Let the battle go on

I am sitting here in the conflict of what should be and what could be. I always dreamt of a life in sync with my values. I was so sure of what my values were, I thought I knew what I wanted. A partner, a career, and healthy relationship with my family. Then I entered this world. It is familiar in the sense that I had seen it from afar and always longed to be a part but it feels so different now that I am here. I wanted assurance, I wanted to be in my bubble. This world has burst that bubble. It has opened my eyes to what could be and now I can’t seem to go back.

I am stuck somewhere in between with both sides presenting their case, making their point. There is no right or wrong, it is a question of what I really want. I still want the same things, but I don’t know what those things mean, the details. Do I want to live here or abroad? Do I want a career in research or run a business of my own? I don’t know what side I am on. I don’t know how to translate my values to a feasible lifestyle. I could do the traditional, lead the life I imagined before I came here. That has security and I know how to handle it. But I no longer know if I want to. The other life, the one that could be, is also full of things that I have accepted and I know how to lead. It has a wild side to it, it hasn’t been tested. I don’t know how that would turn out. It can damage me in ways that leave me very different person. But then again, the traditional is like a slow poison. I don’t know what to choose.

After countless sleepless nights, I have decided to give up control. I am not in a position to make a decision and I am not supposed to. I would rather sit here in silence and observe, do what I do best. I will take life as it comes. Let life be the endless string of small decisions rather than one big one that paralyzes me. I shall let time decide what course to take. I will let the battle go on.

People, Places and Ideas

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. -Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve recently made a new friend. She just barged in one day and started blabbering about some annoying guy. I listened, gave her some advice. Then I tried to change the topic to the weather. Didn’t work. I tried to steer the conversation in other directions too but it seemed like she wasn’t interested. We were back to that guy.

I’ve always wondered about the quote above. I think it is true in principle, but not in practice. Most of my relationships with people are centered around other people. The friend above, for example, is my friend because she shares her ‘people problems’ with me. I mostly talk to my mom about my friends, food or the weather. The only people I discuss ideas exclusively are my teachers or online communities. With strangers, I mostly discuss events, like the weather or politics etc. I think this is the case with most of us.

It is not like I never have “meaningful conversations” with my friends. We do. We discuss things like how sexuality can be fluid or how the underworld works etc. Sometimes we curse the government, other times admire the cleaning staff. But the point is, that happens once in a while. Most of the times we talk about other people. And I think that is healthy. You cannot survive without sharing some of your ‘personal’ feelings/thoughts about other people with your confidants.

I used to judge myself a lot based on that quote. I don’t anymore. I think it is ironic that it suggests judgment of people based on what they discuss with you. Maybe that person is full of ideas but your perspectives are vastly different. Maybe he is just too shy to say his ideas out loud. And even if none of that is the case, you cannot dismiss someone just because they talk about people. After all, the interaction between humans (after food etc.) is one of the most basic aspects of humanity. All ‘ideas’ start from there.

I like the following quote more:

People like to discuss people. People sometimes like to talk about events, sometimes about ideas. The third part happens rarely, between like minded people, and is how we bring change. However we need to discuss people and events to keep our sanity.

No mind is great or small, it is the interactions that are different. They can be informative, fulfilling, uplifting, upsetting, productive, unproductive etc. among a million other things and are all part of the human experience.

-Sn.

A note to self before the school year begins

I know you’ve got into your dream school. It is not clear how, and you do not need to find out. It was a collaborative effort by yourself, your family and countless people online who helped you stay on track but there is no need to label anything. Yet, you need to remember that it was a collaborative effort in any case and you are not alone no matter what happens. If you do well, that is great but if you feel overwhelmed, just breathe. It is important to keep your health in check, in all scenarios. If everything fails you can always go back, although I would advise you to keep going no matter what. It is a big achievement nonetheless to come this far and you can only do better.

