Shivani Karia recently embarked on her own grey journey. She’s sharing each step with the LITG community. This week, Shivani shares the importance of having confidence in yourself and the power of a support system.
I purchased this book last Tuesday, called Humans of New York. Basically, a budding photographer from Chicago quit his job and began pursuing photography full-time. He started taking photos of everyone imaginable in New York City to document and show just how diverse the city’s residents are. After awhile, he began asking these people questions. Questions about their livelihood, about their past, about their goals in life, even questions about what they were doing right then and there. These photos and comments were then collected and put into one fantastic book that I highly encourage you to check out. And no, this is not an ad.
What struck me most about this book was that it was just so real. These people were real individuals, doing what they had to do to survive, enjoy life and everything it has to offer. The people in these photographs were white, black, Asian, Indian and more. They were big, small, old and young. The best part, though, was that they were themselves. They weren’t pretending to be something they weren’t. They were living their lives for themselves and they were all so different.
At times, this book even made me a little teary-eyed (I know, I know, oh-so sappy!), because it allowed me to see outside of my little box. You see, I’ve grown up in the Midwest with many Indian friends who, for the most part, come from fairly conservative families, mine included. My friends and I grew up with the mentality that education comes first (which I still very much believe in) and after that, you follow a set path to become a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, etc.
It’s a path where:
Step 1 = Graduating high school with high honors.
Step 2 = Graduating college with acceptance into an excellent grad school.
Step 3 = Studying and working hard to become doctor/engineer/lawyer, etc.
Stepping into the grey and actually living in it was unheard of.
Originally, this path was my goal, too. I went into college believing I would end up going to med school and becoming a pediatrician. While I may have realized quickly that this wasn’t the path for me, it took me some time to really be ok with that.
I was surrounded by friends who were all becoming doctors, pharmacists, architects and I was (and still am) so proud of them and the success they’ve found. They’re doing something that they’re deeply passionate about and for them, it’s absolutely perfect and so fulfilling. I, on the other end of the spectrum, graduated with a degree in Psychology and began working as a Marketing Coordinator/Social Media Specialist for a start-up within a big corporation. And while I was learning a lot, I wondered why I couldn’t just do the same as my friends, why couldn’t I just follow that set path that all of my friends had?
What I’ve realized is that that path wasn’t – and still isn’t – for me. Plain and simple. I’m not meant to be a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. And that’s ok. A wise friend recently said to me, “People define individuals by their career and it’s a bad habit. There is so much more to a person than their job or career path” and I couldn’t agree more.
Our careers, our jobs may be what we do, but they shouldn’t define us. These jobs we hold, these careers we work so hard to have, they should, instead, enhance our lives and the way we live.
A very close family member of mine said that while she was in grad school, a professor used to throw out a notion that has stayed with her years later. He would say that when people are asked, “Who are you?”
Many individuals answer with their job title or their specific role in their family life:
“I’m a doctor.”
“I’m a lawyer.”
“I’m a mom.”
“I’m a dad.”
What happens when you take away those titles, though and become the real you? How would you answer then? There is, of course, no right or wrong answer. Nor is there ever a “final” answer. You move through life trying new things and gaining new experiences. Who you are, outside of those titles, is always evolving.
As for me, I’m still learning who I am. This is, after all, my journey into the grey. I’m still discovering what I should be doing. I’m still discovering because I stepped out of the black and white. I’m still discovering because now, I’m diving right into the grey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.