So there’s exactly ten days of school before it (unofficially) ends. List time. Here’s a list of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in the ten years I’ve been studying at my school:
Make stupid mistakes.
Just do it. Everyone’s too busy with their own lives to care. If it goes right, you get to brag about it. If it goes left, you have a story to tell. Always remember, you are not a sum of your oopsies. Learn to let em go.
You can change.
Who you are is subject to change, constantly. In 2019, I felt lost and confused about myself because I was nothing like my normal self. Once it dawns on you that you’re changing, that you’re shedding one skin and growing another, you get comfortable with the idea that you’re not who you thought you were. Other people change too. Don’t stop loving them if they do.
Do I need to say more? Just be good to people! Restore people’s faith in humanity, or something.
God forbid you have fun. Yo. You’ve got one life, alright? I need you to have a blast, for your sake. Treat yourself every once in a while. Hell, treat yourself every day if you like. I’m not a huge hedonist, but I’m still a hedonist. Stop feeling guilty about doing the things that you enjoy.
This, I learnt last week. To my high-school friends, it makes a big difference to be able to stand up and make decisions for ourselves, but sadly, we don’t learn this independence from an early age. If you’re in that stage where your parents are having honest discussions with you about life after 10th (or life after school, even), I encourage you to communicate your thoughts so that everyone gets to be on the same page. You are allowed to ask for what you want.
One thing I learnt: you can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t get caught. Now, I’m not encouraging any kind of harmful behavior, but by all means, live on the edge, as long as you know what you’re doing. If you find yourself doing something completely new and strange and exhilarating, take a minute to check on yourself, and if in your heart you’re ready, take the jump. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel up to the challenge, just take your time and everything will be amazing.
Learn to post on time. Otherwise you’ll be celebrating your two year blogversary ten days too late.
Listen to your audience. As much as you’re writing for yourself, you’re also writing to help your readers traverse this veil of tears safely, so give them what they want sometimes.
Trust your voice. In the beginning, it’s tough finding what exactly makes you who you are as a writer, but if you keep at it long enough, and if you practice, you’ll find out who you are. Until then, don’t stop searching.
Build your niche as you go. Don’t expect your blog to stay the same forever. Experiment as much as you can in the early stages. Find what works for you and what doesn’t. Which font suits your blogging style? Which background? What kind of humour makes you and your readers happy? Never stop asking yourself these questions, and perfect yourself as you learn more.
Invite criticism. Ask everyone and his brother to come and give you advice on how to make your game stronger. Doesn’t matter if they know anything about blogging or not. The beauty (and irony) of the online world is that everyone has opinions, so use it your advantage.
Keep your first blog post online. They’re usually the cringiest pieces of baloney you ever could have written and you can look back and feel proud about the progress you’ve made. Reader, I beg you, don’t read my first blog. Please.
CONNECT. The whole point of blogging, in my experience, has been to reduce the amount of loneliness and complacency in the world by creating a personal, safe space for online and irl discourse, so by all means, keep all lines open.
Keep your ears peeled. Listen to any advice, inspiration, or benign idea that comes your way. Trust me. You’ll never see an idea coming, so stay alert or it’ll sweep you off the ground before you can make heads or tails of it.
Surround yourself with writers who inspire. Although blogging is largely a solitary experience, it doesn’t always have to be. Consciously make the decision to be around the kind of people who literally, through their energy, compel you to write more. Luckily, I found my people very early – I have my closest friends, and I have writers who are equally as passionate about life as I am – but I encourage you to never stop looking for more reasons to write, and here’s why:
You will want to stop. One day, it will seem worthless. The words will stop. Your fountain will run dry. The fear of judgement will kick in faster than the speed of your thoughts, you will curl up into a ball of comfort and all your beautiful dreams, like all beautiful things, will die of neglect and resentment and disregard.
