hmmm.. funny how one incident can lead to another.. how one memory can cause another one to come to mind.
how one episode can be life-changing.
and i'm serious.
t'was a time about nine years ago.. when i was relatively newly returned to my country; after spending my first 12 years abroad. a new school. a host of new faces. and i was desperately trying to fit in. find my place. get new friends.
come to terms with reality. rather, the new reality that i was in.
we had a class picnic every year; wherein we guys(it was a boys' school) were taken out of the city to any of the camping spots for a couple of days. just to hang out, relax, have fun and explore.
that was the year we went to bhandardara.
i had found friends only a short while earlier in school; but what the hell.. you can't do this again & again. so i went.
i cannot say what kind of impression my friends had of me.. possibly the fact that i had cried on my first day in school might have given me the character of the class sissy.
youth can be very cruel.
that trip was fun.. but one thing that happened did change my outlook in life. i grew up from the mollycoddled mommy's boy to the slightly reserved quiet-ish boy.. who was still his mother's son.
i will skip over the various events to the one that is pertinent.
we had gone mountain climbing.. mt. kalsubhai was not freakishly high.. at least it wasn't to us kids.
it was an exhilarating climb. amazing vistas, and the exhuberence of youth meant that i won't forget it. ever.
we ran out of water half way up; and had to scramble on wet rock to reach the stream that ran a little off the trail that went up the mountain. i nearly slipped off the surface.
we found a tiny temple at the top and walked around it. on the tip of that mountain. not exactly for the faint-hearted.
and then on the way down, my “group” – so to speak – went zooming down the mountain. i couldn't exactly follow suit, i'd made the mistake of bringing shoes a size too small. logically, my pace was just a little slower.
very soon, i was alone. somewhere on the mountain.
no danger, you understand. the teachers knew i had gone; and guides would find me eventually. if i didn't come down with the others.
i must have rested on a rock at one point. the next thing i knew, another group(completely unknown) that was coming down found me. assistance and support were readily given and very soon i was taken down the mountain to my friends before i realised it.
“he'd fainted. you should take care of him.”
eventually we reached the buses. i must have stepped in a puddle at some point, coz my shoes were sodden. it was the rains anyway; one could not expect anything more.
the news of my 'fainting' spread like wildfire; i don't think it helped my reputation any.
when we were stripping down, back at camp, i realised that my feet were freezing. sodden shoes off; drenched socks off, and an involuntary comment – “my socks are wet!”
it didn't help matters. for the next 2 days, that was the name. and it remained for the next few months back at school as well.
not my greatest time.
but it changed me. completely.
didn't get it ?
to me, the only way that i could ever lose the tag “wet socks” would be to become better. become good. become great. prove that i was better than any name that they could come up for me.
and i did. i lost that tag after the next exams, when i topped the class in english.
get better. think better. work smarter.
the only way i could avoid it would be to shut up. only speak if needed. not shoot my mouth off for the heck of it. listen to what the other person was saying before i put my foot in my mouth.
the only way i could make sure that i would never get such a name again was by proving to myself that i was better than them all. believe that i was better than them, and i might just get that way.
be proud of who you are.
just because they decided i was a sissy didn't make me one. it meant that they could not see who i really was. and i would show them. not tell. show.
show people what you can do, eventually they ALL notice.
i still follow these principles. i never forget that it takes only a couple of hours to completely lose your reputation.
there are many other things that i have learnt about myself, and about others since then. but that was the day that i decided that i would learn. and never stop.
it's worked. or at least i think it has.
my socks will always remain 'wet'. but they will always be drier than yours.