why am I writing about it now?
I (definitely) haven’t reached any meaningful end, but I feel that I have achieved some milestones along the way and wanted to log them down. And with the global Covid-19 pandemic and a large part of the world, and activities, being on a pause, I felt it was the right time to take a look back. Plus 30 feels a cool round number.
These landmarks are like highlights, and lowlights, a broad list of the 30 months, and the experiences I have lived through.
Travel, a lot more
My family has always been big on travel, for a long time that an annual trip was the bare minimum during our childhood. And I have the travel bug too.
Beaches, hill-stations, cities; I look forward to all types of travel and, luckily, my spouse shared the same enthusiasm. She likes to plan, and I like to find good deals and so we loved to travel together. We had been traveling reasonably during the first couple of years of marriage, but after taking the break, the frequency just sky-balled. She was able to meet her cherished dream of ’30 by 30′ i.e. visiting 30 countries by the age of 30, while I was able to create a continuous streak of 48 months of at least one trip every month!
That streak came to a pause because of the lockdown, but it gave us time to reminisce and increased our eagerness to travel once it’s safe again. It also gave us a chance to collect our notes and memories and put together a blog of some of our content — The Blue Bag Journal. In the 30 months, we traveled domestically and internationally, covering 18 countries and numerous cities and places, either with family, friends or just the two of us; so many memories and experiences, people and cultures, food and landmarks.
With travel come memories and an opportunity for adventures. I separated this section from travel because of the stand-out nature of these quests. From surfing lessons in Varkala to bungee jumping in Macau, from night treks around Karnataka to sky-diving in Dubai, we took up enriching adventures everywhere we went.
There were hiccups, like when we went scuba diving in the Red Sea in Jordan and couldn’t complete the dives (a story for some time), but then that’s part of the adventure journey. Failures are the biggest learning opportunities, and the ups and downs are what makes it thrilling.
I was even able to add to my adventure certifications. Already being an Open Water Scuba Diver (which makes the Red Sea dive story all the more interesting), I was able to add ‘Elementary Pilot in Paragliding’ certification. Being able to ‘fly’ is a simulation like no other.
Books were always present in our home during my childhood. My father was the reader out of my parents, and he instilled a lot of behaviors during my growing years; reading is one of them. I have grown up devouring fiction, and imaginary worlds. The teen detectives, multiple eras of comic books, crime-mystery thrillers, expansive science fiction; I would read them all.
Through my post-graduation and subsequently corporate, I had lost some of that drive. I was inconsistent with my reading. After leaving corporate, I went to books with renewed vigor, but I stumbled again. I thought I would just re-build my habit, but I couldn’t. For a while, I felt subdued. It required more effort on my part and help from my spouse, to bring that habit back which only happened recently. I have explored this journey in more detail in a different post if you are interested.
I have written forever; from articles to short stories and poems, just never shared it on any public forum. I lacked confidence in the content or my delivery, and rarely shared it with anyone, family included. But I was never consistent with it. I had grand ideas and some seemingly original thoughts. I had serious intentions and titles but never gave it a serious effort.
When I published my first post in May last year, I got a good reaction and some great feedback and felt my confidence building up again. But by the time I reached my third post, the number of reactions frittered and so did my confidence. I initiated a lot of drafts but did not have the courage to finish them.
It was, in fact, the reading habit that brought back the urge to write. Reading about fictional worlds and characters, kindred my composing appetite. What also helped, again (as usual), were words from my spouse to just write without wondering about the numbers. I penned thoughts on different aspects of my life, like the obsession with a personal website, the reading habit, and the infatuation with sports, while also worked on our travel blog. I have written a lot in the last 30 months, and I am working towards finishing and publishing that content.
I have been a part of different causes throughout my life; started with HelpAge India, volunteered with a blind support society, a contribution here, a helping hand there. Even during my post-graduation, I helped out the team working towards social causes but did not really participate. I had not owned up to make a real impact.
Five years back, that zeal was re-kindred when I stumbled on Make-A-Difference, a social organization that works with children in need of care and protection, primarily out of shelter homes across India. I joined there as a volunteer, trying to teach English to children in the 6th standard of the state board. There was a chord that stuck during that year since I stayed on with the same set of children for 5 years through their journey till their 10th Boards this year (which should happen soon hopefully).
