follow the herd

If someone had told me that I’ll be living my best life in San Francisco, 10 years from now — I would never have believed that person. But, here I am. I never really dreamt of this life. I just wanted to be comfortable. I feel blessed that I had the strength and courage to take the leap of faith by coming to America for my further studies. It was a big step indeed.

States has attracted international students for decades now. Every year, thousands of students flock to US universities for their studies. So, my decision to come here was nothing unconventional. When I was in my third year of undergrad, most of my close friends discussed grad schools and going to US or Canada for a better future. The discussions were so frequent, that it was nearly impossible for me to not consider it. To put it lightly, it was a crazy ride from that point to finally receiving my Master’s degree. I thought of myself as an average coder who could somehow manage, nothing extraordinary, just basic.

So why am I writing this? I address this to emphasize that I was part of the flock. I was following the crowd, and I just want to say that it is okay sometimes to be part of the herd.

For someone like me, who never really had an idol to look up to, following the herd was kinda my only option. My parents certainly never forced me to study hard. They were always fine with my performance. I don’t think they expected much from me. Like my grandparents, my parents also thought that I will enroll in an undergrad engineering degree, a couple of years of job experience, and then get married. This straightforward plan is the reality of millions of people in India. I had no intention of smashing those plans, honestly. But somehow my heart told me to follow the herd. And I don’t regret doing that.

Surviving in the United States is an altogether different level of struggle, which I never anticipated. It’s only when I landed here that I understood that starting a new life in a new country is not bloody easy. It takes a big toll on your mental well-being. This can be counted as a side effect of being a herd follower. I won’t say that I was completely blind, but yeah I somehow thought I would be able to do what everyone else was doing. You know, like people say — go with the flow. It’s only when you are in the water, that you realize the depth of the ocean. And before you know it, it is to embrace yourself for the upcoming tides.

From time to time, I have looked up to several people for inspiration. I always aimed to achieve higher by admiring someone ahead of me. Only recently I understood how unhealthy this practice is. I learned the hard way that comparing yourself with others is pretty consequential. While the grass may look greener on the other side, it’s best to appreciate your wins from time to time.

Honestly, at this phase of my life, I have no concrete goals. When I look at people around me, everyone is striking for something further ahead. And if you are anything like me, who draws inspiration from your peers, this can be an extremely strenuous situation to be in. To put it simply — “I have a good job. I like my work, it’s going fine. But, I don’t really know what comes next.”

The last time I had this dilemma, I decided to board a flight to the United States. So, now what? Should I do it again? Like my peers, should I aim for MBA or Ph.D., or something funky like being an Influencer?!

Going back 4 years when I decided to come to the US, I did not ask myself the most important question — Why? I simply could not justify my decision at that stage. Somehow, this went well. My ignorance kept me afloat. I learned, the hard way, that it’s essential to ask yourself why.

If you have a passion, follow it. If you believe in something, do it. But if you don’t, then wait, be patient. Know where you are headed before signing up for the trip. Not every destination can please you.

No one ever teaches you that the most critical part of a good conversation is asking smart questions. It’s the same when it comes to self-growth. No one teaches you to question yourself. It’s vital to pause and interrogate your own decisions. It’s necessary to ask the tough questions to yourself. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear back. These topics are not easy. It may take years to find your next move, and that is okay. Just stop, and reason. It’s a long journey, filled with utter distractions — if you don’t focus, you will be soon lost.

This post went from “follow the herd” mindset to “find your own path” pretty quick. Sorry if I confused you. I wanted to share my experience of the two mindsets. The “follow” mindset worked for me, because I strongly believed that I could manage any difficulties. I had no other option, so choosing the herd wasn’t complicated. Now is different. Unlike the prior, this time everyone in my surroundings is not aiming for the different shots, and this is what call distraction. This is the next level, be careful. Stop — think — proceed.

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