Career choices, changing perspective, continuing education, retirement.
|On line on Stories.com
I’ve been a banker most of my working life. Twenty one years to be precise. At forty five, I am confronted by that million dollar question, “What next.” I fantasized long golf holidays, a life of ease in a tropical paradise and a wonderful retirement. What the mind was really thinking about was temporary rest and not retirement. I realized that I did not want to retire. I didn’t want the burden of boredom. Also, one couldn’t be working in banking forever. If the speed of change that I have seen in my career in banking continues, and I know it will, banks ten years down the line and most financial intermediaries, will transform themselves into new avatars. One thing is certain, even if you have become computer savvy, you won’t be required. If you are over forty, that’s it, fin. You are passe. The wisdom and struggles of decades of hard work will be wiped out with the click of the mouse.
I’ve realised that we can try to reinvent ourselves all the time within the profession, but it is next to impossible to stay afloat against the onslaught of younger, lower cost personnel and changes in the fashion-world of technology. Five upgrades later, you are forced into redunduncy. Or, that is what they think. They haven’t reckoned with the treasure that is Stories.com. It stands as a lone sentinel and a beacon of light in the graveyard of dotcoms.
I sit down with my notepad and jot down my skills. I put an excellent on the column next to interpersonals, a good next to computer skills, a good next to flexibility, excellent on logic and problem solving, and I go on and on. Hey, wait ! What about that basic skill of writing? That’s so basic that I didn’t think of it the first time. Come to think of it, I loved to write in school and college. But it became a different kind of writing as one entered the world of finance.
The world of emotion and creativity in the world of words were not required skills anymore. Reports had to be precise and logical, saying no more than the points to be conveyed. You put emotion into office memos and emails only at your own risk. But what are the remnants of ‘experience’ that are sought to be snuffed out with a mouse click. It’s the joys and observations during travel, experiencing different cultures and locations, different food habits and music. It is in observing raw emotion in the work place and outside, and one human being trying to dominate another at all cost, of families being broken up, the dark side of greed, power and the cycle of life. Yes, beyond balance sheets and Excel spreadsheets, reports and annual performance appraisals, there was a whole lot of things, black white and grey, that life presented itself through. Stories, stories and more stories.
I would start to write but never finish. Earning a living scores over creative pursuits even if one carefully structures the time available in one’s hands. Later, I found myself working in the Persian Gulf where Arabic is the first language. Bookshops which stock English language books are a rarity. There are no local English language magazines to read, forget writing in one. One was suddenly in the middle of a very conservative society where people did not say what they felt. Even school books are heavily censored and there are no ‘letters to editors’ columns where one could let out pent up steam. Being on-line was the window to the world; and Stories.com was a boon and lifeline.
I came across this premier literary site through a recommendation in ‘Writer’s Digest’. Registration was easy and free and took only a few seconds. I filled in some basic personal information, got free email and the world of literature was once again open to me. Literature of all forms and genres, short stories, articles, poetry, book reviews and much, much more was available. There’s even a link to accounts at Amazon. I am in the habit of devouring books in my free time but I had not done creative writing for a while. To top it all, I was not American. Would readers want to read what I wrote? I was going to be very pleasantly surprised. I took the first tentative steps to begin a career in writing.
I wrote a very serious piece to begin with, not expecting anyone to actually read it. It was called ‘Conversations from Cyberspace’. The greatest triumph of the last century was to connect people and ideas online and here was an opportunity for the future. Surprisingly, it got cited in one of the several newsletters that Stories has to showcase writing. What I did not know was that there is also a dedicated group of ‘moderators’ who look for interesting items to showcase. I found myself a mentor in an erudite American gentleman, David Lee Simmons, whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting face to face.
We started to converse on all kinds of esoteric subjects and he kept on encouraging me to write. If it is one thing that all writers look for from time to time, it is courage. He encouraged me to write about some deeply personal experiences. I kept insisting that nobody would be interested in my writing and he kept saying, “ write it for me”. I did . Then suddenly there were other writers writing in with their reviews and helpful comments. My work was rated by others and some sent ‘gift points’ in appreciation of my work. The facility of sending gift points is something unique that I have seen at Stories.com and it does wonders in the field of developing courage through encouragement. It seemed that the writers' community cared.
As I started corresponding with other members of Stories.com, I started making an international set of friends. Courage came from Sydney, Australia, courage came from India, courage came from Britain and, of course from all the states of America and heaped itself on a budding writer sitting in the middle of the Arabian desert.
Without realizing it, Stories.com had set me off on a journey of self discovery. Then my network of old friends started to log in to read my work and provide comments. Some became members of Stories.com themselves. One of them asked, “if you can write like this, what are you doing in banking?”
“ Earning a living , I guess ,” I said and then quickly realized that this could indeed be a second career for me in due course. Now I write at my own pace, in the evenings and on weekends and no one can stop me. I am also certain of what I want to do, when my banking career comes to an end, as it surely will some day. This is the time for honing my writing skills and building up a body of superior work. It also gives me an opportunity to learn and I know that I will truly die the day I stop learning. Stories.com got my curiousity back and I am like a child starting out on a new and exciting journey.
Will this also last? I click my PC and revisit the graveyard of dotcoms. Stories.com stands tall having observed and learned from the mistakes of others. Even though it is a labor of love, being a professional manager, I appreciate that it is run on strict business principles with a strong customer focus. Support services are excellent. There are new product features and innovations that are frequently on offer. The basic features are classic which makes this a very addictive site and makes readers and writers keep coming back for more. There are interactive stories which have wide participation. There are interesting discussion forums which can run be funny, inane to very serious.
There is something in it for everyone of all tastes and ages. There are in and outs, madlibs and contest forums. If your muse is playing truant with your inspiration, the contests keep you going. This is a site used by educators who use it for group interaction. The group facility is also used to form writers circles which showcase work by participating and subscribing writers. What I like most, is good and professional advice on writing techniques and critiques through newsletters and writers forums. This is an extremely good, free and valuable knowledge that I have been accessing from Stories.com. Why is free advice available? Simple, actually. When you provide critiques, reviews and advice, you yourself grow in the thinking process. Better writing skills develop and very responsible people do this for others; a great give and take it is. So it's not the money, honey. At least not initially.
There are enough opportunities on Stories.com to get noticed and prepare yourself for publication. There are people and agents visiting the site to scout. I have an URL to my name where my public portfolio is showcased. It is common knowledge today that chances of publication are limited without the presence of an online portfolio site. This is what Stories.com provides and the recently upgraded format is great. There are Ezine abstracts operating on the site and publication there is a stepping stone to the world of writing as a career. I recently upgraded my membership by purchasing this from the Stories.com store. I have photography and painting as hobbies and now I can upload images, enhance and embellish my literary work. It’s all coming together, miraculously.
Finest of all, sitting in a conservative society in another part of the world, I can enjoy the freedom of thought and mind that everyone should have the God given right to enjoy. In the process, I have become a proud member of a great and exciting community out on a common journey. This is globalization at its best. Without regard to race and sex and color, we are writers all, sharing in each others joys and sorrows and learning from each other. Thank you Stories.com, for showing me the way.