If my mother found out I was writing this post right now, she’d lecture me for an hour about wasting my time, during which I would not be allowed to do anything except listen to her shamefaced, with a hanging head and after which I would be indignant, rebellious, annoyed, restless, frustrated and on the whole, completely miserable. (So much using my time wisely, mom!) Why, you ask?
Like I’ve been constantly reminding myself in my past few posts, I’m in my twelfth year of school, and I head to university after this. Aaand, my finals are less than a month away. The most important year of my life and it’s crunch time. So right now, me doing anything other than perusing these enormous books of information and solving papers is borderline blasphemous to the religion of the the Indian nerds.
My apologies, fellow Indians, but I feel like this prompt really spoke to me.
You see, when you’re in one of the most important years of your life, the year before you get in to uni, the year you’ve got to do your best-there’s no doubt about it that expectations are involved. What your parents expect of you, you from yourself, others from you and you from them-it’s utter madness.
I’ve mentioned the nosy Indian mentality in a previous post and I see fit to bring it up again here. Since I’m in twelfth grade, I’m expected to do great in my finals as well as all my uni entrances. Just as well, because I’ve been attending separate coaching classes to prepare for uni entrances. Do not be alarmed, it’s a common phenomenon in India. To a large extent, it can be said that going to school doesn’t really help you understand or anticipate the level of questions present in the entrance papers.
So, I can confidently say that more than 75% of the students (in CBSE at least) attend coaching for their entrances-and I say this of Science, Commerce and Humanities students.
Having put in so much hard work, running to and fro between classes and school, writing umpteen exams every month, onlookers start to assume that since you’re getting a great deal done, you’re going to beat everyone you know and they’re going to see your face in the paper. That is literally what some of the people I know have told me. “I want to see your face in the paper because you’ve done so well!”
I don’t know whether to thank them for their faith in me, laugh because it’s so misplaced, feel upset because it’s so impossible, or hate myself because I haven’t been working hard enough. It’s probably all four. But I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to the last action of mine: hating myself. It’s normal to feel frustrated when you know you haven’t done everything that you could have and should have. However, when the weight of everyone’s faith and hopes rests on your shoulders, this hatred is that tiny feather on the top that can send everything toppling, crushing you in the debris.
It turns into an all-consuming self-loathing that either leaves you bitter and blaming everyone else, or someone who’s completely given up and is just going through the motions. I must confess I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum and now I’m somewhat in between, because I’m bitter and I do have a fire inside me but I’m still moving around like a tired zombie. My mental state is beyond my own understanding.
I do know this, though: I’m so afraid. I’ve said this before and I don’t care if I’m repeating myself because this is how I’ve been feeling for such a long time and it probably won’t stop until this whole thing is over. I’m afraid I can’t meet everyone’s expectations. I’m afraid people will jeer and laugh and ask me what I did these two years. I’m afraid to see my parents disappointed, shamefaced in front of some other smug person whose kid has done better. I’m afraid I won’t meet my own standards. I’m afraid I’ll disappoint myself and be left with nothing to go on for. I’m afraid I’ll be a total failure.
As Buddha would say, it’s desires and expectations that cause all the misery in the world, and to be free from desires is to be happy. But why do I see all my friends around me happier than me, having fulfilled their desires? Why must I sit alone with an unfinished plate of spoiled food, convinced that to conquer hunger leads to happiness, when everyone else has savoured the fruits of success?
It’s because I’ve been a coward. I’ve been complacent. I’ve been somebody who younger me would look at and feel appalled. That’s what I’ve been. It’s normal to expect something of yourself, but when you fail, you feel as though you were wrong to ask yourself for even something so small. And that feeling destroys you because you can’t even depend on yourself anymore.
Now, every “Good luck” makes my brow crease instead of encouraging me. Every “I know you can do it” turns my stomach to a queasy pit of despair and gloom instead of making me feel heartened and loved and grateful for the support. Every “Of course you will, don’t worry” makes me want to scream to the world that I can’t. I can’t. And you’re living a lie just like I was. This hope is false.
Yet, I don’t want anyone to give up on me or say I can’t do it. I don’t understand my own brand of hypocrisy. Here I am, giving up but telling you not to give up on me. Here I am, making a long face when you’re trying to encourage me, putting myself down when you praise me, but unable to take it when you say I can’t do it. I want you to expect great things from me but I don’t want you to shove it down my throat my throat if I fail. I want you to say I am the best and look away when I give you proof that I’m not.
Expectations do hurt.
When you expect something from someone and they don’t return it, it boggles your mind. It hurts you that they don’t even care about you, to do that one little thing you wanted them to. But when that someone is you, it’s a whole other ball game.
However, I still have time to turn things around to exactly the way I want them. I’m still a scared little girl, waiting for myself to fail just like the hundred malicious faces staring at me, saying sweet words of encouragement while their eyes speak another language, one of taunts and jealousy.
Everyone wants me to rule the world when I don’t know how to put my armour on, let alone win a battle. I feel so weak on the inside, so overwhelmed. I don’t know what I’m going to do but I can’t imagine failing. I guess that’s all that’s spurring me in the last leg of this tiny trip in my very, very long journey of life. Can I really do it? I feel like I’m expecting too much of myself. But then I remember that there are so many beside me who do the same, who have goals and actually meet them. How can I be any different? If they can do it, I can do it too. Somewhere inside me, I have decided to actually meet my own goals as well.
I’m so miffed with the world right now because I feel like I’m under the greatest pressure I could ever be and I know it’s only about to get so much worse in the years to come, when I start to “adult”. But when you put coal through Hell, it comes out as a diamond. And that’s exactly what I’m hoping for with all the pressure of these heavy, heavy expectations I’m holding. Tatiana Kashirina’s got nothing on me.
Sorry if I’ve been repetitive in my posts lately, it’s just that I’ve been pretty gloomy about this for a while now. Thanks for bearing with it!