Walking Left to Walking Right – Saying Goodbye To All #16

I realized something when I landed back in India. You are not the same person you were when you return after a significant period of time. Some call it ‘brain-drain’, some call it ‘turning into a foreigner’. I would just call it an expected metamorphosis. It’s impossible to stay the same person when you live in a different country, with people who have different cultural and moral values. I read this article that talked about how our values change with time, corroborated with an experiment conducted on 36,000 adults. They observed a clear change with age, but surprisingly not with gender.

At the core, I believe values are what changes when people change. When I say values change, I mean our prioritization of a fixed set of values change. If ‘social interaction’ was an important value for me when I was 18, now I would say ‘seeking knowledge’ is more important. This was what I was mulling over when I stood at the fortunately short immigration queue waiting to enter the mothership.

1. Expectation vs Reality

Image result for expectation vs reality school meme

You enter grad school with a lot of expectations. At least, I did. As far as I can remember, I had the following goals in mind:

  1. Get into a top consulting firm
  2. Finish grad school with 4.0 or 4.0+ CGPA
  3. Continue playing badminton and writing frequently
  4. Take weekends off to explore New York city
  5. Find my long-term passion

 It is safe to say that I did not accomplish any of these goals. I abandoned consulting within the first few months to enter Product Management, I did get a few sub-par grades that put my CGPA at 3.84, I played badminton thrice in 1.5 years (although I wrote quite frequently – so hey, not a total loss!), I spent my weekends either studying or completing assignments and my long-term passion seems tangible but not strong enough for me to hold it yet.

The strangest part is, I don’t feel disappointed. Accomplishing those goals would have been a nice personal ego-boost, however, this teaches a good lesson of why reality overshadows expectations. When we set goals, we forget to take into account internal and external factors – external factors which we cannot anticipate and internal factors which we refuse to anticipate. One internal factor would be the laziness component. Nobody likes to think, ‘I tend to procrastinate 20% of the time, let me re-evaluate my goals’. The external factors can range from a lecture to a person you meet.

Now, think back, what were your goals? It doesn’t have to be for grad school or even school in general. Did you have expectations for your life a year before? Did you accomplish the goals? As the New Year rolls by, it’s a good time to introspect. I also like to use this FutureMe website to write a letter to myself which gets delivered 1, 3 or 5 years from now. Maybe you would like to as well.

Even the barren trees look beautiful, don’t they?

However, I will still set audacious goals for myself this year. Goals I know I probably won’t accomplish. Why? Because it gets me through the day, it makes me feel like I have a purpose to fight for and a set of goals to live by.

2. Amateur to an Aficionado

Have you ever had this tugging feeling that your focus is wide-spread? That one day you wake up and realize you are nothing more than a dilettante? I struggled with this feeling for a long time. I pushed myself to different ventures where I felt I might find my calling. However, find your passion is the epitome of easier said than done.

A long conversation that I had with a good friend of mine cemented this idea. I knew I had to narrow down my focus and go deep into a few fields that pique my interest. I spent the last week of December shuttling between what to focus on, and narrowed down on a few. Writing is obviously one of them. The others… well, you will know with time. 😊

Are you a dabbler or an expert? A tinkerer or a maestro? Think about it. It matters.

Bear Mountain State Park

3. My Sincerest Gratitude

On my first day in New York, I cried my eyes out because I was scared. I was terrified to be in this new ostentatious and brightly lit city where I didn’t know anyone. I was terrified that my excitement was about to be disillusioned by people I could not relate with. Fast forward 1 and half years, I cried my eyes out on my last day here because I was sad. I was sad to leave behind this majestic and beautifully lit city with people who had a deep impact on me. The intensity of grief was the same, only the reasons starkly different.

Related image
Courtesy: Google Images

I understood the beauty of New York only in the last few weeks – its meticulously built subway system (which has a very interesting history), the ease of transportation it provides, the ability to wake up at 3 AM and still be able to order or go to a deli within half a mile, the people who walk fast but will always open doors for you, the uneven geology that brings with it beautiful mountains and rivers to visit and witnessing four different photo-worthy seasons in a year.

For any of you out there who are choosing between Columbia and another University for undergrad/grad, if you can resonate with the aforementioned paragraph and if location matters to you, Columbia wins hands down.

Goodbyes are hard indeed, but I also like them. They make you take a step back and value what you had, and in my case document that in the form of an article I can look back at even a decade later. I thanked a lot of people on my Instagram account in the last ten days. However, I wanted to emphasize my gratitude once more to all of you reading this – I would not have been able to document my grad school without at least one of you telling me how you loved reading it every week or so.

To dramatically put it, as the sun sets in the picture, here’s me saying goodbye.

I don’t know if I will write about each month moving forward, or start another ‘series’, or stop writing. The uncertainty is exciting though, gives you room to think. I ask just one favor from you – if this was an interesting/useful/fun read for you, can I know what you liked about it and what could have been better? This will only take a few seconds of your time but help me improve immensely. 😊

P.S. Some nice pictures to end this with.

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If you found this to be useful, do Follow me for more articles. I love hearing your thoughts via comments! 💓 I write about social issues, products, the technology sector and my graduate school experience in the US. Here is my Medium Blog. If you’re a curious soul looking to learn everyday, here’s a Slack Group that I created for you to join.

Wanna get in touch: The best way is via Instagram or Facebook. I share some interesting content there. To know more about my professional life, check out my LinkedIn. Happy learning!

