Whatever Happens, will happen; and we shall deal with it when it does.
I have always felt joy in the idea of dreams. I believe that we all have our calling(s) in life; something we really, really want to do. Some of us get to make a career out of it while others settle with a hobby. Of course, many of us don’t understand what their “calling” is and if it is but an illusion. No matter what your stand on this is, I think you would agree that we all feel different levels of enthusiasm depending on the task at hand. I call it your calling for which you feel most enthusiastic.
I chose to become an engineer because they get jobs easily. Later, I decided to go into basic sciences and study for a doctorate (It hasn’t happened yet). The first time I tried my hand at sciences was two years ago, right after completing my degree. It didn’t go well. I was heartbroken, felt stupid. Still I wanted to carry on. I analyzed the situation, found flaws in my approach, felt better. I realized I needed to work on some topics and get my problem-solving skills up.
I worked on it for a year, got selected for interviews. It was finally working out. I was sitting with the graduate students and felt a sense of belonging there. All was good in the world, and dreams were coming true. Except that I couldn’t make it through the interview. My mind went blank. Answers were lost on me. Again, I felt stupid. I felt like I made a major mistake. I should have prepared well. I should have studied well. I didn’t deserve to be there, sitting among the candidates who devoted more than 5 years of their life, while I did only one.
I came back, working harder still. I revised my basics, and focussed only on the interviews and exams. I forgot why I was doing all this. The enthusiasm was all gone, all I had was the thought that I can’t let all my preparations go in vain. I need to make it this time. People started questioning my choices and suggesting alternate routes. I felt like I needed to “prove” myself to them. I needed to study but I couldn’t. I felt like I’ve failed.
I decided to give it up. I decided to let myself breathe and think about it. I discussed everything with my folks and they were a little disappointed that I was giving up (I have been living with them since graduation so they know all I have been through), but they agreed that I needed a change. So, I gave up on science for a week and joined a class on a diploma course in finance. It was only math so I was quite comfortable. I knew that if I want to, I can succeed there. I knew it was in my capacity to make a reasonably good career out of it.
Only two days in however, I felt miserable. I was getting anxious because I was doing too well for my standards. It just didn’t feel right. It felt worse than struggling with a mechanics problem. I missed science. I couldn’t stay away from science any more. You know when you break up with someone because they have commitment issues? That’s how it felt like. I wanted to stay with science even if it didn’t turn into a career.
I dug deep and asked myself, what was the part I was missing? Did I miss the difficult problems? The math of complex integration?The agony of finding a calculation mistake after you have struggled an hour? Certainly not. Because I was solving challenging problems in finance also, and making the same stupid calculation mistakes. No, I was missing the sense of mystery. I missed the serenity you get when you finally understand that the basic laws of the universe are quite simple. I missed the joy of questioning everything and rejoicing when you finally get it.
I realized why I gave up on science. It wasn’t the frustration of exams or anxiety of interviews, but rather the lack of wonder. I had lost touch with “Science” per se, and was devoting all my time to fitting values into formulae. I had stopped dreaming and started working. It was two years since I last saw a sci-fi movie or a documentary on the life cycle of stars, the things that first brought me to science.
I realize now that all the paths in life are alike in the sense that they all have obstacles and highways. No matter what you chose to do, you’ll face a unique set of problems and have certain advantages over others. No path is easy or difficult. It depends on the person. It makes sense to do things you find joy in. I know success gurus emphasise on hard work and remind you that every path has struggles. But every path has beautiful things as well, and those are the things that keep you going.
The biggest mistake was, I had gave up on dreaming and was working for the gratification of having my shit together. I realized since that nobody has all their shit together.
Allow yourself to enjoy your dreams, while you are working on making them a reality.
Because if you don’t, you will forget why you started and every path would look the same. Life sucks when that happens.