A Note to My Juniors

This is the modified version of a note I wrote to my juniors on Facebook when I noticed unhealthy comparisons being made between subjects, syllabi and career choices. I heard “casual remarks” about students considering a certain subject inferior or being termed “not even a real subject”, which was not only disheartening for me to see, but also disturbing, because I realized these comments did significantly affect students, even if they didn’t outwardly express it. So, I decided to write this note in the hopes that people would realize how ridiculous these statements sounded. Also, references to specific subjects and curricula have been made only because it is, unfortunately, the common opinion and not because I think so. I’ve heard these statements far too frequently, and have therefore, used these specific sentences.

Dear Juniors,

I hope that by the time you’ve finished reading this, each of you can understand and appreciate that putting others down, especially on the basis of subject and career choices, will not do you any good, but instead will make you lose out—big time!

Here’s some general gyaan, because traditionally, seniors simply love leaving their juniors with some unsolicited advice, so why should I be an exception, right? (I’m glad you agree.) Work really, really hard but also have fun and make sure you meet some exceptional people along the way (that said, make it a point to learn something from every person you meet and take something away from every interaction, even if it is taking away what you don’t like or want) and lastly, most importantly, make some memories that will last you a lifetime. Make sure you regret nothing and be open to exploration.

However, formulate your own rules that resonate with your values, and stick to them. The purpose of this message, however, has nothing to do with what I just said. 

What defines you, is purely who you are. Not whether you’re doing Science or Commerce, whether you’re doing IB or AICE or ISC or CBSE or PU or NIOS or whatever it is you have chosen to do. None of that matters as long as you work hard and are happy with yourself.

It sickens me to see students getting bullied over what they want to study. I’ve been told that commerce is a subject just for “stupid people”, not a subject one can feel passionate about, not a path someone chooses to take up. Instead, it’s a stream that an unfortunate individual is stuck with, it’s what people do when they cannot get into the sciences. “It was a joke bro, chill. Commerce is a real subject, I know that.” Yes of course, commerce is a “real subject”. Maybe it was a joke, maybe it wasn’t. But I guarantee you someone felt bad, someone got hurt. I know this, because people who laugh along with you at your “joke” have told me so themselves, between sobs. I know this because I have friends who chose science over commerce simply to prove they’re capable.

It’s crazy how subject and curriculum choices have begun to define people.

“Oh she’s an arts student, she’s stupid bro.”

“Dude, AS is such nonsense, it’s so easy. You should see what IB is.”

“No dude, we have boards in 11th, IB is nothing compared to what we have to go through”

“Literature is time-pass” “You PU students don’t even need to study” “Is that even, like, a legit subject?” “You IB kids literally get marks for turning in things on time” “You don’t do Math? What will you even do? No college will take you in, you know that, right?"

Nothing is easy. Every subject in every curriculum requires hard work. Yes, it’s alright to complain to your friends about all the work you have, even compare courses. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have the right to feel superior to anyone in any way, just because of the curriculum or subject you chose. Everyone made their decisions for a reason, and that’s their personal choice, their reason. So, respect everyone’s choice. No one has it easy. Yes, some find some subjects easy and others find the same ones hard, and that is alright! Just work for what you really desire and it will be yours.

Be proud of your decisions and your dreams, even when they are very different from that of others’. Don’t change who you are, or what you want because of other people—your peers, teachers, family, neighbours, none of them. What you do should make you happy, and drive you. What you choose to do must excite you every day and make you look forward to working, studying, doing what you have to, to achieve what you would like to achieve.

The world is in dire need of more people doing what they love, and doing it well. Taking away a talented artist and making him a mediocre engineer does not do anyone good. So, don’t get caught up in the competition of your last high school years, don’t obsess over outdoing your classmates, but instead, do your best. Be open to learning from the “stupid guy” who secretly is a wonderful poet, be open to teaching the “class nerd” your favourite magic trick, be open to accepting others and you will be accepted, you will be better. Who knows, you may even decide to change the path you want to take, discover an unknown talent or just find a new hobby.

I promise you this: You will not regret holding back your judgement and interacting with a person much different than you.

After years of hearing all this, I just had to put this message out there. I really think this insanity needs to stop. It hurts people, whether you realize it or not. Put all that energy into your own work and I’m sure you’ll get where you want to be. Consciously make sure you stay on track with your own aspirations and goals and let others go on their own paths. 

All the very best to all of you!

Ilina Moitra Mallya Aditi School, Bangalore

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