When you’re at my age, it’s not unusual to go tracing back on your years. A particular point in my life that truly stands out is my time in college. Not for the wonderful memories it brings though, still memorable nonetheless. They weren’t exactly the best years of my life. I’d be very swift to supply an answer to an overused question, “If there’s one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?”
Although those four years signaled a lot of “firsts” (I’ll spare you the details now), it was during that time when I felt so completely lost. For years I fought real hard to flush it out of my memory and pretend the period never transpired.
The manifestations of misery could not be easily dismissed. Only those who really knew me would have taken notice. The true indicator was graduating with less than average grades, as opposed to my commendable high school track record.
Invisible, that’s what I was in college and I guess, what I wanted to be. I can easily count with my fingers the people I considered college friends. It was expected. I made every attempt to spend the least possible time in the university, preferring to eat at home than eating alone in crowded cafeterias. Avoiding busy hallways and areas where the “cool” students hung out. Situating myself at the last row of seats in every class, nearest to the exit.
For quite a time, these recollections haunted me. Why had I spent the supposedly golden years of a student’s life as a loser? And for years, this question I asked myself almost every night, remained unanswered. Eventually, it did dawn on me.
I was going through that early stage of self-discovery and like most people, I got tangled up in the process. All of a sudden, I found myself thrown into this bigger and more complex arena I was so unfamiliar with and totally not ready for. The inner issues, compounded by the culture shock of the transition, sucked every ounce of confidence in me. I didn’t have a clue where to place myself in that microcosm. And so, I conceded to situating myself in the shadows where I felt safe.
Devoid of self-confidence, I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t good enough for anything. I wasn’t cool or rich enough to hang out with the hip and fashionable crowd, didn’t possess enough IQ to hob-knob with the dean’s listers, wasn’t skilled or talented enough to take a slot among the revered varsity pool and arts groups. Yet, on my second year, I struck small success putting into use my writing flair and landing a coveted staff position in the school paper. Even then, my insecurities sank further and obliterated my chances of making it to the editors pool.
Frustration after frustration, I was reduced to this faceless entity who stealthily navigated less-chartered corridors, whose existence was known only by a few. I never imagined how severe it was until I bumped into a batch mate months after graduation at a job interview. He was in utter disbelief when I told him we were in the same batch. And this was a guy who sat a few seats away from me in most of our major subjects.
There’s a lot of truth behind the saying that “you are what you make”. This experience clearly shows that. I consciously decided to make myself invisible, so that’s what I’d become. I settled at being a loser, so that’s how I got treated. The good thing about life is, it doesn’t always have to stay that way. The reigns are still left in your hands. There’s no fairy tale ending coming here, but yes, I succeeded in pulling myself out of that black hole. And I’m totally proud to say it was without the aid of shrinks, SSRI’s, Oprah’s book picks and anonymous support groups. But I wasn’t alone on this one. Most often than not, it takes another set of eyes to help you see who you really are. I was fortunate enough to have met the bearer of such eyes.
I can’t change my past. I can’t bring back those lost years and re-live them. But it’s taught me well. It has painted me a good picture of my real worth. I can now look back at this point in my life without cringing and just move forward.
I’m definitely attending my college batch reunion whenever that is. And I have no intention of bringing the invisibility cloak with me.