A decade. Ten years. 3652 days. 87648 hours. A lot has changed. And by a lot, literally, a lot. So many things are coming to an end now. This month, year, decade, school life. As university life begins, friends will part ways naturally breaking delicate strings grasping sands of youth, things we will realize when it’s too late and who knows what more.
The previous decade
Although this is the post of the decade, I think it’ll be fun and interesting to see what an actual lil’ Amaan was like. My lil quest for knowledge began in Bahrain miles away from what I would come to call home until somewhere in the 1st grade. I then continued to switch between countries and schools repeatedly to the point where I, now, don’t know what schools I’ve been to, and in what order.
Memory fails me except for stories I hear from relatives every now and then which follow the eye-opening line- “arey Amaan toh itna shareef ho gaya” (Oh my, Amaan’s become so decent now!). And obviously can’t forget the telepathic conversation I have with my brother and mom over the word “decent” becuase- nevermind, yes, I am decent now. 🙂
There’s no thrill greater than visiting relatives for the sole purpose of hearing remixes of your own tales. Is this how dead people feel about their documentaries? The misadventures of Amaan go all the way from being sent to a boarding school for 6 months and returning with a schedule doctors envy, on-time sleep and food habits. The converse quick to assume came as loudly as jamming toilets, broken bits of everything under your chappals, shouting out the eternal ironclad “WHAT IS SLEEP?” and beating anyone up at will like a little Lucknowi don. “Amaan is coming home today hide all the fragile stuff!”
Interestingly, my mess of shifting schools ended at the start of this decade. The start of 3rd grade at Rajagiri Intl. School (now, Primus Private School) was when my academic life stabilized (no I don’t mean grades here). I hold a lot of great memories from being in that school. Starting from the moment I joined the school, trying to make different variants of paper planes, paper money, self-created games and what not. The school got an environment club called “green gang.” Us kiddos inspired by the word ‘gang’ started forming our own little groups (mine eventually became Sarcastic Legends) and even issuing our own currencies (we were like 10 years old cut us some slack thank you). Among the things I now look back at laugh at is my infamous … ‘love story’.. that was at a time the hottest tea being spilled (still 10...).
I was part of my house’s Kho-Kho team and that was one of the best games I’ve ever come across. Eventually my interests shifted and to get a place in sports in Our Own, a much much bigger school was no piece of cake. When I was in RIS, I was into speaking to an extent since the beginning, but later started avoiding opportunities because I was lazy to put in work and also fear. I remember the one time in 7th grade I did push myself to do a Hindi Elocution, it paid off. I got first place…………. because I was the only participant. My academics did relatively go down in the last two years of that school. But really, who cares? When I look back now I remember incidents like throwing skittles at Overnight Camps, playing with teachers children when they brought them to school, bunking classes (and i oop-), the concert where I had to speak like a Bihari, distributing the highly demanded “Amaan’s mom’s biryani” at class parties, water fights, an actual fist fight and eating cup noodles at our “gang turf” behind the canteen.
Ever since I came across the conflict in Palestine in 2014, politics and religion really enticed me. The start was pretty radical, but eventually I started approaching things in a more sensible manner. I started to look at how other cultures answer callings of what is called a God, comparing them and aspired to do something in the field of spreading that knowledge as well. It’s a dream I’m not currently acting on, but not one that I’ve scrapped.
I used to talk about it a lot on Google+ (it’s dead now rip) and that led to me having my first online friend- coincidentally, from my sister school (OOEHS). It seems like the concept of online friends is a taboo to our friendly neighborhood boomers. I would talk about this, but it needs a separate post as a whole.
The first half of this decade also saw an insane gaming phase. My life revolved around games. I’d spend entire days just playing. GTA, Call of Duty, Minecraft, Need for Speed, Terraria and what not with friends back when Skype still ruled. I still randomly return to games occasionally when I miss how those times were.
I used to read a lot as well. My favorite series was Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson. Yes, a very limited choice but I wasn’t thaaaat big of a reader and at this point I don’t really read books at all. I tried, left them halfway through and I plan to read non-fic, but don’t get the time and motivation to. I think it’s okay though. I don’t have to necessarily read. I get my reading done through researching.
This was my last academic year at RIS, after which I shifted to Our Own Warqa’a. There was a lot that happened at RIS: good, bad, fun, dull, everything. There were a lot of lessons to learn. A lot of teachers who I remember for various reasons. I mentioned an academic fall in that school, but for the finals of 7th grade, I hustled. I’d never won an academic accolade in that school until my last year there. I had to go back there after a normal day at OOW in 8th grade to collect the award. Since I went back, I wasn’t going to just take what I had to and leave. I met teachers, and my old friends. I actually even sat in class for an entire period there and messed around like the old days.
