Some of the life defining decisions that teenagers and young adults make are related to career and studies. Choosing your major subjects, college or graduation stream, preparing for campus placements, higher studies or competitive exams are some of them.
While in school, I always had a knack for mathematics. So choosing PCM after class 10 was a no-brainer. Computers interested me and Engineering in IT was my plan after the school all along. But still, when I turned 22 in the February of 2009, I was as lost as I have ever been!
You see, a year earlier in January 2008, I was placed in Satyam (it was still Satyam then!). It was the first company to visit the college for campus placements. But a year later, the Satyam Scandal happened. And to top that, the US sub-prime crisis led to a global recession. Software MNCs deferred and even cancelled the joining of the fresh grads.
But on the positive side, this gave me an opportunity to go for higher studies. One thing led to another and as Steve Jobs put it,
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
I turn 32 in a few days and when I look back, boy, do the dots connect! And I am sure I am going to feel the same 10 years later too.
But while looking back, I also wish I could ask that 22-year-old chap to meet the-present-day-me on a Sunday afternoon at our favorite hangout place in Indore for a cup of hot chocolate. Just so we can have a fruitful conversation about certain things, I now feel, he should’ve known then. These are the same things I would tell anyone in their early 20’s so read on if it interests you.
1. Scoring highest in the class guarantees nothing
Okay, by 22, I wasn’t as caught up with how much I have scored as I was in my school days. I typically scored about ~70% but I always wanted to be in the 80%-90% category. I blame this on the societal belief system that good grades are a guarantee of success. They are a guarantee of nothing! And I wish somebody told me that studies are important but so are real life skills, being good in studies won’t be enough in real life
2. Health is most important
When you are young, you can get away with anything from eating junk all day to not sleeping enough. I wouldn’t rob the 22-year-old-me from doing this either but any form of physical exercise in your 20’s will go a very long way. It will make you watch what you eat. It will also keep you away from the misdemeanors of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
3. Stop being a people-pleaser
While I have substantially improved on this one over the years, the malady of caring too much about what others think was at its peak in my early 20’s. I just wanted to please everyone all the time. It is important to realize that no matter what you do, there will always be haters and critics. Rise above them and don’t hold grudges
4. Be grateful for the people in your life
I put this point right next to #3 because not caring what others think of you does not mean not being grateful. The list of amazing people that I had around when I was 22 is just too long. Family, friends, even the amazing professors and mentors you have access to in your early 20’s won’t last forever. Recognize that a simple change of city can disrupt the entire fabric. I realized this after moving out of my hometown. So never forget to count your blessings. Be grateful today, tomorrow could be late
5. Unlimited freedom will not make you happy
Ask any college student, they will disagree with this point 😊. The 22-year-old-me would most likely laugh this off. All that a youngster would want is unlimited money and unlimited freedom. But life is way more complex than that. I would highly recommend a book here, its called ‘Stumbling on Happiness’. Basically, the book explains that to be truly satisfied you may want freedom in certain aspects of your life and at the same time want to limit your choices in other areas. Anyways, I know the 22-year-old-me would never read a book. He has much better things to do. So I leave this point here
6. Life is a journey
With multiple milestones along the way! I know, I know this is as cliché as it gets but too often the young have an illusion that – once I have a girlfriend, a job or a business, a car and a fat bank balance, all of a sudden my life will be perfect! Eventually, when you look back and reflect upon the moment when that girl said ‘yes’, when that job offer arrived or when that salesperson handed over the car keys, they will all seem like important life events and milestones. Their high will not last forever. Because life is not just milestones, it is a journey. Stop chasing highs after highs, instead learn to enjoy the journey
“Don’t worry your life away waiting for the elusive prize at journey’s end. The journey is the prize.”
– Marsha Mercant
And before I leave…
Before the present-day-me sat back in the time machine and said goodbye to the 22-year-old-me, my last suggestion for him would be to have fun in this journey. It is okay not to have all the answers. The world is very fast-paced. It is important to stop and smell the roses a little more. Before you know it, you would be 32! And still learning, still trying to put things together…