Let me preface this by telling you that this is 1400 words of me rambling. Enjoy.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a fascination with science. There was a sort of magic in the world, in the way static flowed through the screens of televisions, the way soap bubbles glistened with rainbow color, the way the night sky was lit up by such wonderful light. The world was a mystery from which I could not draw my gaze nor cease to ponder. When everyone else was talking I would be listening, looking, and feeling the world around me. When everyone else was doing, I would be thinking, wondering, and imagining about a world I knew nothing about. Perhaps it wasn’t necessarily science that I was obsessed with but with a world, this world, so filled with the yet unknown wonders that were waiting so patiently to be discovered. You see, I’ve always had the soul of a wanderer and a wonderer, and such a soul can only find its home in the pursuit of the unknown.
School is something that I was and still am deeply unsatisfied with. It was a prison, not in a teen-angsty way, but in an intellectually stimulating way (or perhaps there is no difference). School life was something that I was utterly prepared for, something that I had watched my older siblings endure, and going through it myself was like playing a game which I already knew how to win. I got through my childhood and adolescence with minimal effort, still doing extremely well given how little I actually cared or tried. I made friends and had laughs, and was, I guess, happy. But to a mind that likes to wonder, to a soul that likes to wander, knowledge of one’s destiny is like looking out at the world from behind the bars of a cage, so close yet so distant. All I’ve known and all I’ve seen, is life in a straight line, all choices chosen, all paths paved.
I can’t say that I was consciously aware of this dissatisfaction when I was younger, but such things have a funny way of manifesting themselves in other, not-so-conscious ways. Boredom and indifference were born in me, vices that, once rooted in one’s soul, are not so easily removed. What was my life of genuine wonder became a sort of shifting banality from which I had not the means to escape (or perhaps the means were hidden from me). I was looking for a challenge, and when none were presented to me, I was too scared to pursue them on my own, perhaps out of pride or fear or laziness or all of these. Whatever the case, I let myself be trapped in a system that was not only too easy for me, but also not designed for my type of mind. The system was boring my curious mind to death, and I had not the will to resist it. This is my main gripe with standardized public education: it builds intellectual walls in which many bright minds easily find success, but fall far from their true potential.
College has been a rather eye opening time in my life: for the first time, I was being forced to leave the intellectual solitude afforded by standardized public education. I’d always known that I’d be going to NYU, not because it was some big aspiration of mine, but because tuition is waived due to my father’s employment at the university. Who wouldn’t choose to go to a prestigious school for free? Up until the moment my parents dropped me off in my dorm, I had always known the next step, mostly because they weren’t steps that I had to choose, nor that I even felt I had a choice in. My decision to go to NYU is real proof of this. But the moment I was alone, my parents having rather unceremoniously left me with my unpacked things in an empty room with not so much as a pat on the back nor a word of advice, I felt, for the first time, truly at a loss.
I had always spent my life choosing based on what was offered to me: it was the only way that I had known how to live. And for the early years of my college life, I continued to live just like that. I studied chemistry because I thought that’s what my mom wanted, for me to follow in her footsteps. I tailored myself to a certain image because I thought that’s what my friends wanted, for me to be like them. In truth I just didn’t know who I was, or who I even wanted to be, so I just became whatever everyone else wished me to be. If you think this sounds like the hackneyed plot of some after school special, you’re right, that’s exactly what it sounds like, and that’s exactly what happened. But it’s not something to be laughed at or ridiculed: who is more pitiable than a man who cannot even find himself nor even imagine something he wants?
Being on my own has been a slow but inevitable realization of this. The nature of the illusions I had painted for myself was slowly becoming clear to me. It was like I had accidentally rubbed some of the varnish off of my once shimmering curiosity and seen the damage I had let it endure. I had let others rule me, let others put my natural fascinations out sight and out of mind, and soon, with full clarity, I felt the crushing depths of my dissatisfaction with both the world and with myself. What I had failed to see, or perhaps failed to recognize the significance of, was that the world that I had been living in was built by people as smart and as stupid as myself. I suppose this is something that I had always known, but something I just didn’t want to accept. I’ve always wanted people to decide for me, to show me what I need to do. The honest truth is that I’m lazy and indifferent, and I let myself become this way by not seeing the bars of my cage, by not having dreams of my own. I’m only realizing now that I am just as spoiled as my siblings used to tell me, perhaps not entirely in the sense they intended, but to my detriment all the same.
My friend Praveen asked me a simple question that many others before him have asked me: “What are your goals?” I’ve answered this question with a million different versions of bull, and I’ve never really taken any of these seriously. But I suppose the gift of friendship is the gift of honesty, and perhaps for the first time ever, I admitted a rather painful truth: I don’t really have any. No concrete plan. Not a single real, aspiration. Perhaps I’ve some general idea about the sort of life that I want to lead, but knowing a direction is far from knowing a destination. How will I know if I’ve arrived if I don’t know where I’m going? How will I get there if I can’t even bring myself to walk on my own feet?
I can’t say that I’ve been in a good mental state for a while now. I’ve been trying to overcome my own incontinence and laziness only to be overwhelmed by all the things that I want to do, by all the things I have to do, and by all the things I let myself miss out on. My mind is like the atrophied limbs of a person emerging from a comatose state: try as I might, I just can’t seem to gain my bearings. I wanted to write this post honestly and genuinely, not just to share overly melodramatic ramblings about my life with you, but to use it as an anchor to prop myself up. I want to read this and be pissed off at myself. I want to be fed up with all the idiocies I let myself endure. I want to remind myself of the crap I’ve been ignorantly been wading in. My mind is weak, it truly is, and I’m the only person that can fix it. Thanks for all the help guys, but from here on out, I’m on my own.
In the words of someone just as pissed as I, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”