Engineering a Dream

Today is my last day at work. Fifteen years of working as a full time Electrical Engineer will be paused today, to pursue my dream of starting a non-profit organization focused on children’s education.

I have gone through a whole range of emotions since I made this decision towards the end of last year. At first, I just couldn’t wait for the time to come. My patience was running out as I was making lists of things I was going to do. As the time drew closer to let my manager know, I would walk by his office feeling like a kid who had snuck an extra cookie when no one was looking. For weeks, I felt liberated and excited. Soon, it was the day to let him know and I was struck by a huge wave of self-doubt and questions. Why was I saying goodbye to my beautiful paycheck? The benefits? The free fruit? The free yoga classes? For the first time in the last fifteen years, I would not be financially independent, I would not be making my own money. I was scared and nervous to say the least. Then my dear friend, Arjun’s words echoed in my ears, “Do your actions expand your heart or are you contracting with fear?” I had smiled at him when he had looked at me endearingly and asked me that question. I smiled again with a sense of belief. I knew that my life was at the cusp of a major change. When I finally did break the news to my manager, I was bowled over by his encouraging words. We even had a brief discussion about purpose and direction. It was reassuring to hear that he’d miss this hard working engineer, but it felt even better when he said, “You are braver than I am.” And since then, I feel my heart has only expanded. As I have told my co-workers, friends and family of my plans I have only received overwhelming support, backing and offers to help, for which I am so thankful. I feel a lot of us are trying to break off the red velvet handcuffs, but we go on with them for our reasons and responsibilities. So when one of us does take the brave step ahead, there’re only well wishes because they can now live a little more through this person’s fearlessness.

I watched Caroline Boudreaux’s TedxYouth talk (The Miracle Foundation), where she talks about having everything money can buy and yet not being happy. As for me, I was very happy that my parents had done everything they could to ensure I had a sound foundation of education. They sent me to the US to pursue the American Dream. To say the least, I have been living that life for a while now, but a few years back a feeling of unrest set in. The feeling that “something needs to be done,” about children’s education. My amazingly talented friend, Indu Harikumar, who seemingly effortlessly puts herself out there once told me, “You’ll be ready when you tell yourself a different story.” I did. To try and solve the problem, my friend, Kirti and I, co-founded an organization, called Creative Corner Arts, that promotes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education for children so that they may have the opportunity to pursue the career paths our parents made possible for us. My goal is to be able to bring this program to the financially challenged areas of Austin, because I know some of the kids there are yearning for an opportunity to experiment with these areas of education, beyond what their schools offer. The hope is to create a non-profit organization that works with children, because I’ve been amazed by how curious the children are and how unafraid they are to learn, question and understand how things around them function. This reminds me of Dan Barber’s episode of Chef’s Table Blue Hill Farm where he talked about there being a real advantage to creating when the vectors don’t point at you. Where the vectors point at something else, an over riding message, a purpose.

Here I am now, bidding farewell to my world of safety, security and stability. I remember my favorite Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron, talking about this. She talked about how life sometimes seems like a turbulent river threatening to drown us and destroy the world. Why, then, shouldn’t we cling to the certainty of the shore—to our familiar patterns and habits? All the years when I have considered and reconsidered taking this step into the unknown, I have remembered her saying that that kind of fear-based clinging keeps us from the infinitely more satisfying experience of being fully alive and that learning to step right into the river, to completely and fearlessly embrace the groundlessness of being human is the first step. And when we do that, we begin to see not only how much better it feels to live that way, but we find that we begin to naturally and effectively reach out to others in care and support. And so, the first step has been taken in the direction Camp Grounded challenged me to look. My life changing experience there, last year, provided so much nourishment to the seeds in my brain waiting to sprout that I had no choice but to be vulnerageous. 🙂

I’m also building in play time for me during this phase. I’m hoping to paint and go back to selling my paintings. Do more woodworking, play with clay and pottery, travel, see my lovies, my friends who have supported me through my journey and who I will turn to when I am faced with the demons within me. I want to spend many more timeless moments of laughter and wisdom that my four year old doles out. I also want to write in my journal and also here because it’s heart-warming people who have inspired me by sharing their journeys so endlessly. I count on them and you for taking me on mine. And as I do that, there might be a chance someone else might benefit from all of this and we might all build strong bonds on the way due to our similarities and eccentricities. Help us know what we don’t know. Like my daughter said last night and I re-phrase, “It will be frustrating, but we’ll figure it out together.”