In my last two years at that school, the bitter truths about friendships started to unveil themselves. Drama introduced itself into my life. It was tough. I was small and exposed to a lot of opposition. I too made bad decisions, not that I was innocent. If something I’m really proud of about at this moment, it’s that I don’t regret anything. Yes there have been bad times, bad consequences, but there have been lessons I’ve learnt from them. The bad experiences have always left behind changes. All experiences in life left behind a mark, a lesson, a change, a thought, an emotion, all of which combine to form the Amaan you now know.
This was pretty much a life changing moment for me. I changed schools. It was like moving from a small pond to an ocean. From a school where my grade had a total of 50 kids to a school where my grade alone had a total of 500+ kids.
The change was difficult, suddenly no one knew me. I was nothing. I wanted to go back. OOW was more serious with everything. It was harder to get away with not doing things and I wasn’t used to it.
But that’s how humans are, resisting change. Whether something is good for us, or bad for us, the transition is naturally unsettling. This was one of those moments. It was a good long term change but the getting used to part, I hated it but what could’ve been done? It was inevitable.
Not to forget, that was 13 year old me. I was a completely different person. More of an introvert. Did not like to or actually know how to socialize. If it wasn’t for my partner’s clash of clans art on day one (and me being a clash of clans fan at that point of time), I don’t know how long it would’ve taken for me to able to strike a proper long conversation.
I eventually found crazy friends who also were into games, memes and the same Youtubers as me and eventually, I got used to it. I started liking it. I had started my own clash of clans clan and Youtube channel on which I posted weird meme attempts and various gameplays (no don’t ask for the link you’re not getting it). Fun story, I actually made about.. 7$ from that.
In the year 2015, when I joined OOW, although I initially felt like I won’t get anywhere, opportunities knocked before I even finished constructing my door. I was taken in the team for presenting a S.T.E.A.M. project at GEMS New Millennium School. The project took us an year to finish, we did the presentation when I was in 9th grade. My class teacher, Vinayshri Sahay [Ma’am] supported me through everything and pushed me to reach my potential. Obviously it wasn’t all smiles, I do vividly remember her getting mad at me for making sheep jokes (if you’re a pokemon fan, it was about Mareep) with my friend during science class. In 9th, I became a school prefect. I started my journey of Prefect to Head Boy since then.
9th grade, it was awesome really. A lot of memories were made this year. Going to IMG with friends from school, prefects camp, the time we brought a raw potato to class and drew a face on it and wrote it’s life story (I forgot it’s name!) and almost got caught (sometimes I wonder if we did caught with it, would the potato be confiscated?). It was a very simple year. Professionally, I participated in a few events here and there but I did reject certain opportunities- solely because I was lazy to put in actual effort. Perhaps that could be something I regret, but at the same time, it isn’t because next year, one of the things that kept my drive to grab every opportunity possible was that I did not do it the previous year. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t have that endless drive in me.
10th grade was revolutionary for me. I participated in so many more competitions. I got so much more social and made so many new friends. I could say this was my transition from introvert to ambivert- a mix of introvert and extrovert. I got to be the student organizer for a weekly talk event at school, I attended my first two MUN conferences (October 2017 and February 2018) and I started volunteering. That was the year I started my blog as well. A lot went up that year, my extra-curriculars, academics, social life etc. Through MUN, I made a lot more friends and it’s something that really enticed me. I continued to attend how many ever more I could. Through my blog, I sought to target my age group and help them in academics, extracurriculars, mental-health and any other possible field I could touch. Apart from posts that intended to help, I also expressed my personal opinions which often led to backlash but again, can you ever satisfy everyone?
But I feel to a great extent, I pushed myself over my limits, or I didn’t really take care of myself. With age, we start to think more, we start to feel more, we start to expect things sometimes. Conflict in relationships becomes more common compared to childhood. A lot of what happened with people affected me. I let what others think define me a lot. I desperately wanted to feel like I was good enough, to a great extent, I still have those traits. I sought to validate myself through achievements. The fact that I was good enough as an individual person just for existing had left me and I didn’t even realize until it was too late.
Yet again, looking back, I’m glad whatever happened, happened. It gave me a lot of lessons, knowledge and helped me grow as a person. I believe myself to be an empath, a safe space for others to vent/talk to or seek advice from. I honestly don’t wish that the negatives that did happen shouldn’t have happened. Perhaps if they didn’t, I wouldn’t be who I am now.
Life is a journey. Friends come and go. As easy as it sounds, it isn’t. Grasping the concept that relationships are bound to end, people are bound to leave is not easy at all. I’ve been at a horrible state of not understanding that concept. Losing friends hurt a lot. Every time someone left, it took longer than it should have to move on from it. I still haven’t completely grasped that, I don’t remain unaffected if someone leaves but that’s okay. Humans are bound to have feelings and emotions and to not be affected is what would be something to worry about. The only thing we need to be careful about is to not let those negative emotions persist.
