That sounds like a Big Bang Theory episode title, doesn’t it? Not intentional. This rant is for me. No formality or deliberate jokes, no sense of logic to the flow and lots of memes. I might as well write the whole thing in italics. Feel free to skip this one, unless you are in your early 20s, recently or just graduated and utterly terrified about real life.
You know what? I’m gonna. So this showed up on my wall and while I generally appreciate a good call-out meme, this one was rather unnerving.
How could they just say it? How?
Heard of the Impostor Syndrome? It’s mostly self-doubt, a feeling of inadequacy whenever you accomplish something, like you don’t really deserve it. That reminds me of a story –
Since now that’s out of the way, attention back to me please. All through school and college, I always got grades and I got it easy. However important the exam, how much ever large the syllabus, a day of studying before the exam was all it took and that often led people to think I was smart and always made me uncomfortable. I most often got lucky, you would not believe just how many times things have just worked themselves out into the most ideal scenario for me and I have always been worried that one day my luck would run out. My friends always introduced me to their parents as the guy who got the most marks in class, which always pleased them. Even if they didn’t, the parents eventually circled back there. An awkward smile has always been my response. I didn’t want that to become my identity, that’s not who I was. The things I am into, the stuff I put effort into and have gradually gotten better at, no one seems to notice. Exhibit A, this blog of two years with barely three thousand views that I have to beg my close friends to share on their walls. I’m not necessarily complaining, there’s nothing to complain about. I get my way with very less effort almost all the time, life’s good. Just a tad scary. That someday I would colossally fail and the illusion would come crumbling down. I’m always too scared of trying new things, I overthink, over plan, am very easily intimidated at the slightest exhibition of talent from someone else, have a hell lot of insecurities. I only do things that I know for sure I have greater chances of succeeding at. If at all I do try something new, I need to know everything beforehand and I spend a whole lot of time prepping – reading up on it and talking to people who’ve done it before. At least it would no longer be ‘new’ to me in my head. And if I feel I’m not naturally good at it right away, I immediately drop it and move on to something else claiming all sorts of reasons for why ‘it just isn’t my thing’. That was perhaps okay when it was about playing football or trying to drive a car, but what do I do when it has to do with my whole future? Fresh out of college, the impostor syndrome feels heavier than ever. Now that I’m actually unemployed and clueless, it feels like I was right to have felt undeserving all these years. I’m a fraud. Real smart people get placed in campus interviews with enormous salary packages, which so many did in my own university. Although everybody is as clueless as I am and most don’t seem to have a plan, they are still applying for universities abroad, applying for software jobs off campus, doing things, taking action, going for it. But I can’t. I need to know all the variables. I need to be prepared, I can’t fail because I’m me. I wish I could have the reckless confidence and ‘zero-shame’ personality of Andy from Parks and Rec. People who know me expect great things out of me and in a very me-est fashion, I’ve declared a meritorious career to be ‘just not my thing’. I’m actually confused if I am indeed doing that again, out of fear of failure on my attempt to make my mark on the world, whatever, or if I truly don’t want any of that. Hence the title. How to tell what is true and what is just stuff your mind made up to protect your fragile ego ? Anyway, check out my justification, its some heart melting shit. You’d be confused too.
It’s not that I am not ambitious. Just that my ambitions are different. I want to be happy and stable, that’s my ambition. Not a CEO tag behind my name or millions in my bank account, which is what people keep telling me I should aim for, instead, a small corner of the world to myself where I can build a home and maybe a family and spin my life around. Is that so bad? I genuinely feel no qualms regarding being a stay-at-home dad married to a career-driven woman. As a kid, I dreamed of going to space, alone. Sometimes it’s just me in an empty observatory beneath a large telescope taking readings. I specifically remember a phase near high school where whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do, I would say, “I wanna go to space and never come back”. Now that I’ve graduated, all I can think of is a routine, something familiar, like my own house but with me in my dad’s place. We have our bad days but mostly our house is a happy place. Things are good and I want to skip all the struggle, directly to this good place. I’ve never had to struggle much before. Picture this – some job to keep the money flowing, that lets me come home to a cozy family. I could set up a telescope in my backyard and I could pursue all my passions. I’d be happy, I think. Who decided that we should all work in the field of our interests? That seems counter-intuitive. In my personal experience, anytime I decided to turn something I love into work, the quality of the results plummeted. I love to write, but when I tried doing it officially for the communications department in a college tech fest with deadlines, meetings and someone else telling me what to write and how, I didn’t like it. We should identify where there is opportunity and work on acquiring the required ‘skill’ until we are the best at it in the immediate vicinity, use the skill to make money and put the money into pursuing passions, paint away, go for violin classes, whatever. Let the passions stay as hobbies. Relying on it for survival might end up tainting its appeal. When I had to pick a college, I went for an aerospace engineering degree as it felt balanced between something I love and something that would get me a good job. In hindsight, I should’ve never tried to balance and just picked a side – either a pure science degree in astronomy or mechanical engineering, which is what my dad does and would’ve guaranteed me a job right out of college in his own firm or a friend’s firm. And going by the previous logic, the latter would’ve been the way to go. I didn’t know better then. Eighteen is a stressful time and we shouldn’t have to make life changing decisions at that age. Dammit.
