The Candid Lemons of Life

The road to success

Until pretty recently, I was one of those foolhardy teenagers who thought the world was at her beck and call. I would day dream about making a difference in lives, being the femme fatale of my own movie and hurrying to catch a train to my own success party. I fancied writing an international best-seller and saving the environment through my unrestrained devotion.

But passing boards and entrance examinations with 90%+, sweating numbers in coaching classes and devouring 5 almonds with milk everyday – to ‘get a sharper mind’ seemed to somehow be foremost in my priority list. What with my furious study sessions and homework files piled up on the dented part of my bed (if anyone led a search-party, this is usually where I would be embedded), I had ensconced my real ambitions in a gift box and shelved it for future reference only. It took a hard hitting realization and an almost biblical revelation on my part to change all that. A pharmaceutical company and a meeting with a successful film-maker buoyed these changes and helped prevent a mid-nerd crisis in my life.

Several weeks back, I woke up to an internship at a pharmaceutical company of good repute. The plant I was visiting as a part of my mandatory 4 week industry training lies just one pilgrimage away from my house. It would take me three different modes of transportation to commute and quite a few syllables of sleep to stay awake. But the thing that would chill my bones everyday was the expressions of the employees while doing their job. The locker room would be fraught with complaints about the reduction in salary and hike in grocery prices. The encouragement I got from having a heart to heart career conversation with a few employees turned out to be ‘Get out while you can’. Their dissatisfaction stemmed right from

  • I got excellent marks and a double digit AIEEE rank, joined an elite college but didn’t get the job I deserve.
  •  I actually wanted to do business and earn money like my uncle but dad said education first and ten years later, I’m still here.
  •  There are a few more jobs out there but without such and such degree I cannot apply. I wish I had figured this out earlier.

The first hard hitting realization was that I had no clue where my career was headed. It was ridiculously scary to imagine myself in their place in a few years. After ruminating over their words, there is really only one question that needs answering; or one statement that needs to be rubbed in –

Do what you love. Do you do what you love? Even if it’s not bringing in much money, it is better to sink while doing something you love, rather than doing something you don’t, it’s just that much more pain.

Producing an international best-seller was my dream, why not a goal? I decided I needed to step out of the ‘study now, you’ll figure out later’ bandwagon and try to create a profile more inspiring of a writer. Thus I found myself sipping tea with a film-maker with an absurdly long name and asking him to test my copy-writing skills (He owned an ad agency). I thought I would give this a shot as a part-time job as I had helped another ad-writer write a few commercials when I was younger. There were so many arenas to foray into – freelancing, blogging, publishing, that my naïve self was excited. I asked him how I would go about this. In turn he gave me several reality checks that I realized I was in dire need of hearing.

’’So you love writing. Four million other people love writing. Why should I bother to hire them? What have they got to offer me? How do I know they are capable? How do I know their minds are fertile?’’

He told me, “You need to dedicate yourself to this fully; you cannot have academic pressures along with this. It’s an either or situation wherever you go. You cannot be jack of all trades; you will end up being master of none. Of course you might end up with nothing if you aren’t talented or a go getter but that’s your headache. The basics that everyone is looking for is your 100%. The rest turns up years later. Another signpost you are going to have to come to terms with are- there is no short route to getting there.”

He advised me to start working on creating my own portfolio. ‘’Start your own blog, start writing reviews on movies, plays, write lyrics for a band. Consciously meet new people, gain insights into their lives and write about your experiences. Never stop writing. Have something to show to people when telling them that such and such is the job you want and these are your credentials. Start by liking what you write yourself. No one can demean you; your power of self expression is precisely that – Yours. Some people will like what you write, some people won’t. Don’t let that discourage you. Believe in yourself.’’

Then he talked about the job itself, ’’When you first start, you will get paid squat, you will probably start as a trainee, which will in fact pay nothing. You will have to do all sorts of menial jobs like making your bosses coffee or booking his tickets. Everyone has to go through that kind of rigmarole to toughen up and have something to offer. That’s when you know that this is what you really want. You will have to climb up a ladder of posts, get better and prove yourself every day. You cannot wing it by overstepping.”

I came away from that meeting with his words ringing in my ears. The stories we read are always about chasing our dreams and taking that leap of faith. But what often gets blighted is that within that leap of faith lies enormous belief in our abilities and the grit to endure major hardships, come what may. If and only if that unshakeable courage is within you, are those stories meant for you.  It’s solely up to YOU.

Image credits: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/94434923411056635/

About author : Sohini Bagchi is a 4th Year Biotechnology student at VIT, Vellore.

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