My friend, Rajesh, has a problem. He doesn’t know how to introduce me when we meet new people.
I studied engineering in college, and worked as the chief engineer in Bhutan Broadcasting Service before I made a complete career-shift and went to make documentaries and host TV shows (Q&A with Dorji Wangchuk between 2003 and 2005). I also led the BBS as the GM of administration and HR, as the No. 2 at BBS. I eventually resigned from there to go into freelance filmmaking and newspaper column writing for two years before I was inducted as the Director of the Royal Office of Media in 2009 to head the media relations and public affairs for the highest office of the land. I served there for four and half years. I am now into my third career as an academic and educator – again in another field altogether- communication and social science. I teach media, communication and wellbeing leadership.
So who, or what am I? An engineer, TV anchor, media exec, filmmaker, writer, PR guy, or a professor?
Well, I am all of these – and none of these. In the sense I never liked to be stuck with titles and designations – and in short to be labelled, which in Bhutanese popular culture, you are often remembered by those titles instead of the given name.
First of all, when you take the label too seriously (many do) you entrap yourself with a list of do’s and don’ts, between what is proper and what is not, and within the boundaries set by the society. For example, if you are a TV star, you are not supposed to be underdressed. Or if you are a professor you cannot go dancing.
Second, when you are stuck with a title or designation, slowly and unconsciously you build a false identity of yourself around that label, such as “Now I am a director. I need to stop hanging around with my drunkard friend in a pub”. You get deeper and deeper into that “identity” that after a while it feels scary to leave, to change, or to move on, or move out of it. In general, this is what I see happening with many people with power. You take root. You build yourself a comfort zone. You don’t want to step down, or step aside. Eventually, you will undo your own legacy.
Lastly, isn’t life too short to be limited to doing just one thing?
The world is a beautifully crafted and diverse place where, besides the different cultures and traditions of different countries, there are microcosms of subcultures in every profession with their own charm and rich experiences. For instance, the microcosm of engineers is totally different as compared to, let’s say, that of the doctors, or taxi drivers. The life of a filmmaker is a world apart from that of a bureaucrat, or of a minister.
I call each of these lives another mode of existence. Nothing more. Nothing less. Each has it own share of fun and fares – and of struggles and skeletons. To live a life in full is to experience as many of these different worlds.
Although we inhabit the same country, or the same city, at the same time, the world we see and experience depends on what we perceive of ourselves. That’s why the identity you build for yourself is important. That’s why not being stuck with something – a job or a profession, enables you to immerse into varied experiences and microcosms of the different worlds that the universe offers.
Someone said, “Keep moving – unless you are a tree”.
So, who am I? Maybe I am a verb.
How? I will elaborate in my next post.