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Following your Heart


Now many youth face this appar­ent prob­lem: their heart pulls them in a cer­tain direc­tion but their resources, their “ATMs (Any­time Machines)” called fathers want them to go in anoth­er direc­tion. For exam­ple, many engi­neer­ing grad­u­ates don’t want to become engi­neers but their “Any­time Machines” – fathers, moth­ers and well-wish­ers — want them to become engi­neers and hence the youth have a mis­er­able time. They con­stant­ly face con­flicts with­in them­selves. It becomes a bit­ter expe­ri­ence for them. How do we han­dle it? But first things first, let me clar­i­fy the rea­son why I call this an appar­ent prob­lem. So why is it appar­ent? Assum­ing the same exter­nal cir­cum­stances, if those cir­cum­stances cre­ate the same impact or same inner expe­ri­ence in each person’s heart then it is a real prob­lem. But this is not so. Giv­en the same insti­tu­tion or the same set­up the inner expe­ri­ence of each per­son is unique. What is the cause of tremen­dous hap­pi­ness for some is actu­al­ly the cause of tremen­dous mis­ery and bit­ter­ness for oth­ers! Hence it becomes very impor­tant to under­stand how this inner expe­ri­ence works. Hence I call this appar­ent prob­lem, but it is nev­er­the­less a prob­lem because it is there. It is quite a sticky prob­lem! It sits atop one’s head and makes one mis­er­able, often with sleep­less nights! It does not go away; not very eas­i­ly.

Con­flict­ing Images

So what we call a prob­lem depends on the nature of the lens through which it is viewed. You might have over a peri­od of time acquired this desire — “I want to be a crick­eter”. But par­ents, neigh­bors and elders might have felt that it is not a good enough occu­pa­tion for you — “Let me tell you what is good for you, you just lis­ten to it”.

When we were very young, we were led by the hand to cross the road. Nowa­days even tod­dlers don’t want to be led! But ear­li­er this used to be the phe­nom­e­non. Now, if we look at the social phe­nom­e­na, some­thing has hap­pened to this earth: some para­me­ters have changed. So even tod­dlers don’t fol­low the phe­nom­e­na of the ear­li­er days! It is like the law of grav­i­ty. When you were young, you held on to your par­ents’ hands, but these tod­dlers of today don’t obey the law of grav­i­ty. They don’t hold on to their par­ents’ hands; they just shoo their par­ents away! So one might observe that some­thing in the qual­i­ty of the envi­ron­ment has also changed. This is some­thing we should acknowl­edge, first of all. It is not just a per­son­al phe­nom­e­non but a col­lec­tive glob­al phe­nom­e­non. For exam­ple, the phe­nom­e­non of bore­dom: wher­ev­er we go, we find that peo­ple are bored. They are frus­trat­ed, and they try to occu­py them­selves with this and that, but no! Every­thing seems to enlarge the gap of this void that they feel with­in them­selves. So these are not just per­son­al phe­nom­e­na, there are glob­al­ized phe­nom­e­non, or at least wide­spread phe­nom­e­non that we encounter. Some­thing in the nature of the qual­i­ty of the envi­ron­ment has changed, no doubt, and we need to acknowl­edge this. Com­ing to the indi­vid­ual, one is advised, “This is right for you”, but one wish­es to decide what is right for one­self. You feel you are old enough decide for your­self. So that is where our self-image con­flicts with image of oth­ers, espe­cial­ly our near­est and dear­est ones: par­ents and elders. The way they view us comes in direct con­flict with the way we view our­selves, espe­cial­ly in a cul­ture like ours, where even a grown up man is still his father’s son, and the father has a say in the son’s life. This is because the image that the father has of him, how­ev­er old he may have grown is that he is still his son. It is as sim­ple as that. The father has seen his son from the time he was a child and has led him step by step. It is with good inten­tions and the thought that they have seen the world more than we have, that par­ents instruct us. But we have grown up, and we need our per­son­al space as well! Some­times par­ents’ image of what we are now is anachro­nis­tic – they hold on to the image they had of us in the past and try to super­im­pose that image onto us in the present.

This becomes a prob­lem because we are not exact­ly the way they imag­ined us to be. There is a huge gap. This cre­ates a prob­lem. As we grow up this gap is bound to widen. This cre­ates appar­ent con­flict. One will have to take steps to bridge this gap; to what­ev­er extent it can be bridged, to that extent one must try to bridge the gap. So cer­tain things — small things- which par­ents ask of you, can be lis­tened to, to the extent that it does not harm you. But what mat­ters to you, and mat­ters to you seri­ous­ly, should be held on to, and should nev­er be giv­en up. And that’s where you will need to learn how to learn to get the sup­port of peo­ple around you, of the soci­ety, and of the uni­verse. Every­thing requires sup­port, as with­out sup­port it is not prac­ti­cal.

