I have been pondering a lot over the phase of my life when XI and XII grades were the only ‘thing’ that loomed large then. I personally feel those are the worst years of a child’s life. There is peer pressure, there is parental pressure and then, there are the hormones. Creativity is killed. There is no time for hobbies. It is like – Keep running. Why? Because others are running too! That is why! From the majority, a few chosen ones recognize their goals at an early age and, I would say they are lucky. They know what they want, at an age when there are multiple goals and multiple ambitions offered as choices. Blessed are those teenagers. And then, there are the others who see many lamp posts with banners of various professions and yet, cannot precisely point at which they would approach. I was a confused brat at that age. I had practically not set any plans or goals in my life. But yes, I was addicted to reading anything but academics. For instance, I was glued to all political magazines and news. Readers Digests and novels were my lifelines. I had to read something everyday even if it meant reading the same RD edition twice, or even, if there was a prelim the next day. I cared two hoots for the exams. However, my mother cared more. As a parent, she was scared. I was drifting away from my subjects and spent more and more time reading books that did not require me to give exams. After a few altercations, my mom won. Yes, she did. Even if we have had our differences over my addiction to reading during times when academics was priority, I always knew deep down within that she cared for me and, still does and, always will. Later engineering happened and then a good job, marriage, kid and all. Yet in all these years, there is this tiny space in my head that feels sore when I think, “Had I been clearer in my goals at that age, I might have had a better chance at doing better at what I am currently doing.” However today, all that changed after my interaction with a bunch of XI graders who made me feel glad that I was way different from what they are!
We have an annual function coming up for the school. And, the XI graders were to be involved in a skit. Knowing that these bright teenagers were proficient in speaking and acting, as a teacher I was enthusiastic and more happy. The first day, 5 approached me and confirmed that they would work it out. The second day, 10 came. The third day, 15 came. And a week later, I was facing a group of 20 with whom I had an amazing brain storming session after which we finally decided we will meet after a couple of days and start with the opening scene. Yes, the skit was decided. The characters were known. Dialogues were available. Even better. But then, I always get this tingling sensation in the back of my head that things cannot be that easy. Considering, nothing has ever come easy to me in life. So, today when I met them, they subtly mention after a lot of hesitation – “Maam, we cannot participate. Our studies might get affected.” And I was amused at this comment because I had made sure that they did not have to waste a minute of their academic periods on this. And, importantly I had made sure they did not even have to stay back! Some later came out with the truth that their parents do not want them to participate. I felt sad.
I still remember my time as a XI grade student. I had a similar conversation with my mother. She did not want me to participate in the annual function thinking it would affect my studies. My concentration was nil but worse, I was stubborn. And that defiant streak in me got the better of our debates and, I participated in the function. And as predicted by mom, I did not fare great in the exams. But then, I can only say one thing – I was happy. At least for those few minutes of my life on stage, I did not care about what the world thought about me. I was free from the claws of pressures that came from teachers, home, friends and relatives. Ironically, my parents have allowed my participation in every little activity until X grade. However, the moment XI and XII come into picture, a change came in abruptly. Marks had to be scored. A certain percentile needed to be crossed. A good college had to be sought. And then, I wondered, why? And, I still wonder why, now! I have seen extremely mediocre students blossoming into highly successful people and at the same, toppers with a shining crest of distinctions stuck in ‘dream jobs’ that may not necessarily be what they may have dreamt of, from the bottom of their hearts. And I can say with absolute conviction that a teen cannot be possibly studying 20 hours a day at a stretch without taking needful breaks. I was about to give these teenagers a piece of my mind but then, stopped myself. Who am I kidding, after all? Like one of the students remarked, “Maam, there is a severe cut throat competition out there. And, we have to score to get into reputed colleges. These days even a 95% is not enough” I felt from my heart, a lot for these teens. And, it dawned on me that the education system of today is clipping the wings of creativity and killing intelligent minds.
