*LONG POST AHEAD*
I've been at this for quite a while.
2 years, 6 months and 17 days to be exact.
Till now, I have tasted zero success with the examination. By that, I mean that I have not cleared even the preliminary examination. Before I plunged full time into UPSC CSE preparation, I was earning handsomely at one of the largest conglomerates in India. I was only 22-23 at the time, and by all means, I was on top of the world. To my crude and privileged mind, I had achieved success. The very thing that people strive for all their lives but fail to achieve. I was good at my work, I was respected at the workplace, and in all likelihood, would rise rapidly within the organisation or elsewhere.
Except one thing. I was terribly unhappy. I felt I had sold out on my dream of becoming a civil servant. It felt very much like I had sold my soul to a corporate. I was messed up from within, for months on end. And so, I decided, one fine morning, enough was enough. It was time to reclaim my life. It was time to assume control.
I put in my papers. And boy, was I motivated beyond all measure. This UPSC CSE seemed hard, sure, but for me, it would be a 1-2 year struggle in the worst case scenario. If not, I could just go back to my backup job and mint money instead. That was the thinking.
A year since then, I was faced with the harsh reality that my dreams were so far away, and that I wasn’t nearly as good as I knew I could be. I struggled with failure, lack of discipline, procrastination, lack of motivation, you name it. I started blaming my circumstances; everything around me. The grass definitely seemed greener on the other side.
But none of those things was the singular thing that messed me up the most. Instead, it was the fact that irrespective of what I was doing, be it taking a walk, reading a book, watching a movie, going on a date, speaking on the phone, there was this irritating, annoying, gnawing clock going off in the background. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. All the time. I couldn't sleep, and what was worse, this clock would still be going in the background saying "Well past your bedtime." It came to a point where day in day out, I was absolutely unproductive.
There would be zero study time all through the morning. In the night though, somehow, magically, motivation appeared from nowhere. Hope is the most awful thing one can have for dinner. I used to decide every night that that moment was the one when my life would magically change. I vowed to myself every night that the next day was going to be better. I was so hard on myself, to the point where even I realised it was unhealthy.
Thing is, whenever you achieve something, people always glorify the result. They never glorify the process. They never see the time, the effort, the difficulty, the discipline and the sweat that went behind that reality. What I have come to realise is that for most of us, motivation is bullshit. It’s temporary. Fleeting, in the grand scheme of things. It is purely the habits that you consciously cultivate that can work. With real time and real effort.
The singular habit that I am trying to cultivate right now is to forget all about happiness or pursuing happiness. Instead, I try and pursue joy. Happiness is something that is contingent on the existence of favourable external circumstances, but joy is something that is residual. It comes from within. I'm glad now that I can tell you that I have been following this path for 37 days exactly, and that is what is making me write this post. This exam is definitely worth my time, it is worth my effort and dedication, but definitely not worth my soul. I did not take back my soul to sell it to another. Irrespective of whether I clear this exam or not, and I sure hope I do, that is one lesson I will take with me to the grave. And as long as I live, I'll be sure to keep my feet on the ground.
I think the only apt way that I can end this post is with a motivational quote. And I'll use the one motivational quote that means a damn thing: 'Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.' - Lao Tzu ______________________________________________________________________________________
NB: Some mobile applications that helped me in dealing with my depression were:
1. Heartsapp-> It is an app for heartfulness meditation. By Daaji. Helped me immensely.
Other than this, I've been waking up early, eating right, working out, and just doing the things that every child knows you should do in life. And yes, it has gotten a lot lot better.