Dear Younger Rahul,
Some time has passed in our life and we have been through quite a lot, and learned so much along the way. We have a deeper understanding of ourselves, greater empathy for the struggles of others, and more patience for the mistakes everybody makes. It would be all too easy to flag the pitfalls and give clues on how to avoid the hardships but in doing so, I’d be negating all the experiences that have allowed us the breadth of life we now have.
“First and foremost, I have to say that you need to give yourself a break.”
A lot of the strife you will face and clashes you will have with friends and family comes from taking yourself too seriously and letting the standards of others affect your own outcomes. Each time you miss a target or ultimately
fail, don’t beat yourself up! Look at it for what it is: an opportunity to learn and grow. We can’t win every battle, and a big part of life is learning to take the hits, regroup, and come back out ready for another round. I also know you never want to throw in the towel, I do. Winning isn’t everything though – sometimes it’s ok to lose. As hard as that might sound it’s true. Losing once in a while means that you often have to face your biggest fear of being mediocre and that is a tough thing to do. It is also the most rewarding in the long run though; letting yourself experience failure sets you up to be humble. Deflating your ego is definitely something you will have to do, or else everything in the next decade is going to be tough to handle.
Next, I would say – talk to someone about how much you’re struggling. Whilst the experiences with depression, mania, and suicide have shaped where we are, who we are, and how we think – it was still just a little bit unpleasant, to put it mildly. There’s never a “good time” to explain to people how you feel and I know that right now you don’t feel like there is anyone to turn to. I mean you’ve actually tried and been laughed off… That was a pretty strong deterrent by any standard. My advice is stick to your guns. You know how you feel, and you know it’s not right. Fight for the ability to speak your mind and make them listen. If it helps provide any context to you and those around you, we do end up getting a diagnosis of Bipolar, so at least they’re a tangible element to take forward. It’s going to be difficult to do simply because of how frustrated you are but it’s worth every single tear you shed.
Penultimately, a word on your University journey. We know that a PhD is what we aimed for, alongside playing Hockey again. Long story short – it doesn’t really work out that way. After several course iteration changes, from a Master’s with placement, to a Master’s, and finally just a BEng, it’s
safe to say your academic slump just continues. This ties into talking to people and letting your ego deflate. Your internal struggle and need to over-achieve will ultimately lead to another brush with suicide and this time it is in a further pocket of isolation. University is more than just a grade on a
certificate. Education is more than just lectures, seminars, labs and exams. Education is all around us. The biggest take away from your life at Loughborough University is this: “Take your opportunities, but be mindful of yourself, how you’re doing, and where you are”. People will say that you can’t do everything and trust me, we’ve tried, but that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to what others put on you. Being involved and helping others will produce some of your strongest and most meaningful relationships with people, as well as allowing you to finally emerge from the shadow of expectation.
To end then, just bear this in mind: be mindful of your needs but keep your ego in check, staying humble all the while and in doing so you will find yourself content. Don’t aim to be happy, and try to avoid being sad – content means everything is exactly where it should be.