May 15, 2020 – The day has finally arrived when I get to graduate from USC. Unconventional is the word of the day. Never had I ever expected to experience such a boring graduation, but it’s ok, I will wait for the day when I get to walk across the stage to collect my degree.
This day has made me nostalgic, pulling all the profound hidden memories from the corners of my brain. It all began when I was 3 years old, I used to stare endlessly at the dark walls of my house trying to look for something fun to do, and failing every time. Both of my parents used to work, and with no concept of “day-care”, I was often left to stay alone at home to my neighbor’s mercy, who barely sat with me to cheer me up. The isolation crept inside of me from that age. The only solace was the wonderful music that I used to hear and dance on my own as soon as my parents left home.
As a kindergarten student, I always felt discriminated against and neglected. Today, as I turn 24, I realize it wasn’t them, but me. It was me, who was stuck so much into my mind, that I could never look beyond. But as a kid, I had no one to talk to about my issues. The detachment stayed long enough until I had the wisdom to look through it. As I struggled through the multiplication problems during my second grade, I often used to look myself into the mirror and think I was such a dumb person and I deserved nothing. None of it was true, of course.
Aug 2008, ~7 months before my baby brother was born. I had waited for a sibling for a long time, someone I could share my space and thoughts with. Just then, I met with an accident which changed my whole world. I was hanging by a cliff in some bushes, with four fractures in my left leg. After about three long hours, I was taken to an orthopedic hospital, where they showered me with 3-4 bottles of Dettol (Antiseptic Disinfectant). I had burns, fractures, and marks all over my body. Just the thought of my leg being amputated would scare and leave me terrified. It took me a whole year, endless hours of motivation from my parents, and a lot of crying alone in the dark, to finally be back on my feet. I had to learn to walk again. This time I walked a little faster, the impatience had taken over me. After being driven to school every day by my parents for a year, I finally wanted to walk myself. And the stress of missing my bus, made me walk faster. And it stayed. I still walk faster than my friends.
After a year, they again operated on me to remove the iron rods they put inside my leg for recovery, which added 5 more months to my relationship with the bed. What did this time teach me? On one side, it taught me to be extremely patient and wait for your reward. On the other, it made me anxious when the end was near, for I did not want to wait any longer to enjoy my freedom. The latter wasn’t so good for my personality. After two years, one would assume that things had gotten back to usual for me, but it was exactly the case. The fortunate thing was that – I finally had a younger brother. But, the disturbing thing was that – I had missed out on a lot of things in the two years I missed. I lost friends, memories, sporting spirit, and more. I started studying out of anxiety. I crammed, and crammed, and crammed more to achieve the best grades. For me, that seemed like the only way to shine and get noticed. The 14-year old me didn’t want her classmates’ attention, but just the mere recognition, something I had missed for a long time.
Have you ever been in a situation where you are in a queue and it is moving slowly, so you just jump to another line? You mind your own business, keep moving to reach the end of the line. That’s how I started living. I spent a lot of time blaming myself for everything, and all my decisions. But it wasn’t my fault. It was the best decision I could take given the conditions. I optimized! I was running away from responsibilities, care, and friendship. During my whole bachelor’s degree, I barely made 5-6 friends. The whole experience made me immune to any sort of care. I just wanted to run, I had no goal, maybe the intention was to reach a place where people just know that I exist and respect me. It made me an introverted extrovert.
The next hop was USC. To be frank, my parents could not afford the kind of education I was demanding. I took up the task of convincing them, and the rest of the things i.e. applications, loan sanctions, visa, flight tickets, and everything else. The day I landed here was such a surreal and unbelievable experience. I suddenly became grateful for everything in life, I became satisfied. Maybe, that comfort backfired, I discerned I was performing my best. I felt like some trickster who found my way into all these. I started to underestimate myself, making it worse.
January 2019, my dad told me that he had a rare diabetes-affected retina disorder which caused a weakening of his eye-sight. He lost his job. It was a tragic time for me. On one side, I was having the most enjoyable time of my life, and on the other, I felt that a part of me was crippled. 2019 was extremely difficult. Anxiety, Depression, and mourning became normal. I ended up hurting a lot of people in the process. I lost friends. I missed an amazing Internship opportunity, the negativity had poured inside my nerves like a drug. I had nothing to lose at that time. All I could do was work strenuously. And that is what I did. The day I got the Facebook Offer was another life-changing experience. This time I knew that I was finally going to be in a space where I could breathe and take care of my family without worrying about the financial conditions.
When I met my parents in Dec’19, they were so proud and joyful for everything I achieved in the past 2 years. I saw my dad recovering faster with me on his side. After years, things were normal and right for us. That was what I waited for all my life. I don’t care about the graduation ceremony or the walk, I just want to see my parents sit across the stage and look at me receiving the degree that they deserve. I want to take them places, show them the sunset at Santa Monica, and city view from Grifett. I want to take my brother to Universal Studios and Disneyland. As I look back to my time at USC, it has made me an independent person, who can make her big life decisions. She still has very fewer friends, but she loves everyone who is in her life. She still feels lost, zoned out, anxious about the uncertain times, but she is confident, clever, friendly, and a better person who wants to make a difference. And I shall not go back into becoming the same old person I was ever again, due to my newly found wisdom.
PS: I do not consider myself a victim. I certainly believe that one could learn a lot from the experiences I have had in my life. Believe in yourself, and keep working hard. Maintaining balance is not easy, so if you are struggling to find the sweet spot between friends, family, and career, and tend to incline towards one or the other, it is totally fine. Everyone has a different journey, and just be ready to fight your own battles! You will cry, fall, get angry, make mistakes, overthink, worry, shout, travel, but all of these are part of growing up and learning. It is ok. You will be just fine, like the rest of us 🙂