In July 2017, our school took us to United States. It was a really fun trip, one of the greatest highlights of this decade.
Selecting a stream was an interesting task. Owing to my academic results, the stereotypical mind naturally thought that I will opt for science but I did not even remotely consider it. I wanted to go down the humanities with economics line but my school didn’t offer those subjects. I could’ve changed schools for what I wanted, but again, that wasn’t an option, I didn’t want to reset the ladder and reputation I created at my school. Besides, not having exact humanities subjects didn’t mean I couldn’t go down that road in university, so I continued in OOW with commerce and math. The time I handed in my stream selection form, when word spread about what I chose, I first-hand witnessed what the typical Indian stereotypical mind thinks. It was like an interview every time I walked in the halls, “why amaan? why have you taken commerce? I thought you were smart!”
On the brighter side though, compared to how things were years ago, as per what I’ve heard at least, people are much more open to choosing a stream that isn’t science, at least I’m grateful my parents were. Apart from my lack of interest in science, I had a couple other motivators to taking commerce. Frankly, if you were to ask me what job I will be doing, I wouldn’t be able to answer that. Science is a field that is going to be fast replaced by robots, and so what if we don’t know our profession right now, most jobs that our generation will work for aren’t even created yet.
By the start of 2018, I could feel my friend circle transform. Whether we’re talking about those in my school, or externally. Things happen, you lose people, you gain new ones and that’s exactly what was happening with me, maybe a bit too much in a very short period of time. Added to that was the start of 11th grade, which assorted us into classes by subjects, which naturally broke apart my original group from 8th-10th grade. Having to socialize again and get used to a new class was another task but to be honest, it wasn’t that hard, I knew most of the people in my class from before. In the year before, I’d really upped how social I was and my increasing roles in the school left me with no choice but to network even more.
I got the position of Deputy Innovation Captain in school this year. One of the two routes I was willing to take, the other being Vice House Captain. Having started off my extra-curricular journey in OOW with innovation, continuing down this road was interesting. And how often do you see a commerce student lead the innovation department? There was another challenge: breaking the stigma that innovation is the birthright of S.T.E.M. subjects. I tried everything I could. I wasn’t interested in S.T.E.M. based innovation (although that’s precisely what my first project in 8th was) so I went along the route of trying to restructure the organizational structure of the school’s innovation department and left the S.T.E.M. field to my captain and my S.T.E.M. interested batch mates.
In the same year, our school started an Outstanding Learning Development Program under the header of Personal and Social Development Team. After multiple meetings throughout May-June 2018, as the de-facto head of the team, we pulled off the largest student development program I’ve seen in the school. The training session we gave in the auditorium came to be the first ever workshop I’ve given to students.
Apart from the year-round positions, I further developed myself through holding organizational roles in annual events: teachers day, farewell, overnight camp etc. Having attended multiple MUNs, 2018 saw the first ever inter-house conference in OOW. Aspiring for my house (Saturn) to win, I also led multiple training sessions for my delegates. We eventually came as the runner up best delegation.
Having attended so many conferences, taken up so many roles, I was really pushed to be more confident, and active. This trust in me was visible in the way my teachers dealt with me. If there was an outsider coming to our assembly for something, they could count on me to give an on the spot introduction and vote of thanks (okay yeah I did it but at least a 5 minute advance notification would really help!). I’d find myself to have a mic in my hand even when I have nothing to do with what’s going on, I’d get involved in things by being pushed into it and still getting through without crashing it down. Looking back at a time in 7th grade when I stood in front of a class of about 15 students, anxious and trembling to give a small talk while having a paper to refer to, these moments truly showed how far I’ve come over time.
I can’t really explain how I was able to do that, how one can just get a mic and come up with stuff on the spot without being scared. For one, I gave myself no choice, if I was handed a mic, I have the mic now there is no going back. Secondly, I didn’t think of it as a big task, or a speech, I thought of it as a normal conversation, or just me speaking my mind out, but with a mic. I never stared at the audience specifically. I tried to lose my focus as if it was a conversation with an imaginary person, or myself, but I’d still look around at the audience but not focus on the people. Technically, I’m staring into a blank space with no eye-focus, but the audience thinks I’m engaging; and since these were speeches, that’s all that mattered.
