Friday, October 28, 2011

12th class really stinks sometimes...

First off,

Happy Diwali !

This long post is more like a diary entry or a rant than a life lesson. So read at your own risk! Oh, and I do apologize to my dear readers for having been inactive on blogger for a while. You'll find the reasons in this post.

There comes a lecture in every student's life when he's just hearing and not really listening to his teacher. And the chances of that increase when you're in 12th class.

That was a thought that I never thought I'd have. I had this idea, before 12th, that by sheer hard work and foresight, I would avoid every one of the pitfalls of 12th I'd heard about - bunking classes, spacing out in lectures, studying 6 hours a day etc. etc. I have been fairly successful, but yeah, there have been problems. You probably guessed that, right? They were the reason I did not reappear on blogger for the last few weeks.

I'm on a week-long Diwali break right now. And every day I've been studying - Political Science, Maths and Economics. I've also been working for some competitions - essay writing, debates and poetry. Our school teachers are so confident of my skills now that they confirmed my name for competitions without even telling me! And when I tried telling them that I did have to study, their rather surprised reply was, "Beta, you won't be studying all day na? It's your last year. Just take out a little time, we know you can do it!". That's when I wanted to shake them. They've probably don't take my 12th class as seriously as I do. But for some reason, I was unable to think of more polite ways to refuse at the time and have taken on another source of stress in the holidays.

True, I won't be studying all the time. But my teachers are undervaluing my own feelings about my studies. If they asked, I would tell them how I haven't been able to get more than a superficial understanding of my latest chapters in Maths and Economics (it worries and annoys me).  I would tell them how I felt horribly guilty for goofing off in front of the TV sometimes. I would tell them how I felt so darned incompetent because of my marks. I could even tell them that while I loved winning competitions, their lack of support made me angry. Taking on another competition somehow made me feel guilty - like I wasn't taking my own studies seriously enough (Maybe they weren't doing anything intentionally, I just felt bad at the time. Then again, maybe I wouldn't tell them unless I thought they would understand)

Life's been really busy in the last two weeks. I've been working on something new for my blog (I'm really excited about it!), I've been trying to read new story books, I've been trying to (reluctantly) practice maths and prepare for tuition tests, I've been helping teachers with their tasks in school, I've been trying to develop a sensible schedule (I initially thought time management was my only problem), I've been studying for my exams. In a nutshell, I've been trying to be perfect. I've been trying to keep up appearances of sanity until the holidays started, when I decided it was time for revamp. Too much stress in my life is NOT healthy. I would end up feeling sad, dissatisfied and kind of alone. Also, I couldn't psyche myself out of every headache I got because of my depleted physical and mental energy. I felt so, so out of control of my own life.  

As a little kid, I would always think "life is fun!". Life had so many little surprises. How far away that seems now! Has life become smaller or my mind?

I took a break this week (read:tried to take it. Can't really escape time-bound obligations). I timed my work throughout the day to give myself more free time. But still, there is a lack of motivation to do all the things I must do. I've learned the difference between motivation and inspiration. One can't substitute another. If I could have one wish right now, I'd love to go on vacation, all my responsibilities taken care of. The constant scruples about the way I use my time are getting really annoying. There was a time when I could come home, do exactly what I felt like and not feel too bad about it. Now it's like my own mind is rebelling against the constant association with school and trying to pull me in ever more interesting directions. Yesterday, I spent two hours looking up pictures and videos of the best screen villains instead of working for my competition. Today, I'm writing this blog post instead of working on my essay!

And all this time, each and every day, I wonder if I'm doing the right things. Lately, every time I'd get a compliment I'd think, "Awww, that's nice of you. But you might not like me if you know the whole story. I feel like a fake. I don't feel honest." And when I feel I'm not doing such a good job, I tend to automatically feel that everyone else is doing a better job than me. Talk about the curse of having too much time and choosing to think too hard. I let my life become a complicated quest for happiness, literally asking myself, "Should I be happy about this?".

It was time to give myself some care and respect. I'm not a machine, I'm a human being. It's machines you can have high expectations from and curse when they go wrong. Not people. And I'm not living to be like other people, I'm living to be the best of  me!

Well, I do feel a little bit better now.

Many of you must have already crossed 12th as just another stage of life. What your best advice?

Take care of yourself dear readers and don't let stress into your life

Pssst...I have a special surprise planned up for my wonderful blog readers in the coming few weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Giving our best

How often do we do it? Have you ever wondered about a friend, "I know s/he can do so much better. Why didn't he?"

I wrote sometime back on the Gift of a day. But this time I am considering the gift of a person. We never really know how far we can go unless we push our limits. The same way we never really know how tall a tree will grow if we cut it down. 

We think differently, feel differently, react differently. But we don't always celebrate those differences. Many of us tolerate the differences but we don't consider them as potential strengths, only potential obstacles to the relationship. Consider the fact that soon after meeting someone new we start thinking about them, their choices, their tastes and the ways in which they are different from us. We practically live in a society that encourages comparison and competition. Healthy competition that inspires us to improve on ourselves is one thing, but the dark side to it is when we are driven to doubt ourselves or feel ashamed of who we are. 

Recently I noticed that when I sang in my room (behind a locked door) I tried my best, again and again, to sing as well as the singer I admired. This was different from the times when I have sung on stage. Fear was part of it though, but I feel truly now that I did not give my best. Now that I can see things more honestly, I feel there were two reasons. a) I was afraid that my best was not good, laughable or just plain pathetic b) I didn't want to give my best. And why didn't I? Because I was saving it for something else. I was saving it for an occasion that would feel just right: when I felt the audience on my side, when I felt prepared, when I felt I had more to gain and when I felt support (instead of scorn) from the organizers themselves. 

But now I remember my journey as an NCC cadet. I remember practising a loud voice to command my troop. I realise that I sing better when I sing louder and really feel the song, as opposed to when I sink my voice and just want to escape the whole scene. Frustration got the better of my determination both times and I didn't do the best I could. I think I almost intended it as a lesson against the party which I was angry with: As if I could punish them by not giving the best of which I was capable! 

I read The Leader had no title by Robin Sharma some time back. One of his key ideas is to give the best in all you do, to stick to a standard of excellence, to become a true leader. I did not fully believe his ideas then because I was inclined to think that one should adjust his response to the requirements. But now I see that I have missed many of the opportunities which actually demanded my best. Taking the case of singing, if I would have sung louder, I would have sung better. If I had sung better, who knows what opportunities would have opened up for me? Conversely, by knowingly giving less than what I was capable of, I only disappointed myself. 

I think back now on the times when I did give my best: writing something I felt inspired to, trekking in the mountains, learning physics ;) , planning surprise birthday parties...Those times are now some of my most favourite memories. I remember them when I'm down and that I need to keep trying at the things which feel hard. Besides, they've taught me so much more about myself than years of superficial conversations, unheard lectures or forgotten articles. Those were the times when I felt I delivered. I felt proud of who I was. Doing the best you can actually expands on your best, because since those times I've felt stronger. And at those times, appreciation really didn't matter so much: I think I was just proud at a job well done :D And the results always justified the efforts. And now I remember one quote on success I've heard : " Success is not how far you get bu the distance you travel from where you started" . Many of those seemingly small and mid-size opportunities can really be a springboard for you and the success you want. 

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems - Mahatma Gandhi 

Far and away, the best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing - Theodore Roosevelt

You cannot become what you want to be by remaining what you are - Max Depree

Sorry, I couldn't choose one from so many lovely quotes :)

So here are my parting wishes to my dear readers: I  hope that you will receive many opportunities to express your best self and qualities. Just don't waste them :)

I got the pic here