So how does one earn that sup­port?

You earn sup­port through your actions: you dis­play tremen­dous qual­i­ties like sin­cer­i­ty, learn­ing how to be suc­cess­ful, learn­ing how to main­tain a bal­anced state of mind, con­sis­ten­cy in action. Con­sis­ten­cy in action is a major trait that elders look for: are you con­sis­tent­ly suc­cess­ful? Do you take up some­thing and then just drop it lat­er? If you do that you are con­sid­ered incon­sis­tent. The elders are not wrong, because this is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered a youth­ful phe­nom­e­non. You take up a new ven­ture at the spur of the moment and lat­er it is dropped. Now in their eyes, they might feel that this might affect you, and they are not wrong, because they are your well-wish­ers after all. They want you to be hap­py and suc­cess­ful. That’s all they want. It is just that their image of you does not match with what your cur­rent self-image is.

Is your Self-Image accu­rate?

Talk­ing about self-image, it is also impor­tant to intro­spect whether your cur­rent self-image is accu­rate — is it what it is? It should not be pro­ject­ed imag­i­na­tion; you may imag­ine, “I would want to be like that” and then imag­ine that to be your self-image. That is not you! You need to know what you are, view­ing your­self from a real­is­tic frame of ref­er­ence. Only then you will be able to see your strengths and weak­ness­es in a bal­anced man­ner and be able to per­form your actions in such a way that you increase your strengths, decrease your weak­ness­es, con­vert oppor­tu­ni­ties into actu­al suc­cess sto­ries, and con­sis­tent­ly show suc­cess — not just ver­bal­ly but actu­al­ly through your actions and non-ver­bal­ly as well. You actu­al­ly com­mu­ni­cate non-ver­bal­ly much more than you do ver­bal­ly. When par­ents and elders see that you con­sis­tent­ly per­form well in what­ev­er you have cho­sen to do, then over a peri­od of time, they gain con­fi­dence in you.

Par­ents are your well-wish­ers

Par­ents have seen you fall down mul­ti­ple times, from the time you took your first steps. They have been a part of you from that stage of life; in fact, from even before that. Hence it is not very easy to change that image they have of you. They will def­i­nite­ly want to give you a help­ing hand — “No, no! you are my child!”. And that is not wrong. In their actions intend­ed for your own well-being, they cre­ate hurt for you, because you think “No! I am a big guy!” This seri­ous­ly hurts your self-image — the con­cept of your­self that you have in your mind. It hurts because you want to prove your­self in the world but you think that they are obsta­cles in your path. They will nev­er be seen as an obsta­cle if you have this breadth of under­stand­ing. Then you will see that you can be rea­son­ably sure of your­self, stick to your path, and also accom­mo­date your par­ents and their wish­es. Hence it takes time.

Hold­ing on to your dreams

Some­times you will need to com­pro­mise. In Tamil, we call it vit­tu pidikarthu. Vit­tu pidikarthu does not mean giv­ing up, rather, it is like a tem­po­rary loos­en­ing — loos­en­ing of the reins. You loosen the reins tem­porar­i­ly, only to tight­en lat­er. Although to par­ents and elders it might seem as if every­thing is fine, in your inner expe­ri­ence, the pur­pose or pur­suit for which your heart feels strong­ly does not van­ish; it is very much present. (Actu­al­ly every­thing is fine any­way!) But through this process you come clos­er and clos­er togeth­er, earn their sup­port by dis­play­ing such won­der­ful qual­i­ties, and they become con­fi­dent that you are capa­ble of han­dling your­self prop­er­ly. Then you will see, they will be alright with who you are, and they will not inter­fere in what you do or pur­sue. They will just sup­port you silent­ly. It is a great bless­ing to have well-wish­ers around us. Our par­ents are our pri­ma­ry well-wish­ers. When we under­stand this, then we see how to bal­ance it. They are not our ene­mies. The atti­tude of enmi­ty cre­ates lot of ani­mos­i­ty and is not required. But some­times you need to be strong and firm also. These are all tests of inner strengths. It is a process of growth, learn­ing and fur­ther growth. And it is an awe­some life!

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