Don’t stop. don’t. stop. Post a word a day if you have to, but don’t stop. Take a week’s break if you have to, but come back. This is not only a matter of not giving up, it is a matter of staying true to who you are. Speaking your mind is a brave, brave thing. I need you to be brave. Put your heart and soul out into the world, because people will see it, and people will continue to believe in the power words have. And one day, you’ll have an amazing story to tell.
My friends and I have been talking about this a lot. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, too.
My immediate circle of friends and I agree upon one thing – that this year has been an absolute force to reckon with. The stuff that we have done in the last few months alone, and the things we’ve learnt, have been beyond epiphanic. I’m at a loss for words when I try to describe how real and challenging and rewarding this year has been. I have never felt this alive, and I have never felt this scared.
You ever do something so out of league it surprises you that you even had the nerve? That’s essentially how my year’s been going so far. Everything from attending a fellowship for Instagram, performing a live audience, flying to Darjeeling on my own, to opening an Etsy shop, to making new friends, I done it all this year. I done it all. Some of them exceeded my expectations, some turned out fine, and some, well. Some been shi**y.
YLAC, for example, opened up so many doors for me, not only in the outside world, but in myself, too. The Counter Speech Fellowship with Instagram has been my biggest achievement yet, and I cannot explain how big of a feat it has been. Guys. I used to HATE Instagram. I hated it to the core. I detested the whole idea of communication via the social internet, mostly because I was scared. I was afraid I’d lose myself in a rush to prove myself to a disconnected audience, to pretend that connections were real when they were the exact opposite, and worst: I thought I’d lose myself, trying so hard to be the person I wished I was but never would be.
I hated Instagram. I hated sharing. But now I don’t.
Achievement? Yes, sir. Gimme a pat on the back, I deserve it.
Then there’s stuff like Etsy, which I did in the most sudden, random outburst of creative energy I have ever experienced. I had a little artwork lying around, I like money, I combined the two ideas, boom, Etsy.
It didn’t work out lol
I got so caught up in the idea of selling my ideas and my thoughts to people that I forgot that this is supposed to feel good. My art is supposed to heal me, before it even tries to heal anyone else. So I left Etsy at that, feeling slightly disheartened about the whole thing.
Just this evening, the universe sent out the words I needed, as always, in the form of my mom and her sage-like advice. She said, and I quote, “It’s good to try something and realize you’re not ready for it. One day, when you put your heart to it, you will be.”
To all the people who are reading this and feeling like you’re being pushed down by the weight of your own expectations, I say this — just because you did something wrong doesn’t mean you’re bad at it, or that you suck, or that your worthless without this thing to feel proud of. It just means you ain’t ready, son. Take your time. Chill. Do something that makes you feel at ease. Keep trying. Don’t stop trying. But don’t rush it. Do more of the stuff that builds you up to the thing you’re not ready for. Build yourself up to that strength. When you’re ready, you’ll know. Let me know, too. I’ll cheer for you.
Life right now is exactly like that one meme with the dog sitting in a burning room saying “this is fine”. If you crept up to me and snapped a picture of me out of the blue right now, it would look exactly the same. No difference.
Last week was wild. Like, a level of wild I’ve never experienced before. YLAC had given us a target of putting out at least six posts on our handle (@green_shields_) and get at least 180 followers. Being the PR Manager that I am all the time, I went overboard trying to accomplish the goal. In the end, we ended up exceeding the goal and reached 200 followers in a week, but that wasn’t without my pretty valid apprehensiveness. A week before periodic assessments, I still hadn’t started any revision. I study for 20 mark exams two weeks before, and I hadn’t yet begun for 40 mark tests, so to say I was concerned about my study schedule would be an understatement.
