February 1997. Hundred and twenty grade-12 students enjoying a ‘farewell’ party thrown by hundred plus grade-11 students, organized by their teachers and held in the school compound. I had just stepped down from the podium as the valedictorian of my class having spoken about the dreams and hope for the future. In fact the air was saturated with that. We were signing each-other’s sign-books answering typical questions like, “ where do you see yourself in ten years?” “What do you want to be?” “ your happiest/saddest moment” “your thoughts about me “ etc. I remember I wrote I wanted to become a doctor. In ten years I would have my own house, a car and a successful medical practice and I will marry a man of my own liking (no arranged marriage for me- I was a rebel). My friends wrote that I should become a lawyer, writer or a teacher (May be it was because I talked too much!). NO WAY! I felt being a doctor was my calling. It was the last time I was in the school as a student. A month down the road we were to appear in National /state level exams and various entrance exams for professional courses which would determine the course of the rest of our lives but that night was about dreams, about the future and a Plan-B was far from my mind.
Cut to a decade and half later. I am not a doctor but I couldn’t be happier. My Journey of life has been surprising- It’s not what I planned for but it’s just what I hoped for. Last week I read in an Indian newspaper about a teenaged girl who committed suicide. I wished I could go back in time and tell her about the Paralympic participants who are pushing the boundaries of what human bodies can do and tell her to not let her bad circumstances get the best of her. To tell you the truth the time period from March to June is an extremely stress filled time for parents of grade-12 students in India. This is the time when all major exams are held and results are declared. The news is often filled with tragic tales of young people taking their lives because they could not take the disappointment of low marks or failed attempts at career exams. If my journey of life were any thing to go by then I would say to those youngsters- Hold on, Life is too precious to be thrown away.
That night in 1997, an hour after my glorious speech I was
sobbing bitterly complaining in front of my friends because I did not become the “prom-queen” equivalent of my school (a much less sophisticated and less glamorous version of it ) even though I felt I was really popular and had a 100% chance of winning that title. So all the talk of the future had just vanished in thin air, I was totally focused on the there and then (here and now ) of the moment. My logic was over ruled by my emotions. Months later, I had not cleared any of the medical entrance exams I had appeared in and had a lower than expected score in high-school exams. I really needed to think about a Plan-B. Actually Plan-B wasn’t half as bad as I had imagined. I went on to study architecture and in my first year I probably was the least talented and the least popular student in my class (may be even in the whole department). I made poor choices, made mistakes, I struggled but I persevered. My scores became better and It all started to make sense. By the end of those five years I not only gained an education, I also gained wisdom. I understand what being disappointed means and how it can sometimes feel like the end of the road but in life you have to roll with the punches. Life plans are not all about our big goals and ambitions. Its also about the little things and the people we have in our lives. …And some times the sum of the small things is bigger than the whole.
In 2007 when I started to reconnect with my old school pals via Facebook, many of them were shocked that I became an architect not a teacher, converted to Christianity and married a guy that my parents helped select. I was surprised at how their lives turned out as well. Some of them were a far cry from what I had thought they would be. Of course there were some who became doctors and engineers and CA’s like they wanted to be and those who married their high-school sweethearts but there were also those who did something totally different and here is the common denominator, they have all chosen to live happy lives.
I say happiness is a choice because even as adults we can be ruled by our emotions. Some of us do look back at life and wish they could change that one thing that would change how their lives turned out to be. Of course there is room in life for serious contemplation on the choices we made and how our lives could be better. We don’t want to be foolish in ignorance but if ‘what-could-have-been’ starts to paralyze our current lives then it’s totally not worth it.
Seventeen years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be enjoying being a stay-at-home mom to my little one or that I would be married to such a wonderful person or that I would be living abroad or that my parents could actually be right :P! But that was the age I was in. I was on the threshold of adulthood and even though I had merely a faint idea what life could possibly be I felt I knew it all. I felt I had it all figured out and that’s a stumbling block! We have to keep our avenues open and our plans flexible.
I don’t know who said it but this quote stuck in my mind:
“ Life is what happens to you when you are busy planning for something else”
Our journeys of life are full of ups and down and more often than not they don’t turn out as we planned. What I have learnt is that it is never too late to start making amends. We can change the present and we need to invest in it with love and sow the seeds for the future.
If you are in your teens- Please don’t get too caught up in your current disappointments. There are opportunities that will arise in future. We have to continually dust off our disappointments and keep trying again and again.
If you are older would you give it a thought today:
What was on your must-have/ must-achieve list when you were 15-16-17?
What is your life like now?
What are the most important lessons you have learnt so far?
If you would like to share the journey of your life, Please let me know. I would love to hear your story.