The reality check: Does the rat race end with JEE?
“You just need to get into a good college. After that you can forget about the rat race”. We’ve been told this so many times by our parents and teachers, all their advice blurring into one final statement; That life is perfect after JEE. But, that is a lie! One we do not realise, unfortunately, till we get into college. JEE is often set as the benchmark for engineering aspirants. If you get into a good college, your future is basically set (or at least that’s what we are told). However, the reality is pretty different. Virus’s famous quote from 3 idiots sums it up perfectly- “Life is a race and if you don’t run fast you’ll be like a broken andaa”. So what is this rat race, how does it translate into our college life and, most importantly, can we actually escape it, or are we doomed?
The “Rat Race” is defined as an endless, grueling and pointless pursuit. Similar to how rats run after cheese, it refers to how humans chase after rewards in an exhausting loop. These rewards can be financial, academic or even just for personal satisfaction. To get those rewards, though, we have to compete with others as there are only a limited number of rewards up for grabs. Cutthroat competition is prevalent everywhere. In college, you’ve got to keep up your CGPA, get internships, have a social life, work out, etc. etc. Everything is made into a competition, and it’s all about who wins it. As you get older, the competition changes, but it’ll be a competition, nevertheless. “Who got the promotion?”, “Who got the highest LPA?”,” Which college are you going to for your masters?”. This competition isn’t just limited to academics. We are also expected to simultaneously balance a social life, have a lot of friends, do fun things, and go on exotic vacations. Social media is doing us no favours here. Something which a lot of us forget is that social media only shows us the highlights of someone’s life, not the pitfalls and curves. We’re expected to have it all by a society that doesn’t praise half as much as it criticizes. This pressure affects people of all ages, and college students are no exception. The evidence of the enormous stress college students are under can easily be seen in the awful state of their mental health. We’re never good enough, we never study enough, we never have enough fun and ultimately never satisfied. But then again, what is enough? When will we allow ourselves to be happy with what we do have? That will be when the perception of our life as a rat race ends.
However, that is easier said than done. We, as humans, love glory and success. It has been like that from ancient times, when the Greeks would sacrifice their lives for a wreath of dusty leaves. We just love to be praised and admired. However, in order to get those 5 minutes of glory, we are willing to sacrifice so much. I mean, let’s be honest. Is it really going to be that big of a deal if we get an A grade instead of an S. Yes, it’s good to be ambitious and work hard but when we sacrifice our mental health and put so much pressure on ourselves just for that one grade, the question of “is it really worth it ?” arises. The other question is whether we are actually passionate and excited about what we are learning or whether we’re doing it just for the grades. The majority of students fall into the latter category. It is a sad fact that passion has nearly no role in our education system. We hustle all day, every day and if at the end of this disappointing and exhausting process, we still don’t get what we wanted, it can cause us to snap!
We live in a dog-eat-dog world and competition is going to be a constant factor in our lives(especially with the population increasing exponentially). The key to not letting the competition get to us and stress us out is to not compare ourselves with others and to not consider someone else’s victory as our loss. So folks, ensure you take a deep breath and remember that everyone is doing their own thing and at the end, it doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.