Nevertheless, I kept my reserve, and persevered through last week. Somehow. Here’s the nutshell of what I learnt:
too much == bad
Too much Instagram is bad. Very bad. Your hands start to ache and you can’t think straight, cause the only thing on your mind is OH MY GOD DID SOMEONE RESPOND MY DMS OR DID THEY SEENZONE ME and it’s not a good feeling to have a week before important tests. So keep that it mind.
the process => enjoy it
Projects aren’t fun if you dwell on the fact that they’re supposed to be done. Take my advice on this: if you are doing or going through something that you’ve never done before, don’t overthink it. Be rational and enjoy the process. Don’t stress. It’s not meant to be that way.
feedback == good
As long as you have a large enough audience to tell you when you’ve done something good and when you haven’t, your work as a social influencer is half done. Believe me.
trust == nice
This whole thing is a team project, and I’m lucky to have such a supportive and creative team! I’ve gotten better at trusting people and their strengths, and I’ve learnt how to respect them. I realize more and more now that my job isn’t to fix people’s flaws, because I realize that that’s what makes them who they are. That applies to me, too. I trust myself more than I used to before, because I no longer feel anxious about what I’m doing.
rest == REQUIRED
This. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt. No doubt about that. I now see that there’s a fine line between breaking your limits and breaking your back, and the latter is not as fun or rewarding as the former.
I’d appreciate it if you could bribe as many of your instagram-using friends as possible and tell them to follow @green_shields_ thanks I’ll give you a chocolate 🙂
Before we begin, I’d like to preface this post with a statement: All speaking is public speaking, unless you’re talking to yourself. This is not a three-step “how to” on getting better at your school poem recitation.
Aight. All the advice that follows is drawn from personal experience, you have been warned.
Be comfortable in your own skin.
I have actively taken part in things that require me to talk to people outside of my usual circle. Sometimes, it’s a big crowd of middle-schoolers, sometimes teachers, sometimes friends from my grade or the Cambridge wing, and I feel the one thing to remember is to be okay with who you are.
It might seem completely irrelevant to the theme of public speaking, but I realize more and more now that unless I’m entirely in tune with myself, unless I know what makes me do the things I do while talking to people, I can never make myself better. If you realize that when you’re nervous about talking to someone, you shift your gaze downward, you can take steps to change that in your own time. Which brings me to the next big thing I learnt–
Take your time.
Better communication skills definitely make any relationship better, and while you should do everything in your power (and more) to constantly improve them, it’s grossly unproductive and hard on yourself, even, to pressure yourself into doing things you’ve never done before and hating yourself if you fail at it the first time.
The whole joy of talking to others is the uncertainty of not knowing how a single word or expression can lead to a completely serendipitous conversation. This can seem like a daunting process at first, but I assure you, it is not. If you find it hard to step outside your comfort zone, I encourage you to find a friend who can keep you accountable to your growth, AS LONG as you do it in small steps. Baby steps is key.
Have Courage and Be Kind
I cannot emphasize how important it is to be both firm enough to stand by your views, and also flexible enough to be open to others’ worldviews as well. I can’t!
Speaking to a larger crowd requires you to have a sense of humility and non-defensiveness that only comes with age, if you ask me. I surely haven’t mastered the skill of being slightly vulnerable to my audience, enough for them to relate and actually listen to what I’m saying. The simplest thing that we often forget is that, in the end, we’re talking to people. Not evaluating machines. Treat them as people who might want to talk to you the way you’re talking to them, not just mirrors for you to bounce your words off.
Once you realize this, I guess you’re halfway home.
This summer has been a whirlwind experience for me, really. I mean, now that I look at it, WOW, so much stuff went down in these eight or so weeks, it’s kind of hard to count. Shoot, I don’t even know when our vacations started. I don’t remember what my classroom lockers look like, and for some reason that worries me more than the fact that I’ve lost my sense of time? It’s probably cause if anyone tries to take my locker, their end is near.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is that whether or not we realize it, things will turn out just as they need to be. I spent a good deal of the summer fretting about my motivation to study (rather the lack of it), thinking that I was wasting my time reading a novel instead of practising for, I don’t know, half yearlies? In September?? I like to plan ahead. I don’t like it when I’m not planning ahead. Hence my (ephemeral) anxiety.
