Saving Whales

by Charaf Sekkat

One day, the birth lady asked me so what are you going to do with your life? I proudly and rebelliously answered I am going to go save some whales. The conversation went downhill from there. Youd be wondering why? I mentioned a noble purpose with an eco-friendly save-the-environment vibe. What Id say?!

See, anything taken out of a cultural context can be twisted to mean anything. Lawyers and wives are amazing at that. Where I come from, we dont save whales, we eat them to save ourselves. That is why theres not a single fish you can see while snorkeling on the Moroccan shores. Back then, we were still labeled a third-world country. Underdeveloped. Now, 15 years later, we are a developing country. Whatever that means. I didnt come from money and I was in a sort of low to high middle-class part of society, depending on who I interacted with. And there was no way I could tell my parents first-world stuff like I want to become a violinist. I want to open an art studio. Heres what they would have replied; Have you lost it my son? After all Ive done for you. First, and foremost, you finish your degree, get yourself a job, get married, get a house, get kids, get a car, and then you become a violinist if you want to. On the weekends. Preferably.

Our choices back then were very clear. Engineering. Science. Economics. Finance. Accounting. Computers. End of story. Those were your choices and they kicked in around the age of 15 and were confirmed around the age of 18. To me, those ages are too early for such massive decisions. Sociology? International affairs of the Middle-East? Sports marketing? Romance languages and literature? Yes, of course, you want hobbies. Cute. Why do you think India and China produced a very high level of all sorts of engineers lately? They had to bring the bacon home. A lot of it. Survival. Youre not going to remain underdeveloped forever, are you? I just realized how that whole bacon thing can never apply to India by the way.

Now, you get why the birth lady flipped out when she heard me talk about saving some whales. Its not about right or wrong, its about contextual. Contextual defines your life. If I had been born in the Hamptons, Beverly Hills, or the 16th district of Paris, my parents would be so proud of hearing me want to save whales. Well, not proud, but most likely reassured I was not going to waste their money in teenage substance abuse and other philosophical pursuits.

But back to why I answered rebelliously. I did not want my life to be defined by my environment. The top achievement back in my context was to secure a 9 to 5 job at a good company, at home, or abroad. Abroad would earn you more points. Today, I have a 9 to 5 job at a good company abroad. Now what? Can I finally save some whales?

What tamed my rebellion is that we were all on the same boat. Birth lady sacrificed everything so I get there. Least I could do is get there. At the end of the day, you do it for the person next to you. I didnt do it because the 9 to 5 job was a great idea. It is a man-made invention that can lead to cancer and burn-outs. Actually, a burn-out means youre lucky because youre done. Its the pre-burn-out phase which is crazy. Just picture zombies dressed in fancy suits, sitting in cubicles, and walking slowly around the offices open space, and your only weapon is a stapler or a keyboard. Go with the keyboard.

You know what I hate most about the 9 to 5 job. Comfort. It comes with benefits, pension plans, retirement, routine, healthcare, and every pay day is celebration day. Do I sound crazy? Did I just say I hate comfortable and safe? Comfort can be a huge prison of the mind. If you dont pay attention, that desk chair will make you fat too. But you can always go run on a treadmill like a corporate hamster. If you dont pay even more attention, your idea of common sense will also vanish with the years. Youll start doing things because its protocol, not because they make sense. Frightening when you think about it.

In 2008, I experienced my first worldwide economic crisis. Full-blown. Thunderstruck. It definitely reshuffled all my perspectives especially when I realized that what blew up the economy was the financial concepts we praised back in college. Leverage. Lets make money with money we dont have, and have someone else settle the bill. I saw how people hung and clung to their jobs as if it was their only reason to live. I always lived with one single truth; anything can end at any time, you and me included. Bottom line, everyone is after freedom. Yes, you traveled all the way to Earth to chase freedom my darling. Thats not what they told you when you were still in space ha? What a mind job. But lets be clear on something. Some folks are made for stability and 9 to 5 jobs. They have that gene. It is built by them, for them. I never forget how spoiled I am. Then, there are the folks who struggle, every day, and dont even make it sometimes. So while I am talking job passion and inspiration, these folks are talking job retention. Always remember that from wherever youre sitting.

So, in 2010, I decided to go free, try it all out, go rogue so to speak. I turned into an English teacher-currency-trader-English-French-translator and I was up for more. Best days ever. Met amazing people, and ended up doing fun work. Comfort? Zero. It triggers something in your soul I will never forget. But I went back to the corporate world a year later as I was in a relationship. Relationships call for stability. Stability kills your soul. At least mine. But I came back with a different mindset. Once you taste that freedom, it never lets you go, and youre forever changed. See, freedom can be an addictive prison too.

But heres a trend I noticed recently. A lot of people Ive seen leave the company went on to open schools in Africa. Spiritual trips in India and Latin America. Combined 3 chill jobs and started to write music. My neighbor, an ex-doctor, not retired, not rich, works valet at a theme parks hotel along with other jobs, enjoys a lot of each day with his wife, sipping on Rhum and coke, playing guitar by the pool, and cooking amazing food they recently shared with me.

We live in a world where a job is not safe anymore. Actually, we live in a world where a job may not be healthy either. It is not the model that is meant to last. This is slowly starting to sink in. The job-house-wife-kids model is fading. The whole career planning model doesnt apply anymore. The whole college-degree-gets-you-a-job is over. College gets you debt now. I met these college kids at a bar one day, and they looked more stressed, more anxious, and more burnt-out from a day at school than me from a day at work. I had a guy from Goldman Sachs who passed me his resume for a job. I called him just to make sure it was Goldman Sachs the bank, not the bakery or the shipping company.

Something changed and we cannot ignore it. App developers make millions at the age of 17. Can you believe Candy Crushs developer company King Digital is valued at $7 billion dollars? Uber the new way to get a taxi is valued at $17 billion. A taxi company. Companies with abstract concepts such as Google and Facebook, providing mostly free products, are worth more than a bunch of big industrial companies making real products combined together. Real estate and rental rates are not correlated with how much people make. A lot of folks are going back to live with their parents or still live with their parents. 3 jobs doesnt cut it anymore for a single household. Professional athletes go bankrupt or give half of their fortune to their ex-wives. There are countries youve never heard of and will never visit that are ready to take your job so fast, you wont even feel it happen. Working from home, or anywhere is now almost the norm. Developing countries started to provide better opportunities for post-graduates than developed ones. It reshuffled a lot of people to different places like Dubai, Singapore, Brazil, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, and as per my country, it brought a lot of folks back to it. I live nearby one of the richest neighborhood of California. Big mansions, acres, horses, golf, you name it. You know what I saw these guys start to drive? Toyota Prius. Not all of them of course. I didnt say the miracle happened and they gave all their Ferraris to Bangladesh, but it was an interesting sight.

So you can count on this; change. Change with a big C. With you, for you, against you, without you; it doesnt matter. The only constant is change, right? This expression will resonate truth forever. And if youre reading this from a desk chair, take a good look at it, because chances are that office ornament is very temporary, whether youre on your way to a new job, a new part of the world, or just because theyre about to re-decorate the whole office instead of giving you a raise. For years, the 9 to 5 job, making money, career advancement and all those fancy words sounded like THE achievement. I almost believed it myself. Theyre just dots on the map. Thats all. They can be re-dotted anywhere, any time. Actually, even that entire map can be redrawn. I have not saved a whale yet but who knows. Stay tuned.

Rate this submission

Plot:
Dialogue:
Characters:
Wording:

You must be logged in to rate submissions