A 9 Min Diary: Remembering The Roots To know What You Want To Do
The answer to your future sometimes lies in your past
If you are viewing this, you are probably perplexed about some aspect of life. Perhaps, uncertain of a future you want to pursue. Can a nine-minute read truly resolve your confusion? I don’t know, and as with all my diary entries, I write this for my future self to read, and recollect my traits and understand the current me. So it will be relevant to me and is based on my experiences, but I hope you get enriched by some perspectives too. Note that I could be completely wrong, or irrelevant too.
Maybe, try to reflect some parallels on these experiences with your own life.
Let’s Remember Some Stuff, Shall We?
I have three questions for you.
- How did you spend your 5th grade summer holidays?
- Why did you pursue the domain of education you did?
- What was your ambition as a primary school kid, and what is it now?
I’ll decode a thought process in correlation to my answers to these.
Hanging out with apartment kids (Ps- I was not as introverted as today during my primary school days), board games, art, storybooks, cricket, and video games were an elemental part of most of my summer holidays, just like any other 90s kid. I used to play a lot of Monopoly and Carroms. Evenings were for cricket, and after that maybe some video games. Some nights, we played hide n seek.
When I take a deeper look, there was something else I really liked to do. We made alterations to existing things. And before I knew it, I was profoundly engaged in creating my own board games, my own storybooks. I have always wanted to create my own version of things I enjoyed doing. I distinctly remember making a board game called ‘Speed For Rage’, which was essentially a Need For Speed rip off but with unique rules and it’s played on a board by rolling a die! I even had my own version of Monopoly.
What did you enjoy the most from those summer holidays? Now is a good time to recollect the little things that you were totally into. And then, try to find the essence behind your motivation for doing it.
I took up science in high school because I was good at it. I did enjoy learning the subjects. Physics and the beauty of mathematics fascinate me to this day. Finance or economics did not seem that appalling (to me). But I pursued science, not by carefully analyzing the options I had, nor for my interest. I did it because it felt as if that was the natural flow of life. I did not even explore what else was there. Most 90s kids probably did the same when they reached high school. I was lucky that I enjoy science, but for many others on the same path, it wasn’t so.
The same was the reason why I pursued engineering later. The choice of the branch I opted for was heavily based on my ranks. I wasn’t inherently interested in computer science back then, except for making video games, and computer graphics. I wasn’t too much into electronics either.
I had two options, either go to the Indian Institute of Space Sciences (or IIST) and study Aerospace or Avionics or come to the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli. I remember a moment from when I was in 9th grade when I really hoped to make it to IIST and work for ISRO. I was captivated by both of them and was always in awe of space and astronomy. I thought it would be extremely difficult to get in. They had very few seats back then, just about 60 per batch. This was a target above the IITs.
But somehow things turned out well and I had a call letter for the admission process. Was it a dream come true. Yes, it was. So, did I pursue it?
You know the answer.
I ended up going to Trichy. My reason is the same as most of you, who came here leaving something else you may have always wanted. Placements, well-established alumni network, student body, and because many others I knew pursued it. It was a tested and secure path.
Do I regret it? Not really. There is a word to describe this feeling I hold-
“The bittersweetness of having arrived in the future, seeing how things turn out, but not being able to tell your past self- Enouement”
I am in that future right now. A future that made it possible for me to write this article and for you to read it.
But why am I talking about these decisions?
There is a simple philosophy I fostered at college. No matter where you are in life, you always can have the freedom (not always, the resources) to do what you always wanted to do. (I mean the good stuff. Now, don’t do anything shady saying that I told you to do whatever you want!)
This was true at least for most things I wanted to do. I knew it didn’t really matter which college I studied in, or what course I did. But there is a catch!
If you can do whatever you want to do, wherever you are, then you might as well choose the “safer” path among the choices you have. When I had to choose, I only thought about one thing, even if I go to NITT, I am free to learn about astronomy and pursue something in that domain that will interest me. When I did come to NITT I did the same. I was constantly exploring my options.
I cannot tell stuff like, ‘I could have gone to ISRO if I really wanted it’ because I never pursued it as my interests evolved beyond that, but I did believe (and there are plenty of examples to cite).
A college can indeed make many things easier to access and achieve. Nevertheless, it is not impossible, and sometimes a difficult choice followed by a ferocious effort.
The perception I try to emphasize is-
- It is okay if you are not from IIT, not from NIT, or any other top institute, and it is up to you to ensure that it will not hamper your chance to what you want in any way. I can’t explicitly say but I have seen enough examples of those who created wonders without tags. And all of them were stories of years of intense hard work, passion, and dedication. Focus on the little things you do every day aligned with your goals.