I love outer space and theoretical physics but I’ve been fascinated by flight too, so the course wasn’t entirely a disaster but it just didn’t speak to me. All through the four years, I kept waiting for things to click, for some elective or a lab course to ignite that spark, you know? It never came. For someone who’s used to things just falling into place around him, this was uncharted territory. Yes, I learned about how stuff flies. Cool. What now? We derived equations for four years, never built a plane. Where do I begin? I have no clue about what specialization to choose if I have to pursue higher studies, which is what people expect of me. I figured I’d go for a job, maybe see how exactly all that I’ve studied falls into place in the real world and maybe go back to my post-graduation then. But the impostor syndrome kicks in again every time I think of sitting in an interview for an actual job where I would be building or maintaining something tangible in the real world, I feel extremely inadequate. If I make mistakes in an exam, I lose marks. Real world losses are slightly a bigger deal. That’s why my LinkedIn profile has filters set to internships and apprenticeships only and why I’m enrolled in an online course to learn a bunch of software that actual engineers in the aviation industry use. That way I actually get to feel like I’m bringing something to the table when I’m sitting in an interview and I know I’ll have an edge when I join. I like to prep before doing new things, remember? However, if I go ahead on this path, when I do get a job, I know I’m going to do exactly that’s expected of me and not a bit more. It’s going to be that ‘some’ job that keeps the money flowing in my good place. I don’t know if that’s okay or not. Instead of Andy, I’ll be Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec. Totally satisfied in my comfortable spot and completely unwilling to change.
I have a great deal of free time on my hands now. Interestingly enough, when college was hectic and whenever I had an ounce of spare time, I would spend it curled on my bed watching TV shows but now that all I have is spare time, I’m more productive than ever. I get to do everything I’ve wanted to do the last four years. I’ve been writing so much more now. I work out much more regularly and with much greater discipline. I’m finally teaching myself astrophotography online. I’m in the good place, except my dad’s paying for all of it. It’ll be cool if someone paid me to write poetry by day and stargaze by night and maybe write sadder poetry later in the night. It did give me a thought though. I noticed myself being uncharacteristically focused and hard working when I do all of those things. It would be good if I could do those for a living. Any one of those. Maybe if I look hard enough, maybe try taking a few chances knowing it could fail, I’ll find a way to pursue what I love while I make money off of it without it becoming a burden. Even Ron Swanson eventually quit his safe job in the government and turned his wood working hobby into a profession. I could make things fall into place. Maybe I stay this year unemployed, do my masters in astronomy next year, spend another year or two unemployed again, taking photos of the moon again, looking for places to apply what I’ve learnt. Maybe I finally get there four or five or seven years later only but when I do get there, I know I’m going to be just as focused and hard working. I could get the CEO tag. Huh, its not Andy or Ron, it’s Leslie Knope I wanna end up being. In a job I love so much, it doesn’t feel like a job at all, fully driven to do my best. Huh, we’ve come a full circle. The title does read ‘confusion’, so don’t blame me, you’ve been warned. I’ve stayed aimlessly at home for only less than a month, I’m planning all of this too much, I know. I should focus on one step at a time and see where things go from there on. I know. That’s why I wrote leap of faith. It’s just easier said than done. For now, for every menacing call-out post online, I’ll find solace in calming posts like this one –