I know. It has been a while. “Sabr ka phal meetha hota hai ?” (Yeah, I am kidding, this post is going to be a bit ‘Real’ and ‘Long AF’, so consider yourself warned).
But in all seriousness, Its been a while since the last post and no, I have not forgotten what I said in my first 2 posts. I plan to stick with this blog thing for a while. It’s just that 2019 has been quite a year. An eventful year and quite unforgettable for a lot of reasons.
2019 was the year I finally started my own company. It was a childhood dream come true. Being the first to do something has a lot of merit to it but it also comes with a lot of ‘obstacles’ (Because I can’t find a better word at the moment).
And NO, I am NOT the first person in the world to start a company of my own. That’s a stupid claim. But I am the first in my family to start one. I am also probably one of the very few IT startups in my little city. These affected my start a little more than anticipated. I had to figure out everything for myself. I did try reaching out for help, but not being in on the current startup founders pack meant that I did not know the right people to approach. The ones I did, didn’t help much at all. (Damn the introvert in me for not meeting the right people and shaking their hands back in college). I have detailed what I learned about the registration and paperwork part in an earlier blog post tagged ‘#SD1‘.
In short, there are a lot of things to consider before jumping out to build an empire. I will be writing a post soon in the ‘Startup Diaries’ series to help aspiring founders know what to expect in the first year of their endeavor and what mistakes were made by me so that they can do it better.
On to the next 2019 adventure…
You know the feeling you get when you feel like you are stuck and everyone around you is moving forward in their lives and careers? Yeah, I had a bad bout of that too.
And it drove me into a dark void. Every one of my friends was employed in big-name companies, earning a regular income, going abroad for higher studies/jobs, getting married……and here I was, at home, trying to make something. No regular income job. No relationship. Stuck debugging an error to move forward to coding the next feature.
In some ways, it seemed like I had stopped halfway in a race I was actually winning and now everyone had overtaken me and left me behind. Even lead me to think ‘why bother’. I didn’t talk to anyone other than my colleagues and family. I had all these things I wanted to tell someone but I didn’t know what I to say, where to begin, or who even would have the time or concern to listen to me. I wanted to write it all out here but being in the dark place that I was, I didn’t want anyone to think I was having a breakdown.
And guess what? It’s exactly what happened.
I was stuck.
I didn’t know what to do or why I was doing the things I was doing. I forgot why I began everything in the first place. I stopped wanting to have more. I began thinking my childhood dreams are unattainable. I began to settle. I began thinking of things no one should ever have to. I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t be happy anymore.
It was in between all this that I began talking to an old friend of mine. Can’t say it helped. Pushed me deeper into the dark if anything. Not because we talked but because we didn’t. Even though we were talking, I steered away from talking about my situation and with all the things going on in my mind, I stopped being a good listener and took things for granted. And as you might have already guessed, I almost lost a friend.
Depression is one of the complimentary gifts you receive depending on the circumstances in which you decided to choose entrepreneurship as your calling. Its a state of confusion and unhappiness and anger and sorrow and you can’t for the life of you, figure out why you feel the way you feel.
About the same time as this was all happening, I cleared a test and got an opportunity to attend an interview in one of my dream companies. The best among the FAANG. And I was really excited. I thought it would be the best opportunity of my life. I could work, have an income to support my startup and move forward with a lot less stress. I had never been turned away by any company I have interviewed with. In every interview, I was always confident that I fit in. But this time, I wasn’t sure of it anymore. I didn’t even know who am to know where I fit in. I lost my chance there. I did something I have never done in my entire life. I fumbled. I lost the only thing I had ever wanted.
And the worst part is, I didn’t even feel sad about it. I felt…indifferent (Looking back, I think I was feeling down and sad all the time and that single event didn’t stand out amongst the regular constant grief). I remember wanting to write a blog post about the entire experience of the test and interview and their offices but couldn’t get myself in the zone to write….about anything actually. Nothing caught my fancy anymore. Nothing made me happy.
Things weren’t going right for a while after that. Prospective customers for the app backed out stating reasons like ‘recession in the Indian Economy’ and ‘GST’ perils.
It was around this time that I started spending more time on social media (specifically, Instagram) and let me tell you….there is nothing worse in this world than that place. It pushes your subconscious into a state of jealousy and envy that you can’t help but feel bad about your life and you start focussing on all the worse things in your life. It took me a while to understand that half my problem could be solved by simply reducing my time on Instagram, unfollowing some incognito influencers and following a hell of a lot of meme pages to drown out product-pushing pages.