- Your path to your definition of success may be long, but don’t give up just yet, because, you never know, when you are almost there. Believe in yourself. Be cautious of failure, but not afraid of it. It is not the end of the world.
- Being street smart is important. Talk to people, explore the streets of knowledge and network from ground zero. Find your way up and see what you can make for yourself.
I remember my fourth-grade essay writing competition where I wrote about space, the sun, and the solar system, and how I wanted to be a Scientist or an Astronaut. Now, when I look back, that thought process was very naive and misguided.
I think the way we look at “ambitions” is fundamentally wrong. Right from childhood, we (at least I and those around me) are hardwired to believe and think about what we want to become, or do in life in terms of the profession we pursue. I feel that it is a flawed way of looking at it.
I didn’t really want to be an astronaut. I just wanted to go to space. I don’t explicitly want to be a scientist in some particular domain. All I wanted to do was discover something new. I believed that if I pursued those professions, I will naturally reach these goals I have.
My goals have changed year after year. Today, the kind of goals I pursue is like, ‘I want to write a poem this week’, ‘I want to get those articles done’, ‘I want to build that website’, ‘I want to catch up with a friend’, ‘I want to earn that much this month’, and so on. The everyday things in life. The goals are plenty and each one is an achievement worth celebrating. And when you place them all together, you’ll see the bigger picture. Essentially, the aim is to live one day at a time, in the way I want, and in the way that will make mine as well as someone else’s tomorrow better. Having smaller short term goals like this could help. Isn’t that all you need for a stable life?
I do have some long term goals that focus heavily on solving some specific problem statements. And I do believe that solving them has got nothing to do with my profession, university, geolocation, or other external factors. I guess, for most people, there will be something they want to change. Identify that pain point, the problem statement and ponder on it.
What are your goals? See if you can separate them from the profession. If you feel you have a goal that is dependent on other such things, you may have to rethink or redefine them better. Your profession could be a means by which you can achieve your goal, but not the goal itself.
All this is fine XQ, but what if I need money, and I don’t get that by doing whatever I want. And in fact, sometimes I need it to do what I want.
You are right. Money is important. My next diary entry is exactly about that. Where does money find its place in the grand scheme of things? I will tie up those perspectives with this.
Read that diary entry here.
When I was a kid, I once made a dummy computer out of cardboard and used to play with it, as if it was real. I truly wanted to make a computer of my own. When I look back at all the years of my life, science, technology, and computers have been integral to me. I have explored several domains over time from marketing, HR, consulting, writing, etc. But I now know, I will always get back to engineering at its core (explore before you decide).
Even when I write something, I think like an engineer. I optimize my content as an engineer. I am always pondering about the technologies that can assist me to be a better content creator. So yep! I can conclude that the domain I want to always be associated with is science and technology, more towards the engineering side of it and the internet (essentially, computer science).
And when I say this, I do not endorse that one needs to traditionally study Engineering or CSE at a University to follow this path. It is definitely one way to do it, but not the only way. Given how education systems and the world at large are evolving, I feel, this will become less efficient and more time + money consuming. But yes, there are other reasons to attend University.
In the same way, identify that domain you feel you want to be associated with, in everything you do. Do you think like a tech person or a finance person, or a people’s person, or some other type of person?
Two years ago, I wrote an article on finding your “Ikigai”, where I talk about how writing is my calling in life. When I look at it today, I have a clearer picture of it. Writing is indeed my calling but is only a major subset of my Ikigai. When I think about all the views I shared here, I can tell, my real yearning is in creating something new. Creating a version of something I enjoy doing, or love. I create poetry or content because I love reading them. I create art because I love the way artists present profound ideas visually (even when I am no good at it, then again, it is subjective). I made board games because I really liked playing them. Everything I do in life connects with it. What I really want to do is creating my own version of things I appreciate.
And I know, I want to create it like an Engineer.
So, that’s my story and my conclusion. What about you? Have you found something useful and relatable here?
Then again, these viewpoints are only my side of the narrative. Different circumstances lead to different perspectives, and there is no absolute right or wrong.
Here is a video you MUST watch. This presents many other richer perspectives I can reflect upon.
I tried to be as concise as I can be. If you want to hear or discuss more on these perspectives, you can reach out to me on Instagram. There are more topics I will discuss in my future diary entries, on my thoughts about making money, comparisons between people, on how success is relative, about efforts, the idealism that I wish to make a reality, and more. #StayTuned for them!
Here’s a little pic to end this entry. May you find what you have been searching for all your life, and as the subtitle reads-
The answer to your future sometimes lies in your past