“If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.” ~Chinese Proverb
My niece is three years old. I get to video chat with her daily. During our interactions, she loves to show me, with tremendous happiness and pride, her new toys, her new dresses, and the various sounds her scooter is capable of making.
One day, a few months ago, as she was enthusiastically getting her scooter near the screen, she tripped and fell, albeit with no serious consequences. What I learned from this event has been gratifying.
After she fell, she sat there on the floor for about a second or two without knowing what to do.
She then looked up, squirmed a little, and was about to start crying (just because my sister had seen her fall), when my sister told her reassuringly, “Nothing happened, get up!”
And there the little child was, up on her happy feet again, flaunting her scooter with a big smile on her face.
I realized then that many times, we too, as adults, trip and fall. We are left dazed and shaken. We sometimes force ourselves into a haze of self-pity, dejection, and depression. It can seem worse when other people see us fall. The pain is so much greater when it comes with a bruised ego!
We start thinking we are the only ones struggling so much. We fail to understand what’s happening in our life and what to do about it. In short, we feel like losers.
One such similar incident happened with me.
I landed a job at a startup firm soon after my graduation, and it meant a lot to me. Obviously! It was my first job and I was so excited about it—about moving out on my own and getting to live the life I had been waiting for.
Then, within weeks, I realized I was at the wrong place. I initially tried to ward off my apprehensions as mere jitters. But then the frustration, stress, and pressure reduced me to a bag of sick emotions. My self-confidence took a tremendous beating, and I started crying myself to sleep every single night.
It was then that I realized something important about myself as a person: There is nothing in this world that can make me sit glued in front of a computer screen for hours, from morning to night. That just isn’t me.
I realized I wasn't excited about the work I was doing. My value system wanted me to do something that felt more meaningful to me (like teaching, or working in an NGO, or even taking up public interest lawyering).
As I saw it then and as I see it now, we get to live just once, and I can’t spend all my time in making a living, forgetting to make a life!
I realized I wanted to follow my passions, my deepest yearnings, and the deepest desires of my soul.
In those two months, I hadn’t written a word for myself (writing is something close to my heart), I hadn’t pursued music (which I desperately wanted to do), and moreover, I hadn’t made time for reading (another passion of mine). This pushed me even deeper into the abyss.
Because of these incongruences between my personal value system and my life and work, I lost self-respect, lost trust in my professional abilities, lost faith in my own skills, and above all, lost faith in myself.
I was shattered. I knew that I had to quit that job as soon as possible. Friends and family advised me to stay for a year so that it would augur well on my CV. But my sanity was at stake. I had fallen, and terribly at that, and I had to pick myself up by hook or crook. Of course, there was a catch.
I didn’t quit the job right away because I felt even more miserable thinking about what my relatives, friends, and lecturers would think about me if I left within two months of starting.
I imagined people gossiping about me in hushed voices, and I worried about what my juniors—many of whom idolized me—would think about me.
I was worn out, until I decided to follow my heart and not my head. I had tripped and fallen, and it was time that I picked my spirits up and moved on.
It was time I told myself, “Nothing happened, get up!” And, thank goodness, at last I did.
Months after this incident, I feel stronger, more self-aware, and more humble.
I have come to strongly believe that with any difficulty—be it a break-up, rejection, or mid-life crisis—we can choose how we think about it and what we do in response.
We can choose to stop for a while, analyze the situation, and to accept it completely, without trying to reject or blame ourselves or our circumstances. And by doing this, we can be a lot more peaceful within ourselves.
It is during such challenging times that we need to awaken that voice inside us that reassuringly prompts us to accept and get up, so we don’t find ourselves sobbing even longer, just because we fell down and everyone saw.
I’ve thus realized that a happy life is not a problem-free, perfect life. Instead, a happy life is that which we aren’t afraid to face, knowing that every time it knocks us down, we can and will get back up.
Man climbing image via Shutterstock