This post, unfortunately, is what I consider to be the REAL first post of my blog. That is unfortunate because it is going to be terribly morose and probably boring as it is going to be a summary of all the things, terrible and not so terrible, that happened in the last two years that shaped me into the person that I am today. The motivation behind me penning this stuff down is not for the people who read this to pity me, or for me to have a permanent record of these things that I can come back to when I’m feeling depressed (because that’s what happens, isn’t it? You feel sad, so you think sad thoughts, and those sad thoughts induce more sad thoughts until you just keep spiralling down till you hit rock bottom) and relive them; instead, I’m doing this so that there is a permanent record of these things that I can come back to when I need motivation. To remind myself that I’ve been through tough times in the past and have bounced back in miraculous fashion. I’m also doing this because when I asked a friend of mine if starting a blog was a good idea, they said that it was and they would love to read it as it would give them insight as to who I am as a person. A window to the soul, if that isn’t too dramatic. So, since that is another purpose which I had in mind for this blog, why not take a holistic approach to it and open that window completely?
I will try to go about this in a chronological order.
So, it all started, to the best of my memory, in tenth grade. That was when I asked a girl out which lead to a beautiful three and a half-year long relationship that ended bitterly. For the sake of anonymity, we shall call her X. That year, now that I think about it, was pretty much the best and happiest year of my school life. I was on top of my academics, I was very deeply in love with a beautiful girl, and I had just gotten into the coolest band in school as a guitarist. Now, I don’t mean to brag, but over the years, I would come to be known as the “greatest guitarist the school ever had,” but that’s not part of this particular narrative.
Now in the Indian education system, we have to choose “streams” after tenth grade. Any one from the following three: Science, Commerce, and Humanities. Science is further split into Medical and Non-Medical. So, when we were promoted to eleventh grade we had to do the same. I obviously chose Non-Medical, and X chose Medical. Back in tenth, we used to be in the same class, we used to sit together all the time (often hand in hand, which was a problem because then one of us couldn’t write, but that didn’t matter because I never really used to write anything in class anyway), but now we were separated because we had different subjects to study.
Eleventh grade was pretty much where the trip to unhappiness and bad mental health began (though I’m happy to report now that that is all in the past). So, we were now in different sections, and I was also in a class full of strangers. By chance, I somehow got included in the friend circle of the “cool” kids, a circle where a shy introvert like me never truly belonged, but hey, they were popular, so I rolled with it. X too made new friends and got close to one of them too, a girl we shall refer to, as
The Bitch ‘Y’. Now Y was a peculiar character. You know the kind that always brings people down? The kind that cannot ever be truly happy unless the people around them are as miserable as themselves? The kind that just wants to suck the joy out of everyone, kind of like a dementor? I think that’s a more apt description, so from now on, that’s what we’ll call her. The Dementor.
So The Dementor, for reasons unknown to me, would every now and then do whatever she could to pour oil into the small flames that were the typical trivial fights that happen in a relationship to inflate them to the degree of a forest fire. And sadly, she always succeeded. Now I’m not saying X was stupid and easy to manipulate, but if I did, it won’t be far from the truth.
Also, I just realised the amount of shade I’m throwing right now, and I want the reader to note that this is not what I’m like, but you need to vent sometimes.
So, between trying to fit into my friend circle and managing my relationship, my academics suffered. Suffered to the point that I was not being allowed to graduate from eleventh grade to go on to my final year in school because I had managed to fail each and every one of my physics exams. Each one. Ironic, given the title of my blog. In my defence, our teacher was HORRIBLE (more on that later). But eventually the school did promote me, almost entirely out of pity though.
