Wow. What a year it's been since I last sat down on my 21st birthday to write something like this. When I look back at the incredibly fast-paced year that went by, I'm humbled by the sheer number of things that happened.
Here's a quick rundown of some things that happened:
October 2021: Finished my summer internship at Canonic and began the final year of college. Presented my work and my experiments, and everyone got really excited. This was when work started to really take off for me.
November 2021: Stressed out about placements, did a lot more experiments, wrote a research paper, thought a LOT about my graduation project and applied for the Xperimenters programme at Science Gallery Bengaluru. Got mentored by the wonderful Anurag Dasgupta and made a film on climbing. Learnt to appreciate films.
December 2021: Felt the most isolated I ever had in college and understood that I needed to get out. Received validation for my work from all the places in the world but not a single job offer. Thanks, COVID. Made it through as one of the 4 Xperimenters at the SGB. Realised that to chase my dream, I'd have to leave behind everyone that I'd grown to love in Delhi. Cried a little, cried a lot.
January 2022: Said my final goodbyes, packed up sweet little pink house and moved to Bangalore. COVID struck the moment I landed. Felt bummed but decided to operate from a "positive mindset". Began the Xperimenters programme and instantly realised that I'd have to do twice the work as anyone else to ensure that I don't fail. Realised that the placements division in college doesn't care about my interests and decided to apply for jobs on my own. Got inspired by Anurag and decided to start the one-video-a-month project. Inspired Alina to do the same too.
February 2022 (video here): Worked like a mad child, began climbing a bit and started going to the NCBS campus for work. Missed Alina, my friends and mum terribly. Made new friends in Bangalore to compensate. Began talking to TinkerLabs and accepted the offer to work there.
March 2022 (video here): Had the coolest experiences as part of the Xperimenters programme. Worked my ass off. Realised my project is overambitious and got cautioned in college. Everyone expected this to be the failed one. Decided to prove everyone wrong. Did not sleep for weeks, drank an unhealthy amount of Redbull to keep my eyes open and programmed an entire web game from scratch. Game stopped working, lost all hope but did not want to lose. Figured it out. Got overwhelmed. Cried. Slept.
April 2022 (video here): Couldn't feel happy anymore. Felt alone. Struggled to get out of bed. Missed everyone. Realised I made the sacrifice for a reason. Poured myself into the final stages of the project. Won a prestigious hackathon. Made some money. Finished my project. Wept, with happiness.
May 2022 (video here): Finished writing my thesis. Decided to take a break. Went to Auroville, fulfilled a four-year-long promise. Went to Delhi to present my work. Realised I'd cracked it. Felt proud, felt relieved, felt complete. It was a full-circle experience. Reflected on my four-years in college. Spent time with the people I loved and cherished every moment of it. Struggled to say some goodbyes.
June 2022 (video here): Got back to life. Hung out with the summer school kids, found people like I'd never found before. Had interesting conversations, forged strong relationships. Went to Delhi for my graduation project, received an award. Dealt with some sort of imposter syndrome. Got the opportunity to teach postgraduate students with my mentor.
July 2022 (video here): Closed the Xperimenters programme, said some tough goodbyes in Bangalore and moved to Mumbai to begin work at TinkerLabs. House-hunted, in the rain. Rain sucks. Began teaching. Started living with someone else, other than myself. Adjusted. Liked it.
August 2022 (video here): Struggled to fit in. Began a weekly newsletter. Hated Bombay, liked home. Missed Bangalore. Started to play badminton. Got my first salary. Got financially independent. Went to Devlali, thought about everything that happened there, cried, felt proud. At peace.
September 2022 (video here): Found ways to fit in. Went to Bihar, worked on a public health system project. Did some good work. Explored the city. Began experimenting consistently again. Got good with badminton. Ali left, back to living alone again.
October 2022: Started living alone again, but this time loved every moment of it. Worked out of a schedule, strived to strike a balance. Started running again, loved running again. Found my cheat codes to cook meals and started sleeping on time. Grew up, adulted.
This year was truly an 'adult' year. There were a lot more things to worry about, more 'serious' conversations to be had, more 'practical' things to be figured out and some tough truths to face.
A good thing that happened this year was that I understood that I wasn't just an average, run-of-the-mill individual. I was something too. Through all of my experiences and the hard work that I put in the past year, I started to be respected, admired and taken seriously. It really fuelled my fire and gave me the confidence that I needed to dream higher. I still fear rejection big-time but now possess the strength to let chance play its game.
If it isn't meant to be at a particular time, it isn't meant to be at that particular time. Why fret? The world is full of possibilities and some are bound to be yours. All you need to do is not be stuck to one, but keep chasing the infinite others.
I don't think I have much to say this year. Life goes on, and so do the struggles. Today, there are some; tomorrow there'll be others. This year has really brought a lot of calm to the chaos, if you will, and I wonder if that's just a common experience when you grow up. Life before 22 was pure anguish and, now, everything seems surmountable. Maybe I'm better equipped now, both by myself and because of other people around me.
Speaking of other people, this year has really given me some wonderful people. Friends, family, mentors, co-workers, acquaintances ... everyone. I've grown incredibly close to some of them. Having these meaningful relationships, that are context-agnostic, is an incredibly empowering feeling. At the end of the day, when everything else has gone to shit, but you know that you're connected to all of these wonderful people and that you get to discover & experience life with them ... man, that's something. The rest is just hokum.
We're all moving within the same labyrinth and, often, we like to do it alone. But why should we, when we have the chance to do it with other people?
As for work, I think I really took to what I originally wrote in my Turning 21 blog post, "I want to consistently experiment and thrive in the act of making". In a span of 1 year, I've shelled out 80+ experiments, 4 long-term projects, co-crafted 8 postgraduate classes, and read & written more words than I can count.
What an incredibly massive year. Just the sheer numbers of it took me back by surprise. What a relief, this wild college ride of discovery & 'figuring out' is finally over. I now have another direction, but this one I can pace on my own terms.
I don't think I have any work-related objective for the next year except to just do what I'm doing and let it take me somewhere, rather than me trying to take it. Let's see where it goes.
I thought of ending this with an exhaustive list of "Things that I'd like to do before I turn 23". No. Not this time. Screw lists.
I'm 22 today. All I wish for the next year is to be happy and to hold on to all the lovely people I met in the past year.