As my luck (another word for mother’s prayers) would have it, I found myself calling a few old friends whom I had moved away from and a few new friends I had met while pursuing my passion for books and reading. I started to be more open about where I was mentally and speak out the bad things that I believe were drowning the good thoughts in my head. And let me tell you something very important: Speaking out about what is bothering you will help you understand how silly the thing that’s bothering you is and how you can start tackling it.
This helped me get back a little bit of confidence to approach more people.
When you are depressed, you don’t exactly know why you feel the way you feel. You don’t know how or why or when you ended you the way you are. You might have a small idea of how things have changed from before and maybe even an idea of when things might have started going bad. But you never have a clear idea of what is the core reason for everything. It takes a lot of self-reflection and conversation to find it. You need to open up and ask for help. You need to reach out.
Me, being an introvert, didn’t talk to many people, nor did I have a lot of friends. And the few I had were all busy with their lives and I didn’t want to burden them with my grief. But my thinking wasn’t right. In fact, it was the opposite and I couldn’t be more wrong.
The human conscience is programmed to be empathetic and sympathetic by nature. I found out that people are always happy to lend an ear. It’s just a matter of finding the ‘good listener’. One that listens patiently, does not butt in, won’t force their opinions on you, is non-judgemental, empathetic and will not jump into conclusions themselves but help you figure out the conclusion yourself. Talking to the right person will help you vent. It will bring out things you are harboring deep within but didn’t know off.
I was lucky enough to find one in a relatively new friend of mine. Those interactions helped me figure out and be at peace with a lot of things that were bothering me deeply that I did not even realize.
Self-reflection, contemplation, social interaction, and acceptance are crucial in the journey back to fullness.
In my quest to self-destruction, I had forgotten about all the good things in life; all the things that I had, all the things that I had earned and all the blessings that were bestowed on me. Realizing that my life isn’t my own and that I have something to give to society (even if I might not know yet as to what it might be) helps to move forward.
I was always thinking of how I and my life looked like to the outsider but I forgot that it doesn’t matter what they think (in fact, no one actually cares. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter). I forgot that I know me better than they know me. That it’s my life and not theirs to live.
I had forgotten all that I had accomplished. My achievements, friends, colleagues, family, knowledge, experiences….and whatnot. I began to focus just on the bad. And it made all the difference. I began experiencing everything from imposter syndrome to existential crisis when all I had to actually do was open my eyes to what I have, who I had, and where I was.
Around the end of 2019, I finally had the fortune of being with my whole family after almost 2 years and it was…liberating. Not being alone for a while was just, magical.
Religion also played a huge role in my return. As a Christian, confession, and communion was a major change agent as well. It helped me to remember my roots. And the dialogues I had with God in the church were profoundly satisfying.
Keeping yourself busy helps to not spend time thinking of the bad and in turn, gives you no time for self-pity.
Some great folks like Jordan Peterson and Mark Hart have very helpful stuff to say about self-realization and living life (check them out on YouTube when you have time). Routine is something that I had lost in the way. I decided to work on that too. I started with the simple chore of making the bed first thing in the morning. Someone told me it gives a sense of accomplishment in the morning. And guess what? It kinda really does.
I have started to learn to prioritize things and focus my energy on things that actually matter.
Well, so what I meant to say (through this lengthier-than-anticipated post) is that…It was an extremely tough journey back and I am still moving forward. These are just some things that helped me and maybe it will help someone else someday. I am not an expert in any of this. I am just writing an excerpt from my experience. I would love any input you guys may have regarding the topic. Feel free to comment down below. Also, I appreciate the few people who were an ear to my rants. You guys Rock!
Today, I am the founder of an IT startup based in India. I have a great team of people with me. We dream of excelling at what we do and we are dredging along every day. All in the hopes of it being a great tool for the next generation of enterprises. Realizing who I am, what I have and where I am helped me find what I need to do next and that I am not nothing. I will fight my demons head-on and move forward.
And tomorrow, well, no one knows what tomorrow holds but I hope it’s better than yesterday and I am ready to make it better than today.
2020, here I come.
PS: I spent days wondering whether to publish this post or not and even asking myself why I didn’t start the blog anonymously. Even contemplated putting it on quora but no. This is my blog. This is my post. This is where this post belongs.