“..it was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.”
~ Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Reading this book changed my life, and for good.
Although this article is written in first person, but the essence of it applies to almost everyone who reads it.
Earlier, I was this person, who just wanted to compete with everyone. This wasn’t out of some misplaced sense of pride, or satisfaction that I dervied by outdoing anyone. It was plainly because I was able to scrape through almost everything with minimal efforts. Competition, then, was good for me, because it stimulated me to go for multiple goals and achieve them all.
However, in doing all this, I realized that I never really celebrated my life or any of the achievements. I was always looking out for the next goal. Now, this is not a bad trait at all. It is a very good trait to have. It keeps one motivated to reach greater heights. But my despair commences when I’m faced with the question- what happens when I reach the next level? My agony pinches me when I realize that after all, I am only running from one level to another, depriving myself to revel my accomplishments, denying myself the most basic of joys.
Put this into perspective- on 13th August 2019, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant at the tender age of 21- a defining moment in my life, right? I did bask under the glorious sun that rose on the next day, but soon after, I started preparing for placements. I got placed in the very first organization that I interviewed at and by the time, I could let this fact sink in, I was already working at a bank, in a full time job. Within a year, I had cracked an important entrance exam and was preparing for interviews at some of the top B-Schools. Soon enough, I got accepted into one of them and even before I could understand any of it, I was attending lectures, seminars, sessions- one after the other- all day, every day. Add to this, the daily grind, the presentations, some case studies and I became so busy that I literally missed to repost a status update on Facebook, celebrating the second anniversary of me qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. Yes, you got it right- in just two years, I managed to forget an important day as this one, which I had claimed and everyone will agree as being a Life Defining day. Just to add some more gravity to this is the fact that I had given 4 years of my life to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, and I forgot all about it in just two years. Ridiculous, isn’t it?
Honestly, I didn’t feel this way back then. In my mind, I was clear that there were at least a hundred more like me, who had cleared their exams in a similar fashion. How then, was my achievement any better? But I had forgotten a very important fact, that there were at least hundred thousand times hundred others, who weren’t even running the race that I had conquered.
So where did all of this brought me to? Very simple- it brought me to a conclusion that neither those 100 others like me nor those hundred thousand times hundred others who were not like me were my competition. The clichéd “I am my own competition” is the ultimate truth. Maybe others would be better off than I am or maybe, they’ll never be better off- but in either case, how does that suffice me? Does it make me content? And if not, then why have I been wasting my time to get the better of them all? What is wrong in becoming a better version of who I have been so far? A continually succeeding person where success is measured not by how I’m doing vis-a-vis others, but how I’m doing today against how I was doing yesterday. How happy I am today, as against how happy I was yesterday? And the best question- am I doing things today, that will contribute to me being happy tomorrow?
Answers to these questions will only crop up if I sit down at one place, take a pause and ponder over everything that I’ve done, am doing and plan to do. Once I understand that life is about first finding my own happiness, then the next level or goal or whatever other fancy term you want to call it becomes how do I make others around me happy? How can I contribute towards the well-being of my fellow countrymen? How can I be of service to others? Because life is an act of giving, a continuous chance to improve in any of the direction that I choose to improve myself in. Truly, life is not about factors that are forced upon me, but what I intend to make of it. And all lives have this option, “how wild it is, to let it be”.
So long! (literally)