Date: Nov 18, 2018
I started running when I was 15. Not in the literal sense, but in a metaphorical sense. Unbenownst to me, I had entered a rat race that'd forever alter the course of my life. All through school, I was consistently among the top 3 rank holders in my batch. Teachers' pet, likeable and friendly - those were some of my trademark characteristics. I grew up in a middle-class family with loving parents who sweated their butts off to provide a good education for my brother and me. I was painfully aware of the fact that education was my way out. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone - prove to the world that I'm intelligent and make a good deal of money in the process. Boy was I misguided and wrong :) Well, I wasn't completely off, but you get the idea.
My high school teachers had high hopes for me. They thought I had potential to do great things in life. I thought so too. That's why I fought with my parents to join IIT coaching classes offered by TRS. That's when I had officially signed up for the rat race. Finished 10th grade, enjoyed hardly a month's vacation and started attending IIT classes starting May 2009. When my classmates were out playing, partying or spending time with their highschool sweet-hearts, I was busy taking Physics, Chemistry and Math classes. When my classmates would sleep in, I was brushing my teeth and getting ready to attend more classes. To be fair, a lot of students who prepared for the JEE did that. In fact, I'd argue that tens of thousands of students probably put in way more effort than me. I listened in classes, did some of my homework, but barely did any prep outside of school. The top scorers spent hours studying outside of classes. But all of us had one thing in common - we sacrificed our present in the hopes of a better future. We paid a price today in hopes of a better tomorrow.
I ended up going to NIT Trichy. My comrades who toiled beside me ended up in similar, if not more prestigious universities as well. It didn't stop there. Most of us went on to pursue Masters & Doctoral degrees, high-flying corporate careers and entrepreneurial dreams. Almost all my close friends are living away from home. We all moved to new cities (across the world), learned to deal with a new set of cultural peculiarities and built a new life from scratch.
I'm finally at a point in my life where I can stop and look back. I didn't run as far as I'd originally hoped. But I did manage to run pretty far. In that process, I lost quite a lot of friends. Some drifted apart, some didn't stay in touch and I messed up with the rest. I've lived in 5 cities in the last 4 years. Few old friends moved out of my life, few others moved in. People say that's how life works. You never know who you are going to run into or who is going to leave an indelible impression. Knowing this doesn't make it any easier though. As I grow older, I'm starting to realize an uncomfortable truth - it isn't easy to balance personal and professional lives.
"Why do people move? What makes them uproot and leave everything they’ve known for a great unknown beyond the horizon? Why climb this Mount Everest of formalities that makes you feel like a beggar? Why enter this jungle of foreignness where everything is new, strange and difficult? The answer is the same the world over: people move in the hope of a better life."
"People move because of the wear and tear of anxiety. Because of the gnawing feeling that no matter how hard they work their efforts will yield nothing, that what they build up in one year will be torn down in one day by others. Because of the impression that the future is blocked up, that they might do all right but not their children. Because of the feeling that nothing will change, that happiness and prosperity are possible only somewhere else."
- Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Just like countless immigrants before me, I left the only place I ever knew as home and moved to the subarctic prairies of Canada. There's always a price to be paid for the actions we take in our lives. Call it Karma or Newton's 3rd law or whatever. It still holds true that our actions have consequences. I wanted to tilt at windmills and ran far in the name of passion. And I did pay a price for it. I used to take my support network back home for granted. I realized it's power and value only after I lost it. Home, a place where we know we are loved and cared for. A place where we fit in effortlessly. I miss home; the statement is simple enough. But it doesn't quite capture the twinge, the ache, the longing in our hearts to go back to a place and time that doesn't exist anymore. I suspect I'll never be able to shake away the feeling of being an outsider in Canada even if I choose to live here for the rest of my life. India is crazy, chaotic and unbelievably colorful. Yet my homeland makes more sense to me than the relatively ordered "developed" world. You know what I miss the most? It's those wonderfully inane conversations shared with childhood friends over a drink, dinner or whatever you fancy. I miss the carefree days when I didn't need an appointment to chew the fat with my friends over some good grub.
I did meet a lot of lovely people. I did make new friends. I could even argue that the bonds of friendship are possibly stronger than before with the folks that endured the trials and tribulations of long distance. I work with smart, delightful people who constantly help push my boundaries. I owe a lot to these new people in my life. It's just that I'm a little worn out. Tired of being stuck in a limbo. Weary of having one leg in India and the other in Canada. While the highs are exhilarating, the lows are devastating. It takes significant effort on my side to get the best of both worlds.
Funny thing is, if I had to do things all over, I probably would end up doing the same, if not run farther than before. Granted, I'd make a few changes to my social life. But the core of my major decisions would stay intact. That's because the alternative scares the shit out of me. The quote below is one possible rationalization of my life choices.
Growth is painful.
Change is painful.
But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don't belong.