The road not taken: What could have been.


I define myself primarily as a writer. It doesn't matter what I write about or for whom. What matters is, I work with words. I arrange them in a way that they (hopefully) create value. But I did not always plan on doing this for 48 hours a week.

Back in school, I loved animals and plants. I observed birds, wrote about exotic species and obsessively memorised the details of butterflies I hoped to spot. I entertained dreams of becoming an environmentalist or studying biodiversity, at the very least. The reason I didn't do it is really silly - I wasn't great at mathematics. And I was under the (perhaps erroneous) impression that it is impossible to get ahead in the science stream without a passion and an aptitude for numbers. I chose the safer route - I went for Arts. Languages and social sciences were my fortes. There was no way I could go wrong with that. And indeed, I didn't.

Yet when I saw LinkedIn's new hashtag #RoadNotTaken, the one regret that came to mind was the passion I sacrificed at the altar of practicality. There were many things I know now, that I wish someone had told me then. I wish someone had told me that you do not have to study journalism or writing or English, to be a good and even a professional writer. I wish I had known that subject matter expertise actually allows you more scope in writing, as it gives you in-depth knowledge of one area, rather than a shallow overview of many. I wish I had known that one did not have to excel at mathematics in order to study biology. I wish someone had alerted me about the fact that being a scientist was an excellent choice for my introverted personality. Above all, I wish I had had the courage to explore something beyond my obvious strengths.

However, the thing about the #RoadNotTaken is, you'll never know where it might have led. Maybe, aiming to be an environmentalist would have turned out to be a monumental mistake. Yet, I do believe that there are no mistakes in life. There are only choices and consequences. If you're fortunate enough to get an opportunity to take the #RoadNotTaken even after you've made a choice, I suggest you don't let it go. Because the 'what ifs' always return to haunt you, sometime or the other.

The other thing I want to emphasise on is the need to guide students better and make all kinds of practical job-related information available to them. They need much more than a cursory knowledge of the top three careers related to each stream - Arts, Science and Commerce. They need to know about salaries, long-term prospects and the trade-off in choosing one discipline over the other. They require access to well-informed career advisors and counsellors. And they need to be told that fear has no place in the quest for success and fulfilment. Then perhaps, there will be fewer #RoadsNotTaken.

Do you have a #RoadNotTaken story to share? I'd love to hear it.

This post was originally published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141120110448-47567319--roadnottaken-what-could-have-been

Want to go to Paris? Click here.