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If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

February 19, 2009

That is how I made my first ever big post-college career decision this week: by reminding myself of a friend who told me once: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

Well, I started my job hunt. I looked at some really interesting jobs with the federal government, a couple awesome think tanks, a couple political magazines that I love. I started applying for some, but still had this nagging sense of anxiety about the whole thing.

Learning to embrace uncertainty and instability is probably one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn the last few months. Because the one thing no one tells you about graduating from college is that it requires this whole shift in your mindset of the last 15 years: there’s no straight, narrow, certain path anymore. Your whole life is sort of open and uncertain until you make the conscious decision to do something that makes your life more stable (get married, pick a more permanent job, buy your first home…).

And that creates a comfort zone. Things are stable(r). You know where you’re going, which can be great for some people. Probably not for me though.

While I was feeling all this pressure to keep up with my friends and their Big 4 interviews and career fairs and whatever, I had the exciting realization that I have the whole world at my feet and all this time for my own adventures, to really do what I love. It doesn’t have to be scary to have your life seem uncertain; it can be really exciting.

So that is why I stopped my job hunt for now, stopped scouring job ads every day and agonizing over cover letters — for now at least.

Because in June, I am thrilled to be moving to Cambodia. And I’m putting my ass on the line for a startup NGO that I will be working with for 4 months.

(If you want to hear something really entertaining, you should ask me what happened when I called up my parents and told them my decision. All they heard were the words “startup,” “NGO,” and “cambodia.” Three things that make them think: our daughter is crazy. When people tell me I am crazy though — which happens often– I usually take that as a good sign.)

There’s nothing at all stable about it. I am going to pack two suitcases and move to what my parents consider a “third-world” country.  There’s definitely nothing stable about working for an NGO still in its first year, that is in desperate need of revenue. I’ve read enough of other people’s cash-strapped startup tales to know that this is a risky decision — but also one I know I won’t regret. Because at the end of the day, I am so excited and passionate about the decision I’ve made. And if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, why even bother?

I don’t really want stable, I want to live on the edge. I want to take risks with my life, and turn them into huge learning opportunities. I definitely don’t want to look back some day and regret that I didn’t do something crazy when I had the chance.

If you’ve established a comfort zone, it’s easy to just chill there. It’s fun, kind of. But boring. So get out of it — because if you stay there, you’re not growing, you’re dying. If you’re hanging out with the same people, doing the same routine every day — do something new. Do something crazy. Do it because you know you will grow from it, not just for the sake of your resume. And if you don’t want to grow, something is wrong with you.

So yeah, my wonderful, good, stable parents are worried because they don’t know where I’ll end up. And they definitely think that I am “lost” on my way to my real career.

But I have to say… eff destinations. I’m in it for the journey.

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30 comments

  1. Hey Nisha, this is a post that definitely is close to my heart. Going against the grain and making your own path in life is often tough because most people don’t understand it. Parents want you to go the safe route and all of our accounting, consulting, i-banking friends call us fools because we’re passing up a “great opportunity.”

    I think you have bigger cojones than me for setting your course on to Cambodia. You have to VLOG about your experiences over there. If you do, I will be an avid watcher every month.

    - Jun


  2. Jun, you’re my favorite. Actually, for the job in Cambodia we had to make a video application, I hated it. I HATE vlogging (although I like it when other people do it :) ), so I don’t really want to. But for you, I just might…. we’ll see!


  3. Congratulations to you for making such a decision, to go with a start- up is very brave, but there is nothing worse than writing about things but doing nothing. I hope you will keep in touch with the world through your blog.
    I know – Vlogs are not my favorite thing either, too much is missed which should often be said.


  4. Sounds exciting… I guess I’m going to have to subscribe to your blog to get updates on your adventures :). What does the NGO do?

    Good luck and have fun in Cambodia!


  5. Nisha,

    This is further confirmation that my new-found direction is the right path. I’m about to make a massive change to my life and career this year, one that is definitely going to surprise some people; yet I’m excited about it.

    I’m spontaneous, a risk taker, and knowing that I could either be making a huge mistake or fulfilling my dreams is thrilling to me.

    Good luck with your new journey.


  6. @Cooper — thanks dude. I will definitely still keep blogging while I’m abroad — no way I could *not* blog. As for vlogging… we’ll see :)

    @June– works with college students to develop their leadership skills and send them on internships abroad. Thanks for subscribing — I’ll definitely keep everyone up to date on my adventures :)


  7. @David — thank you! I’m glad to hear you are feeling more confident in your own career decisions. Whatever they are, I hope you’ll be sharing soon. And PS — lets make that tweetup happen next month!


  8. Hey Nisha,

    Good for you, I hope that you have a really fulfilling time. I think that there’s a risk taker in each one of us, it’s just that for some a risk is trying regular coke rather than diet as opposed to packing up and following your passion.

    Just echoing everyone else, but keep us posted.


  9. Hey Nisha,

    Sounds really awesome and the best of luck, though I’m sure you’ll do great. How about some more info about the NGO and the sort of work you’ll be doing? Website?


  10. James: thanks. I will definitely keep you posted, and I hope you keep us posted on your adventures in Abu Dhabi as well.

    Alex- check your email :) And don’t forget to come visit me in Phnom Penh!


