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Author: Shreeyesh Menon
Alma Mater: Mechanical Engineering, IIT Bombay, Class of 2018
Present: Graduate Researcher at UNSW (Sydney, Australia) and Research Associate at CAFRAL, RBI

I write this as It’s almost time for another round of the year-end ritual of convincing the world (and yourself) that you hold value as an individual and can be a productive member of the society. Whether you’re applying to a job or Grad school, this is a moment in your life when you’ll collect all the honoraries and all that makes you think you’re special, and sell that shit like it’s nobody’s business.

Thinking Cap

Thinking Cap

Within IIT, there is a very potent idea that success is well-defined. It’s either the good grades, a high-status position in an organisation, that consultant profile that everyone seems to aspire for and most of all a sense of certainty about where you want to be. You’d be surrounded by people with opinions about what you’re doing, whether you are where you need to be; But in all earnest, nobody knows you as well as you do. Their models of the world are built on their own personal experiences and need not apply to you. That being said, all I’m trying to say is that the feedback you receive can be noisy; if you have ever filled one of those product surveys before Youtube videos, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s easy to poison yourself seeing the best 5% of people’s lives on Facebook and Instagram as you struggle with a loneliness that cuts deep. It’s harder to see through the mist and know that we are all on that boat, at least sometimes.

In the Institute, you’re made to believe that there are certain metrics that would define your success and happiness in the long-term. Be an outstanding student and things just fall into place. We’re sold the Blue Pill by our peers and the system in general. Reality is just a lot more complicated than that. Whether you can communicate and connect with people, find a partner to share your life with, find fulfilment in what you do, are in the body that you want to be in (if you aren’t, Get Out). All these things are arguably at least as important as financial/career success. There are more kinds of insecurities we carry as human beings than there are flavours of ice-cream.

So, we were sold a lie; there is no particular template of success that your life needs to fit; and hence no particular notion of success that you need to adhere to. In my limited time as an adult, I’ve met plenty of people who recounted how adhering to the metrics set by the world didn’t lead to personal fulfilment or happiness. And these weren’t glitches in the matrix; these were people who were self-aware.

You’ll experience pangs of self-doubt; no matter how good you are, how successful you think you are. And you’ll hate people who apparently got more than what they deserved, and you’ll hate yourself for falling short of your “true potential”. That’s just the kind of shit-sandwich life is. And life’s beautiful.

Well what about all the things you did/didn’t do until this point in time, do they matter? I think they’re gonna matter as much as you let them matter. So I’ll tell you this: no matter where you are, learn and be better, at whatever that helps you create value for yourself and the world. And be kind, because no matter how good you think the others have it, life’s still kinda hard.

Life can feel a lot like trying to ask out Beyonce with Chris Rock’s face and Brad Pitt’s sense of humour. But you’ll do it. You need to believe that you will.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this article are his personal.

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