20 thoughts on “Walking Left to Walking Right – Saying Goodbye To All #16

Add yours

  1. Thanks Pooja for this beautiful article. I love your efforts penning down the insightful experiences of your graduate student life. I also became a graduate student in Germany this October and I look your articles to get inspirations for what all things one should learn in graduate life, specially in a foreign land. Keep up the great work.

    1. Hey Aditya,
      It really warms my heart to read these comments! 🙂 Thank you so so much. More than anything, I’m glad you were able to resonate. Germany is a beautiful place, good luck to you!

  2. Excellent coverage of reviewing your targets , both professional and personal, through your experience. Personal passion always takes a lead and it is happening. Your blog posts are very interesting. Keep it up. Best wishes and Happy New Year.

  3. Hi Pooja, I just want to say, I hoped that you would not graduate because these articles you posted on life of a MS student were very encapsulating. Everytime I would read it, I found get a feeling of how my masters program would go. You have been an inspiration. Thank you.

    Please do not leave writing or making videos on Youtube. You have very active viewers like me. I wish you luck for everything in life.

    1. Hey Ishaan,
      That is such a heartwarming message! I hope your Master’s is even better than this. Thanks for reading what I write AND commenting. 🙂

      I’m not sure about videos, but I will definitely continue writing. Thanks again, Ishaan!

  4. Hi Pooja
    I have always fan of your writing or moreover your attitude towards things and life. Who could have imagined a girl from sub-urban city, studied chemical engineering to soon becoming a product manager. You an inspiration that’s it’s never too late to learn new skills and struggles always pays off later in life. It’s always good reading your blog because it is fresh and you never stuck to one opinion and you keep on adding value to our life by adding values in your life and writing them over your blog.
    Being an avid reader of your blog I would say keep on writing but it’s ok if you do it less because you would be adding some other values or skills in your life and that’s great…
    At last the pictures are amazing!
    Good luck for your future endeavour and keep rocking and have a amazing year ahead 🙂

    1. Nikita,
      You have been someone who has been such a gracious and ardent reader of my posts and articles. For that, I am very very thankful. 🙂 People like you push me to keep writing, no matter how many people it reaches.

      Last few years have been unbelievable even for me.. to go from where I was to where I am now. I am sure you feel the same way about your life. We all become better versions of ourselves, and I think that’s all that counts!

      I will keep writing whatever may happen, as now I know this is a passion of mine. I just hope what I write is still relatable to you! 🙂 Thanks again!!!

  5. Hey, just read your article.. please don’t stop writing..Its almost like I have lived through your experience in grad school.. You really inspire us.. I am going to start my grad school in fall’19..

  6. Just read your Saying Goodbye to All on Medium! I hope you eventually realise that your passion is writing only, so that we get to read such amazing pieces on more diverse topics. It’s difficult to single out one thing alone that I liked, but since you insisted – Concept of : 1) social interaction to seeking knowledge 2) not being disappointed despite not achieving the goals set 3) values is what change when people change Basically, Theorising such observations is not a gift that many people have. The thoughts and points were well structured and organised. Also, it was very relatable. Please continue writing! 🙂

    1. Nevin,
      Thank you so much! As I’ve told before, I wish we spoke more at NITT over writing. 🙂 Thank you for reading what I write – so much.

      You’re right, this is my avocation, or probably more than that. People like you strengthened that conviction. Thank you, and I really hope you do great wherever you go!

  7. Hi Pooja, wanna thank you for your wonderful, conglomerate yet well structured and organized articles. It’s always intellectually enriching, and fanning to the Ambitions and wanderlust (Maybe my subjective opinion) too.
    You make me recall a statement “Curiosity is for knowledge, what Hunger is for food”.
    You really satisfy the curiosity of many like me by taking the role of “The Curious Maverick” 🙂
    If I’m to point out the things I liked about your articles, it would be a journal, comprised of your articles added with your generous and noble intentions to share the knowledge with everyone (Slack group is just a mere example).
    And my favorite one being the Psychological tinge that you impregnate in your articles very deliberately. viz “Wide spread focus to dilettante” one. These lines feel so real, relatable and relevant.
    I wish you continue doing the same and yeah, I forgot to mention that I’ve a lot more to say about your articles and videos. Maybe some other time 😉
    Wish you the Best of Luck and new year ahead!! 🙂

    1. Pratyush,
      I’m a little speechless. When I started writing this, I rarely imagined it will get such responses from people. My hope everytime is that it reached the right audience, more than a wide audience. You are the epitome of the right audience.

      Thank you so much for reading what I write – so much! In an age where videos have surpassed the written word, it’s so nice to see that people still take time to read blogs. I’m glad my simple writing satisfied your curiosity. Do drop me an email if you need help. Good luck with whatever you do! 🙂

  8. “Are you a dabbler or an expert? A tinkerer or a maestro? Think about it. It matters.”
    So true!!

    A wonderful goodbye article for grad school/Columbia University and New York. I can genuinely resonate with the ‘aforementioned’ paragraph. Enjoyed reading it.

    Also, ‘FutureMe’ sounds really cool! Will give it a try 🙂

  9. It was a delightful read. The thing I was particular to relate to most was the “2. Amateur to an Aficionado” section. I am going through the exact same challenge of trying to focus a few key things to become better at. I would love to know more about

    1. The experience about how you nailed down a few key things to focus on.
    2. What kept you going, even when the times when you absolutely didn’t want to do it, or bored?

    Would love to know. Thanks.

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