I was watching Nathan Zed’s new video on YouTube (he just graduated!), and something that he says at the end really struck me. He said he found a balance between what he loves doing (YouTube) and what he needed to do (College), and he found happiness in both. That’s a lesson worth learning, in my opinion.
And so, as school begins in two days, I’m filled with inspiration to balance all my passions, I’m excited to meet my friends again (I hope they remember me), and I’m ready to defend whoever even tries to claim that my locker is actually theirs.
As a self-proclaimed novice at social media (cough), I feel like I have enough experience to write my own guide to using social media the right way. But if we’re being honest here, the first and most important thing to remember is this:
Do not delete your social media accounts. Trust me when I say it doesn’t help.
Make others hold you accountable.
If you have an iPhone, god bless you, your social media life is about to become way easier. Just download iOS 12 if you haven’t already, and go to Screen Time, and add yourself a daily social media limit, and ask your mom to type in a password, preferably not your birthday.
If you don’t, no problem! On Android devices, there is the Digital Wellbeing feature to get you through this.
The good thing about other people holding you accountable is that it not only reminds you that people care about your screen time, but it also takes away the pain of self-restraint. If there’s nothing you can do to clock in 5 more minutes on social media, you’re less likely to feel bad about it.
Find your purpose.
Find out why you’re on a social media platform. Is it for personal growth? Is it a de-stresser? Is it to stalk your crush? Find out and stick to that. Don’t say you’re here to follow the United Nations and then just look at Avengers: Endgame memes. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do both, but you definitely shouldn’t forget what you came here to do.
Take it easy.
Take a chill pill! Relaxxxx. Your main purpose in life is not to make sure that your stories are beautiful, your posts are tagged right, your tweets are grammatically assured (but a soft reminder that they SHOULD), so stop fretting about trivial things that you’ll end up losing sleep for. Don’t push yourself to try and control what your public image looks like. Instead, strive to be the most real version of yourself. If you want to share with people, share both your good and bad sides.
This, I think, has been the biggest lesson I’ve learnt this year. I have learnt that you can do everything you want to (and soo much more) without having to sacrifice your self-worth or self-love. Just because you have a goal in mind, it shouldn’t mean that your existence must depend on its completion, no matter how basic or ambitious it might be.
Being a bit of an autodidact, I do happen to be hypercritical of how I use my time while studying or learning anything. I turn even the dumbest things into “work” because giving my tasks that label seemed to make it easier to handle. But somehow, draining emotion out of my tasks seemed to drain the fun out as well.
Somewhere during this year of high school, I realized that doing this leaves me dissatisfied and exhausted, and so I chose to stop it.
What you do doesn’t matter as much as who you do it with.
This is actually a direct steal of a quote by John Green, but tbh I had no other way of saying this except, maybe, “Don’t ditch your friends just because they don’t do the same things as you do.” Something like that, I guess.
I’ve talked about before, but it still seems like an alien thought to an introvert like me. I grudgingly admit, however, that it is true. It really doesn’t matter what you do, if you don’t do it in a way that lifts you up. and 99 per cent of the time, it’s people who lift other people up. Not circumstance, not the beautiful trees out the window (although those definitely help). And you might be saying, “I lift myself up.” Dude, you’re a person, too.
There’s a quote by Kurt Vonnegut that I want to share.
This sums up everything I want to say. You have friends, and most probably, you have a lot of them. Go talk to them! Find out what keeps them awake at night. Talk. Just CONNECT. Make memories. They don’t need to be good, or comfortable, or everything you dreamed for. You just need to make them.
Love is a kind of magic.
No, I’m not directly addressing the romantic kind with that statement cause if I did, I’d be dead. Instead, I’d like to focus on the more one-sided love you might feel, usually with respect to your passions and dreams.
