Conformist: Hey…why haven’t you joined Prof. Y’s chemistry coaching? EVERYONE says he’s the best in town for engineering entrance exams.
Anti-Conformist 1: I personally don’t like his teaching methods and I think I can do chemistry on my own. Also, I don’t want to pursue engineering after school.
Conformist: Dude, Why? What will people say?
Conformist: Dude, it’s high time now, wear fashionable clothes, act cool, get a girlfriend, otherwise what will other students think of you!
Anti-Conformist 2: *Awkward*
Conformist: What are your plans after B.tech?
Anti-Conformist 3: Besides my regular job, I will be a social entrepreneur and work for the society.
Conformist: What? Why? Go for M.B.A, M.tech, Civil Services etc. Something that will make you rich…Dude, what will people say?
A few Years into Job:
Conformist: Dude, get married soon, otherwise you won’t get any “good” girl. What will people say?
In a world full of conformists, having an opinion about life, different from one’s peer group is often regarded being baseless, and deficient of mature thinking.
So, play safe, do what the society tells you. So what if that frustrates you? Fake a smile. Work hard to impress your so called friends, your peer group. After all, that’s what you were born to do. That’s what your upbringing has been all about. Work hard to FIT-IN.
I don’t stand against seeking people’s advice, but, it is important to consider the situation where they stood when they made the decision, and where we stand today. All of us have had different lives, different life expectations and priorities and that, by and large determine our choices and decisions. But, alas, we live in a society where the differentiation between right and wrong is made by the majority opinion; logic and reasoning have little role to play. This further leads to a very high priority concern while making a decision, “What will people think of me?”, and here the focus of an individual shifts from making a wise decision, to being answerable to the society; towards social acceptance.
I have come into believing, the most important person I’m answerable to is myself, or rather, my future self. When I make a decision today, it will affect me sometime in future, the fruits of my deeds, whether sweet or sour, shall be borne by me. I will be the one judging my younger self for my present state, so I should fear my judgement the most.
Of course there is a clause to self-judgements. They have to be honest. I have heard many people argue that you can lie to the world but you can’t lie to your own self, I totally disagree. When I lie to another person, the second person uses his reasoning to counter me, so I might or might not succeed at lying. But, when I wish to convince a lie to myself, there is no second person to counter me. I’ll believe what I want to believe. This is the point where our well-wishers can come to our rescue and help us see our strengths and weaknesses, in the form of honest criticisms.
This however is not at all common, for we avoid criticisms assuming that friends would take them personally and get upset. This in some way may affect our friendship, and eventually we might lose friends; thereby realising one of our greatest fears, the fear of being alone. While honesty demands mutual understanding, that alone is not sufficient, for the concept of friendship has bent more towards wanting the other person to like you, than truly being his well-wisher.
Stepping into the raw wilderness of life is how I have found myself at several instances. One of them was when I got into mechanical engineering in my under grad, two years into mechanical engineering I realised that I did not fit there, while I had blooming interest in computer science. I decided to go for Masters in computer science. This decision of mine received heavy criticism from almost everyone, the rest were neutral. I was referred as being naive, impulsive and stubborn for the others argued that it was insane for an average mechanical engineer to compete against some of the most meritorious students of computer science, in computer science. Two years down the line I got selected in BITS Pilani.
I am not as proud of the achievement as much I am of being able to take the decision against all the peer pressure. I never believed that I would succeed in the first attempt. I was afraid that I might never make it. I almost always doubted myself. I feared the 100 voices howling “We told you, but you would never listen.” But, up against all fear, I wanted to try. The fear of failing in front of the world got over powered by the fear of giving up without trying. I could have never succeeded, but I would have the satisfaction that I did try. All of us deserve at least one sincere attempt in pursuit of our dreams.
Having said that, I should also mention, when failure hits, it hits hard, hard enough to make you judge reality. An incident happened at school. All people who knew me at school remember this, those who didn’t; they got to know me after the incident:
I was in class 12; hadn’t been involved in athletics since long, but somehow decided to participate in the 100m hurdles. Out of the 5 hurdles, I toppled and fell down over 3 of them and side walked one. Not that it would have affected my life anyhow, but when I turned back, I heard about 1000 people laughing; 1000 juniors laughing at my athletic display. At the age of 18, when a large number of people still can’t let go of their stage fear; they wouldn’t be comfortable standing on a stage facing a crowd of 1000 people, but I got mocked by that crowd. It couldn’t have been undone. The disgrace hurt. But, a month down the line, I stepped on the stage for an elocution competition, facing the same audience, determined to have the lost respect back….
No, nothing dramatic happened here. I did average; stood 3rd amongst 4 participants. But what I took back from stage was much more than the respect of 1000 juniors. The realization that, after facing such a humiliation, if I can gather the courage to face the same audience again, there would hardly be any hesitation in life that would hold me back from pursing anything I truly desired. I guess this might have had some influence on my decision of pursuing computer science against all peer opposition. Every cloud does have a silver lining. It all depends upon our abilities to perceive it…
One thing I find very difficult to understand is the concept of happiness. The feeling which is desired by all, which might be around the corner but very few can perceive it. What screws up the idea of our being happy is our mental picture, decorated in never ending desires and expectations, of how our lives should be. We brood over every expectation that remains unfulfilled and hold it in our hearts for long. We remember our pains but not our blessings. We question our fate when things go bad, not when they go good. The good is taken for granted. In a world where each year millions die of curable diseases and starvation, where over 40% of the world population is at or below poverty line, the fact that I am educated and have secured a job should prevent me from cursing my luck. I have been very lucky in this life and I am grateful for it.
We come across incidents in life we can’t control. But what always lies in our hands is a choice; the choice to respond to those incidents. The war, whose victims arm themselves to avenge the war, also breeds victims who choose the educative and legal path of civil transformation to prevent future wars. We can either choose to cry over spilt milk, pretend that the milk hasn’t been spilt and walk away or, clean it up and ensure that no future spillage takes place. The choice is ours to make, and what we ultimately become in life is a consequence of several of these choices taken over time. So, ultimately, we are what we choose to be. My life, by and large is a consequence of my decisions, my Karma.
A very popular notion among all age groups is “maturity”. More than it being a destination, I believe it’s a process. There’s no fine line between maturity and immaturity (no matter how hard we look for it). Maturity is an attitude, one might have it at 15, and the other might not have it at 60. It’s a question: how well my experiences of yesterday will shape me for tomorrow? We try, we make mistakes, and we learn from them, we grow. When I was 20, I used to look at my 15 year old self and wonder, how naive I was back then. Now that I am 25, I say that for my 20 year old self. Probably the same will happen when I turn 30, and will continue as long as I live. I have come into believing that exposing myself to the wilderness of the world is how I have grown and will grow. The process of learning continues, with the persistent aim as ever….
Life with Purpose….