Nonetheless, I have a few words for all the XI graders out there.
- XI is important. But then, your life matters even more. Cultivate a hobby that gives you the necessary and healthy diversion from the mundane academic routine. It could be anything like reading, writing, playing a sport or a musical instrument or, even a brisk walk in the evening. Considering other diversions like the mutual attraction and all, steer your minds towards enhancing the artistic side of you. There is a great deal of time later to seek your soul mate. And importantly, before that, you need to seek your own soul and feed it with what it needs and not, with what your mind appears to want.
- Learn to be decisive. You do not have to necessarily do what your friend is supposedly doing. For instance, if your friend is preparing for a competitive exam, that does not mean you have to do the same without a reasoning on your part. Maybe, if you do your own research, you might be enlightened about the niche fields of work out there. Learn your interests. Feed your talents.
- Take the plunge. Time management will follow. I recently had a conversation with a dear friend who was about to join a workplace after a long time. A lot of worries hounded her as to how she was going to achieve the perfect work-life balance with husband and two kids. I believe, you never know the answers to such questions unless you take the plunge. Because, only when you do, you realize your own holy grail potential of what you can possibly achieve in life. Yet, she had a good reason to fear the beginning as she has responsibilities towards her family. But what are the teens of today fretting about? Food, clothing, shelter and fees are taken care of. All they need to do, is do what they have to. Yet, there is an ingrained fear of failure even before taking the first baby step. Why? What the teens fail to understand is that, when the beginnings happen, things fall into place far more quickly than they could imagine. Which is why, they say – A beginning is a work half done already.
- Seek alone time. As much as it sounds fashionable (you have a gazillion articles asserting on these lines), it is extremely difficult for a student who is still exploring the realms of his adulthood. In my days, the sooner I finished my academics – I would switch to a novel or, a sci-fi movie on TV (should it be there) much to the chagrin of my mother. As for my father, he was cool and had declared that he was happy as long as I passed (considering I was always within the top ten ranks) But these days, the scenario has undergone a makeshift. Phones and tabs have replaced books. So, the pull to virtually socialize is nothing but a desire camouflaging as a desperate need. The selfie mania, the current status of relationship and how one feels is taking away the personal space of a child. The reason I feel that some alone time is important is because, one gets to sit and think about what he or she really wants to be in life. A time when the child is free from the texts of friends or, the nagging of parents/teachers or even, the burden of tuitions is extremely crucial for a smooth thought process. Apparently, a teenager of today would laugh at this ‘alone time’ concept – “Really? You have no idea about our hectic schedules!” But then, a 30 minute time out is in no way going to affect your time table. Or, will it? 😉
- Pray every day for at least 2 mins. Whether or not you believe in God, whether or not you visit holy places, whether or not you question the existence of life, you have to pray. Not that God is going to help you with more marks if you pray, and won’t if you don’t! Prayers are for enhancing the mental shield. They not only augment your concentration levels but also help you listen to your instincts more clearly. And, a person guided by his or her instincts can never go wrong ever!
And If I wanted to describe our education system……wait! I got a pic that explains my angst!
As much as I have begun to detest the education system of today, I know for a fact, that my son – a preschooler is also a part and product of it. Yet, as a parent I would strive hard to not let myself pressurize him unduly in later years only to realize that my son may have different interests altogether and he might be a good photographer or an excellent actor for that matter! (yes, he can make the world around him laugh until tummy hurts!)
Jokes aside, there are many things in life that we take for granted. Student life is one such time when we take almost everyone and everything for a ride. But then, a teenager has to understand that life ahead has a lot of rumble strips. Rather, the road ahead is going to be bumpy at some time or the other. What is needed is, a few minutes of strong courage to achieve a goal in life. That said, your neighbor’s goal of becoming a doctor may not be yours. Or your goal of becoming a fashion designer may not be your best friend’s agenda. It is better to look beyond the known prospects and explore your options far and wide. And I would say – Good luck and Godspeed! 🙂