As I sat amidst aqua tones and hues, gliding my brush over the expansive canvas, I felt proud of seeing the majestic wave we painted almost complete. I was astounded by the amalgamation of the thoughts and ideas that bounced off my peers’ creative minds. The way each one of us translated our impressions into the language of art is what captivated me. From conceptualisation to the final painting, the journey was a rendering of my love for art - what I thought would be my ultimate pursuit.
Like every other student, from the day I entered high school, questions about my ‘future’ flooded me from teachers, family and friends. At such a crucial point, a student has to deal with reaching the exceptionally high standards and expectations set by the school, family, and internal pressure. Following the competitive ‘rat race’ by building resumes from extra-curricular activities, excelling in academics, giving multiple SAT’s to doing hours of social work, all to get into the top University. I too, delivered into the ‘rat race’, and gained admission into one the best universities abroad for a degree in ‘fine art’, which at that point seemed like the be-all and end-all. My naïve teenage self gave me societal pressure and never questioned what life would look like after that acceptance letter?
Then came the first time I flew my nest, to start a new chapter of life - University, with mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement. As the months passed by, excitement about my newly-found independence faded, and I found myself in an unhappy situation. The path I wanted to follow and the one I was on seemed to be contradicting one another. I minded my ‘ultimate pursuit’ however, lacking a sense of fulfilment. The same passion which was once burning inside me for Fine Art was now close to getting extinguished. Dealing with the expectations I had for myself and my family, I soon saw myself spiralling into a slow depression feeling helpless and worthless.
“Don’t be a quitter”, one can only imagine the feeling running through one’s mind while these words have been spoken to them. Since childhood, I have suffered from the extreme inability to take failure even in its most diminutive forms. Being called a quitter made me feel ashamed, weak and excessively disappointed with myself. A single person’s words affected me tremendously to the extent that my brain was paralysed making me feel helpless. After spending days in my dorm room bed, I decided to seek help and rediscover my love for psychology and pursue it as a career. This was easier said than done, living in a conventional Indian family. What would ‘people’ sound when they hear that I ‘dropped out’ of college to move back home? My mind was in a tug of war between failure and courage.
Fast forward 4 years, ‘dropping out’ of art school to pursue my love for Psychology has undoubtedly been the best decision so far. As I now approach the end of my undergraduate studies, I look back with a sense of fulfilment with a Psychology degree. Spending the last 3 years in an academically stimulating and challenging environment has been a breeding ground for creativity and enabled me to excel in all life spheres. The journey of decision making, realisation, and enlightenment serves as my prime ‘rite of passage’.
Do you ever visualise your life in a certain way? Would you be disappointed if it didn’t take a specific direction? Being an excessive planner myself, at the age of 18, seeing my life change its course completely took a massive toll on my self-esteem and mental health. Being hard on yourself can increase your productivity. However, it may also cause you to lose self-confidence. Have ever felt that negative voice in your head constantly telling you that you are not enough and to push harder? If you are your harshest critique here is what you can do:
Record and appreciate your wins. Being hard on oneself, you may quickly look past your accomplishments and ponder over minor setbacks. Instead, write and record your successes to act as your own reminder that you are capable based on your past experiences.
Let go of unhealthy competition. Living in today’s generation, where each one tries to out-do the other will only increase your self-doubt. Let go of comparing yourself to those you see on social media, try to keep your life as private and distant from the competition. ‘Work hard in silence and let your success make the noise’.
Seek support. Constant negative thinking will increase one’s self-doubt and reduce your capacity to believe in yourself. Seek help from family, friends or professionals who will provide a non-judgmental and safe space to discuss your struggles.
During my difficult phase and mental health journey in 2017, something beautiful emerged. Through the support of personal and professional help, I was able to soon reimagine failure. ‘Dropping out’ of college turned into following my heart, ‘wasting’ one year of education became unafraid of risks, and being called a ‘quitter’ changed into being brave and daring. With this, I turned my ‘low’ into a soaring high, teaching me the most crucial lesson – embracing change.