“Ayushi, could you wait back?” Mr. Bhati, our economics professor stops me from leaving the class for the period break. “We expect great things from you. Continue to work hard. I believe you can top the state and get the highest in economics this year.” ‘Sir, I will try my best.' I was the promise made eagerly, broken promptly. Dopamine, the pleasure hormone, is released not only after an achievement but also much earlier, in anticipation of it- A lesson I learned last week from Dr. Robert Sapolsky's lectures on neuroscience but one, my subconscious has always known. The reason this happens, Dr. Sapolsky explained, is that the dopamine release acts as a bait to encourage hard work towards success for more. I had chanced upon a shortcut- finding satisfaction in the multiple mini releases, never striving harder for better. I didn't last anywhere near the top. Instead, I was so nervous during the economics exams, I missed the last question. I wrote such elaborate first few answers that I felt short of time towards the end. ‘I knew everything but didn't keep track of time,' I repeat after being awarded the GMAT's penalty on not finishing a section. Twice. A stellar employee makes a major blunder in the second project she leads as an analyst. Yes, me. I crushed on my best friend for over four years, only to break up in a week fearful of the insecurities that started to pop up. He cares, he cares not. What if I start liking someone else? Will I be a cheat? Then and since, as I repetitively failed expectations, I also developed an acute phobia towards commitment. Almost chick, never chicken. Instead, the remains of an unfertilised piece of egg excreted monthly, promising potential, never promise! I didn't make it big. I didn't make it. Instead, I quit the job and made it back to my parent's house hoping to find something I was good at and happy to do. Two years and three jobs later, I am working with my sister to create a utilitarian art brand, still here, in my parent's house. We were starting to do well when COVID hit. Confused, scared with no clarity about the future. The extra hours and limited distractions struck at the rusting pendulum. Oscillating between the regrets of the past and ever-so dreadful ‘expectations' from the future, for once, I am struggling to gain a foothold in the present. Refreshing IG feed every hour no more transforms into an hourly wallow of self-pity looking at friends traveling or getting promoted. The world hit pause and now, most everyone is working from home, cooking, and reading. I fight temptation, delete IG to work, and work on myself. In those hours of uninterrupted introspection, I finally made the long-awaited tear-jerker of a ride 12 years back to when I was made to take accountancy, commerce, and Mr. Bhati's economics as my electives instead of biology, chemistry, and physics because father thought I wasn't dedicated enough to pursue medicine. I had not worked hard enough since. I don't know what contributed more to that prophecy. His words. My rebellion. Both. Sitting on the floor leaning on the wall closest to the router, I type a cover letter to what could have been an application to a med school until my ass hurts and my eyes burn. Desperate to compensate for the last decade, I spent the first few weeks of the lockdown learning to speak in French, cook, garden, write and invest. Days passed, became weeks. The initial enthusiasm started to wane because there was a lot of learning but as many results. I realized I was getting better at things I learned by doing like cooking, unlike those I learned passively about. I had to converse in French. I had to type, scribble, jot. Not just read books on it. Anything is easier read than done. Attempting to do everything, I wasn't doing anything well. I had to streamline my subjects. Call it greed, I chose to start with investing and designing. Impatient to recover all the past losses, I started out to make a few mistakes, costly ones but slowly I am learning to pick better quality companies. We are creating better designs for our art brand too, some that inspire for a happier present, others in the hope of a better future. Now, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I won't mumble that I am a Chartered Accountant and a CFA, distracting them with my academic qualification. As I think back to the still very empty bank account and the room I continue to inhabit in my parent's house, I now have hope. With every unrealized gain I make on the investments and with every positive feedback we get on our designs, I stand a little bit taller, my eyes smile a little bit wider. If tomorrow, I wake up to hear that quarantine has ended, I might not jump out of bed with excitement. After a long shower and a slow breakfast, when I step outside, it will be with equal amounts of hope and dread that the unknown brings. The world would have changed. I would have changed too. For the better.
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