Life Lessons

When life never stops teaching.

Athira T J
7 min readAug 14, 2021

As I grew up, I chose to be alone most of the time. That was literally my comfort zone. But then everyone criticized me for acting mature, staying quiet, and engaging less. I thought I was a pure example of what Malayalis call ‘ജാഡ’ and there was nothing to do with it.

“I’m little, but I’m old.” — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Woman Standing at Woods Holding Green Plant
Photo by Lucas Allmann from Pexels

I spent many years asking myself why I was so different. But now, when I stop years later and look back, I can notice many dramatic changes that have taken place. Most personal changes occurred as a long, gradual evolution where I was hardly aware of it as it was happening. Here are some of the lessons from my life:

Lesson 1: Imitation

Being a child, I was super busy learning to think based on other people’s opinions. Who? All those adults around me, my teachers, parents, even strangers. I used to give away my preferences to fit in the group and to make sure I didn’t bother anyone. This earned me some temporary friends and appreciation.

Being in a convent school, life was strictly focused on education and building a strong foundation for life. I was smart, and active just because I had to. I was taught to embrace challenges. I simply opted for responsibilities and tried to fulfill them.

There was no time to think. I was into everything around me. My only aim was to win all those competitions, get those top grades and be the best student. After all that hard work, I just became a self-regulated student, who waited eagerly for better opportunities to pass by.

Some things I learned:

  • We can’t force friendships. No one can be forced to like another person or even a group of people. Any attempt at this type of coercion will likely produce the opposite result.
  • We don’t need external validation. We have all the internal resources required to have an incredible, amazing life, and we don’t need to look to someone else to tell us who we can or cannot be.

Lesson 2: Education

Secondary schooling made me realize that there was no more anyone to guide. Even parents were unavailable. But then I neglected all of my silly emotions, as I thought they were inappropriate.

I was studious, and probably the best in my class. Of course I slipped out in between, but was soon back on track. My parents and teachers were quite happy with my academic performance. I started dreaming big. I wanted to treat my father’s illness and also those poor people in Africa. So, I desired to become a doctor.

I prepared for the medical entrance exam for more than two years, but still couldn’t make up a Govt. medical seat. I was left out of options. I lost all my confidence and was drawn into depression and self-doubt. I even had some suicidal thoughts. But somehow I made it through. With all that guilt of wasting years, I was compelled to take up Engineering.

Some things I learned:

  • Time is our most valuable asset. Time is the only thing in life that we can never get back once it’s gone. We want it back after it’s gone, but ignore it when it’s here. We don’t properly value it.
  • We don’t have to accomplish all our goals. Life doesn’t actually work in a well-planned way all the time. The value in any effort almost always comes from the process of failing and trying, not from achieving.
  • Love being in love. We’re either afraid of being in love or we’re too cynical about the chances of our relationship lasting. Whether we’re in love or not, celebrate it, and don’t reject it.

Lesson 3: Self-Discovery

Everything seemed pretty new to me at college. It was a drastic change from the life I had before. It took me a bit more time to adjust to that culture. The only initiative I took in my first year was that of leading as Editor of CS Dept. magazine in a competition. Even though we lost, I got some good friends after a so long time.

I tried hard, but I couldn’t all of a sudden change myself. I stood very quiet, indifferent, and wanted to be alone most of the time. During the third semester, friends who actually knew me left, getting a college transfer. I found myself lonely and stuck, a situation in which I thought I’d never end up. As in,

“ഞാൻ ഒരു പാവം ആയതുകൊണ്ട്, എന്നെ ആർക്കും വേണ്ട. ”

My hostel life was also terrible for the same reason. Being left out in a group of familiar faces was the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced until then.

The only thing that kept me moving was the regrets I already had. I couldn’t add more to that list. So, I became more conscious about my future in this extroverted society. It was at that point when I took the initiative to get exposure. Many little things happened after that.

2019 was a year of learning and growth. As a tiny step, I was chosen as the class representative, took charge of FOSS Cell, joined different communities, pushed myself to some inter-college events, took part in few social gatherings, etc. Even though I had no close friends to chill out with, I went on a trip to Goa with my classmates (the first-ever class tour in my entire life). And you know what, everything ended up quite better than my expectation.

“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”

― Jason Cain

I was proud of my personality, for the very first time in my life. I wanted to keep up that mindset. But Chickenpox issues in college and then later lockdown didn’t leave me many options for the year 2020.

Some things I learned:

  • The past only matters in how we redeem it. It doesn’t define us, imprison us or hold us back from anything. Learn to move on and change the circumstances, and life will be more hopeful.
  • Everything lies in self-perception. If we want to be great in this life, we have to model that greatness in our thinking. Only then will we be in the right mindset to enact changes.

Lesson 4: Lockdown

Now things were totally different. Lockdown came up with a lot of opportunities to be silently involved in activities without any direct interaction. Fewer people, less drama. It felt wonderful.

I who always hated social media show-offs started enjoying them. I showed my presence in every platform I discovered. But once again, human interactions became really hard, as setting boundaries online was pretty easy. I felt so dumb when people reached out to me asking something.

I started losing the kind of improvement I saw in myself. So, I stood focused on career exploration, skill development, and placement preparations. I didn't even take a chance to think about anything or anyone else. Yeah, I was a bit selfish.

It was at that time I was introduced to TinkerHub’s Intern team. And that was an opportunity. Now it came that I had to get involved and interact with many new people as part of work, which aided me to tackle some social skills. Soon, I was pretending super busy doing things online. Projects, classes, community works, social media, etc.

To an extent, I succeeded in pretending like I’m involved in many things, which was followed by getting placed at TCS, mentoring, and that TH learning story. Altogether, I felt a bit of saturation in life. I was repeating things like I was at the peak of what I could do.

Some things I learned:

  • Learning has no end. Learning does not necessarily mean rote learning or any academic persuasion, but a piece of practical information that we gain through that experience.
  • Social media is not a one-man showcase of our life. The less we go to social media to validate and prove ourselves, the better the space becomes for everyone on it.

Lesson 5: New Adventures

After a long gap, I was back again, completely lost in thoughts. I thought about the actual me, my likes, my dreams, regrets, family, and friends. College life was ending and there were some family issues too. This brought in other mental health issues like anxiety, overthinking, and confusion about the future. I had to get out of this loop.

I needed a break. So, I slipped out from usual things and started searching for something more meaningful to do. Now, I made some time to reach out to my close friends, enjoy music, watch some Netflix shows, read books, and try out new hobbies, which I had always kept for later. Moreover, someone special stepped in, who supported me so much. And that meant a lot.

Some things I learned:

  • It’s okay to take a break. Taking a break can help us to think clearer afterward and be more productive. It can help us to stay healthy and happier.
  • Latch onto hope anywhere we can find it. Be ready to embrace someone outside ourselves, because when life comes crashing down on us, we’ll need someone to bring us back to the surface.

This is the lesson of life I am currently in. Maybe it won’t last, or perhaps it will. I’m still exploring life. Lately, I took a job and have started working as a real professional in the corporate world. It’s hardly 3 weeks now.

I’ll update as it goes on..