The Errors of the Super-Specific Vertical Goal-Oriented Way of Living

Right before my high school boards, my aunt took my cousins and me to a temple. After the overnight journey, we little ones, of course, just wanted some sleep. But my aunt was having none of it. She wanted us up and ready by an ungodly (pun unintended) hour because the belief went that if you prayed at a certain time, all your prayers would be heard by the great Gods above. So, after a dip in the freezing 4 am waters of the holy lake, we marched (barefoot) to the temple. And when my aunt ordered “Now!”, we prayed for that high score in board exams that would soar through rooftops and put our neighbors to shame (cos it’s always about one-upping the neighbors).

In most Indian families, children aren’t taught to aim very high. Or — let me rephrase — we are taught to aim high, but not far. Aim vertical, not horizontal. We are taught to “pray” for high marks, but aren’t allowed or encouraged to explore our options beyond that. It wasn’t until my first job interview, when the interviewer asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” that I realized, damn, I never thought that far ahead. I’ve been, just, winging it all this while.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the specific score that I had prayed for (and mind you, it was specific — I didn’t want a multiple of 5 and I didn’t like odd numbers, so goddamn, it was specific). Here’s why — God, if he/she exists, is different from a genie. Fundamentally speaking, a genie says “Your wish is my command.” God, on the other hand, says, “Dude, IDGAF.” God isn’t obliged to give you anything you ask for, even if you take all the dips in the holy lake as you like and die of pneumonia. Not his/her problem.

I have struggled with spirituality and belief for a while now. I cannot blindly accept an all-omni-blah being, like most people of faith do. It conflicts with this other thing I have called rational thought. On the other hand, sometimes, it’s comforting to have a parent-like figure to think about. I don’t pray (or make wishes) anymore, even if I’m sometimes forced to go to temples by the family. And the whole charade of lighting lamps and offering flowers is to me just that — a charade, one I refuse to participate in. But there’s always someone telling you certain places of worship just “work” (see, that alone is in contrast to the all-powerful theory — why do some places “work” and others don’t?). On top of that, there are now certain places that work for certain things — like a government office and its departments.

So I rolled my eyes when our tour guide in Kodaikanal said he was taking us to a church where you could ask for anything you wanted, and all your desires would be fulfilled, etc., etc. Not this again. At least, it isn’t 4 am.

So, with half a belief system, I marched, armed with yet another super-specific vertical goal. It wasn’t even half a belief. On a scale of Miracles Happen to Haha Yeah Right, I was at Muffled Laughter, But Filled With Doubt.

I was almost at the altar when I changed my mind. I didn’t care about my super-specific vertical goal (SSVG) anymore. I realized having SSVG fulfilled would mean yet another halt in bigger and better plans that I may someday have. For the first time in almost a decade, I realized the true significance of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” And SSVG would get in the way of that. I was done waiting. I was done pushing aside one big thing for fifty smaller ones. So, as I stood there in front of the altar, SSVG lying discarded somewhere on a bench, I just said this, “Tell me what is the one big thing. It’s about time.”

And that’s the story of the “sort-of-revelation” I mentioned in my previous post. More on this later.

Originally published on Petrichor and Clouds

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store