There are no failures or mistakes, only lessons.
I screamed at the top of my voice, alarming my parents.
“I made a bubbling mistake in the 40th question.” May 31 2017. 10 days after my JEE Advanced. I was bitterly disappointed with my subpar performance in the exam. Finding out about the silly mistake that would have a cascading effect dampened my spirits further. I could literally see my dream of joining the elite IITs vanish in thin air. Thoughts of breaking the trust my parents had in me and not delivering on the expectations of my well-wishers began to haunt me. When the results were declared, I realised that the silly mistake had cost me about 40 marks and a rank difference of around 10,000. I knew I was thrown out of the fiercest race in the country due to a lapse of concentration. Little did I know that this tiny blip on the vast canvas of life was going to serve as the cornerstone of my career path.
An important decision in life awaited. I could either sulk over the past and spoil my future or take matters into my hands and carve a pathway for myself. Choosing the latter was a no-brainer. I vividly remember the discussion I had with a close friend of mine who had similarly landed up at NIT Trichy, the college which is considered second only to a few IITs. We believed that one incident shouldn’t impact our lives to that extent as portrayed by many. We decided to do everything within our power to negate the effect of the so-called lost opportunity of joining the top-tier IITs. It was imperative that we took ownership of our past mistakes which would serve as a reminder whenever we slacked off.
With our goal etched in our minds, we embarked on our journey of exploring options and creating a career path best for us. With my focus solely on placements, I used my resources wisely to land projects and internships to understand my strengths and likings. When my schoolmates were going on trips in their sophomore year, I slogged away vacations building a profile that would prove beneficial in the future.
I prepared for the all-important campus internship season with utmost sincerity with the mission to land an intern that would propel my career in the right direction. Two weeks into the season, I landed an intern at a renowned company. In August 2020, I was successful in converting my internship opportunity into a pre-placement offer. Looking back at the journey of the first three years of college, I could reflect on how that one incident became the driving force for years of consistent effort and hard work. This wasn’t the last time that the incident which was supposed to be gut-wrenching had proven to be a pathfinder.
A month ago, I went on yet another journey that would transform me. With a rucksack, loads of junk food and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I set off on one of my dream voyages to the snowy mountains of North India. A middle-aged uncle who had an opinion about everything from politics to Hollywood, a couple of friends going to their hometown after months of COVID lockdown and an Air force officer were among my co-passengers. With no interest in their discussion about the Union Budget, I started reading the novel. Such was the mastery of the author that I was soon engulfed by the story of the shepherd and his nomadic vagary to unknown lands. I realised that the life of the little boy had instances that one could relate to his or her life. As I continued reading, I was able to make sense of things that once puzzled me. Towards the end of the novel, something astonishing happened.
For a long time, I had been breaking my head over my MBA plans. With varied perspectives from my college alumni and other people, I was inclined towards pursuing an MBA abroad. But as everyone who chooses to go abroad faces the challenge of tackling the no guarantee of jobs scenario, I too found it hard to make a decision. Reading the book, I reached a point where the protagonist frames his future plans with the experience of the past. Within seconds, every piece of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place. I was once able to make the best out of a situation that was regarded by many as an opportunity wasted. I suddenly had the self-belief that no matter what happened, I would follow what my heart says. In the worst-case scenario, I would still be able to make things work. With that self-assurance, I decided that all my efforts would be directed towards getting admitted to one of the top B-schools in the world.
Steve Jobs once said and I quote “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” These instances in my life have made me believe that every event has its why and the adversities we face become lessons learnt. We must never regret our past. Rather, accept it as our teacher.