There are 2 parts of the lesson I learned the hard way : 1) Never put yourself on the back-burner. Learn to do things alone. 2) Never take bullying in any form.
I was self-centered till my school days. I was sure of everything I wanted to do throughout the day and never had the FOMO syndrome (Fear-of-missing-out). My life was perfect. No exaggeration in that statement.
When I went to college, I was exposed to so many different things and people that I spent most of my time observing others. I was not sure of myself anymore. I was not sure of my routine – what I wanted to do in the evenings, what I wanted to do on weekends…
I saw people coming and going to swimming classes, dance classes, music classes; I saw people getting passports made. I saw people preparing for GATE, CAT. All I did was observe. I did have plans for myself, but I kept waiting for a perfect time to start and a buddy to start with me. I always needed a buddy to go with me somewhere – be it shopping or sightseeing. If the buddy said no, I’d sit in my hostel room. That’s why I suffered from a major FOMO – where all the others had defined lives, varied activities, travelling opportunities and I felt I did nothing, had nothing.
In 2nd year, on my birthday, I sat alone in my hostel room till 9 PM in the night ‘cos none of my buddies (college and other) were free! Then we went out for the customary dinner. I was free since noon, and I had not a single soul who I could go out with. This may not seem like a big deal now, but it was a big deal that day. I found out how dependent I had let myself become…I could have gone out by myself! Why was I cribbing at all!
In the 3rd year, we had a bully of a professor who forced us into choosing lab partners as project partners and the subjects he gave, as our projects. We (3 of us, in serial roll numbers) were given an oft made robot to make again – none of us liked the project. It happened because he was ticked off by one person from our batch and declared ‘I won’t let any of you make any project’. Ultimately some people convinced him to ‘let us do the projects’ and he laid those conditions. All I did was observe! I thought somebody would raise a voice (and then I’d join in. I had completely changed from my school days, when I’d promptly speak up for myself.) – our batch had almost all the top 5 students in the class. Nobody spoke up. Maybe they were okay with the project groups and the projects they had got. However, his decision affected our project group the most. He illegally made projects for students from other colleges. The project he gave us was much in demand. He made our group of 3 get material for 6 additional replicas of our project instead of the 1 we would have made for ourselves! To quote fairly, he gave us the money for his share of the materials. But it was enough to make me (and us) feel bullied. My Dad told me to report to the Principal or go talk to the professor. But I felt that I should better remain invisible, as I am not that good at engineering studies that I’d pass if he’d try to fail me out of anger. The semester ended with me passing with 47/50 in the project and failing 3 theory subjects! All because I waited for others to speak up and also did not concentrate on other things – ignoring this single thing which I supposedly could not fix. The next semester, the same project was up on display and I passed every subject and failed the project. Why? Because the examiner thought we’d got the project made from outside. Talk about irony. Had I had the guts to speak up against the professor at the onset, I would have failed (if I did) with integrity.
Well, these were the 2 incidences (one minor, one major) when I learned my lesson! But learning a lesson and bringing it into practice are two different things. It takes a lot of time, even years, to implement something that overrides your inner tendency.
I never took bullying after that. I tried to break the other tendency by joining a tennis class by myself, after college was over in 2008. I went for 2 whole months and then stopped because the family noticed it was too physically taxing for me.
Something inside me had snapped after 2004 (when I left home) and I always waited for others to make the plans; dropped my plans at a single point of resistance from parents/buddies. I often made my schedule according to others’. This continued to a lesser extent in my office days too.
The struggle of doing things for self and to avoid being overwhelmed by others’ activities/schedules continues even now. This year I have stepped up and learned shooting in my free time. Alone.
I have now begun to step out by myself, without having to have a buddy accompany me. I have learned to calm the FOMO syndrome and focus only on what seems important to me.