Marching Season

I’ve often wondered why some people are more susceptible to melancholy. Melancholy that is the bane of brooding over things that happened in the past, and things over which one has no control. Heck, the vast chunk of humanity seems to have a mysterious affinity for it. I’ve always thought of them as weak people, those unfortunate souls that have got trapped in a vicious cycle of self-pity and self-hatred ness. But never in the foggiest of my dreams did I expect that I’d ever go through such a phase. No one can ever be fully immune from certain things in life, or so it seems.

As I tried to stand back and try to observe myself from the point of view of an objective observer, I found certain startling things that otherwise I would have scarcely imagined. I discovered that I was attaching far too much importance to what to other people thought of me. Not once did I realize that it is really not good to allow your state of mind to be controlled and affected by what others think of you. Second, I had made, rather unwittingly, a certain pool of friends as the centre of my life. Friends are important, and there can be no doubt that they are to be cherished. But to make them the central focal point of everything is wrong. I have found that it makes one very vulnerable, much like the clueless puppet which obeys the person who holds its strings. Friends that understand you for what you are, and respect your views and stand up for you when you need it the most are those that are few and far-fetched. Those are the ones whose pats and brickbats can both be taken in the same vein.

Charlie Munger, in his address to this year’s USC graduating law class, made some observations that resonated very well with me. According to him, there is no such love which can be greater than admiration-based love. Munger said that self-pity is the worst thing that can ever happen to anyone. And he’s too right. To dwell endlessly and to constantly ponder over what we think is our apparent victimization is a self-defeating mode to be in. There can be no help to the one who chooses to diminish his self-worth. One of the strongest virtues that anyone can have is to simply like yourself – to understand that everyone is born unique, and that the qualities and attributes that you define who you are is really the best part of you. All men and women are created equal. That is a much hackneyed phrase. But very true nonetheless.

The choice is therefore clear. As Stephen Covey says, reactive people are those who get influenced by what others think of them. They feel happy when somebody is nice to them, and feel down if the weather is bad. Proactive people, on the other hand, are those whose strength is derived from basic, enduring values. They are value-based. Their sense of self-worth stems from the values that stand for, and they are value-centric. Value centric, as opposed to being friends-centric or people-centric. I think I completely agree with Covey. The time has come for me to put myself first before many other things in life – the time to understand that it is only our values that will last forever and not other people.

Over the past few months, I have met with some truly admirable people. Ganesh Ram Natarajan, the dynamic and humble lad whose insights about people and life are something quite remarkable. Krish, the stalwart icon of toughness, who has become my mentor now. I am extremely thankful to him; he’s ready with his advice when I need it the most. Jayashree Venkatesh, the girl whose relentless focus on self-improvement is almost infectious.

What a paradigm shift I’ve undergone through the last couple of weeks. It startles me that I had so many drawbacks and still I never realized that I had them. Things are very different now, and things will take a turn for the better now. I can vouch for it. The time of crawling with the needless baggage of melancholy is over. The time is to march ahead full gusto is here. The beacon should burn brightly and the phoenix must rise. For that is what they are meant to be.

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