Life will serve you lessons as you grow. We pick up these lessons during our journey from one phase to another. These lessons tend to stay with us etched in our hearts for a lifetime. I picked a few life lessons during one such extraordinary phase of my life – completing my Ph.D. journey.
Here are seven Life Lessons You Need To Pick Up Along The Way
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Lesson 1: Fall, Dust Yourself and Stand up Again
It was the 25th day of October 2013 that life knocked down its first important lesson. It was the month I was born, and astrologically it should have been super sparkling with luck. But I guess this time, fate wanted me not to be dependent on it but instead be self-reliant. I had my first progress review presentation to show up what I had done to sum my Ph.D. work so far. It had been two years, so yes there was bound to be expectations of some amount of substantial work to be in place. But the reality was a bit different.
The first year I was in the confused stage trying to make sense from research papers. The second year I was on my self- proclaimed married sabbatical and then in just less than two months to go for the review I started working and getting the pieces together. I had mixed feelings. I was confident of sailing smoothly through the entire presentation and at the same time I also sensed something was amiss.
Well, my senses were right; my presentation was a complete face downfall, a disaster in itself. I still very clearly remember that first remark from my first reviewer, “Your presentation was a good story, but Ph.D. is not about storytelling.” She was a staunch critic who never minced words. My confidence collapsed that very moment. In my entire academic life so far I had never been rebuked for a presentation. To present was my ground, and I was always the top player. But that moment I felt, it wasn’t my day.
What followed next was a series of remarks that only made me realize that I was back to the pavilion. I was now at ground zero. Everything right from the title to the objective, research questions and framework…everything had to be reworked. In simple terms, I had to start from the scratch again.
Lesson 2: Do not lose your confidence
I didn’t cry then, but back home I don’t remember for how long I was sulking and crying in despair. I only remember one moment, the one in the middle of the night. When after complaining a lot I turned around and sat straight and kept gazing at the moonlight by peeping in through my window panes. I made up my mind. I am not done yet, NOT YET.
I understood the meaning of these words that day-
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer” – Albert Camus.
And till date, I stand by these words.
Lesson 3: There is always a way out – Have faith
I had faith that I will make a way out. Right from the next day of the presentation, I started working. I kept reading through numerous papers in spite of me not being well. I was down with acute bronchitis, but even the massive dose didn’t give me sleep, and constant coughing never let me put down my work. My determination was at a different level back then. And within a week there I was with my research framework apt in place. I even formulated the equation for sample size determination and every single word was carefully put after much thought and lot of reference back up. This time I was leaving no stone unturned, no scope for negative remarks. I initiated the field work as well.
And all of this was done within flat three months. The first week of February 2014- Second Progress Review. The moment I jumped to the third slide to explain my research framework, the entire review committee broke out in a smile of appreciation. And the very same reviewer remarked- “Yes this is what we wanted. You worked hard, and it shows”. I was a little choked that moment, for I knew I made my way out and now there was no looking back.
Lesson 4: Listen to your Heart
The world out there has a lot of free advice to give, and most of them don’t make sense at all.
But your heart, your inner voice will never betray you. You have to listen to your instincts once in a while even if the odds are highly against you. Your dreams will take flight against the wind only if you believe in them.
Lesson 5: Keep moving forward
I had a few people whom I call my tribe telling me every moment to keep going, to not give up and then I had a hundred thousand people telling me otherwise. They judged, concluded, and made predictions of how I would never make it, of how it wasn’t a wise decision, of how I was only wasting time and money. These words like a whirlpool kept circling me always. But I kept moving forward nevertheless. And then one beautiful day I broke this ‘chakravyuh.’ You know when?
The day I walked the stage clad in my Alma Mater’s shawl around my proud shoulders to receive my degree from one of India’s Padmashree Awardee. The day I received my Doctoral degree, and my super happy family was beaming with pride seated in the front row was enthusiastically clapping for me. And all of this happened because I choose to listen to my heart even when the odds were against me.
Lesson 6: Gratitude is the key
There were helping hands that pulled me when I fell, the feet that walked along with me for a few stops during my journey and then there were souls that made me believe in humanity. And today I carry nothing but gratitude in my heart. And I keep passing on the torch of appreciation. Whenever I see someone in a similar situation, it is an instinct to reach out, to lend a helping hand, the way someone’s hand reached out to me at the hour of need. And this sense of gratitude became even stronger when I became a guide to a dissertation student. This student’s case transferred to me at the last moment, just barely a month left for submission.
The student with data in hand and no idea about how to proceed had at some point lost confidence. I, on the other hand, had practically minimal idea about the specific subject. But I still took it up. I took it up because there was an enormous amount of faith that student had in me. I even remember that moment when she was bursting with happiness at the mere mention of me being her guide. I kept wondering what I have ever done in 6-7 classes for this girl to have this amount of faith in me that I would show her the way out.
But faith is magic. Her faith in me is what got me started in the first place, and I knew –there is a way out’. We joined forces like a team, day in and night out and streamlined piece by piece together. And yes she did reach the finishing line.
Her tired eyes still managed to light up a smile on her face holding her dissertation copy on the day of submission and that moment made up for all those sleepless nights and tensed days. Faith indeed makes a lot happen. And I just passed on the torch to her. May the sense of gratitude prevail.
Lesson 7: You are the WRITER of YOUR STORY
Your life is a book, and only you can write the best one. Every single day, every moment you have a choice to make it better. You have to believe that you are the writer of your life’s story.
I always had a strange habit of scribbling my name on the pages of my journal. Sometimes last page and sometimes even in the middle of studying I would scratch my name on any given corner of the page. And this is what I used to scribble – ‘Dr.Vidhisha Vijaykumar’
Yes, I started doing this during my Master’s when pursuing Ph.D. was a rough thought. My scribbling increased when I was prepping up for the entrance exams. I continued doing this during my entire Ph.D. journey. What I never knew then was that I kept writing one major chapter of my life’s story. I realized it the day I cleared my defense viva. That day it dawned on me that I am a storyteller; I am the writer of my own life’s story.
You are your hero. Your life will give you a lot of lessons. Pick the ones that leave a profound meaning in your heart and pass on the torch to the other person. Above all, Life is Beautiful. Live it completely!
Do not hesitate to share with us the life lessons you’ve picked up along the way. Drop your comments below. Also, do subscribe to us for more articles like this. You can also follow us on the below social media channels: