Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Who Am I?
How do people see me?
How do I see myself?
What is my personality? 

My mind was filled with these questions. Don’t worry, I was not in the middle of an identity crisis, I assure you. I was working on my childhood dream to have a website. I wanted it to be a reflection of who I am. One day, I made up my mind and decided it was time to go. 

Time to go digging.
Digging deep into my thoughts.
Digging into the people around me.
Digging into the culture and background I come from.
Digging into the lives of my parents and the upbringing they gave me. 

I recently realized while working on projects I do whatever it takes to make things happen. Our team spent an entire day doing user research interviews and decided to finish a particular task before the next meeting. As I started working I understood it was going to take much longer to complete the task. There always was an option to do a little after the deadline. But, there also was a voice in me that said: I signed up for this. I said I would have the document ready the next day at 9 am and it is my responsibility to do so. I cannot recall how many coffee shots and apples I ate that night, by 9 am, I was ready. 

I get grit and pride from my mother. Four years she didn’t give up. During inter-school hockey matches, she would see girls from all other schools. She was always in awe of the girls of St. Mary’s. The way they carried themselves, communicated, and just the way they were. She made up her mind to send her daughter to that school, the best school in town! When it was time for me to go to school, I was admitted to one close to our house. All my cousins went there and it was super convenient. But my mother wanted to fulfil her dream, even though it was a forty-five-minute drive from our house and the seats were full. My mom fought everyone and tried for four years to get me admission. I think, it was this grit that melted Mrs Mathew’s heart and I got a seat in St. Mary’s. I have inherited not only my mother’s voice but also her attitude to not give up. 

Over the years, I have noticed, I take my feedback very seriously. Sometimes feedback comes but in all sorts of forms like taunts, comments, and just breakdowns. While it certainly does hurt, I always made a mental note in all that trauma. The note is to look out for similar situations, where there are chances for me to repeat the same mistake. It brings on a full hustling attitude in me, to push past what I can’t do to reach what I can. 

I know for a matter of fact, I get this from my father. The backstory you need to know is, my grandparents came to India months before the partition with almost nothing. My father and his siblings grew up hustling. I learned the definition of hustle from my father’s daily routine in college. He would wake up, deliver puja flowers in the locality, take a train to college, attend classes, rent a cycle, pick up supplies from my uncles’ store, take a train to Lonavala, give the material, come back, return the cycle and then head home. He lived a life filled with the struggle to build everything he has today, to build the life he has given me today. His focus was simple, when he has a family, they should live a comfortable life. He tirelessly day and night to make this possible. I may not have inherited his struggles but I have his hustle and hard work in me.

All parents give their children presents on birthdays and festivals. After reflecting on who I am, I realized, my parents have given me more gifts than I can count on. The only difference is I can’t keep these gifts in the wardrobe or the safe or even wear them. I am the gift, well, my personality is. This is the most permanent gift I could ask for. Tomorrow if I had to relocate to Mars with no carry-ons allowed, I would take my characteristics, my thinking process, my traits with me

With this newfound awareness and gratification, I completed my website. It looks just as I envisioned it. I added all the information and experiences I could recall. While in the zone, I updated my Linkedin and worked on my CV. As I did a final check, I noticed, there were 11 publications added to my profile. About a year back, there were zero. I had indeed come a long way but then something within me suddenly stopped me and I changed my focus to another heading. 

A friend found my website and called to tell me he was fangirling about how neat, factual, and real it was. I had a little blush on my face when I heard that. I had put hours of energy and reflection into it. But then, I subconsciously changed the conversation in another direction. 

Every time I saw my CV, I would instantly want to pinch myself. I was still registering the fact that I had so much to share on my resume. I had worked on 10 projects in the last year during a global pandemic. I had interned in a startup on another continent. I had led a team of 100+ students in college. I had 11 publications and one more research paper on the way. I had developed and improved more skills than I could fit on the CV. It certainly was a lot to process even though I had lived through it all. 

At that moment, after seeing all that I have achieved,
I want to feel pride.
I want to feel accomplished.
I want to feel satisfied 

But, a part of me is afraid to get there. I did not want to become full of myself. I did not want to hear my peers praise my work. I did not want to acknowledge all the points in my experience column. A part of me did not want to believe this is true. 

Even as a kite is soaring high in the sky, it is attached to the earth with a string without which it would fly away. I wanted to fly fearlessly, but a part of me was afraid to get there. The fear of flying away and becoming full of myself. This made me decide not to take off in the first place.

I do not know how to break this. But, hey, I am just 21. I have so much more to do, and so many more things to figure out. For the time being, I have a working theory:

Even a rocket in space needs to be grounded. It needs stability. Its speed is very high, and without stability equipment and flaps, it can be easily pushed off its trajectory and get completely destroyed.
I have grit and perseverance
I like challenges
I work hard till the job is done
I care
I express

With these, I am growing every day and with speed. Just like the rocket, I needed stability. I have decided to stay grounded and stable while soaring high in the sky because the higher I get, the better is the view. Every time, I feel the fear of flying away, I will look at how far I have come and then look at how much further I have to go. And, you never know, this exercise might make me resist less and be open to newer things. 

[As originally published on Enterprise India Fellowship on 15th April 2021]

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