You have to go through what you have to go through.
I addressed young folks at the Under 25 Lit Fest at IIT – M on Sunday. Most of the audience comprised of budding writers. One of them caught up with me after my Talk. He told me that his work had been rejected by 20 publishers over five years now. “I feel defeated. I believe in my work. I know I have something very valuable to share with the world. I don’t mind if I am rejected because my work is bad. But almost everyone has told me that my manuscript is very good. Yet they don’t want to publish my book…I fail to understand what Life is trying to tell me,” he exclaimed. He wanted to know if I had some perspectives to share.
I sure do.
I see Life as the greatest teacher. Everything that is happening in our Life is only making us stronger, wiser and, interestingly, happier. So, Life is coaching us through each experience – constantly giving us the test first and the lesson later. In our academic education system the lesson is taught first and then we are tested whether we have learnt it well. But Life doesn’t operate that way. In Life, every step you take is a test and every moment lived carries a lesson. Which is why, unable to transition from our academic conditioning to Life’s free-flowing nature, we struggle with Life. But over time you get better and better at dealing with Life’s ways. Surely, you are never going to be perfect at cracking all of Life’s situations. But yes, you will no longer be shaken, shocked or depressed when a new challenge arrives. This is what I mean when I say that over time Life makes you stronger, wiser and happier.
I asked the young man how was he able to handle rejections now compared to when he was rejected the first few times. “Oh! I just chuckle to myself and say, ‘So, what’s new?’” he replied.
I pointed out to him that he was doing just great dealing with Life. That indeed must be the spirit. I am not well-versed with the scriptures nor have I read all the 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. But from what I have learnt of the Gita’s message, I realize no matter what we wish or how we want things to be, we only are entitled to our efforts, to our actions. We cannot ever claim to control the outcomes. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may not get what we want. And at other times, without much effort we may be extraordinarily rewarded by Life. So, a string of rejections is just Life’s way of teaching you, of reminding you, that you are not in control. Life is telling you that there’s a higher intelligence, a Higher Energy, which is in control. Even a “brilliant stroke of luck” reiterates precisely the same point.
The young man then asked me one more question: “While I can understand that Life’s upheavals make you stronger and wiser, I am not sure they make you happier. Do they, really?”
I like that question. To understand the answer to that question, let’s first understand here what makes us unhappy. We are unhappy when we don’t get what we want. Simple. So, through surviving Life’s upheavals, if we learn to be accepting of the Life we have, than pine for the Life that we want, won’t we be happier? In the young man’s case, he’s learnt, unwittingly perhaps, to be detached from the outcome of his efforts; he has learnt to drop all his expectations. Whenever you have no expectation from Life, you will only be happy.
What I have also understood about Life is that everything happens at its own pace, in its own time. Just as you cannot argue with Life, you cannot rewind or fast forward time. You have to go through what you have to go through. There is no escape. And so, the best way to live peacefully, happily, is to put in your best efforts each time and leave the results to Life. This means, don’t fight, don’t resist Life. Just accept what comes your way and keep moving on!