Opening myself to criticism also really helped. Accepting the fact that you as a human are bound to make mistakes and that the healthy way to go about it is by correcting them and not fretting over them for long was important. Not that you shouldn’t be worried or hurt if you mess up. Sure, go ahead, accept that you feel those emotions, but don’t let them persist for long. That’s the philosophy I tried to follow. Obviously, it was hard. When criticism comes, it sometimes hurts, and in what form it is expressed also shapes the degree of hurt. Sometimes it’s not constructive and perhaps just someone trying to pull you down. How to differentiate between constructive criticism and someone just trying to pull me down was a challenge. What do I actually need work on? Who do I listen to? I never really figured how to rationally answer these questions, but the way someone phrased their feedback, the amount of examples, and type of suggestions they gave, my intuition helped me decide what will help me grow, and what won’t.
My highlight of 2018 would probably be the time I gave a workshop to teachers at another school. Having independently gone as a student-trainer to the faculty not through school started a whole new chapter in my life. This was the first workshop I gave alone, the first I gave to teachers, the first I gave at another school. Not going to lie, it was fun. While I had all good intentions and the workshop was a huge success, I pulled off perhaps the biggest UNO reverse card you’d ever see. I used the teachers strategies on themselves. Timed group activities. Group presentations. Cold-calling. End-of-the-class-summaries. It all combined to form an interactive and fun learning session for those wonderful teachers.
By the start of 2019, I started chairing at MUNs. If there’s something that really made me proud of how far I was in the MUN field at that time, was being appointed as President of Security Council for this MUN that was to happen in February 2019, but got cancelled. Having no prior chairing experience, it really showed the trust they had in me.
I don’t know how I balanced so much with an active social life. In the last two years, my friend circle developed a tradition of throwing surprise parties for each other. These got really adventurous. My favorite one is definitely the one where we snuck into my friends house and decorated her hall while she was in her room. Talk about being sneaky.
By now, I’ve made really good friends in class and as time progressed towards now, my friend circle slightly changed again. It’s bound to happen, people leave, you outgrow people, they outgrow you, you don’t vibe with everyone and that’s okay. I have so many memories with so many groups from all the wild things we’ve done. Rooftops. Birthdays. Surprise parties. Snow spray fights. Bunking class…. legally. Theme parks. Cycling in rain. Rooftops at sunset or during rain. Walking from Dubai to Sharjah multiple times and what not.
I mentioned wanting to be a headboy since 9th grade. This was the year I would hope for my dream to come true. It didn’t happen. I held the mantle of Innovation Captain this year. It hurt a lot initially, I had so many questions about what went wrong, after all the service to school and students, why? I got over it though. It wasn’t the end of the world. I stuck to my plans regardless. I still grew, still sought for ways to improve myself and I’m proud of where I am now, irrespective of not having accomplished that goal.
This is my last academic year at school, 12th grade, and then university life will unravel. I’ve heard mixed stories. Some love it, some don’t. I guess I won’t find out until I’m in it. This is the year everyone usually drops their activities and devotes their life to academics like a saint. Why? Cause Boards. I find the entire idea of boards so overhyped. This entire hype is what creates unnecessary anxiety among students, or in some cases provide a panic productivity drive but it’s neither for me. I see it as normal exams (in terms of difficulty), but are corrected outside, and matter. For me, the more I let the hype get to me, the more it worries me and I’m not up for that stress. The more I write about it now too, the more it’ll get to me so moving on.
I didn’t want to drop my activities, in fact, opportunities were only increasing. I continued to attend MUNs, by the end of December 2019, I’m standing at 18 conferences attended and will hit 20 before I graduate from school. In the same field, my opportunities increased. I started training delegates from my school, and throughout the year, got invited to three other schools to train their delegates as well- one of which, was my largest workshop by count where I dealt with 260 students in another school. In 2019, I fulfilled one of my dreams: became Secretary-General for interhouse OOWMUN19 and laid the groundwork for an inter-school OOWMUN.
Emotionally, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt in the last year of this decade would be about personal boundaries and how okay it is to say “no” when you have valid reasons. I’ve felt like I kept pushing myself beyond limits- professionally, emotionally and socially. In every field, I started to cut down. I rejected a couple opportunities and backed out from certain things which I couldn’t give much time to given everything else. I raised personal boundaries to avoid losing and compromising on myself during conflict- to keep toxic people out and surround myself with supportive, positive and those who I vibe with.
A lot of people hold an important part of my decade. Religion. My parents, their hard-work, support, comfort, motivation, prayers and blessings. Many, many teachers for teaching me various lessons, for supporting and guiding me through a lot, and some for being a safe space to vent to, even those who were like a friend who I could joke with. Friends, those who were there, those who are there, those who left behind lessons, those who support and meme with me. Memes and so much more.
Once again, as the new decade starts, a lot is going to change again. University. Friends will part different ways. I’ll be living a more independent life (not really a choice here though) and who knows what else is in store? The free trial of life has expired, now begins the real game of improvise, adapt, overcome.