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Self-reflection on Life's Choices: Preferring easier ones while giving tough ones a pass

While watching ‘Half CA,’ a web series on Prime Video, memories of unexplored choices from my past surfaced. This narrative delves into my history, seeking confirmation on whether I tended to opt for the easier choices while giving tough ones a pass

AI generated image showing a self-reflecting man thinking about life choices made in the past
AI generated image

- a self-reflection from primary school till my first job.

At school, I was an uncertain and unsure child; shy to speak and stay in the background, avoiding limelight. But maintaining discipline came naturally to me. Was it because I feared parental reprimand or sought to uphold the image of an obedient child, encouraged by all the appreciative comments on my behavior?

Making friends was difficult. In primary school, I wasn’t part of any groups, and I avoided school events. My academic performance was mediocre, with teachers often saying, ‘He can do better; he’s careless.’ In high school, the feedback was more positive, but there wasn’t much change. Perhaps during primary school, my Dad, who met teachers alone, exaggerated feedback to motivate me.

My life until I turned 17 and left for Chandigarh was divided into two contrasting worlds. At home, I received attention, pampering, and encouragement. At school, I felt overwhelmed in the crowd.

I frequently compared my efforts to those of my classmates. They appeared to have everything under control – friendships, studies, and even post-school enjoyment. Living a few kilometers apart from them, I missed out on these shared experiences. In 10th grade, while my friends were preparing strategies for board exams, I was satisfied with sticking to the daily routine, unaware of the necessity for a plan.

My classmates actively engaged with teachers, readily answering their questions. I, on the other hand, preferred to be reactive, responding only when asked.

In 9th grade, I fell ill and missed three weeks of school. Upon my return, I found myself significantly behind my classmates in studies. Did I manage to catch up?

Reflecting on my school journey, I improved in some ways - becoming more talkative and confident. However, when I compared myself to my classmates, I still felt behind. Why did I feel this way?

I vividly recall an instance when a friend shared his plan to prepare for ICSE 10th board exams by solving previous year’s papers. I had no such plan; my efforts were confined to school textbooks alone.

I believe that my move to Chandigarh and my intense focus on cycling during my late teens and early 20s had a significant impact on my life. I was away from the protective presence of my parents, which made me feel lonely. I chose to stay close to my cousin, who lived with other cycling enthusiasts younger than me. Their main focus was winning medals and securing government jobs, not education.

Despite having a hostel room, I spent most of my time at their cramped residence. The new sports routine left me exhausted, and I started missing college. I had never been an athlete before, and within two years, I became completely distracted from my studies. I didn’t attend a single class in 10+2, and I had no idea when the board exams were scheduled. My priorities had shifted away from academics. This might have been a crucial turning point that caused me to miss out on a better path.

Surrounded by fellow cyclists, my passion for excelling in sports took center stage, pushing my academic ambitions aside.

However, a harsh reality struck when I didn’t win a gold medal in a major competition and failed to secure a sports quota seat in engineering. It was a wake-up call.

I came to realize that my true calling was in academics, but by then, I had strayed too far. How did I allow that to happen?

Upon relocating to Indore, I embraced my parents’ choice for me to enroll in a BBA program. It was a compromise, a path not of my own choosing. The course lacked challenge, and I went through it with a sense of detachment, doing the necessary but not much more.

Missing my girlfriend and still deeply in love with her, my determination to make the best of my current situation reignited.  I established a daily routine that included set times for prayer, reading, visiting the Gurudwara, and some study. This period allowed me to contemplate my next steps and future, a stark contrast to my school days when I had no plan for preparing for board exams.

My nine-year stay in Indore was truly transformative. The desire to marry my girlfriend served as the catalyst for change. I began to plan and envision the future I wanted to create. Alongside my studies, I took on a part-time job, stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing the hard work that awaited me. I had a clear purpose, and I was actively working towards it.

This was the second time as an adult when I opted for a second choice and didn’t explore better alternatives, even with the support of my loved ones.

From a shy and uncertain kid at school, I was more confident now. I stood up for my choice though it may sound irrational too. I tried running a retail business while pursuing my MBA, but managing it alongside a full-time curriculum and new marital responsibilities became overwhelming.

After finishing my MBA in 2002, the typical path was to secure a stable job. However, my journey took a different turn.

Unlike most of my classmates who found stability in banking, my career path was more diverse. I began as a lecturer, transitioned to an academic associate role at IIM Indore, and then made a bold move into a PhD program in Mumbai. This decision was fueled more by an idealistic vision than a thorough understanding of the challenges of such an intensive academic pursuit.

Entering the PhD program was a wake-up call. My basic computer skills and the absence of a solid foundation in mathematics and statistics, which I missed from my earlier education, made the journey tough. Over time, I came to understand that this path wasn’t the right fit for me, so I made the transition to my first job in the print media industry.

Since then, my career has been a series of shifts – eight different companies, including a couple of returns in the last three years. This journey mirrors a continuous quest for something better, a search for the right fit.

As I age, my past decisions frequently come to mind. Some days, I construct a narrative to justify my choices; on other days, I’m filled with regret, longing to go back in time and choose differently.

As I reflect, I see a journey defined not only by the choices made but also by the ones not explored. It’s a tale of growth, change, and, above all, realizing that every step, no matter how small or significant, has molded my present self.

As I pen this down, I still acknowledge that I made some straightforward choices. Some lessons that I learnt penning this blog on my life choices:

a. Embrace Challenges with detachment. Don’t judge yourself too early

b. Regret Avoidance- weigh the potential regrets of not pursuing difficult choices against the temporary ease of avoiding them

c. Try best to align Goals with choice(s) at hand.

d. Self-reflect but don’t wait for decades like  in my case

e. Seek balance- Have a mix of tough and comfortable choices to have a fuller and happier life.

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