They say “Life is a marathon”. What they don’t really say is, “It really does not matter on which position you are when you finish it. The important thing is that you finish what you started.” Everyone tells you the first part. The second part, however, is something we are often left to discover on our own. While some wise folks inhabiting this planet realize this pretty early on, others spend most of their time trying to win at something they will never be rewarded for. Not even with contentment! When I was a teenager, I was told several things that made me ambitious. My family, like countless others, judges my success (or lack of it) based on what other people of my age are doing. For instance: I scored 93.2% in 10th boards with a perfect 100 in Sanskrit. I didn’t top my class. I ranked 4th. While I was pretty okay about my score, my family wasn’t, for two reasons: One, I didn’t top and Two, I scored 100 in Sanskrit and not Math or Science (The important subjects! Duh!)
In retrospection, being told to work hard and compete and conquer doesn’t really seem a bad thing now in the current circumstances. Such motivating (albeit critical) words always encouraged me to seek greater things despite adverse situations instead of just giving up and settling for things I find rather mediocre. However, as I look back in time, there are also certain things I wish I had known when I was a teenager. Over the years, I have undergone various experiences. I have committed a number of mistakes that I am not proud of and made several choices that have led me to pat my own back. All of these, together, have made me who I am today. But could I have done better? Yes. I wish I someone had told me that
1. There’s no such thing as “spending enough time with your family”
I moved out of my house when I was 15 years old and finally moved back in when I turned 23. I hadn’t been as homesick during those 8 years as I feel now. It took me eight long years to realize what I have been missing out on. There was a time when I would long to make plans with friends. Today, most of my plans include my mother. I look forward to those 6-8 days every year when my entire family would be together. Thing is, as you grow up, you realize that your parents are not going to be with you forever. This, is a very hard-hitting and immensely unsettling realization that changes your attitude towards your parents for good. Although, I do realize it now, I kind of wish I had known how important this is, when I was in school.
2. It ain’t very cool to be fixated on the idea of “friendship”
There was a time in my life, when my friends were extremely important to me. Sometimes, I’d avoid my family for them or lie for them (which isn’t always a bad thing). I was very emotional when it came to them. I had an acronym after my gang members’ first names and even made an email id (four, actually) using that acronym. And then, like it always does, life happened. Today, I am in touch with just one of those 4-5 people I used to be so fixated upon. I have made several friends in the last decade and separated with most of them for good – Painfully, more often than not. If you’re anything like I used to be, let me burst your bubble right now, Friendships Last, no matter what. Ones that end were never really there. Not everything done and said in good faith, with a good heart can be called “friendship”. I have few friends now – limited but close and very important. And I learnt how much cooler THIS is, the hard way.
3. Not having a hobby will affect your persona.
I discovered that I wanted to explore writing in 9th grade. I didn’t do anything about it. I wrote some shitty poetry in 12th grade in a notebook. But I still didn’t think I should try and refine it. It was only towards the beginning of second year of my graduation that I actually began to nurture my hobby. I created a blog and wrote at regular intervals, participated in writing contests, won a couple of times and got a story published as well. And then, like it always does, life happened. My attention shifted to other, more important things and I couldn’t pay attention to writing at all. But even that short period of nurturing a hobby will go a long way for me. It has often become a vital piece of conversation in several interviews. People who had never socialized with me often drop me a message saying that they like what I write. The busier I got with studies and job hunts and work, the more treasured writing became for me. Today, it’s an escape for me. The status updates that I post on Facebook or things I tweet are actually my CPR attempts at saving my hobby from dying. I just wish that if I had paid attention to my hobby and started developing it from 9th grade onward, I would have been able to take my relationship with writing to the next level by now.
4. You Love More Than Once
The adolescence of my generation was practically ruined by Bollywood which implanted the idea of “One Love” in our minds. That love seemed so magical that everyone wanted to have it. And so rare and inimitable that we tried hard to preserve it, no matter how ugly it got, and repented for months if we lost it. I was no different. My first break up took a toll on me. I became an emotional wreck and it took me 15 months to recover from it completely. Only, it was too late by then. My marks had already come down to 84.2% in 12th from 93.2% in 10th. I did manage to get into Miranda House, but that’s not what I had in mind. I wish, back then, someone had brainwashed me and told me that I would love again, that loss is a part of love too, that what I am doing to myself is irreversible, that it is unfair for me to not love my studies and my career more than a boy, that he isn’t going to be the last person to love me, that the last thing I wanna do is continue being in an unhealthy relationship or make a big deal out of a break-up.
