I don’t know why Nepali people have the image of being laid back and ambitious. Most of my students want to be big people when they grow up and are putting in a lot of effort in order to get there. There are others too in Nepal who spend their weekends at the office, and those who work their butts off to be able to go to study abroad.
Then there is the category of people to which I belong. And when I look closely at myself, then I begin to understand why Nepali people are often dubbed as unambitious. I currently teach two classes every day at a school near my house but have been scouting for other jobs because what I do at the moment is part time. And part time is never enough, is it? A bit embarrassing to be spending so little time of your day working. And when people ask – and you tell them – they’re always waiting for more. “And what else?”
But all the other jobs I’ve been offered or wanted to take myself are things I know will make me unhappy. Why would you ever deliberately opt to do something that makes you unhappy – especially when you could get by just fine not doing it? But many of us do that. I’ve noticed that I usually get stuck doing things I had intention of doing just because I cannot say no. In all honesty though, I’m not sure a full time job is something I’ll ever want.
Teaching is something I really love to do. It is low profile and high profile all at the same time. And for a control freak like me, I get to play dictator for a full two hours every day and order around 50 youngsters to do things according to my whims and fancies. Okay, I’m not as much of a tyrant in the classroom (I’ve seen many other teachers who are) as I would like you to believe and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I enjoy it. Just seeing those young faces, teasing them, easing their dullness throughout a day full of more classes, more boredom; I try my best to offer a break. Maybe that’s what draws me most to teaching. As comic relief.
I’m happy staying at home on most days; sleeping during the day is an important part of my daily schedule. In fact, the pleasure of sleeping during the day is way better than the force-sleeping most of us have to do at night. Then there are the essential but purposeless activities such as sitting in your room, with a book, or in front of the telly, or just staring into the sunset or the mountains. (The view from my rooftop is brilliant!)
I also like to cook, and at one point that may have pushed me into envisioning a career that involved cooking, but now I’m happy just to cook for myself. I’ve realized how fundamental to human life cooking is. Tampering with food – now there’s something to bring you joy at the most primal level. When I start looking at myself as a member of the human species following my instinct for survival, then the importance of career begins to fade. What is important is to ensure you can keep yourself alive every day. Working towards a career is too complicated, too ambitious.
In my adolescence, I experienced a wave of rebellion where I wanted to rebel against everything. And as it was a point in time when making choices about career was important, I went around telling my teachers what I wanted was an alternative to career. I spoke as if I was willing and able to transcend having a career as a higher order human being. I thought there might be something far more valuable than a 9 to 5 job for me to do. Something to redefine what we can do with our lives. Something spectacular.
Now that I’ve grown up, I realize rebelling just for the sake of rebellion is an incredibly stupid idea, especially if you don’t understand whatever it is you’re rebelling against. Looking back, an alternative to career seems just as preposterous as having a career. There is no need to unnecessarily complicate things. The only alternative to having a career is to not have one. And I think that is when other things in life take precedence over the work you do, where your work is just another activity you do, where you’re not spending majority of your daytime at it and most importantly where it doesn’t define you.
Many people abide by the philosophy “we eat to live, not live to eat.” I’d like to stretch it a little further and say, I prefer to work to live, not live to work. But I’m not sure that the same can be said about most people around me. Even my fellow Nepalis, as unambitious and cool tempered as we may seem.
Ms. Sumi teaches English to high school students. When she isn’t in the classroom, she likes to read novels, write poems, and spend time in the kitchen. She is also a great appreciator of wildlife and considers spiders, cockroaches and leeches as some of her favorite insects.