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A Story of Courage, Persistence and Patience.

How many hours does your day have? 24? Mine on an average would have 22 hrs. Today as I was writing this it was only 19 hrs. I would lose these hours to a mysterious little beast called “overwhelming emotions”. I would often experience these heavy emotions which would shut me down.

Talking and  being around people were two triggers that would push me into this state. I have consciously tried to address those things in the last two years. What it meant to face these emotions was that I never tried anything new or did any extra curricular activities in college. The chain reaction effect of this was that a lot of human skills that we develop by just interacting with the world and living life did not develop. This started a vicious cycle. Due to less skills my self esteem became low and whenever I would be in an environment where others are doing things I am not able to I would feel overwhelmed. I would not participate in these things and consequently slow self development and low self esteem became a double whammy that would trigger overwhelming emotions. It has been a constant battle. It has been tiring.

They say you learn swimming by jumping into water. But what happens when you jump into cold arctic water when there are winds blowing above 25 km/ hrs with sharks in it? Let’s find out.

I jumped into the stormy water by joining Enterprise India Fellowship – a one year program to develop entrepreneurial thinking by working on live projects. First day of the first project, a team of 4 had to research and find some ideas for a social media campaign for an online event. The meeting was at 7am in the morning. Well past 7pm I was still feeling overwhelmed.

As a part of the Fellowship one has to work on client projects in teams of three. There would be a scrum call everyday to give updates. I would feel hesitant to give an opinion. There would be a client meeting every week where we had to present everything that we have done so. I would drown in anxiety before these meetings. Then there would be interactive business sessions twice every week. To speak up I would feel tense. Even after the end of sessions I would be left with a feeling of disappointment. Then there would be one-on-one coaching sessions, lots of networking events and interactions with entrepreneurs and so on. A lot of this would essentially involve interacting and being around people. This would mean I am anxious before the activity and left feeling overwhelmed 3-4 hours after the activity is over. That is what I meant when I said I would lose hours from a day. Everyday was a struggle.

While one is learning to swim, at least once there is a moment of suffocation, where he/she feels I am drowning, I am going to die. The fellowship had a 6-monthly get–together called JAMBORE  for which everyone who were a part of it would come to Pune for 3 days. The lockdown was just easing out and probably my first few interactions physically with the outside world. Being around so many new people was very difficult. During the three days I kept thinking about the prisoners in a concentration camp. 

The Fellowship was designed to enable one to stretch their limits and was a pretty challenging one. For someone like me who had his own internal struggles it was even tougher. During that phase I would often wonder, why do I have to keep challenging myself, why can’t I just settle and stick to doing things I am good at. Often as a part of the fellowship we would interact with entrepreneurs and the idea of an entrepreneur’s life being tough would get repeated. I would wonder why anyone would want to face these emotions that I am facing so regularly. I don’t ever want to be an entrepreneur. I want his fellowship to end soon, I am drawing a boundary, this is the last challenging thing that I am doing. 

But obviously when you do so many things out of your comfort zone so rapidly, growth also happens rapidly. While working on my second client project I could see my confidence being higher. I was taking more responsibility. I could see something changing within me. My ability to think on my feet was also improving. All this while I was taking part in a week long reflective blog writing event called as conflexion. In each conflexion I would try to address what kind of emotions I faced. Thinking about it for one week and writing a blog on it really helped. After each conflexion I could see a tangible difference, on lesser occasions I would feel overwhelmed. On my sister’s wedding day I gave the wedding toast speech. All my relatives were blown away. No one expected that. That was one great measurable moment of growth. 

Motivated with all this I became a part of another fellowship program at a place called Mahratta Chamber of Commerce. Another very unstructured program where I had to wear multiple hats. This was my first experience of working in an office. This helped me hone my soft skills. In the virtual world you had the comfort of your home where you could take a break when the emotions became heavy, that was not possible in an office setup. This also involved moving to a different city, new roommates and a new canvas on which I can start drawing my life again. There are moments where life changes in a flip. This phase was that suddenly a lot of  things that would trigger a rough emotional reaction stopped happening. Then there came the 2nd Jamboree and then the third one. They were relatively becoming easier. They become the graph of my progress. 

I take pride in saying that I would put myself constantly in difficult situations. I would know doing these things will cause chaos in my mind but still would do it. It was like a  punch in the face, you would know exactly when the punch is coming. Even after the first Jamboree I went for the second and the third one. Knowing that I am not good at networking events I would make a specific point to attend all the virtual and physical networking events. Growth is a core value for me. I can face any amount of discomfort to keep improving myself. Now I get excited when an opportunity to work on a weakness arises. The last two years have been a downhill journey, life has only become easier and easier. I was able to break many theories and beliefs about me. It was a constant struggle of 2 long years as if dragging a weight along with me. To show up everyday, it required a lot of courage. It was often a one step forward, two step backwards kind of journey, it required a lot of consistent effort in the face of failure. I had to be very hopeful and patient for the last two years. This was a story of courage, persistence and patience!!!


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