I typed profusely and fiercely as if my life depended on it. Palms and forehead slowly turning sweaty, I stopped to look around me. Clink and clank of the keyboards continued for the next 10 minutes while I stared into nothingness. The stopwatch showed 5 minutes left. Panic rose but fingers refused to move. ‘Time up hogaya ji’ a tired voice announced in a matter of fact-ly way.
The year was 2014 and the room was full of ‘aspirants’ appearing for a typing test for the post of a junior stenographer in a government agency. I was one of them. Junior stenographer in a government agency. Let that sink in. Because for me, it hasn’t really sunk in after all these years.
At any point of time did your parents take the responsibility of settling you down professionally or are you normal? (Again, my parents are not the designated villains here) What I just described was one of those low days when everybody especially you stop believing in yourself. And in a desperate bid to succeed, you decide that only succeeding is important. Succeeding at what, is usually a question put under the carpet.
And this quest to just succeed did not stop at that. 4 glorious years lost to Chartered Accountancy. 4 years of looking at mark sheets that fell short of 1 or 2 God forsaken marks and 4 years of looking at the growing disappointment in a certain set of eyes. 2 precious years lost to Competitive exams and to living up to everyone’s expectations except mine.
What followed next was a series of hits and misses powered by a small town herd mentality, disappointed parents & relatives, shattered self confidence and the heaviest possible burden for a young person to carry around: The tag of a failure.
So how do you even pull yourself out of this rabbit hole that you never intended to step into in the first place?
Firstly let’s not mistake this story or journey to be one of those finding-yourself-tales. Never will it happen that you wake up one day to discover your passion like you discover a 100 rupee note that you had forgotten in your old jeans pocket. And then the rest of your life is going to be about ‘following your passion’ or ‘doing what you love’.
This instead is a story of leap of faith (Or leap of faiths in my case). Of falling, getting up and repeating until you are on the path to discovery. Of engendering self-belief in your depths when the monsters under your bed try to get you to feel otherwise. This is a story of determination to not let failure or the fear of failure ride over you.
If you look closely, what really is this fear of consequences? (If you ask me, failure is just a small part of the entire narrative)
It’s really about weighing the potential deprivation you would be subjected to, against the potential achievements. If the deprivation (or the mere thought of it) seems too hard to bear, we remain where we are. Or worse, we take a step back. This, in my limited understanding of the world, is when you stop following your heart fearing the consequences. Furthermore, we end up following the path everyone else around us is taking. And then if you find yourself in a room full of aspiring stenographers, you shouldn’t be too surprised.
What we need to realize is that fear is like that friend in a party who is way too drunk to drive. But still insists on taking you home because he is fine and can walk straight. You know this couldn’t possibly end well for anyone. You can’t let your friend fear drive. And you have no choice but to sit in the driver’s seat and take charge. That’s when you overcome fear, who at this point is probably sticking his head out the window and retching. (Smart asses will say we could’ve taken an Uber but where’s the drama in that?)
But I have to bring up this funny thing that I have observed. There is an absurd habit in our culture of glorifying everything, gift wrapping and putting a bow on top. Light at the end of the tunnel, a lesson or a happy ending at the end of every hardship waiting to be derived. The insistence is subtle but the underlying expectation out of every hardship is “It will all be worth it”.
The thing is: there isn’t always light at the end of the tunnel. Failure transpires. Pain is endured. And we quit.
And in this attempt of establishing the big revelation of “it all worked out in the end” we tend to view discomfort and pain as weak and often refrain from talking about it. And it is successfully hidden under the bow of “I’m glad this hardship came as it enabled me to learn and grow.” We look for clear definitions of what is victory and what is failure in every situation.
This in my opinion leads to people trying to put up a brave face with a bow of perfection all the damn time. But the reality is, the norm of happy endings doesn’t prepare us fully for this party called life. Somedays you will be the one losing control and on others you will be the responsible one taking care of others. We have to learn to suffer what is there to suffer and enjoy what is there to enjoy. There is no need for you to pick one always.
My path to discovery did lead me to a career in advertising. But I am a staunch believer of the fact that life is still being written. Who knows how if this too is just a temporary stop or really my happily ever after-ish? But I chose to share my journey with you, nevertheless.
What then about the consequences of fear?
I’ll be honest, there was a lot of resentment against my parents that I am slowly and patiently learning to tackle in therapy. And most importantly along the way I am learning to be kind to myself. I have been brave for too long now.
And for those who came here in the hope of finding answers as to how to find yourself:
I have no answers for you.
There is no versatile way that leads to self-discovery. It’s all about trying, listening and taking life as it comes. So, let’s not stop asking questions ever.
As for me, 6 years later, I type profusely and fiercely as if my life depends on it. Palms and forehead turning sweaty, but there is a smile on my face as I complete the last sentence of this blog post. And fear sits next to me, head out of the window, retching.