On my twentieth birthday, I had a realization.
Reflecting on the past two decades of my life, I’ve accomplished a lot I should be proud of. I survived a school life spread apart five different countries, received academic awards and merit for all my hard work, aced my A-levels and I’m currently conquering my way through a triple-degree that’s not as pretty as it sounds.
With one year left of university, I should happily proclaim the achievements under my belt. I’m a Distinction holder with a pretty good GPA, and an Associate of the Insurance Institute of India.I have a Diploma in Management Accounting under CIMA and I wrote a research paper in first year. I’m one of the founding members of my department magazine...yada yada yada.
My parents have a huge smile on their face when they speak of me and that’s possibly the one thing that makes me happy – that I’ve made them proud. But none of these achievements give me the pride I should have for myself. I know just how much blood, sweat and tears I put in and yet in the place of pride and joy, I feel a cold numbness. Because all these accomplishments have been on the academic front, for which I had to put my personal aspirations on the back-burner.
I don’t know at what point my academic achievements stopped meaning something to me. I hated being defined by a number. Studying and consuming knowledge in the field of accounting and business no longer gave me the excitement it used to. Despite the sudden monotony my life took on, I didn’t let it bring down my momentum. I worked unfeeling, like a machine, and continued to deliver as I always do. All the while, I couldn’t shake off the overwhelming sadness of not being able to feel happy about the fruits of my own labour. On the outside, it was all smiles and rainbows. My mind, however, had transformed into a hellscape.
Over the past year especially, my mental health took a turn for the worse – my anxiety acted up, insomnia got worse and all of it reflected on my physical health. I barely slept and at the wrong times, ate either too much or too little or nothing at all. Nothing interested me anymore. Each morning, I just wanted to stay in bed because there was nothing motivating me to stand on my own two feet.
I had several personal goals I had hoped to achieve by the summer of 2017. To have my next book released through a publishing house and to have completed the first draft of a new series. To have an active blog and Youtube channel, and to have learned to play the guitar so I could make more of my own compositions and possibly some music covers.
On my twentieth birthday, I realized how much I missed it all. How much I missed feeling something – the excitement and nervousness. How much I missed actually enjoying the work I put into my goals, as an artist and as a student. How much I missed seizing the opportunities I’d had to do something real. I resented how much time I had devoted to certain things, certain people – commitments that did more harm than good and devotion I could have put to better use for my own dreams.
I realized I need to stop and just breathe. I need to decide what is worth my time, who is worth sparing my overly sentimental heart on and stick to my goals. I need to stop living for others and learn to live for myself.
I need to change.
I’m only twenty years old and I still have a long path ahead of me. I will stumble and fall as I have over the past year and I do not need to justify my failures, nor should I rationalise the meaning of my hard work to anyone as long as I know what it means to me. I will prove to myself that my dreams can come true.
In conclusion, to quote a few lines from Victor E. Frankl’s inspiring book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”
I am going to punch life’s lights out.
Bring it on!