Chronic dissatisfaction

At the outset I would like to mention, if you are looking for something you didn’t know, you may not find it here. There are no solutions here, there are no startling insights. Just an observation of things happening around and within me.

So as usual been talking to a lot of friends and fellow journalists about a lot of things and the constant theme of late has been disenchantment. Someone is dissatisfied with their job, someone with their spouse or lack of one, someone with their finances. Everyone seems to be struggling somewhere, even if on the surface, it looks like an enviable life. Mind you, none of these people are unhappy or too depressed to move, but there is this vague sense of not being fulfilled somehow, a feeling I understand too well. Some have changed jobs, cities, significant others etc all in the pursuit of something, just anything that would make them feel more alive, stimulated.

The dissatisfaction seems more generational because if you mention it to my parents’ generation, they say we are dissatisfied even when the going is good. And being a true blue internet generation kid, what I did was google it up, yes, google ‘Chronic dissatisfaction’. The first thing that comes up is of course Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and how Penelope Cruz accuses another character of having this disease called ‘Chronic dissatisfaction’.

So what are the characteristics of people who have this ‘disease’ (personally I would call it a condition)
* They have been bright students, have generally excelled in life and till date achieved what they had set out to do in childhood.
* Its been at least a couple of years since they landed that dream job, that dream partner or dream whatever, they may not be at the peak of things, but they are not down in the dumps either.
* When compared with the soceity’s definition of normal, their life is as good as it gets and this is what confounds them, if it is so good, why don’t they feel it?
* Yes, there may be skeletons in the past, but that is not the cause of their current vague discomfort.
* There is a constant sense of what next, is this all there is and yet they don’t know if there ever was supposed to be anything more than this.

Most of my observations come from conversations with current and former media professionals. I do not know what is the situation in other fields. There are also various theories about why some of us feel this. Some say we are an entitled generation, we think just because we exist, we deserve better. Others say we are just immature and will get over it. Some others say we are zombies in any case, uninspired people who have been spoon fed everything and expect that to continue. The religious say it is just a crisis of faith and using the magical name of God/Universe will solve all these problems. Yet others say very simply but emphatically – this is growing up and this is life.

The reactions to this ‘something is missing’ feeling are diverse. Some try to push away the feeling, dig in their heels deeper in whatever they are doing and hope the problem will vanish. One friend changed jobs. Another started a new venture with like minded people. A few others just quit it all and are taking a break, thinking of traveling or spiritual exploration. Unlike in the past, the ‘quitters’ of today are met with awe and respect for their brave decision, about time. Yet others have taken time off and gone back to school or started volunteering. Some other formerly ‘career minded’ friends have started families and used that as a distraction. There have also been friends who seemed stimulated by the ‘change’ they chose but a couple of years later, they are again back to the state of dissatisfaction. And some of us are still observing from the sidelines, trying to make up our minds. Very few have taken up destructive habits.

The ancient wise men and women tell me that dissatisfaction is a source of creativity. It is only if you feel uncomfortable do you start doing something about it and what you do about it is your decision. At the same time, they also tell me doing nothing about it is also ok. It just means you are not ready, or in the extreme case, it just means this is my ‘destiny’ and I have to live with it.

But there is one thing the wise tell me, which if any of my friends or I could do, perhaps we would achieve Nirvana. They describe a Catch 22 situation where one is content with where one is in life, but at the same time striving to a better state. An ideal state of being they say it is.

But wasn’t human existence all about being imperfect? And if it was, the only solution that comes to mind is the magic mantra of ‘living in the moment’. To stop looking back at the ideal and enchanted childhood, to also stop looking at the uncertain future and live as if this day, this moment is all that counts. Darn, that Ghajini dude was sure lucky.

And because very few of us have it in us to be so zen, the dissatisfaction continues. My current dissatisfaction is that I cannot provide some erudite conclusion or some magical solution at the end of this piece. Aah, maybe its time to watch ‘Bruce Almighty’ once again!