For the next two weeks I avoided going to college like it’s my job. You don’t particularly enjoy it especially when it reminds you of everything that has failed in your life. Especially the time of a long-buried past when my parents named me something asinine and forced me into marriage at 18; then my husband of 42 died of substance abuse and I am now a 24-year-old widow with a starving kid and sick parents at house; All with a burden of a childhood dream forcing me to join a college course in day time and filling up petrol tanks in night times.
Then I remember that nothing of that sorts happened to me. I am just an average girl who happened to have some drive and aspiration for a happy life, and takes a string of miscalculated decisions for it. This is a story of a ruined day while doing a college presentation and my subsequent meltdown.
One admiring trait of the boys at my college (…or just boys in general), when they are forced into some stuff they have no interest, they give absolutely zero fucks. I’ve witnessed them standing like a life-sized dummy with a lopsided smile while being questioned by the surprised panelists and startled audience.
I admired because I could never do that. I am the kind of person who tries too hard. I wanted to know how it felt like when arrows of questions pierce something that belonged to you by virtue and you stood by its side helpless. It must feel like getting fired from a job. It must feel like getting dumped. I’ve never got fired from a job; I’ve never got dumped, …yet. I’m sure I may, in future. It’s good to be prepared then?
I decided to see how it felt like to let go of the rope that I was tightly gripping. So when I entered the room, I could sense what was waiting for me. The panelists were already alerted of my plan and wanted to make sure they do their part well. The usual questions, only in a more accusing tone. Time to play my part. With a dozen of questions, I stood there motionless and forced a painful smile. But as an amateur, I broke down, all thanks to the sudden appearance of fountain from my eyes.
The shady panelist starts.
“You are great at the amount of work you’ve done, the concept, the presentation slides, the minute details. But, you see, you might be missing out on some of the aspects of bigger picture.”
I’ve seen the breakup scenes in movies where the protagonist’s love interest starts talking in unrelated Rubik’s cube sentences that begin with ‘great’ and end with ‘but’. My mind raced through all those sequences and brought out the best retort possible.
The sympathetic panelist, “We are only trying to help you, Vin*****. We never blamed you. You were so good in your last presentation; we wonder what went wrong now”
The know-it-all panelist, “Are you crying because you can’t answer the questions we ask?”
The sympathetic panelist, “I don’t think so. I handle her in seminar class; she is not that type. Must be some other problem.”
At this point, I wanted to stop crying and shout my heartfelt thanks to her. I couldn’t.
Throughout this ordeal, the shady panelist kept quiet and staring at my face to check if I am really crying.
The ordeal is over, they left the room. I silently locked the empty room.
I am simply ignoring the details of the following hours and days after this incident. My memory is hazy and enough stories about depression have been written. I shuddered at the mention of my project. I surprised as much people as I can, in a not-so-good way.
Meanwhile, three things to check off a life list: Weeping for hours while seen by faculties and college mates and bus mates and god-knows-who mates, visiting a psychiatrist and collapsing on sleeping pills.
Most people asked this one question. “Vin, Is it all for your project?”
“Aw no, I’m not that immature. It’s just that I was stressed by a lot of things lately, family issues and stuff, all added up.” I parroted this line.
That’s a lie. Deep down, I know it was all about my project. Those other problems have been existing for a good amount of time in my life and I am used to it. They are my familiar demons. But right now, project is my dartboard.
Probably because I deposited all my hopes on a stupid project. It is immature. But I have this annoying habit of betting all my stakes on a single thing. Reach this place, you are going to be happy; Do this thing, all your misfortunes will vanish. I got a kick out of it maybe. And when I did achieve them, I was not granted of my promised boons, I just set a new target and kept running like a blinded horse.
It is stunning to realize how flimsy your filter for life is; how you place your value on the most volatile things. Like a project work. How much power this can have over me; I let it to. It is not about feeling the defeat; it is the feeling of confusion; about my purpose, my values, my existence.
It is myopic to say that’s the end of my life. Because, by Week 3, I went to college and met those faces again. I have come too far, made too many sacrifices to be at this place. Giving up at this point is not even a choice. No one tried to kill me, it’s just my over imaginative brain. Many people were concerned of my long absence, many were oblivious. The Sun was still rising in the East, buses continued running on roads and my project guide still too busy for me. To sum it up, the world worked just fine.
Light bulb moment: A ruined day (or month, or year) does not determine my personal worth. Nor does getting fired, getting dumped, failing miserably at something you’re passionate about. Really, it’s not. The value we place on a failure is mostly self-imposed.
I still get a tiny bit of shiver when I open my project folder. But this time it reminds of all the things that makes me strong. Some lessons take their own time to sink in. Awareness is the first step for cure. I am in a process where I want to be, one day, I won’t be placing all my hopes on one day in future.