Now, final year of school. The time when everyone was worried about college and their future. Except for me of course. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My father wanted me to study and become an engineer, because according to him and all other teachers he had spoken with, that was a shortcut to a successful life. Which leads to a discussion about The Typical Indian Parent’s Expectations, but that too shall hopefully be dealt with another time. For the meantime, bear with me and accept it when I tell you, that here in my country, for a large part of society, if you are not an engineer or a doctor, you are a failure in life. I did not want to end up a failure, but I despised engineering. Not because it was tough or anything, but because I was a rebel. I refused to be a part of an education system which took in millions of kids every year, grills them for four years and spat out herds of sheep that had no clue what to do with their lives and no ambition. At that point, when my father too was pressurising me to get serious about my studies and about college entrance exams, I had wanted to become a rock star. So, my mind had taken off from studying completely, and I spent two-thirds of twelfth grade just messing around. During this time, almost all my friends, including X and The Dementor, had been prepping for college abroad. At this point I’d like to force another thing down people’s throat but I promise that it’ll become clearer when I blog about how the Indian education system is fucked up, and that point is that I believe getting into a good college or university here in India is about a fuckzillion times more difficult than getting into one abroad (mostly because the enormous amount of competition we have here). An education abroad is something my parents can thankfully afford, but not something that I ever wanted to burden them with, so I never even discussed that prospect with them. But all my friends could afford it without any qualms, so they took the easy way out. Me? I still had my head in the clouds about being a rock star.
Around December, three months before the final exams, I found a physics tutor, who changed my life. This is the man whom I thank for rekindling my love for science, and more specifically physics. Learning physics the way he taught me, reminded me why I used to spend so much time online reading up on the developments of fields that I had never hoped to pursue. He never wanted me to go on the track of a physicist either, he too was a practical man who thought that getting an engineering degree would be the guarantee of a good life, especially for a bright mind like mine. I soon became his favourite student because I was easy to teach – never needed a second lecture to understand a concept, and because I put in the hours after his classes; not because I was afraid for my future, but because for the first time in years, I was motivated to study.
All of this bore fruit for me. I gave my final exams and got great scores. Highest in my friend circle and highest ever in my entire family. But during all this, a lot of things suffered; mostly, my relationships.
What happened during this time and afterwords cannot be fully understood by someone who isn’t inside my head, because honestly I can’t conjure up words to express how my brain sometimes works. I can’t explain how my brain sees itself. My idea of self-worth is very volatile. It seems to me that I have both, a superiority complex and an inferiority complex, but one of them just randomly chooses to hand over the baton to the other. Because I know I’m smarter than the average human and that I’m better at grabbing concepts and solving problems than my peers, I have a huge superiority complex. Mostly it stays inside my head and I’m a very down to earth person, which really pleases me, because I don’t want to be labelled as a dick. But sometimes, times when I’m sad, times when I’m questioning if my superiority complex is really justified, I feel like a victim.
Now that that’s taken care of, we can move on. A fair point to mention at this point would be that by this point (so many points) in my relationship with X, which had been pretty much poisoned by The Dementor, had taken quite a beating. It had turned into a love hate relationship where we couldn’t really tolerate each other but couldn’t tolerate being without each other either; but we decided to stick together anyway, and that took a toll on me. My fights with her, even though I had been pretty good at compartmentalising my life, had started to affect my relationship with my family. I remember spending a lot of time just sitting in a chair staring at a wall, not moving for lack of motivation. A lack of motivation to even move. Just wanting to sit in peace, away from all the turmoil that was happening in a life that looked so normal on the surface. The constant feeling of emptiness and being lonely had left me unable to tell it apart from any of the memories that I had. I had accepted the loneliness as a part of me that had always existed, that it was not something that had creeped in recently and was breaking me down from the inside. I realised that I was depressed a little too late, at a time when it didn’t matter anymore because I wasn’t depressed anymore.
I’m also terrible at taking multiple choice question based examinations (because of my stubbornness to solve questions methodologically and my inability to take shortcuts which is surprising for someone as lazy as me) which sadly is the mode of examination for all the entrance exams that you have to take, which translated to me not getting admission to any college I thought was worthy of me (I know I sound like such a proud little bitch right now, but that’s okay. This is my personal space. These are not emotions that I project on other people and I believe that as long as I don’t make them feel stupid deliberately, I’m not a bad human.). So that lead me to take a gap year. While all my friends were preparing for college, I was stuck in a rut. I had one year to prepare for my exams again.
