Jul 23, 2013

Yesterday & tomorrow...

When I was in school, life seemed tough. Getting up every morning, standing in murderous heat or cold fog for an hour during the assembly, attending hours of classes and preparing for exams for many years in succession. I was promised - just work hard now to get into an IIT and everything will be good. My future would be secure, college is more fun than school etc.

College was no joyride. The peer group was extremely competitive, courses rigorous and every exam was like writing JEE again. There were still hours of mind-numbing classes and labs - every longer than school, actually - and living conditions in the hostels were spartan. The promise then was - just get into a good PG course, or get a job - and you'll reap the benefits of the IIT tag.

IIM was crazier. The schedule was hectic as hell and getting good results was no easier. If anything, there was added pressure of placements and expectations. Just get a day one job during placements, and you will rule the world - was the promise.

The first job sucked. Unlike college, you couldn't bunk at all nor make mistakes. I felt like a small insignificant cog in the wheel whose presence didn't really make much of a difference either way - but I had to be there every day, 9 hours a day, fighting some issue or the other. And life in Bhopal wasn't exciting at all for a young bachelor. I thought let me just switch to a profession I can be passionate about, and make an impact - and I'll get a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Also, moving to a more 'happening' city will make life fun again.

While I liked the new job, it was cruel. Waking up every day worried about a new bomb in the inbox (a recent mistake being caught), working thanklessly from 10am-10pm and yet not getting everything done perfectly, and returning home every night with a sullen face was hardly what I'd always dreamt of. The weekends presented their own questions - what to do, where to go, who can get us in (most places we wanted to visit only allowed couple on weekends, and we were 3 single guys sharing an apartment). Let me just struggle through these first few years, build my reputation and find good company - and all will be well, I thought.

A few years down the line, I'm well-settled in my job but the challenges are even bigger now. To successfully achieve the results I want, I have to depend on other people and factors that aren't all in my control and it's a long game that'll span across many years. I had great friends but most of them have moved out of Bangalore now and/or are married, so it feels rather lonely. Let me just find a good life partner and move into my new home (will be built by year-end) and things will get better, is what I'm telling myself now.

Does it ever really get easier and better? Do we ever feel like we're on top of everything, or does the promise of a happier future remain forever elusive?

The thing that makes it worse is nostalgia. Now when I think back to school days, all I remember is lots of friends, 2 hours of cricket/tennis/swimming every evening, discussing crushes with friends, and my parents taking care of all the big issues like household finances. When I think of college, I remember the bike rides for fried chicken in the city, watching the Shawshank Redemption in my room, night-outs on the hostel roof discussing the concept of 'God' with my best friends, and my first girlfriend. PG memories are all about enjoying every hour of sleep managed at weird times & locations, creating the success that was Manfest, nailing some presentation/assignment and feeling like a genius, all the kebab-paratha, late night AOE games and being happy with placements. When I think back to my early bachelor days, all I remember is the appreciation received after a big achievement at work, TT at home, the wild weekend parties, the trips to Goa, Singapore etc., witnessing some dear friends' love stories bloom into happy family lives, the lone-wolf British summer holiday and all the fun I had.

Nearly everyone I know misses the glorious days when they were younger and wish they could re-live those.

Is that how we're programmed? To romanticize the past memories, and hope for a better future, but remain forever frustrated with the present? Pretty lousy design, innit? The gurus always say 'Live in the present moment'. There are a few moments when one experiences bliss, not missing the past nor worrying about the future - but those are so, so rare. The present moment almost always seems to suck!

Is it just me, or does everyone relate to this? Feel free to weigh in with your comments below...

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