Thursday, November 1, 2012

At this rate, I will be a drifter at 32

I quit my job. For no job. Why did I quit my job? To be honest, I am not sure I can articulate that why. Every time I have to answer this question, I give a different reason.

To some, I say, my colleagues were frequently and randomly rude, rejecting, prejudiced, passive aggressive  or dismissive of/to/about me. Which is true but, I have never been one to care that much about who feels me how. Maybe the real offence was that they went and ranted their personal feelings about me all over my HR file in a management exercise called 360˚ feedback. Damned if that wasn’t maddening. 

To others I say that I just don’t fit into the NGO sector. Too many things about it rub me the wrong way. The double-or-triple-the-market-rate salaries we pay ourselves to do half what our peers in the capitalist world are doing. The endless procedures and paperwork. The culture that a supervisor reviews  and feeds back on every thing I am doing, plan to do or have done - sometimes even emails I intend to send to my collegues. The expenses on consultants for every damn thing we were hired to do. The number of highly paid man-hours that we throw away, in re-doing or making inconsequential tweaks to each other’s work. The messianic attributes we assign ourselves – saving lives, transforming communities, lifting the poor out of poverty. I could write a whole book of venom on these.

To others yet, I say, I took the wrong turn three years ago. I am a writer. A journalist. I breathe, think and feel the world through a skin that only journalists and writers have. That is; “it is broken, we are broken, and everything we do is broken. Oh, plus, I have seen the end of the tunnel and there is no light there.” What the hell was I doing going into the business of being messiah? My place is in a nook somewhere, smoking marijuana or drinking whiskey while I write things that make everyone feel horrible about their existence.  Yeah, maybe I should be in hiding somewhere, writing that damning book about all things NGO. 

Sigh ... I worry for myself. I worry because even knowing that I am broken, I am not sure I really know how. I am certainly uncertain of what it would take to unbreak me. I suppose I could write and that would be good for my soul. Forget marijuana catalysed books damning NGOs. Maybe I would just write a meditative, soul searching one, on the same subject. I could do the kind of long form journalism newspapers can’t afford to do. Oh, how I have fantasized about publishing long journalistic essays on our feel good but ineffectual and often harmful laws - the defilement law, our insistence on keeping abortions illegal, our chest thumping intentions on same sex relations etc. On a lighter note, maybe I could start a tech magazine for which my incredibly impressive geek friends would write and dazzle the world, the way they dazzle me in beer conversations at bodaboda. Oh my soul would be living in ecstasy. But where would my stomach be living? Could I bring myself and my child to give up the middle class trappings we have eased into in the past three years, for the uncertain life of a writer/journalist seeking intellectual idealism?  What would I do with all the monitoring and evaluation (FYI: it is a real field of knowledge ) I know? Just throw it away and not pine for the millions a month it could buy us? Completely give up the (I admit even now deeming) dream that you can stand within, separate the chaff from the real thing and ask hard questions that make NGOs either save the lives they purport to save or stopping saying that line?

Am I just a person incapable of being happy? Just a lazy bum that will end up complaining about whatever it is that I happen to be doing? After all, I once walked away from a writing job, going on and on about how what we wrote about didn’t matter. Jeez, I spent 17 years of my life being prepared to decide my work life. Why the hell can’t I figure it out? I figured out the God thing, the men thing, the societal approval thing, the ego and self image thing long before I was even of age. I made firm decisions about all these and I have happily lived by them with only passing and passive doubts. How come the work thing is ever so slippery?

Sigh... Maybe I will just buy a smoking pipe, a stash of the weed and get onto a bus to Juba from where I will drift to Chad and other places as random. After a while, I will be sufficiently broke. Then, my employment decisions won't be a matter of philosophy.