Every year lakhs of people take the Civil Services exam and only a handful make it to the list. The competition is cut-throat. Successful people get the red carpet treatment-interviews, seminars, workshops. They serve as a source of inspiration for everyone. Tales of people who overcome extraordinary adversity to make it to the top are widely circulated. While we must celebrate success, it is also important to spare a thought for those who don’t make the cut. My relentless pursuit of the exam, despite the setbacks, has put me in a strange position where I find myself as the poster child of failure amongst near and dear ones. I have involuntarily acquired a new reputation for being a pro at failure. I am hoping it’s temporary! I think it is important to talk about failure and not feel embarrassed about it. Here is a glimpse at my civil services journey, coming to terms with failure and a few thoughts on how best to handle it.
Taking the civil services exam has been a personal ambition for me. I quit my job for the exam and dived headlong into it. For the entire duration of my journey, I have worked quite hard and made sincere attempts. The first time that I did not get through, it was okay. It did not feel too bad. I told myself that I had a lot more to read. Besides, not many people crack it in the first attempt. I also consoled myself saying that at least I cracked prelims. The second time around, it felt horrible. Failure struck hard. I could not figure out why I did not do well in certain areas. I was struggling with borderline depression and occasional suicidal thoughts. At this point, your friends are still rooting for you. By the time you are taking the third attempt, you are already sort of addicted to the exam. You don’t want to lose the fight. You are salvaging your pride. You get customary wishes right before the exams. In your heart of hearts, you are still hoping that things might turn around. In all fairness that is how it goes for many.
By the time you are writing your fourth attempt, you are not even sure why you are writing the exam. Surviving an occasional failure is easy for most, but surviving back to back failure can break down the toughest of people. You just want to make sure that you do not have any regrets later. You are scared of catching up with the real world outside and trying to postpone it. The wishes dry up. Only your closest bunch of friends are checking on you. Your relatives have already given up on you and are advocating marriage as redemption and social security. Your life has become confined to your room. You have consulted a hundred astrologers and you have been considering changing your name as per numerology. You lose your sense of time and by the time you are done with your fourth attempt, it’s been five years in the outside world. Five long long years!! Half a decade! National elections are again round the corner. People have gotten married, travelled the world and got promoted. Some may have even popped babies. Your bank balance is negligible. After being out of the job market for 5 years, it is not going to be easy to go back to a job. It is a difficult situation. Pondering over all that is wrong with the Civil Services examination won’t help. You have to get yourself together. No one else can do it for you.