  11. Nisha, this news is really great! Congrats on your decision and on the courage to move across the world to work for a start-up NGO. That’s really exciting, and for sure it won’t be easy. You should be really proud of yourself! Also, do your parents read your blog? :P

    I’m also curious as to what your job will be. What sort of work will you be doing at the NGO?

    Also, I can really relate because I’m in a very similar situation…I also accepted a summer internship with an NGO in Geneva, and it’s also not the traditional stable job…but I’m so passionate and excited about it, so I just have to hope it’ll all work out! Parental pressure is difficult to deal with too; how do you handle that?

    Anyway good luck — keep blogging!


  12. Akhila — thanks! It definitely won’t be easy but it should be a huge learning experience. And as far as I know, my parents don’t read my blog. I’ve never showed it to them, and I don’t think they would have found it on their own. I’d rather they didn’t read it, but if they do it won’t be the end of the world since I don’t post anything too embarassing anyways :P They’re not thrilled about it but they are still being supportive-ish, since they are parents, and I’m lucky they don’t hate me after all the similar antics I’ve pulled over the years :)

    About your internship — that is so exciting!! Geneva will be awesome especially in your field, with the UN there and all. Don’t let anyone — parents or otherwise — tell you what you should/shouldn’t do with your life. Just make your decisions, and then figure out the other things later. That’s what I think anyways…


  13. [...] know people out there are going through interesting transitions or searches or growth. Some turn to traveling (nice!). Others are just beginning. Some just started new adventures (Yay Alice.com). Some are [...]


  14. Sweetheart, you rock! I’m so impressed by your blog, and I love seeing how eloquent and well-written your work always is :)


  15. Thanks Jules :) I will be home for a month-ish before I leave for Cambodia and we will hang out then!


  16. Wow Nisha, I really enjoy your blog… what a diamond in the rough! Don’t ever stop writing! :)


  17. Good for you! You are young and smart…it is much better to adventure off and do something you feel passionate about, than just take a cubicle job (yawn) at something predictable or prescribed for you! You should trust your instincts! :)


  18. Valerie and tanya- thanks so much!


  19. sounds like tons of fun. congrats on getting off the job interview train :)


  20. [...] when you’re looking for a job or internship – take a risk. Don’t just be the typical candidate. Be different. Go for something you love, and the rest [...]


  21. Thanks, Tosin! I haven’t heard from you in a while! We should catch up sometime :)


  22. Its great to be part of NGO or Starting a new one.And its not a job/work. Its just ‘being there’ feeling.For me, Its always been a contend between ‘Profession’ and ‘Passion’. Sometimes, you got to choose comfort zones for commitments.

    As you say, When you are decided to do what you ‘love’ to do, then I dont think life will never be stable. Marriage,Home all are part of life and excitement of it will vary with time. Just Enjoy the change..

    Couple of days back,I was reading about Cambodia.Great place I believe!

    Good Luck Nisha!

    There is a shayaru from Ghalib..which says

    Sair kar Duniya ki Ghalib, Zindagani fir kahan
    Zindagani gar rahe, tou naujawani fir kahan….

    It means

    Travel the world Ghalib, Not sure about this life
    Even if life exists, Not sure about this juvenility

    Cheers
    M!


  23. [...] probably wasn’t the ideal salesperson and I had no formal marketing training, but I wanted to learn. And I discovered I was more interested in it and more capable than I thought. Besides, I really [...]


  24. Hi! I originally read this post on Quarter Life Abroad. I’m living in Cambodia right now. Like you, I was planning to come for four months, but I ended up staying for a year. This country will get to you like that. So much to learn and do! Anyway, I think you’ll find it to be a great experience. If you have any questions about life here, please feel free to contact me or check out my blog (http://rae-does-contiki.blogspot.com)


  25. [...] Cambodia situation got, for a number of reasons, too complicated to be logistically possible, to the point where I [...]


  26. [...] Cambodia situation got, for a number of reasons, too complicated to be logistically possible, to the point where I [...]


  27. [...] Nisha Chittal (Blog: Politicoholic Twitter: @nishachittal) Nisha is currently finishing up a degree in political science and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Illinois. After graduating this May, she will be going to Cambodia to start up a branch for AIESEC, an international exchange organization which provide internships abroad for students. Her work will involve working with Cambodian college students and businesses to help build programs. Learning to embrace uncertainty and instability, fighting the urge to applying to jobs with big firms like her friends, Nisha is stepping out of her comfort zone because she wants to do what she really loves, live on the edge, take risks with her life, and turn them into huge learning opportunities. Why? Because “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” [...]


  28. [...] edge, take risks with her life, and turn them into huge learning opportunities. Why? Because “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.“ [...]


  29. Risk equals rewards. Good luck.


  30. [...] Nisha Chittal (Blog: Politicoholic Twitter: @nishachittal) Nisha is currently finishing up a degree in political science and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Illinois. After graduating this May, she will be going to Cambodia to start up a branch for AIESEC, an international exchange organization which provide internships abroad for students. Her work will involve working with Cambodian college students and businesses to help build programs. Learning to embrace uncertainty and instability, fighting the urge to applying to jobs with big firms like her friends, Nisha is stepping out of her comfort zone because she wants to do what she really loves, live on the edge, take risks with her life, and turn them into huge learning opportunities. Why? Because “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” [...]



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