Gravity, The Martian, Art of resilience and victory of human will.

Yesterday, I watched “The Martian”. It’s a space movie where the astronaut Mark Watney gets left out in mars while on a mission and how he plots his way back to earth. I am a sucker for space movies. Interestingly, it took me back to the past.

It was 2013. My startup had failed. I had invested in my startup, all that I had saved during my 2 year stint at the first job. It needed more capital, so I borrowed some money. Also, there was a family health emergency and I borrowed more money. Once my startup went bust, I was broke big time and by then, I had borrowed more than I can manage. I found a job right after but it didn’t change my financial status quo. Within 5 months, I gave up on the job as I didn’t like it and was back to unemployed bench.

Every day of 2013 was brutal. I had to make a hard decision of shutting down my startup. “How did you know that its time to do so?” — This is a common question that is asked to a cricketer who has just announced his decision to retire or a startup founder who has decided to get acquired or a startup founder who has decided to give up on his dreams. Well, You sort of know that in your heart. Once this inner peace manifests, the decision will follow. But still it’s a painful process to go through. Once decided, I executed it which was even more painful. Then I found a job and it was a spectacular flop. I was unemployed and in dire need of a job. As is, I was broke financially and was struggling to repay the borrowed money. All this in one year.

I started looking for jobs and couldn’t find any right away. Few people whom I counted didn’t deliver. None of the interviews went my way. So, there I was waiting for that one miracle that will help me come out of my rabbit hole and see the light at end of the long, dark tunnel. But, it never came.

My parent’s were getting frustrated and it grew as days went by. One day, I lied to my parents that I was going to an interview and instead, decided to roam around the city of chennai, quite mindlessly. In the morning, I went to express avenue mall and made my way to Escape cinemas. I wanted to watch some movie. I booked a ticket for this english movie — “Gravity”. It was a luxury to spend Rs.120 on a ticket, back then. But I watched it. Then something happened.

After the movie got over, I felt very different. I realized that the movie affected me deeply. Initially, I presumed that it is the usual after-effect post watching a good movie. But it stayed with me. The idea of resilient will of a woman who made it to earth from deep space despite all odds. Later the day, I went to the beach and let it sink in.

Within a week, I landed an awesome job at a fast growing startup. I am still part of it growing professionally and personally. I am not saying that watching “Gravity” helped me land a job. Definitely, No.

But, it put me in touch my inner self. Back in the beach, I realized that at the end of the day, I wanted to survive this chaotic phase. I wanted to come out of it and not give in. Get busy living or get busy dying”.

During this tumultuous period, I experienced all of negative emotions such as failure, depression, loneliness, fear, helplessness in various degrees. Not for just a day, but for over a year. But, I had few great friends who were there for me whenever I needed them and I am very grateful for it.

Usually, such journey is a lonely one. The long nights, empty stare and hopelessness are the norm. I am not the only one who underwent such things. There are countless people who have gone through or going through it. In fact, their problem might be much graver than what you or me faced in our lives. Every human who has taken birth on this planet will go through one or more negative emotions at a given point in time.

Recently, I saw this ted talk where the speaker talks about how we don’t care about our psychological health like we do our physical health. It is true in every sense.

During tough times, we need support from family and friends to help us stay afloat. You need someone to pat you in the back when something positive happens or to act as a sounding board or to slap you when you screw up something. In short, you need someone to keep you sane. Because, loneliness will rear its ugly head. It will derail our thinking and drive us to do things that we would normally squirm at.

It is perfectly ok to seek professional help. Don’t worry about the stigma associated with it in the society. Sometimes, its better to deal with it through professionally trained people.

If you are going through a failure, then the normal reaction would be to approach anything with caution. This can go to an extend where you will refuse to take a step forward as the recent failure will be in back of your mind. If we stop there and don’t take a step forward, then life stays as it is. But if we overcome the fear and take a step forward then we can change life for the better. We always have a choice when we are going through a failure and that very choice will separate winners from the rest. When AR Rahman won oscars for Best original score and Best original song, he said in his acceptance speech — “all my life I had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I’m here”.

Of course, we undergo a lot of stress and anxiety. But beyond a point, it doesn’t matter. Like MS Dhoni would say “It’s like having 100kg put over you. After that even if you put a mountain, it will not make a difference.”

It is always darker before the dawn. If you feel helplessness, it’s perfectly ok. Give yourself a break and don’t beat yourself to death emotionally. But import thing is not to give in. Giving in is the thing that kills people and their self esteem and not the failure itself. Believe that, This too shall pass.

Remember, Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

I wrote this piece to share my story of failure, depression, loneliness, fear, helplessness, so that it can help someone who is going through it right now. It might help someone to come out of it and shine in their life. More such stories are required to bring awareness.

If you know of someone who is going through a bad phase, make it a mission to help them out. They badly need it but they can’t ask for it. Please volunteer and be what they want you to be. In past, it might be that there was no one to help you when you were going through a bad phase. Do you really want this person also to go through the same? Please drop your ego and help them out. Who knows, you might have saved a person from suicide or depression or from going on a bad, dangerous path. It is our responsibility to help such people. We have to instil hope in their minds and help them figure out the art of resiliency.