Seeing your friends go off to college, just because they took the easy way out, just because they could, even when you knew you were way more deserving, is one of the worst feelings that one can have. You know that feeling when you really really want something and somebody that totally doesn’t deserve it gets it, and more? That’s what that is. And when your mind is in constant turmoil over how it perceives itself, it’s even worse. Naturally, I grew jealous. Never really showed it to anyone, but my mind was plagued with jealousy. That jealousy started making me question myself again, and question if I was ever gonna be able to get out of this rough patch that I’m going through, if I was ever gonna be able to make it big in life, and that pushed me deeper and deeper into depression. X, now started actively feeding my inferiority complex by telling me everyday about how good things are going to be there, about how she’ll have things over there that she could never get here, about how hopeless being stuck in this country was… and that kind of talk is never good when you’re already struggling. Eventually, she got sick of me being depressed and pessimistic all the time and started distancing herself and the next time we fought, I broke up with her. For real this time. Guess it makes sense to have named her X.
The break up naturally felt good for a couple of days, after which I started missing her, started missing having someone there for me and even though she had stopped being there for me a long time back, it was different. At least she was still labelled as my girlfriend, we were still labelled as a couple and that had been enough to console me. But now, I didn’t even have that. For the next 6 months, another friendship developed. X’s other best friend, who we shall call ‘A’ and I got close. She lived across the world in another continent and our friendship started, flourished, and ended, all over Facebook and Skype. That period of six months was the lowest of my life so far. I was depressed and had regular anxiety attacks that caused physical pain and left me unable to breathe or swallow. It felt like a hole in my chest the size of bangle and that hole would stay with me for days (sometimes weeks) on end. With A’s help, I got through that period without doing anything stupid to myself, and for that I’m incredibly thankful to her. She had her problems too, problems she shared with me. It was strange how close we got to each other so fast, and it was a friendship I welcomed with open arms. But we had a huge fight. X got to know about it from A. X called me. Greeted me with “I know you didn’t get to do what you wanted in life and that it has been a failure and I don’t care. But if you’re going to push away the only person left that genuinely cares for you, then I don’t know what to tell you.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but I can assure you that whatever version of that, milder or stronger, you hear when you’re already fighting to keep yourself up, it breaks you. No, it shatters you. So, realising that such confrontations with X would be unavoidable if I was to continue being friends with A, I eventually broke off my friendship with her as well.
During these six months, all the “cool” friends I had made in school had pretty much forgotten about me too. They all got too busy in their lives to worry about the loser of the batch, I guess (well, who’s the loser now?). All attempts at contacting them were met with ignorance and after some time, I stopped trying.
After ALL of that, the exams came by again. I had studied hard the entire year. But they were all still MCQs… and I failed each one of them again.
I had no hope. There was just one exam left. It was the one that would get me into one of the best physics undergraduate programs in the country, and somehow, it all just worked.
I remember the day the results came out. I was asleep at around 3 in the afternoon when my mom called me and said, “You got it. You got into IISER, Mohali.” and I remember just making incoherent sounds of disbelief and joy. I locked myself in my bathroom, and cried. I cried for an hour. All the things I went through in that year, it all paid off. All of my effort paid off. All of my suffering paid off.
So, here I am now. A student of physics at the Indian Institute for Science Education and Research, Mohali. I still get anxiety attacks when I think of the times that have passed and I constantly find myself wishing that I had never been loved like I had during the good times of my relationship because it has now left me wanting (and I really think that this thought, that you wish nobody had loved you in the first place because it now feels like you’ve tasted the nectar and want a full cup of it but can’t have it, is also one of the worst feelings in the world), and it takes me days to recover from such thoughts and the attacks, but now, I’m at least full of hope and I’m surrounded by friends. And I’m telling you, now, I’m not stopping until I get that Nobel Prize.
There are bits here that I missed out, which I will include in other posts because they’d make more sense there; but this is pretty much all the history that has gone into making me who I am today, as I start this blog. So, if you could get through reading all these 3087 words, welcome to the start of a new life. Well not exactly, since it has already been one semester since I’ve been here and I’m starting this blog too late, but eh, those are just technicalities… right?
PS. There were also other people – my sister, my cousins and my best friend who helped me out during all of those shitty shitty months and were there for me. I just felt like they needed a mention.