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Someone said to me recently, “You have to be crazy to be in this industry”

Let me add the context.

I had just started work as an AD for a production. It was lunch time. Time to sit back and relax. A TV actor was visiting. We got into a conversation. He asked me where I was from etc, I told him about NYFA, MIWW etc. Just a nice boring conversation.

Then he asked me how work was over here, at this production.

Laughing, I answered, “Hectic, Crazy!”

He laughed and answered back, “ Well, you have to be crazy to be in this industry!”

That rang a bell. That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.

You have to be crazy to be in this industry.

That’s practically a mantra!

Why?

Why do I have to be crazy to join this industry? I don’t want to be crazy. I’m not crazy. I’m just normal. And I want a normal life. All those things that you aspire that your software engineering job at Google will get you? That’s exactly what I want as well. No craziness, thank you very much. Just a simple life.

Then why on earth do I have to be crazy to join this industry?

It has always been said that the greatest artists have been crazy. In other words, you have to be crazy to be an artist. Take a stock of those names, Van Gogh obviously tops that list, followed closely by Sylvia Plath. Looking at more recent names, there’s Marilyn Monroe, Lars Von Trier, Michael Jackson, Rajesh Khanna and Stanley Kubrick among others.

Success, in any field, comes after a lot struggle. The arts are no different. However, in popular culture, success also means immediate overnight stardom, in a lot of cases. Whether you’re a writer, artist, singer, actor, whatever! Success is extreme. Overnight, you have kids lining up in front of your front door just waiting for one glimpse of you. Overnight, you have papparazi stalking you, dishing out parts of your life that even you didn’t know about. Everyone looks up to you. Suddenly, you’re everyone’s role model! Everyone worships you!

It’s hard, really hard, to not let that go to your head. It’s hard, after all this, to stay humble and grounded. It is only natural, after all this, to even grow extra critical of yourself in an attempt to keep yourself grounded, to just maintain that balance. With time, you just start punishing yourself and your self esteem is at an all time low.

Or you take the other route and you let it go to your head. Within no time, you’re directionless, lost and stuck in a world where your word is the law, for the moment at least.

Either way, craziness.

But there is also another side to the whole argument.

In a country like India, where engineering and medicine seem to be the only acceptable career choices, no one wants their child to grow up to be an artist. While I have been extremely lucky with this acceptance, not many people are. When I first moved to Mumbai, usually, the first question I would be asked was, ‘And how does your family feel about you joining this profession?” And they would be very surprised when my answer was positive. But I am the minority! Following your dream usually means going against every societal norm. And I cannot imagine that’s easy. Not only does that take a lot of courage and strength, it also takes a strong conviction that this is it for you. This is what you need your life to be. The operative word there, being need, not ‘want’. That ‘need’ can even border on obsession.

With that, it is extremely easy to get into the whole mindset of , ‘its you against the world’. It just feels so much better if you romanticize it. The ‘misunderstood genius’ is a phenomenon that is just way too common. I find them at every street corner. Sometimes, fighting so hard to do just what you enjoy doing comes with a sense of entitlement, “Why am I not getting the break that I deserve?”.  We hear so many stories of overnight success that we start expecting them too, “If it can happen to someone else, why can’t it happen to me? Why is the world against me?”

The ‘misunderstood genius’ phenomenon is just way too common. You can find them, literally, at every street corner. This is not to say, however, that they are not talented. It is just that they expect so much more in such a short amount of time.

In layman terms, that’s just crazy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You shouldn’t have to be crazy just to try making your living doing what you enjoy. You have a right to your sanity!

But that’s only going to happen if we, as a society, start accepting non-traditional careers also. That’s only going to happen when the stigma of being a non-science student disappears. That’s only going to happen if we accept alternate career options as equally valid. You don’t have to be a misunderstood genius. Just being a genius will do.

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