For a long time, I felt that to love an idea meant to completely devote yourself to its cause and leaving no scope for that idea to slip out of your reach. I felt this a lot with respect to the two things that matter to more than school: writing and music. Over the last year, I’ve gotten myself more and more into the world of the arts, but there used to be a nagging feeling whenever I took a break from life to listen to my favourite song or relax and write without any restrictions. Something felt inherently wrong about the fact that I was taking so much time to do the things that I cherished. Self-love seemed to be a concept of indulgent behaviour, rather than normal behaviour.
And I know that it’s clear when I say it like this, but at some times, I used to feel guilty for loving something so much.
Thanks to some undiscovered (i still looking for it tho) shift in behaviour, I don’t feel that way anymore. I’ve listened to the people that I idolize from all fields of success, and all of them practically preach the idea of loving your passions like your love knows no bounds. Sure, you should definitely love in moderation, but I have learnt to not love with guilt in my heart.
You know, I often feel like my life is just one big young adult fiction novel, stuck forever in the middle. I’ve been thinking that thought for the last couple of days.
Today, my story started its new chapter. Or, at least, the biggest plot twist.
It involves sports. Wow, I never thought I’d say that in my life.
My sport of interest has never been consistent for more than, say, half a year. Ever since we were allowed to pick a sport in 4th grade, I have jumped from tennis, to athletics, to basketball, to football, and now finally taekwondo. So when I stick with a sport (basketball, in this case) for more than two years, I know that I actually like it.
Soon after moving to my new home, a gated community, I joined basketball coaching classes on the weekdays. The basketball court, in the most basic sense, is the ONLY place where kids my age meet. We have close to no other social life outside of basketball class, trust me. So, obviously, the people who I’ve stuck with in there are nothing short of my best friends. But that still doesn’t stop me from feeling like I need to be on an edge in the court.
Look, whether I or anyone else in this universe admits it or not, I am a nerd. I enjoy solitude with a book in my hand, walking peacefully in the winter sun. I listen to podcasts about the kilogram being redefined, or John and Hank Green joking about death, all while finishing Telugu notes or preparing for my finals (which are a month away-i know, it’s too soon) downstairs.
Doing random things way outside of my comfort zone is definitely something I enjoy once it’s done, but something I absolutely dread while it’s happening. That’s how I felt with this basketball match. I know that there are other, better, actually dangerous things for me to be afraid of, but sue me for being concerned that my heart might pop out of my chest due to nervous tension.
I have never played an official basketball match outside of school, so I am awfully nervous when I go down to play. We start out okay, with a lead of 12-6, but then the good guys(including me) get substituted, and soon the score is 19-25. I am beyond shocked. I am devastated. I am beyond exhausted. I played so well, and so hard, but now we were embarrassingly behind.
I’m on the verge of giving up. Not just pressing-pause-to-resume kind of giving up. The kind the where you stop and have to start all over again.
I. have. never. given. up. Ever.
Not on people, not on tough situations, and definitely, DEFINITELY not on myself or my friends.
So I don’t.
I push. And push. And push. And push harder and harder and the hardest I could and I fight back my fears and my tears and the pain and the despair and I just give it my all. I run into people, snatch the ball, pass, scream until my lungs burned and I’m 100% there in that moment.
I know the situation is more and more like something out of a movie, because after 40 minutes of play, both teams are tied and we go into 3 minutes of overtime. I think that this is do or die. But nah. We both score, and we go into overtime again, this time for two minutes. And I think that this situation is as unpredictable as walking on a tightrope 20 feet up in the air with the wind blowing right at me.
But I hold on. We all do.
For the last 2 minutes, I hold on to whatever hope is left in me and I give it my all.
I don’t know how, but we suddenly have the lead. 29-27. The ball is, literally and figuratively, in the opponent team’s court right now.
