Often the tiniest of triggers can send me into that downward spiral. One such trigger consists of just two words, fluttering before my eyes on Facebook or LinkedIn — “graduate jobs” — and once again I kick myself, telling myself that I really screwed up there. How did it all go so wrong for me? Of course, I know the answer to that.
But if my beloved knew I was having these thoughts again, she would be shaking me right now. “You’re not a failure,” she would tell me. “We own our house. We have no mortgage. Your salary covers all our needs. We enjoy quality time together. And just look at that view!” All of which is true.
Measuring myself against what is important to us, I can be quite content. The wobbles occur when comparing myself to my peers, or contemplating standard career pathways. On completing my MPhil programme, I was supposed to head off into a graduate career. By now I should be in a senior leadership role, mentoring the next generation.
Here again my wife would grab me and shake me vigourously. “Look, I’m happy with our status. I love our little house. I love our garden. I love that view. I love our freedom. These are things money can’t buy.” Yeah, but… my friends… careers… professionals… wealth… status… I’m a failure!
“But none of those things are important to me,” she’d protest. “Look at all those friends of yours, at the height of their professions, with their burgeoning property portfolio, working long hours, days and weeks away from home. What is all that wealth and status worth if their partners and children are miserable?”
That, of course, is true. But some of these friends are working every minute God gives them because they have multiple sets of university fees to pay, not to mention big fat Asian weddings down the line.
“But we don’t have to live our lives that way,” my beloved would say. “We’ve always lived within our means. Alhamdulilah. Just be grateful for your rizq. Be content for all these blessings you have!”
And in the end I will have to concede that she’s right, and I will just have to remind myself to avoid these stupid triggers. To put my LinkedIn account into hibernation again, or delete it altogether. And to avoid friends setting out a hyper-capitalist vision for our lives. Most importantly: to avoid those two short words.