The results are out. I knew I was not going to make it. It was after I was told about the results that I remembered about my dream the night before. Something I had almost forgotten about. This surprises me and makes me think on a different tangent that whether dreams have anything to do with real-life and that too just before the results came out.
Nevertheless, I started my journey of preparation after leaving University in May 2019 from the position of a teaching fellow. I wanted to pursue my dream job of becoming an IAS Officer and also had to get married in November 2019. I felt like it was the right time. I studied but it was not like how a serious aspirant would have approached the exam. I didn’t take any coaching because for some reason, I had never believed in it.
I kept studying, kept shopping for my shaadi, and kept enjoying every aspect of staying at home. I got married and moved to Gujarat. I constantly felt that I am studying but it was only by February did I realise that I still needed to do so much. Then the UPSC CSE (Civil Services Exam) was not postponed. I used to be distracted very often and I’d force myself to study. After Masters in Environment and Development in 2013, I have been a part of various research projects, and also as a teaching fellow, ‘reading’ was a part of life but studying ‘exam-specific’ and retaining the same is a different ball game altogether.
Moving to Porbandar with my husband provided me with a good amount of time for myself but feeling mentally diverted was a constant. Amid my mental distraction, I kept completing my syllabus but I still had uncompleted targets.
It was announced that the exam had been postponed for a good period. I felt confident that now I would be able to complete everything and to my surprise, I did complete everything. My practice towards keeping myself focused while studying became my behaviour except for some time, which is a part of the process. I was able to handle my anxiety and understood that it came with not being disciplined. The understanding of being disciplined and consistent was for the first time executed. I had heard those words before but I felt their importance only after practising it.
It was already late September with me following my routine and also enjoying it but it was only now, after being this regular and consistent, that I started gaining on my strategy and requirement of the exam. It was late. I was late. But it all made sense only now. I kept revising all the subjects, current affairs, last years’ papers and felt a little confident. But I did lack in writing mocks under a time limit. I did many but not under time constraints. I did but only a few under a time constraint. And this is what that made me learn one of the other most important skills – to decide ‘right’ under pressure.
I made many silly mistakes. After the exam, I told my husband about my silliness and how I knew it all. He, a Defense Officer, replied, “The exam is not just about your knowledge but also how you act under pressure”. He was right.
In the exam hall, I faltered in the concepts I knew really well. I knew then that I had lost this chance and it can’t just be blamed on just ‘silly mistakes’. It was my lack of marking ‘right’ under pressure. Either you remain calm, decide calmly, and are fast with your decision or you try to remain calm, make your decision but it’s not the ‘right’ decision under pressure.
I had lost and due to my upper age limit, I could not write the next exam. I did learn the approach and strategy but I was late. I am late but I know I haven’t lost it. If I look back, I have only gained. I have not just gained knowledge through different subjects that I definitely would not have, if not for this exam, but, also skills that I would practice to not lose ever – consistency, focus, and being calm and patient under pressure.
We do hear all the toppers talking about these skills required for CSE. They are right but not only for CSE, for any career that you chose and want to excel in and also in your personal everyday life.
I learned this because I lacked this, I am sure the others who were serious about this exam would have learned something or the other. What matters now is to not forget what we learned and try to excel in what we choose next.