Learning the value of Balance the hard way

Paradoxically, a good sign of growing up is realising you have been wrong about many things throughout your life.

All words have feelings, and we are all drawn to certain words more than others accordingly. And conversely, there are some words we nonchalantly swat away.

One word I grew up to like was randomness. Whether I read it as entropy in thermodynamics, or in Brownian motion, I liked the feel of that concept. It had no pattern, and an air of unpredictability. Perhaps I found comfort in the idea that the world is random, because nothing would be weird in such a place, including myself.

It was also around this time that I first found I had a creative side.

Balance, on the other hand, was a word I never saw any value in. Whether it was a balanced diet, or life itself, I found it quite undesirable. Who needs that? I shall dedicate my entire life doing exactly the things I enjoy, including playing FIFA. What’s the point wasting time on getting washboard abs and extra sleep?

Youth makes us feel so arrogantly invincible. I miss it.

I could relish such notions comfortably through my Bachelor’s degree and into my first job as well. I ordered a Domino’s pizza every weekend, slept when I felt like it, still played FIFA, and didn’t work out a single day. Despite living in Mumbai, I was quite content with my salary. It was beautiful.

Here’s the thing though. I always thought a balanced life means to do the right amounts of everything, just like a diet. I have a different perspective of it now.

Balance means control. It means you are the master of your day, every day. Your mind has just the right amount of freedom, to do enough of whatever you want. That keeps the mind healthy, and consequently the body to a certain extent. (generally speaking)

So if you look at it from that perspective, my life was quite balanced till that first job.

And then, I entered business school – and from freedom I went straight to free fall.

The biggest challenge of B-school is not competition, stress, or placements. It is a total and utter disruption of your balance. Life in an instant becomes like walking a tightrope, and every second then onwards you will be hit with sticks until you fall.

The word deadline simultaneously becomes the most hated and important word in your life. Oh, you could sleep only two hours? You couldn’t eat because you had a lecture through lunch? Tough look, but a deadline is a deadline.

A deadline is like a mob dealer you took a loan from. He doesn’t care whether you need the time to save your only good kidney, or feed your starving children. All he cares is whether you pay him exactly when it’s due, and not a minute later.

The sad thing is, this doesn’t end with MBA, or possibly with any career path. It carries on till the day you die. With more power, come more deadlines.

It must however be noted that this does not affect everyone equally. I know people who still slept on time most days, and others who found a window to work out. I have a healthy respect for those people now, because I’m not one of them. I was among the ones who caved in to every demand and request, even those who not everyone cared about. A small instance: there have been plenty of times during MBA where the entire batch was asked to assemble for utterly useless purposes. I never missed a single one of those meetings, because I gave into the empty threats for absence.

When people and systems are trying to push us off balance, 99% of the time we blame the people and the system. We forget that we are the ones surrendering control. Otherwise, how can one explain that other set of people, still having some sense of control?

I’m not saying we can vehemently disobey all deadlines. Rather, the point is to have some sort of structure, to protect what is important to you, and consequently, yourself. It could be finding time to meet your boyfriend/girlfriend, or to work out, or to sleep on time, or to read. No person or system can define that for you. And I don’t think there is any system in the world which will just let you do these things. It is like trying to stand still in an ocean. The waves were never meant to stop, but neither are you meant to be swept away.

It remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to do it, but that is the way ahead. For the first time in my life, I’m trying to build habits and discipline. Randomness or entropy, as it turns out, is not a very helpful state to be in. It is our natural state however, and we need to define a structure to navigate our way, or keep falling off the tightrope.

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