My Story of Falling, Getting Up and Trying Again
I come from a middle-class family were everything I wanted was provided for, and I was also severely admonished when I did not rise to the standards set by my parents. I used to remember many a times, there was conflict within the family which I severely disliked and slowly began to resent them. When I was 10 years old, I was sent to a boarding school where I stayed until I passed out of higher secondary. This school was never shy of maintaining a strict code of conduct; even if it meant beating the living life out of a student when that “divine code” was not adhered to. I disliked the harsh discipling environment of the school. In fact, I was a victim of the lashings many a times myself. However, going to this boarding school offered some solace from the conflicts at home even though the strict code of conduct turned out to be equally traumatizing.
I soon learnt the ways of obedience to a point of conforming to whatever was expected out of me so that everyone around me would leave me be. In the process, I learnt how to be “that good kid”; while deep inside the real me was struggling to have its place in the world. For the most part, I was a good academic performer from my junior to high school days. I was involved in extra-circular activities and was even appointed as a house prefect for several years. All this helped me to fill a deep void which I still sometimes try to find the reasons for.
When I started college, I finally felt liberated to do whatever I felt was best for me. Being myself, at that time, meant that I should rebel against authority of any sort. I had a strong notion that, I’m finally an adult and nobody can tell me what to do. I soon got into many addictive patterns and unhealthy behaviors to continue filling that void which was created from my childhood days. I was dishonest to my parents and used to have a lot of arguments with them. Even in most of my relationships, I was selfish, impure in thoughts and deeds, and very conditional in offering my love. I was operating internally with a lot of rage and disregard for anyone who did not have the same perspective as me. I tried changing some of my negative patterns of behavior, but I would fail and go back more intensely than before. I somehow kept up my academic performance, yet I seldom cared for what I wanted to do with my life.
During my third year of college, a friend who had attended the LMAD NYC 2012 suggested that I take part in this program the next summer. My initial thought was, “I’ll be travelling to a new place I’ve never been before, and I will be away from my parents for close to 10 days”. I liked this suggestion and I decided to attend the conference in 2013. The quiet times, the activities, Viral bhai’s presentations and his personal anecdotes, and the sharings by the participants penetrated deep into my heart. I began for the first time evaluating my entire life and saw the trajectory I was on and what it meant if I failed to change my ways. The realization was deep. I could for the first time listen clearly to the guiding voice of my inner conscience telling me who I’d like to become.
I made a huge list of things that I wanted to change in myself. At the end of day 7 of the conference, I told myself, “From now on I’ll be a new person who will relentlessly follow the values of Purity, Honesty, Unselfishness and Love”. Well, this golden dream soon got flushed down the toilet on June 8 th night when a group of people whom I made friends with during the conference reached Pune and we decided to party the night away. I was soon back in my old patterns again. The part of me, which resented years of control, authority and being told what is good for me, did not want to change that easily.
Few things however improved in my life after my participation in the LMAD NYC 2013. My relationship with my parents improved and my plan to pursue higher studies in environmental and sustainability engineering in the U.S. was materialized as a result of the activities done during the conference. The journey moving forward was dramatic in many ways and wasn’t easy; there were few mental breakdowns, couple of severe physical ailments, and even an arrest that was followed by a yearlong probation. All these repeated failures happened because I did not to listen to my inner voice but rather let my ego run amok.
Like the Tamil saying, patta thaan puriyum (one will understand only when one suffers the consequences of their actions), I had to go out and get hammered by life based on the choices I made for myself. I then finally came to the realization that I was completely disconnected from who I am or who I wanted to be, and I needed to rediscover myself if I were to continue my tryst with life. I took an indefinite break from my doctorate studies, set all my affairs in order in the U.S. and packed for India in October 2021. I really needed to connect with something that was beyond my selfish reason for existence; that’s when the magic of LMAD happened again.
I went on an impromptu, life changing trip to Rishikesh along with my mother to volunteer at the LMAD regional youth conference in January 2022. This trip was life changing because, I got to reconnect with Viral bhai, quiet time, and the LMAD values through a humbling process, and I got to experience the healing magic of Mother Ganga. Thus began my journey of deconstructing and rebuilding myself to nurture an LMAD seed that took so many years to sprout; now it had to be cared for very carefully and judiciously. Later in June, I volunteered at the LMAD NYC 2022 in Panchgani. It felt like coming a full circle. I still had my struggles with some of my unhealthy patterns and deep inside I hoped it would be different by the end of this conference. I shared about my personal struggles to the larger audience, and where I expected shame and guilt, I was instead welcomed with love and understanding. A sense of belonging and acceptance made me feel more comfortable being in my skin and I did not want to run away from myself. With the support and guidance of dear friends, I decided to complete what I had started – finish my Ph.D. studies and continue my efforts to lead a more disciplined, structured life.
I still have my ups and downs, but I now have a foundation to fall back on to help me move ahead with life again. I’m learning to have better understanding and to be more compassionate towards my failures and faults in life. This wisdom helps me to get back up quickly, dust off and keep walking, and perhaps, one day I will be the person I wish to become.