This post was so difficult to write that I procrastinated about it for one and a half days and then literally had to go to Facebook to ask for advice about how to write it.
Since I seem to have made a habit of writing about difficult things on my blog, however, and since all of you have been so lovely and receptive, I decided to write about this toughie here. In peak college-admission-board-result-season, I feel like a lot of people will relate to this:
It is extremely difficult to watch your friends go to their dream colleges while you remain behind.
There can be many reasons why someone is not able to go to the college they mos want to, especially if the institution is situated outside their hometown.
In this season of marks (I believe the CBSE results were published today?), one can’t help but think of all the people who could not study the subject they love in a college they want to, because of some arbitrary, mostly unpredictable and definitely not very objective system of knowledge assessment.
While an entrance exam itself is kinda problematic, because it, too, depends on factors beyond the examinee’s control (what if they just have a bad day? What if, that very year, the question paper pattern changes and is completely unexpected? What if the examiner’s perspective does not match with theirs and they end up scoring badly for their answers?), I still believe it provides a better judgement of a person’s abilities than just marks: at least it allows the students to show how they think. A lot of colleges do not hold entrance exams, or use marks to screen potential examinees, and this, in my opinion, is honestly really messed up. It is often the reason people don’t get in to colleges that will provide them the best opportunities.
But what if you do everything right (as right as the idea of scoring highly is), and you still can’t go? What if this is not even an option, because you cannot afford to move out?
Everyone knows that marks themselves are often related to finances: those with access to expensive coaching centres and schools tend to do well and receive far more opportunities than people who are less privileged. This is also a factor for access to colleges. Forget about the fees- government-affiliated colleges in India, such as Jadavpur University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, are often quite cheap, as are colleges such as Tata Institute of Social Sciences- but what about the cities they’re situated in? Living costs in Mumbai and Delhi are enormous for most people, and quite unaffordable for those in my parents’ income bracket. What then? However meritorious you may be, this seems to be an insurmountable obstacle.
The third factor I’m going to mention here is frequently overlooked by people as a valid reason, which, I think, is hella damaging for many of those who suffer from it:
Mental health is a huge issue.
Most of us, when we move abroad/ to other cities, do so to live on our own. This cuts us off from our support systems during an already-stressful time. Many people adjust to this well. Some, like me, don’t. Their troubles can go unacknowledged, due to the general prevailing silence around mental health in India. As someone who has moved to three different cities and knows the effects of displacement only too well, this is a very real problem that is not talked about enough.
There are many other factors that can act as hindrances: right off the top of my head, I can think about parental pressure to stay back, especially for girls; physical illnesses or disabilities, neither of which I really have a right to talk about, having never personally experienced either (if you would like to, though, please write in- would love to hear from you!); and various difficult situations at home. The causes can be many, and not all of them can be solved.
So what, then, can we do about it? How do we feel better when we stay behind, making a necessary compromise? How do we- and I- fight of the feelings of stagnation and stasis that threaten to overwhelm sometimes?
Keep moving. Focus on the future.
That’s my first advice, both to you and to myself. These three or two or however many years, they will pass by in the blink of an eye- trust me, even if the experience of living them feels endless. And at the end of it, you will emerge a better, stronger human being. That is the goal that, I think, we should set our eyes on. This, too, will end: and with that end will come a new beginning, another opportunity to explore. It is that opportunity that we need to prepare for.
For me, this means studying hard to do well in my MA examinations, giving all the necessary exams such as GRE and TOEFL, earning some money for myself and focusing on this blog.
That is a lot to do in two years, and I haven’t even counted internships and the students I tutor. Staying busy works well to remind you to keep moving.
Use this time, that feels almost like a waste, to create something you will love.
I’m talking about a long, sustainable project. For me, this is a book of poetry. I want to create a 200 page book filled with poems and illustrations, for me and for you. Fingers crossed.
What will your grand project be?
And possibly, most importantly:
Know that you will have people to support you through the years.
Friends that remain and new friends you will make will help you through it. You will probably create great memories that you will love to remember when they’re not near you anymore. Everything will not be grey and blue: you will find times you will cherish.
I’m going to stay in Kolkata for the next two years.
And I won’t deny it: my heart is broken. I was so looking forward to moving out, not because I hate it but because I’m forever searching for newness, forever looking for the next big adventure. I guess I feel stuck here, like a bird in glue. I hate the word ‘trapped’, it conjures up terrifying feelings of claustrophobia for me, but that is what I feel, and that’s why it’s been so difficult.
But my dad needs me, more than he ever has, more than he ever asked for. How can I leave this man, to whom I owe everything, to face the crushing weight of mortality alone? How can I leave my mom, who is walking the tightrope of mental wellness and the role of carer? How can I forgive myself for even thinking about leaving? How would I forgive myself if I did?
But the truth is that I do feel these emotions. I do feel sad that I’m not getting to live a dream I dreamt of for a very long time. I guess all we can do is acknowledge the feelings, and accept then, and then try our best to move on.
It is raining outside.
The oppressive heat of the day has disappeared like an illusion, like vapour in the wind. Only soothing wet coolness unfurls its fragrance through the window now.
And bathing in its balm, I think: hmm. Maybe two more years of this isn’t so bad after all.
What do you think? Did you get into the college of your dreams? Do you have some advice for those of us who didn’t? Would you feel bad if you had to stay? And how do you feel, if you’re staying?
Let me know in the comments. See you next time.