In the last two years, I took up additional responsibility as an on-ground mentor, and recently I made the decision to further increase the scope of my impact and was selected as part of their Fellowship 2020, working towards shelter operations. I have also gotten involved with a Senior Citizens forum, helping out with technology as well as learning, and gotten a couple of opportunities to speak to students at social forums and meet some inspiring people, on this journey.
And, I have been able to utilize this duration to improve the collective home life for my spouse and me. The managing of house-help is much more streamlined, as is cleanliness, and grocery management and our home projects (photo wall, memory corner, etc.) have seen a lot more completion. Our basic house-garden has grown from three rudimentary (sometimes withering) plants to a collection of eight blooming plants (although tulsi is still something we are struggling with).
Another stream I have been able to explore is cooking. Having been able to experiment and get comfortable in the kitchen, cooking some of our favorite dishes, has reduced our instances of eating-out. And being an intuitive cook, the end-product every time provides some new flavor or some new essence.
What about HR?
Having done an MBA in Human Resources and working in corporate for seven years, HR remains one of my core competencies. I did take a break, but my intention was not to leave the field completely. After the first few months, I attempted to explore the vast and unorganized field of freelancing and consulting. And it was taxing and tiring. I went in headfirst and was not really prepared for the toll. Neither was I prepared with the processes and tricks to make it a meaningful foray.
I realized my folly after some time, did a lot of research on practices and sources, and took a structured approach towards prospecting in the last few months. It still eludes to be a meaningful foray, for now, maybe because of my reluctance towards self-promotion. But hey, I made a personal website, and I have further refined my approach and am looking forward to meaningful opportunities.
The research all helped me realize another field of study and practice, which I delved into — Coaching.
I felt I was a reasonably good listener, and I had worked with individuals in realizing their aspirations and potential. And so I started exploring the stream, limited in my knowledge but unlimited in my curiosity. There was a lot more required from a capability perspective and I felt this as a good investment in personal development as well.
I finally achieved one of the milestones, a couple of months back, and finished my training hours along with basic required hours of coaching experience. I also graduated from a Sucess Conversion Coaching Program and got a certification of ‘Certified Life Coach’ from the Certified Coaches Alliance and Symbiosis Coaching. I am now looking forward to building my experience and expertise and working with more clients, in individual and group capacity.
Is that all? What Next?
Those were the big-ticket items, but I ventured into a lot of other streams during these 30 months.
Sports being one of my passion areas, I dabbled with sports refereeing for schools and corporates by attaching with a renowned coach in Bangalore, while also worked on a sports management stream, which remains a work in progress.
I explored hospitality and almost got involved with an F&B outlet. I also went to Decathlon and got selected as a retail associate, though those plans had to be shelved because of varied reasons. I continue to cycle my way around the city and briefly got attached to a group for teaching adults how to cycle. I also made my personal website along with a blog (where this post is hosted), a travel blog and a personal blog for my spouse, learning about websites, SEO, and a lot more web tools than I knew. I even started learning a musical instrument, and a language — which is still ongoing. I have also played a lot of sports (badminton, frisbee, squash) and made some great friends from it.
And I continued to have discussions and conversations with people on my experiences as well as my involvement.
The Covid-19 situation did put a spanner in a couple of the streams I was exploring, but it also allowed me to reflect and put an effort towards consolidating my effort.
- Reading and writing consistently, and publishing
- Volunteering, and increasing the impact created
- Traveling and adventures, whenever it becomes feasible again
- HR & wider management consulting and freelancing, in a structured manner
- Coaching, and building my experience and portfolio
The times are still uncertain but as my spouse recently wrote “With that said, I still do not know how will my learning evolve or change over the next few months. It is impossible to predict the future. But I am hoping that I am able to leverage some of my experiences in the recent past to the future that lies ahead.”
I would love to know your thoughts and opinions, as well as any feedback you would have for me.
Originally published at https://www.sohilhemnani.com on June 18, 2020.