Results. The outcomes of your actions. The products of a chemical reaction, the solution, the hidden X in a mathematical equation. Results can be so many things, but we tend to talk about results as the positive, tangible, visible product of our efforts.
Recurring Dreams about Examinations
I have recurring dreams from time to time. One is me in an examination hall, writing a paper, or completing an assignment when the time runs out, and I either don’t finish what I was writing, or I do, and the examiner refuses to accept it. The other and by my estimation more universally experienced one is that I got the results of an examination and I did badly.
Whenever I talk about these dreams, it seems to resonate with my peers, especially those who grew up in India or South Asia in particular. It tells you a lot about how the education system we were raised in just sticks in our minds and our psyche, never really leaving, but just fading slightly, like an old tattoo.
As a kid who grew up in India, “Results” generally meant the results of examinations, the most important of which were Standards 10 and 12- secondary and higher secondary education. A lot depends on these results, and a lot doesn’t. Going through all these examinations has an effect on all of us, I guess- it occupies a corner of our mind, and the subconscious uses it to communicate – fear.
The fear, of not measuring up to some invisible ideal. Of not having enough time to do the things we set out to do, within the time we were given to do it. An invisible plan laid out by some invisible man. The invisible examiner, pointing at an invisible watch, with his invisible hands, glaring at you with his invisible eyes. It’s all invisible, all in our heads, but all of us feel the icy glare all the same.
This fear then morphs into insecurity and a deep dissatisfaction- in our childhood we’re so conditioned to see letter grades or numbers associated with whatever we do, and with whatever anyone else does, that we feel dissatisfied when we don’t see that tangible, visible product.
Working Out and seeing “Results”
I’ve been working out for over a year now. I started lifting these small weights, then I slowly trained enough to lift these heavier ones, and then I got these, which are even heavier than that. Two to three times a week, I lift these weights, above my head, or off to the side, and I put them back onto the ground. I FEEL better than how I used to a year ago. I eat better, I sleep better, I feel more limber, more lively, all great things. Despite all these things, the first question anyone ever asks is: “What about your results, though? Where are your results?”. Of course, they’re talking about the visible results- where are your biceps, your triceps, why do you still have a double chin, why don’t you have abs, and so on.
Because, if you can’t see a change, a visible result, It’s all for nothing. I might as well have done nothing at all. Right?
I turned 28 this past November. I think all the time about how I’m going to hit the big three-o in a couple of years. I think about how unremarkable my 20s were. How there were so many things I wanted to do and didn’t. Either because they were withheld from me, or because I withheld myself. Just lists of to-dos left incomplete. One of those I remember I wrote as a joke on my 25th birthday. It was a list of things to learn, starting with “learn to talk to adults”, followed by learning to talk to children, infants, animals, and so on. The only thing checked off was the “talk to adults” part. But that’s just among a whole lot of different insecurities.
I got to thinking about this and I realized I felt like I was going into my 30s feeling like I had a blank scrapbook. Just blank pages. No glitter, no sequins, no fancy pictures. Just an unremarkable man who had an unremarkable decade. And that filled me with dread. It was as if someone was going to hand me a report card on my 30th birthday, showing me how I’d failed to get a good grade in all these aspects of life. Or it’d be worse- they’d show me a report card that just said, “no remarks”. Because I’m an unremarkable man who lived unremarkably through his 20s. And that’s just it, isn’t it- the idea that if you didn’t live out all those fantasies, all those frivolities that they said you should have lived out in your 20s, then the time to do so has run out.
And that’s because certain things have to get done by a certain age- right?
Don’t Believe the Hype
Of course not! My answer to those who clamor for visible results, and to those who think everything should be time-bound, is simple. The first thing is that sometimes you should just do things for their own sake. For the fun of it. You don’t need to turn everything into a test, a competition, or a hustle. You don’t need the imaginary examiner looking at everything that you do. The second is that you have more time than you think you do.
When I was a kid in school, people used to make fun of me for “being in my own world”. The more I grow older, the more clear it is to me that it’s the way to be. It’s kind of like the dude from the big Lebowski, and how he goes about his life. This quote by Gwen Ihnat really captures that character and that philosophy, and I’d like to leave you all with this. She says,
“We envy The Dude for knowing himself, for escaping the need to conform, and for rejecting mainstream society for the little one that grows around him.”~ Gwen Ihnat, avclub.com