Transitions

I first heard the word ‘Transition’ while I was volunteering with Sarah Bernays on a research study that explores the lives of children living with HIV. It made sense, you are a child one moment and the next you are a young person with significant new priorities, new friends and a new life ahead of you. It seemed to me that I ‘transitioned’ already. Now, I believe I’m transitioning, every day.

It will soon be a year since I made my most recent transition which entailed moving cities and moving jobs – into an entirely new sector. It seemed direct enough. Rather it has turned into a daily, transformative and routinely occuring spread of moments.

It was first a transition in scale. I lived in Chennai before and I moved to New Delhi. Everything seemed bigger, wider and oddly enough, in some instances also greener. At work, I transitioned from a grass roots NGO working with children and teachers in education to a Regional Office of an international NGO, first to produce a regional document and currently to coordinate and help manage a project for young people and volunteers.

It was an emotional transition. At first I thought I was independent, adventurous and amiable. Certain instances and moments showed me that I could be dependent, I am prone to procrastinate and am selectively amiable. This transition continues. I am beginning to own the select emotions and view them as what sets me apart in a crowd rather than feel  superior or inferior or somewhere in the middle. Dependence makes you human and some amount of the need to seek help is as noble as it is to provide help. And at the end of the day you can’t and perhaps you don’t need to please everyone or get along with every acquaintance. There is some truth to what my friend Jessica once told me about ‘small dose people’. Just a few moments at a time and not a binge.

The biggest, most fulfilling and character building transition has been that of knowledge, of sitting at your desk and truly not knowing anything about the task at hand. And here, I have a confession. When I was first called to attend the interview in Delhi I was thrilled. However, I did not save the application form and therefore had no clue as to what I was actually applying to take up as an assignment at the organisation. I winged it, each and every step of the selection process. the very first day at the job was when I actually found out what I was asked to deliver. But I have no regrets. I take great pride and also try and remain humble of the fact that my career path has and will continue to be one off the beaten track in that I never sat at a placement event competing with thousands of other students, I chose a career path that until most recently was certainly ‘off the mark’ if you aren’t a clinician .At my very first ‘job invterview’ I was hired because they thought I was another ‘Malavika’. It just so happened that my boss and my dad both have friends with the same name and I thought my boss was referring to the same person. It was someone else, but she just shrugged her shoulders on my first day, I felt a tinge of disappointment because it was surely not my intention to lie my way into the position and we went ahead all the same. And what a wonderful year it was! On my first day I had to account for Rs 5000 rupees worth of raw material purchasing of fabrics and learn Kannada. It was the deep end but I learnt to swim.

Six years later and I am at a coveted Regional Office and looking forward to new adventures. And another common phrase I experienced first hand, and continue to experience is of the ‘steep learning curve’. I learnt what it means to be a ‘Consultant’ as opposed to being ‘on pay roll’. And most memorable, what it means to work with the most encouraging group of professionals in an environment that is tricky to say the least. I had transitioned, I still am transitioning. In the language of Malavika’s world, I studied ‘Public Health’ and I am now working in ‘Public Health’. Through all the tears, doubts, anger, frustrations and disillusionment I can say it has been worth it. Not the shallow ‘worth it’ from the commercials but a gut wrenching, soul twisting, character moulding worth it!

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