Stuck on the wrong escalator?



A few months ago, a video went viral in India. It showed a man trying, very patiently, to climb an escalator that was actually coming down. The video runs for about twenty seconds and for the whole duration that man is just putting one step in front of another, comfortably unaware of what is happening.

Here, watch it yourself:

We all laugh at the hilarity of the situation. “How does he not get it? Can he not see that he is in the same place the whole effing time?”

The first few times I saw this, I was laughing my posterior off too. But then something wonderful dawned on me. Maybe I was reading too much into it, and maybe you wouldn’t agree when I say this, but that man is a perfect metaphor for how we take some major decisions in our lives.

In all probability, the man had never been on an escalator before. He saw that he was on the ground floor and he needed to go up to the first floor. And in front of him, there was a modern-looking, shiny flight of stairs that extended between those two places. Throughout his life he has just been climbing regular stairs and naturally, that’s what he chooses to do when he’s faced with their new avatar. He places a hand on the railing, looks down, and carefully puts one step in front of the other. All the while, his focus is on the steps alone and so he is under the illusion that he is actually climbing up comfortably.

It’s almost amusing how many times we set ourselves up for situations like this. Whether we are an employee, or an artist or an independent worker, we keep getting on downward-moving escalators again and again and again. That’s mostly because we don’t know any better. We know we want to go higher up to the next level and we choose the first escalator we see. This escalator looks exactly like the stairs we are educated to climb and without much thought, we just get on it. Once there, we get so caught up in putting the next step perfectly that we don’t pause to see if we are on the right escalator at all.

In our case, it is even worse than what that guy had. With us, there are others on these escalators too. Enthusiastic people, who had a lot of energy early on, have sped on to the steps higher up. But even they have now settled into a comfortable pace, stuck at the same level year after year after year. How can we be wrong, when there are so many others out there doing the same thing?

Maybe we need to pause, let the escalator help us take a few steps back and then find the right way up.

Or, maybe, we should just pick up the speed and hustle our way to the top of the escalator.

Both are fine, both are okay, as long as we know what we are doing.

As for me, I’m trying to hustle up the escalator I’m on right now. This escalator is called, “Writing Everyday.” Sure, I did write almost everyday in 2016. But I published very rarely. And because no one was really looking at what I was writing, I started comfortably hiding behind the excuse that I will edit and polish the piece later. This year, however, I am changing gears. I am going to push myself to not just write, but also publish one blog post everyday. And I will keep doing it till I rise up to the next level in writing. And probably even after that.

That’s my plan for my escalator. What’s yours?

Happy New Year.

Originally published in Between Strides on January 1, 2017.

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