Dropping out of my master’s course at the University one day, I started my work-life at the age of 19. Today I am 55. From where I am, as I look back at the intervening 36 years, the one thing that jumps out at me is change. Everything around has changed almost beyond recognition. The world has changed, economies have changed, frontiers of humanities, science and technology have changed and social mores have evolved at a progressively accelerated pace. From what I am able to discern is this: the future that you will live in, change will be your constant companion. The speed of that change will only accelerate. Given that reality, I believe that today you are in the same situation as I was when I was 19. Like me, you have no clue where you would be when you are my age. In that context, I have mixed advice for you: you must plan for the future but at the same time, not really plan too much ahead. Let me deal with the second part first.
For that, first you must come with me someplace.
Once I went to see the source of the river Kaveri. I thought it would be a spectacular sight. It turned out to be very different. I stood there, looking at just a glorified well. The river bore no visual promise of her downstream depth, her ethereal beauty, the benefits and the bounties she gave away and certainly, at the source, she bore no resemblance to what she looks like at her confluence.
Your life today is like what a river looks like at the source. So, flow on.
Collect the rainwater washed over land, sometimes in trickles. Receive the droplets from clouds above and collect them even as they may come as mere droplets. Welcome the tributaries that come from nowhere, their own source and journey unknown to you. Budget for the occasional hard fall; roar at the hard rock below; create your workaround when a mountain suddenly stands in your path. Along the way, like the river, bring great benefits to life. Do so with joy and abandon, limit your fury and know that all journeys must finally merge with the vastness of the ocean. So, do not over process the question, “What will I be? What will I be?” The river has control only over the next step and knows it must end where it finds the ocean. Trust life.
Now let us talk about the first part of our conversation and that is about planning ahead! What should you then plan for? You must plan for tomorrow and more importantly, execute on it flawlessly but do not get fixated on the day after and the day next. Choose your tomorrow’s goals in settling for what you want to study, what job you may want to pick up. Go with what seems like a reasonable, logical and at the same time, intuitive choice. If your circumstances allow you to make choices, count your blessings and return that favour to life.
But some of you will simply not have a choice.
You would be required to accept what may come your way.
You wanted to study computer science but ended up with commerce?
You wanted to study in a big city but have to stay on in your small hometown?
You wanted to go overseas and take up research but now must stay back; take up a not-so-glamorous job to look after an ailing parent?
Whatever it may be, think of it this way: Kaveri did not have a choice where to start. Not in the Swiss Alps, not in the Himalayas, she was simply asked to spurt in the Nilgiris. She accepted that fact and from that point on, she took one, then two and then the third decisive step. She simply flowed on. As you think of her, do pause to listen to the many tall trees growing by her banks.
They are whispering to you, “Grow. Grow where you are planted.”