Every time I think I have worked something out, I move two steps back. Instead of taking it in my stride and admitting I did get ahead, I’d rather just look at everything as bleak and full of hurt. Life isn’t just an excel sheet with dates and things to do, that you keep filling up. Sometimes you slow down and sometimes you race past it. I think half the reason I took this gap year is that I was disillusioned by my timeline for myself. I was disillusioned by the process of getting things done. In India, we’re hardly given an adjustment period for anything. You’re thrown into the water expected to survive, but it comes with great amounts of spoon-feeding as well. Therefore, our opinions ape what’s written in a textbook or what is told to us by our parents. We really begin thinking for ourselves much later, say when you’re married and if you’re a woman not even then.
I genuinely thought I had everything figured out, a master’s degree by 22, a job till 25, Ph.D. till 28, then work, work, work. In the midst of all of that somehow I got caught up in trying to outdo myself. I was competing with myself day after day, wanting to do better than yesterday. But no one told me that I was going to trip and fall flat on my face. Maybe if I pushed myself hard enough, I would have made it to thirty. But instead of breaking down for good after 30, I decided why not shut the factory down now.
Yes, it means that everything on my perfect timetable needs to be reworked. It bothers me because it was a colour-coded, beautiful, neat timetable. I guess, sometimes you just need to give it up before it’s too late. I thought to leave my country, meant leaving my problems here as well. I genuinely believed it was going to get better. And for a while it was. But, the real world is not an easy place and academics gets lonelier as you get into it. for someone who had been lonely all her life, I wanted a break. Yes, I had done so much groundwork for the best degree. I question my decision to come back every single day.
Between all the questioning, I am not seeing myself get better. I am under the impression that no matter what I do, I am going to be depressed. But maybe that’s not the case. Not that I should ignore the nagging self-doubt, but I must learn to face it. Maybe the fact that I sleep an hour longer, should be more important than incomplete assignments and work. Maybe if I smile once a day should be noted as an achievement, not the number of words I clocked in limited time. Before, I used to count everything in grades and numbers. Everything I did was measured. I am so used to my identity being a number, I allowed it to get the best of my potential. It’s terrible but yes, I forgot that quality is always better than quantity. I put more faith in the world when I could have invested some faith in my capability.
Reaching for the stars does not mean sacrificing your life for it. They tell you to try your best, but we’re trying our best for the wrong things, a little more money, few more grades, few more qualifications and it never ends. We are wired to look down on those who don’t really care or have better priorities than us. We can’t handle it when someone says they don’t do the conventional thing. It bogs us down because we spend our whole lives chasing after the conventional and the material, then comes Bill Gates or Einstein who completely demolished the equation of the road to a perfect, happy suburban life.
It confuses us, doesn’t sit well in our hearts. We want that white picket fence and that flat screen TV, we want those family vacations and flashy cars. Then there’s the other side who want to be out there rallying troops for the next protest, fight for a cause or change. They are another kind, the people whose heart is in the right place, but are too small for the great big change. Both sides are disillusioning, both make me laugh at times. Yes, I want change too, but I want comfort. I am not going to tire myself for it. Maybe ultimately none of it matters, or maybe it does. But do I have to do all of it now? Right now? No, there’s the sun, the greenery, and air, that needs my attention. I have much to do, I have my dreams, but I’d rather be alive when I achieve them.