Here are a bunch of tips for you to live by:

  1. Study like it is the craft you know and love. Study for knowledge but also for useful skills. It is those skills that translate into action and change the world.
  2. No matter how small, a mystery is still a mystery and your mission is to solve it. Even if it is mundane, small, insignificant detail, it still completes the big picture.
  3. Science is logical. Don’t expect mercy if you put in wrong numbers.
  4. Keep yourself in check. Finish well before deadlines but submit on time (not before time).
  5. Know that the first draft always sucks and thus you need to write it no matter how much you don’t feel like it. Read Mark Manson’s Do Something Principle.
  6. Eat healthy, at least once a day.
  7. Keep only one non-fiction book at a time. You probably wouldn’t have time to read that even.
  8. Remember that your legacy should not be how many clothes/books/stationery you own but what you did with what you have.
  9. Give the benefit of doubt. Don’t jump to conclusions immediately.
  10. Keep your tongue in check, it often betrays and badmouths people.
  11. Never forget where you came from. Help and reach out to those who are still hanging in there.
  12. Build honest relationships. Those last.
  13. Help someone you know can’t/won’t pay you back.
  14. Simplify. Simplicity always helps.
  15. Keep your hobbies alive. Learn that language you find funny.
  16. Nothing is set in stone. You can always steer yourself in the direction your heart calls for.
  17. Life is dynamic. Everything changes and you do not always know why. It is better to let it go.
  18. The bigger mysteries linger in those little details. Pay attention and you might discover something you couldn’t imagine existing.
  19. There is something magical about it all. I’m not sure what, but it has something to do with a state of flow and perfect, beautiful chaos. Pasta comes close, I suppose.
  20. There is no such thing as a vacation. You just decide to do different things.
  21. There is a thing called mental peace. Calm down, take deep breaths and fall asleep watching your thoughts from a distance (maybe that is what they called meditation).
  22. Only keep current journal. Take what is necessary and brings joy from the old one and then recycle it.
  23. Use exercise as an antidepressant.
  24. Look out for love. It comes from all unexpected places and people. If you don’t find it, start radiating it.
  25. Life is an onion. Everything alive is an onion. You can either peel back the layers and get amazed or sit still and make assumptions.
  26. If something unexpected/devastating happens, yield “PLOT TWIST” and move on (quoted from the internet).
  27. It may not be a “general solution” but then again many problems are higher order differential equations that have “particular solutions” and “singular solutions”. The point is, it might be a solution that works only for your problem, but it works.
  28. Set self-imposed limits on hoarding. Be intentional.
  29. If it is made of pure matter, it won’t spoil. 
  30.  It is okay to dive into guilty pleasures. But you can choose pleasures that are “less guilty” than others.

I could ramble on, but you need to get back to work. Come back when you lose touch or just want to refresh why, how and where you are. You’ll be okay.

You are good enough: A note to self

Dear me,

I know the past week has been as eventful as it could be. It was the most eventful week of your life, at least since the day you decided to pursue Science. Congratulations on achieving the fellowship and being in the top 2%. I’m really proud of you.
However, an anxiety has been gripping you ever since the result came out. You think you got it because of sheer dumb luck. Let me ask you, was it really just luck? Was sitting in that examination hall year after year your decision or fate? Wasn’t everyone telling you you made the difficult (aka wrong) choice? Who was the one figuring out color charges of quarks when she could have pondered about what colors suited her best for the date outfit? Yet you proceeded because you knew your heart. You knew you wanted it bad enough.

You had doubts. You knew it’d be difficult. You went for the interviews and blew it. Not once, not twice, but thrice, in a row. It was you who knew nada about Simpson’s rule but tried to integrate one upon x to the power n-1 anyway, in front of 5 scientists. Weren’t those 5 people laughing? A nobody trying to ‘do’ maths a new way, in front of 5 experts of the field. It was embarrassing beyond measure. Yet, at the end of the interview they asked you to keep working. They asked you to study some more and come back. They never said you can’t do it or that you don’t have the talent.

If the worst review you ever got was  ‘come back after more preparation’ (by the absolute best people of the field, mind you), you must have something. If they can believe in you, why can’t you believe yourself?