5. There’s no greater gift you can give to yourself than the “habit of reading”
This one, I regret the most! Too less time in this world, too many incredible books to read! Sigh. If only, I had cultivated the habit of reading much, much sooner. Reading not only enhances your mind and your personality, it also makes you allergic to stupidity and naivety. Of course, it sets your expectations from people really high and makes it very difficult for you to find someone who’d come even close to them, let alone exceed them. (That’s the only downside of reading a lot!)
6. Your lifestyle is the key to how far and above you can go.
Quite literally, in my case. I have always been over-weight. I have always been told to shed the extra weight. I have often realized this myself as well. I eat wrong, I sleep wrong, I don’t work-out like I should. And I have always been told to set things right. Problem is, nobody ever told me the “right” reason – a reason that would resonate with me. They told me I need to lose weight to look good or to be able to buy clothes easily. They said I needed to lose weight so that my legs won’t look so plump when I wear a dress or so I would look beautiful (like I wasn’t already?)
For most people, being over-weight implies ‘not looking your best’. That couldn’t be less true! What they don’t tell you is the real reason one needs to lose weight – to feel and remain fit. Now here’s the catch, it applies to *drum roll* EVERYONE! Not just people who are obese but ANY person who has an unhealthy lifestyle. Fitness has nothing to do with how you look. Your weight is ONLY A PART reflector of your fitness. You smoke, you drink a lot, you eat plenty of junk, you sleep for 2 hours a day, you lack the strength to lift weights and you think obese people are the only ones unfit? HAHAHAHAHA!
Anyway, it took me years to realize that I need to lose weight to be able to do things I want to do like go on a trek, not go out of breath after climbing a few flights of stairs, to be able to swim, to feel energized and fit, to reduce the pressure on my knee (which started the whole realization). Well, it’s not too late now, but it could have been earlier as well.
7. Grammar is important
I still remember the classes I took for the VA section of CAT. I have never felt so stupid in my entire life. I had been saying the wrong things over and over again for several years. Imagine the number of people who incorporated those sentences, after listening to me, in their day-to-day lives! I had to appear for the exam so I worked pretty hard to correct those mistakes. But there are several people, who have been educated in English medium schools and still use “didn’t told”. And trust me, it’s very, very hard to change that. I tried to correct one person’s grammar for two years in vain. Believe it or not, flawless grammar is an aphrodisiac for an intellectual mind.
8. Having the guts to fail is just as important as having the will to succeed.
The teenager in me wanted to become a Civil Servant. In fact, when it was time to choose between “Kota” and “Delhi University”, I chose the latter for that reason alone. But when I went to the second year of my graduation, I started becoming aware of the fact that I may fail in my attempt to become a Civil Servant. This fear is what led me to look for back-ups. I opted for MBA. I never even realized the moment when my Plan-B actually turned into Plan-A. I became a part of the herd. Wanting to get placed became my sole objective when all this while, I knew that I am so not a 9-5 person! (9-8 actually) It was only when my inner voice screamed at me for cutting it out and taking the leap that I finally decided to let go of things that were holding me back. Yes, I am susceptible to failure. And no, I am not afraid. Yes, I fall quite often. And no, I will not give up this time. In the world where everyone is after something, I choose to run after my true calling, a bit late, but I do.
While this may seem like a post that expresses my regrets, it’s actually a post full of realizations about things that, if I were to start pursuing before I actually did them, I would have become a much better version of myself as compared to who I am today. In my marathon of life, I rested too often, took a few wrong turns, bruised a bit, helped a fellow runner, healed myself, but, I kept moving forward, continued to believe in love and humanity and gave up the idea of “giving up in life”. Come to think of it, coming down to your knees isn’t a bad thing in life. In fact, it’s just a transition stage when you’re trying to get back up after you’ve had a great fall. After all, chaos isn’t a pit.