It has been four months since I returned home from college and in a desperate attempt to force some sort of a productivity rush, I decided to clean out my over piled bookshelves with the intention of donating some old books to the next poor soul who volunteers to have them. As I proceeded to empty the shelves, I devised a strategy to complete this mission in the most organized way possible by categorizing every book I found depending on the pain they’ve caused me.
Mathematical guides and physics textbooks checked themselves out into the most infamous corner of doom while some of my favorite novels and eight year old storybooks made up another pile of its own. But as I brushed the dust off a 2016 RD Sharma guide, I couldn’t help but wonder if the race that I voluntarily put myself through was worth the finishing line. As I stared at the blank wall in front of me conveniently forgetting the ‘productivity rush’ I was trying to induce, I found myself backtracking through an unhappy memory lane I never intended to revisit.
Four years ago, I used to sit on the same table staring at the same green walls surrounded by too many books that I thought would set my life in the best way possible if I devoted myself entirely to it. It was natural for everyone I knew to have expectations from me but like any normal teenager at sixteen, the pressure of striving for ‘excellence’, soon took its toll. Ironically enough, my parents never forced me into anything but that just made me exert myself even more.
The environment that we’re bought up in has managed to convince us that if we don’t push ourselves hard enough for the race ahead, we’d be crushed in the stampede that followed. Although I can understand the necessity of good competition, the means through which we tried achieving it are still questionable. Looking back, the one thing that still stands out is how we used the deterioration of our health as some sort of a parameter to measure academic effort as if they were directly proportional to each other. That the less you sleep, means the more you learn. The bigger the dark circles, the more hardworking you are and that the exhaustion on your face must reflect the dedication you have.
Sometimes I wonder, if I could’ve reached somewhere better had I focused more on being mentally and physically healthy throughout this whole process rather than pushing myself to the point of complete exhaustion by prioritizing the wrongs things at the wrong time. Don’t get me wrong, I love the place that I’m in right now. But if I had a chance to do anything differently, I guess I’d learn to love myself more. There are still days when I fall into an endless cycle of overthinking and obsessively begin worrying about it. However, I’ve learnt to not allow that cycle to drain me anymore.
From what I’ve learnt, you can be crushed by the stampede and still pick yourself back up. You can win the race and still be miserable. The predefined formula that can guarantee excellence will never be within your reach. However, what you do have is the power to turn your biggest obstacle into a stepping stone. Now I know this is the most generic piece of motivation that you’ll come across today. But sometimes, we tend to lose track of what’s important and during those times, a casual reminder doesn’t do much harm.
I look at the pile of books around me and laugh. I’ve been staring at that wall in front of me for the past half an hour now. As I crash back into reality my mother calls out for lunch. I take a look at the set of books in the infamous corner of doom. A wave of nostalgia hits as the thought of giving them away feels like passing down a ceremonial torch. The pale green walls comfort me as a sense of reassurance whispers that the finishing line will never matter as long as I’m happy with myself. The unhappy memory lane doesn’t seem that miserable anymore. A small sense of accomplishment fills my heart as I realize – this is the happiest I’ve ever been.
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