One of the most bandied virtues is that of stepping into another person’s shoes. The corollary to this lemma which never finds a mention is how difficult it is to step into another human’s shoes. To even imagine a subset of someone’s circumstances, let alone simulating their affective states, is by no means an easy proposition. This becomes vastly more herculean if it involves another human you’ve never met or know very little about. Whatever one’s sensitivity index might be, we are built as humans not to develop a deep understanding of someone’s plight until the context begins to move in a personal direction. It is easy to superficially feel a level of empathy towards an acquaintance or the nightly news, until a time when a similar vicissitude hits us personally.
Rowling famously said that it is impossible to go through life without dealing with some hard knocks placed in your way – that life is difficult and complicated, and beyond any mortal’s total control, and that being humble enough to accept this reality is an absolute necessity. The past couple of months have probably been the most difficult in the twenty seven years of my existence. There comes a time when one is faced with a problem of choosing one of two paths. That problem would turn into a nightmarish state of paralysis if both those paths are as good as they are different. It is easy to say that one should always go with a gut feeling, and that choosing one of two great options isn’t really a problem. But the reality for me has turned out to be very different.
It is hard to explain what it feels like to probe the deepest, inner-most recesses of one’s thoughts to find a sense of direction when you are faced a huge decision and one has to choose. The hours of rumination, keeping your loved ones in the calculus at every split in the decision tree, and the risk of veering off an endless array of what-if scenarios can be tough. It was nearly devastating to me. At many a time in the past couple of months it felt like moving in circles, a concentric spiral that never seemed to end. Tears seemed to flow thick and fast onto my laps with a disturbing frequency, and it felt many a time felt like being a cast-away on an island with overcast skies. My heart ached in ways it never had before, unable to make sense of a great many set of things, and it is the prospect of a broken heart that seemed to push me into what increasingly looked like an existential crisis.
I am very fiercely proud and lucky to have the best parents and sister of any mortal on this planet. And then there are my friends, without whom I’d never know where or what I’d be. I’m more convinced than ever that one’s life is not their list of degrees or jobs. The only people that will come to your aid during your darkest hours are your family and your friends. The friends with whom I sat with during the commence ceremonies at Carnegie Mellon and at MIT, and the ones I made during my stay in New York are in every way imaginable the best human beings anyone could ever hope to find. I met and developed a deep admiration for the people I worked with at in Seattle. Not only were these the brightest minds in their fields, they were extraordinary human beings that did so much for me even as who I actually was supposed to be for them – a colleague for a dozen months. A friend, and not just a colleague. I think in pictures and can vividly see faces when I think of a person. And there is something viscerally touching when I think of my family and my friends.
I’m about to embark on a deeply inspiring journey, setting in motion what promises to help save lives and help those experiencing the rough side of life. I am happy with the decision I eventually made, and have emerged from my ordeal stronger than I have ever been, secure with the backing of those that love me and inspired by a calling that is extraordinarily powerful.
Changing the world is the North Star and only great and magical things will be littered along the way.