A couple of weeks back, I finally managed to write a paper to completion and submitted it for a technical conference. But until then, for about three years, I struggled to get to this point. Not due to lack of talent. Not due to lack of ambition. Things just didn’t go right for me.
And I continued to assume that I was a failure. So what is failure?
I guess failure is to fall short of a universally set standard for happiness. The ideal of a perfect life. Having the right kind of money, a loving family, nurturing relationships, a good environment for living, basic necessities, good health, prosperity that grows proportionally with effort and respect in society. Failure, for many, is the inability to achieve all… or any of this.
For me, it was the inability to achieve a set of seemingly unrealistic ambitions for myself. I think as humans, we’re trained to be competitive, grab the best kind of resources for ourselves, because there is a clear lack of those. The idea of a perfect life etched out for us by our forefathers (and foremothers) mimics Darwinian principals of the survival of the fittest.
The fact is, there is an inequitable distribution of resources among people in the world, in general; in order to get to the Utopian state of unprejudiced equilibrium, one would require years in terms of time and effort. Steady state would come, after infinite time passes. But that’s the glitch in the whole grand theory of a perfect life, right?
While we, as humans, fight for finite resources, we ourselves have finite resources at our disposal and finite time to use them. So not only do we need to acquire the resources at deficit, we have few chances to attain them. And the crux of the problem is, given a bad initial point, even if it exists, one would probably take a very long time to reach the optimum. Quicker methods are high risk. In simple words, life is unfair. Unfairly depriving to some. Unfairly rewarding to others. So is mankind destined for failure?
The flaw in my analysis so far, is, a simple definition, or lack thereof. I have a clear metric for failure. What is the metric for success? Adhering to norms is not success. But deviating from them, is failure.
We often give such skewed importance to different facets of life that it throws us off balance, when those “important” things/resources go missing. For most of us, this could be either our career, or a close person, or an object of desire. Human beings are in general, goal oriented. Every life needs a purpose. That’s what everyone tells us, and to most, that purpose becomes attaining the attributes of a perfect life.
I think we should all work towards restoring equilibrium for everyone, not just ourselves; as a race, we are far better equipped to solve crisis in groups. Communication, is key. Crying or asking for help, should not be looked down on; it’s not a sign of weakness in character. It’s the sign that one has recognized the onset of danger and is trying to pull in resources from all around, to help combat the situation better.
Individualism is assumed to be a heroic trait, but quite honestly, it’s over-rated. The fact is, I felt helpless, agitated, annoyed, and disappointed, because I refused to take help from anyone. And while I’m quite proud that I overcame everything on my own, and don’t “need anyone else” to persevere, it might have served me far better if I had interacted with more people. Shared more. Observed and learned more, rather than isolating myself.
I think, my biggest mistake was that, it was I alone, that made myself feel like a failure. A lot of it was inside my head. I had internalized a lot of what I had thought was the society’s perception of me.
We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. We’re part of an ecosystem that needs to thrive based on harmony. Just thinking about one’s own self would not lead to that. So on that note, I really want to take more time out to share my thoughts with more people. To touch as many lives as possible. If there’s one thing that no one ever educates us about, it is emotional well-being. And I think as a first step, we need to start educating ourselves on that. And maybe then, along the way somewhere, I’ll understand what success actually means.