We just returned from a weekend trip to Hampi last night, where it seems like summer comes a little early. Here in Bangalore, too, the temperature is rising by the day though staying 5-10 degrees cooler than Hampi. As the outside air encroaches on my upper threshold of enjoyable temperatures, I’m noticing how the pace of the program is similarly reaching the end range of what I’d call a comfortable workload. I typically reach this critical boundary around one month into the quarter, when the expectations placed on me by classes and whatever else turn from “I got this” to “Wait, can I do all this?” Beyond this tipping point, I have a tendency to cut out all other aspects of my life, including most things that make me happy and healthy, until the burden is relieved at the end of the term. These things include exercise, a somewhat balanced diet, the occasional date night. Nothing extraordinary, but vital nonetheless.
By stripping my extra-curricular life down to bare bones and shaving seconds and minutes off daily tasks at every turn, I transform into a lifeless yet highly efficient schoolwork machine. This is the only way I know I can be certain of my competence. It’s a type of tunnel vision that is both a great virtue and vice. I recognize that it has a place and is here to help me, however I cannot let it become my baseline state of existence. Or perhaps I could, but that’s not ultimately who I want to be. In that state, it’s too easy to miss out on the many wonderful things around me. For example, how about the fact that I’m in India for the first and possibly last time of my life? My computer screen is my computer screen regardless of where I am in the world. Emails are just emails. Presentations are just presentations. But the sidewalks just outside these gates? Those are far different from sidewalks at home. The smells, sounds, and stories I might encounter here are unique and irreplaceable memories should I choose to engage them. To miss out on any of the present experience because of my stress-induced habits would be a tragic lost opportunity.
Of course, I understand this program requires hard work. Julian and Deborah made it clear to us from the get-go, if we are looking for a vacation we’ve come to the wrong place. Ironically, it’s not the hard work part that’s hard for me but managing to stop and smell the flowers occasionally too. As I’ve been preparing for an upcoming presentation the past few days, I’ve felt my system ramping up to switch modes. In the first five weeks the demands have not been sufficient to elicit this response. I’ve managed to watch a couple movies, exercise on the roof, socialize even after clearing my plate, and even take up a bit of kickboxing.
My hope in voicing this is that, in the second half of GCIL, I would be able to strike a balance between tunnel visioning when necessary and maintaining these more human elements in my days. I hope as I fly back to the US I feel content knowing I gave my full effort to the task before me while being fully present to my surroundings as well. So, here’s to being more human and less robot.