On to the Next Chapter

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

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| This is the 167th story of Our Life Logs |

I was born the eldest of six children in 1997 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Growing up I was as happy as a child should be. We lived in this huge empty neighborhood with only a few houses, so we had a lot of room to run wild and play with other kids. I was a shy, a bit reserved but still playful, child.

I came from a disciplined, loyal family. My father was in the army and moved a lot, while my mother and all us kids stayed in one place so that we could focus on our studies. My parents had very high expectations of us. My father, especially, wanted all his children to succeed and build a great career as doctors or engineers. From an early age, I was encouraged to work hard and be above average.

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And I did. I shined in my childhood; everyone saw me as a “star child.” I got the highest grades, and people found me very intelligent. I grew up confident, and it seemed as if I was headed for a bright future as a doctor. My day consisted of going to school, coming home to study, and then going to sleep to do it all over again.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

I kept up this regime for most of high school until my final two years. I’m not sure what changed in me, but the motivation and disciplined mindset I had somehow weakened, and I got easily distracted. I started hanging out with friends and avoided sitting down to study as often. Every teenager has a rebellious stage, and I suppose this was mine. Unfortunately, this rebellion cost me more than I ever could have imagined.

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In 2015, I took the entrance exam for medical school. Even though I knew I had always done well on tests, I was still nervous the night before the exam. The pressure of knowing that this test would define my future caused me a small mental breakdown, and I started to doubt that I would succeed. But then I reminded myself, “You’ve always aced your exams, what are you worried about? You got this, Kainat. It’ll be a piece of cake.” That morning after my pep talk I walked into the classroom extremely confident.

But it turned out it wasn’t a piece of cake at all. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, I failed my exam. The results were like a slap in the face. This was the first time I had ever failed anything, and it felt like my entire sense of self was lost. The worst part was how much I had disappointed my parents. The look in their eyes struck me like piercing a needle into my heart. I had done so well in the past that my parents’ expectations of me were incredibly high. Falling off that pedestal destroyed me.

All the questioning and sympathy looks started to pour in, from friends, relatives and every person I saw. Their voices echoed,

“You were so intelligent, you were so bright, how could you have failed?”

“I expected a lot from you. I guess you weren’t able to live up to it.”

And my least favorite, “How good would it have been if we had a doctor in our family?”

I fell into a deep depression. My confidence totally shattered.

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After that, I never stepped out of our house for months. I lost contact with all my friends. I isolated myself in my bedroom doing absolutely nothing other than crying over my failure. I would only leave my room when my mother called me. I’d pretend everything was normal. But on the inside, I was trapped in a state of denial and sadness.

I spent cold nights alone, sitting in the corner of the room feeling dejected and drowning in self-loathing. I felt the air was stuck in my lungs, an ache that was too foreign for me to describe. I couldn’t name the feelings I was experiencing because I had never tasted failure before. There came a moment when the thought of cutting my fragile skin open to let the pain take a form that I could feel became too tempting. After days and days of sinking in depression, I turned numb to every emotion that came my way. I stopped feeling happiness, I stopped feeling pain, and eventually my eyes became as dry as a desert where no tear was left to shed even if I wanted to cry. I killed all of my screams where my own self was lost among the ruins.

Me spending time alone with my thoughts.
Me spending time alone with my thoughts.
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The whole year alone with myself made me realize that there was no point in crying because it was not going to change anything. If I wanted things to get better, if I wanted to take a fresh start, I had to do that by myself. Nobody was going to stand up for me unless I did that by myself. I knew that it would take me a lot of time, that it was not easy to just throw everything aside and start new, but I at least had to start from somewhere. So, I buckled down and started getting serious about studying for the same medical exam the second time around. I took a year off and re-studied every single thing. Eventually along the way, I got my motivation back and was determined to pass it this time. This was my second chance to prove to everyone that I was not a failure.

I studied nonstop, but still it wasn’t enough. Luck just wasn’t on my side. When I retook the exam in 2016, I lost the battle again.

Failing the second time pushed me right back into the same darkness where I struggled a lot to crawl out from. My parents’ disappointment had grown even harder to bear. They were so frustrated that they would say, “You can’t pass the one exam you need to move forward, so what else can you do? I guess you should just go for English. That’s the only thing easy enough for you.” Their words carved deep in my soul, and I wanted more than anything to lock myself away again. But I didn’t. I guess I had grown stronger over the past year. The double-failure forced me to look at my future and come up with another plan.

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I decided to take my parents’ advice and go into the English Literature program, which my score was high enough to get into. I didn’t think I was a literature person, but I wanted to give it a try. After all, dreams can evolve, can’t they? I vowed to do my best to prove myself in this field since it was the one that my parents had chosen for me. Maybe they would be able to speak proudly about their daughter again.

I never thought that I had the capacity to write something creative, but as I moved on, I started to see, well, maybe I did. And what’s more beautiful is that writing helped me a lot to cope with all the negati