But our hope rises just enough for one last boost of energy, and we fight back.
The whistle blows.
Long enough for us to realize that we actually won.
The screams are loud and roaring, and they fill me with the voice to scream too.
I’m running towards everyone. I hug my friend, Akshita, who was sitting on the bench, cheering for us.
I’m hug my friend, Ishaan, who was the reason we won.
The specifics don’t matter because this success wasn’t about individual glory. People told me I was really, super aggressive and I defended like a boss, but that’s not the primary cause of my immense, overwhelming joy.
I often think that my life is one big young adult fiction novel stuck in the middle forever. It’s not always easy, or fun, or even kind.
Everyone in the class is eagerly waiting for the bell to ring.
Once the teacher leaves, we all rush to the nearest bulletin board on our floor. All of us want to know whether we cleared the test, or failed.
No, we weren’t looking at the results of our final exams.
We were looking at the I-Section entrance test results.
Every year, our school conducts an entrance exam for secondary school students to test their smartness. Then, they segregate the “smart” kids into a different, Integrated-Section.
Yes, I’m in this section. No, sometimes (such as now) I don’t like it.
So our results are on the bulletin board, but I already know my marks- 45 out of 50.
I don’t want to say this, but – oh god – I was disappointed with my marks.
Sometimes I wonder whether I could be the definition of a typical Indian teenage nerd- smart, constantly worried, over-analytic about marks, overpressured and overburdened. Ok, the last part is a bit of an exaggeration. Seriously mom. I’m fine. Don’t send me to the counsellor or to math tuition.
The funny thing is, though, that even though I got through by a big margin, I still felt kinda uneasy. Like I hadn’t done enough to prove my nerdiness to other people. Even though I had accomplished my goal, my mind was too fixated on the smaller picture. Marks.
My whole day went past me like a blur, while all I thought about was how bad I was at acing tests and how much I sucked at them.
That afternoon, during my bus ride back home, my history teacher, who’s a very sweet person (I’m not being paid to say this), asked me if I was sick or something. ‘Cause apparently I looked like I had a fever.
I told her about my rather disgraceful test performance, and she just broke into soft laughter.
“Don’t worry so much, ma. If the teachers are happy with your results, then it’s fine! Don’t take it so seriously.”
Those words gave me just the perspective my naive mind needed. My mood went from sullen, brooding, contemplative and disappointed to accepting, and ready to make a change. I was ready to change my day into one full of opportunities at my disposal.
Here are 5 things I did that evening to lift my mood. You should try them too.
Talk to a friend.
If you’re feeling low, pick up your phone and chat up with an old friend. The feeling of having someone who listens and talks to you can be therapeutic at times.
Tell yourself that it’ll pass.
Because it will. You know that. Stop for a moment, tell your little irrational brain to shut up, and remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling is perfectly normal, and your despair with come to an end.
Throw your responsibilities away for a day.
One primary reason for disappointment is high expectations. From anyone. So since you can’t control what others expect from you, the best you can do is control what you expect from yourself. Don’t push your limits for a few hours. Just. Relax.
Play a sport.
Sports are awesome! They are also scientifically proven to reduce stress and depression. So if you have a basketball court or just a park in your neighbourhood, call a couple of your friends down and play for a while!
Write about it (as I am now).
Writing helps because nothing provides perspective through self-realisation quite like writing. The minute you put a sad feeling on paper, it loses its dramatic, overestimated impact on your mental wellbeing. There’s no need to amplify a situation through writing. As long as you write down the bare facts about what happened and how you feel, this works.
That day, I learnt that no matter how bad a day goes, I can always change how I feel about it with a simple shift in mindset.
I learnt that if I just change your mindset from one of disappointment to one of acceptance and growth, everything will be okay.
Hopefully, you learnt that too.
“I’m sad, hurt, angry, mad, disappointed. But you know what? I will put on a happy face and move on. It will hurt but I will survive.”