By Manik Rege

Watching seniors graduate feels like standing next in line for an injection. The dread on your friend’s face adds to your anxiety, and you feel stuck in one moment for all eternity.

You’d like to get done with this phase ASAP, go for a fresh start, and join your folks in the exciting world of work and self-sponsored travel. But you’re also seeing them struggle through the teething effects of growing up and being independent, so part of you wishes to stay put on the library’s matcha-green couch.

See you’re almost there but not quite, like how you’re sleepy at eleven but not sleepy enough to sleep so you just scroll through Instagram in the darkness with eyes half-open and watering until its three in the morning- a dull, painful limbo.

It’s a confusing time, if you haven’t picked that up by now, and had I known, I would’ve never made friends from other batches. Sure, it was nice at first because I got all their lecture notes and assignments for reference, giving me an edge over the rest of my class.

But now I have to bid these lovelies farewell into adulthood and spend the next semester all alone since I put no efforts into making friends from my own year. It’s not all that bitter, to be honest, we still meet on weekends to catch up on what’s buzzing. And it’s fun to hear their office stories, imagine myself in their situation- work out what I’d do.

In fact, just last Sunday, I visited my best friend’s startup HQ’s. It feels awesome to see her accomplish her big dream so early on. She used to talk about wild ideas all the time in class, and somehow it fell on the right ears at the right time, pulling in huge funds to kickstart the thing.

I also have another friend who has gone six months unemployed, roaming the world and volunteering for charities in search of something that really fills his soul. You’d think he’s unhappy, unaccomplished like the earlier friend but that’s not quite true.

When we Skyped tonight, he said he’s enjoying the freedom to rediscover and explore because his family didn’t allow him to pursue the field that drives his fire. Now he finally has some space and time to find his calling, and he’s making full use of it, which makes me feel good.

Both of these people are THE sh*t in their own eyes. So what that taught me is that our paths are different, our destinations, too- and they don’t have to be glittering with money and fame. We’re all moving according to our own pace, and trying to match up with others is just going to hurt our growth. What really matters is that we’re doing what makes us happy inside, regardless of how small or boring the world might think that is. 

I am learning, therefore, to curb the temptation of comparing myself with others- something I’ve done all my life- because my talents, passion, and capacities are quite different from everyone else. I am learning to build, trust, and walk on my own path, even if it’s longer, messier, and farther from where everyone else is going.

I am learning to unscrew myself from perfect molds of success, designed by society for freshly printed graduates- neatly outlined career tracks that seduce you with an internship at twenty, a full-time at twenty-four, a master’s at twenty-seven, a managerial chair at thirty, and retirement at fifty. It’s really sad how so many of us fall for this.

But I’m getting comfortable with being confused about my future, not knowing what exactly I want to do, where and when. I’m becoming okay with being jobless and clueless, with my C.V. having gaps and cavities, flaws and failures, not enough positions to fill the page.

Like babies sporting broken teeth, I will frame up my rejections and imperfections with pride because they only made me better, which is the best thing I can ever be. So no matter how much it hurts, I’m learning to make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world if I make the wrong move, get into the wrong stream, or choose the wrong company.

As long as I’m learning and growing, as long as I’m alive, it can’t really be bad- I’ll pivot and move on with some bruises. I’ll be just fine as long as I have some respect and love for myself. I’ll survive.