I know it all started after that response you got from a former acquaintance. He was the first one to literally say that you made the wrong decision and should have known better. Tell me, does he actually know you that well? He wouldn’t recognize your face if you were to appear in front of him, because you simply interacted a long time ago, very formally. He is judging from that impression of you, or rather a general impression of all the students he has met of your batch. None of your colleagues have sought this path. Clearly it is not a popular choice. He doesn’t know your journey or your expertise. He wasn’t talking personally about you, rather from a general perspective.

But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong entirely. He wants to convey that it would be difficult for you, thats all. He wishes the best for you. He thinks you would be better off in a career which is safe and familiar because that is what he views as the criterion for choosing a career. You, on the other hand, view things differently. You make choices based on your gut feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, I know you do your job diligently, day in and day out. You got the fellowship without any formal education, didn’t you? You really know your subject and you are sincere. But you know it isn’t exactly the lucrative or secure path. You are blessed in the way that you need not worry about financial matters as much as others. You can take risks. At least for now. But you can’t take the risk of regretting at the age of 80 that you could have been a scientist. You dread that the most. Hence you chose this way.

Even if it all goes to nothing, you will have the satisfaction of trying your best and learning laws of the universe along the way. Isn’t that all we need? To be consumed by a desire so great that even a great blow feels like a mosquito bite? To go to the bed with contentment and to rise with passion? This is what life is about.

Don’t get disheartened my love. There are no wrong paths. Every path is difficult. However, the kind of difficulty is different and felt differently by each individual. The path you chose resembles a little out of tune at the moment, but you’ll find your music. You have what it takes to get in tune with it, it would demand a bit more effort on your part, thats all.

Go forth with that resonates with your heart, because having your heart on your side will make you conquer everything.

Love
~Sn.

In the praise of writing things down

In the praise of writing things down

I’ve been a big fan of planning but I was not good at executing. I’ve created countless study timetables that I didn’t stuck to, and failed to check off everything on my to do list most of the times. However, during all these years of studying and keeping track of everything has taught me that planning is an essential step, even if you end up not executing the plan completely.

If you write it down, you are more than likely to start

Let me explain. Suppose you want to study a chapter from textbook that sounds really dull(and hard). You don’t feel like it. If you’re given all control and no deadline, you are more than likely to put it off completely. Now imagine this, before going to bed(or earlier in the day) you write on a piece of paper or your journal that you will study that chapter. It creates a mental note of having the desire to complete that task. You may actually pick up the book just to look at what this chapter is actually about, not with the intention of studying but just to get an idea of what this task of studying may involve(out of curiosity). Maybe you’ll put it down after a glance but you are more likely to continue reading it even if you don’t feel like it and before you know you’ve completed the first section(or more). The act of having a written note to yourself gives you a slight push and creates a mental pressure that you should be doing it.

Guilt can be Healthy

That pressure for me goes away after a while but while it lasts, it causes me to do at least something related to the task that I’ve been meaning to do. For example, I would love to exercise everyday, in theory. Practically I almost never do. But when I write it down in my bullet journal a day before, the next morning the first thing I’m thinking is that I need to exercise. Even if I don’t exercise, I do take a walk or stretch a little, just in order to get rid of the guilt. Guilt is not healthy, but it can push you to do things you should be doing. I sometimes end up helping my mum do housework and that is exhausting and boring but that gives me a sense of doing something, something that might count as a light exercise. Sometimes, it is more than a light exercise because I end up doing all the cleaning, certainly more than I first intended but I am happy at the end because it does count as a workout in my mind.

Your Mindset will change

The mere act of writing things to do or things I need to deal with creates a chain reaction and nudges me to get started. Once you get started, you can gain momentum and finish the task or make some progress at the very least. Therefore, I always make a to do list before bed/ before a trip/ before school even if I know I may not do it because I know that I might actually get started. When I review at night, it surprises me how much I actually get done! Sometimes I end up finishing everything on the list or even more, without realizing it. But if I had not written it down, I might as well have forgotten it all. I have realized that writing things down has an effect on your mindset for the day.

Once you get started, you have finite chance of finishing the task. But if you don’t get started, you won’t finish the task, 100% of the time.

Write things you are putting off, things that you need to deal with, even if you don’t think you will.

Love
~Sn