Learning through experience and error

Exit Stage: I'm Just A Guy

E

In 2011, my social sciences teacher, who was there as a substitute that day, for some unbeknownst authority and audacity told me that I was not going to be good at anything because I was always jumping to the next thing I found. In hindsight, I think he was right, and I’m not sure what “good at anything” means anymore, but I have learned something else in the ten years that would follow.

Let’s start in 2012. I was in tenth grade. I started freelancing in Graphics Design. It started small; five-dollar gigs that took the work of a hundred dollars, but I had to brave it for acquiring regular customers. Gradually, the ratings built up, and I wasn’t any good at this point, to be honest.

On the contrary, by professional standards, I was ripping people off. In my defence, my only experience with design was making wallpapers by following random tutorials and posting them on a website with my cousin. We were learning, though, so, we had that going on for us.

Here’s How It All Went: Graphics

Anyway, by 2013, I had enough standing on the platform to get more projects. At this point, I was getting longer projects which took more time. I had a few longstanding clients too; one of them had stuck with me for all the way since my first interaction with them in 2012. The average project I could do would be priced at around fifty dollars at this point. I was still in high school though, so I’d work nights sometimes, and in early mornings before school, and sometimes in between. I’d carry my phone to school and continuously try to find new clients.

Why was I doing all of this though if I was still in school? It was simple. I realised I wanted to get things for myself I wasn’t comfortable in asking my parents for – electronics, games, and all sorts of things, even small presents for my girlfriend at the time would be covered from this little side-hustle. It was working too, and I was enjoying the two-timing of it all. School and classes by day, graphics design by night. I was also getting an uneducated, more practice-makes-perfect, understanding of visual design.

At around this age, I’d get my first bank account too for my money was finally significant enough. I’d continue working for the next two years until I reached the end of school. It was around 2014 where I hit my first thousand-bucks. It was around this time also that my projects started increasing in number as well as value. I was doing infographics now for hundred-a-piece. Then, I started working outside the platform I was associated with, and I worked with a startup for a long time until they didn’t need my services anymore, but here I learned a lot about typography and what fonts go best with one another, and so, somehow, I gained an instinctual sense of it all.

High school ended, and I started architecture school in the same city. Almost a semester later though, I dropped out. With all the time on my hands, I started investing heavily into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Eventually, I found a friend I’d made in-game who was coincidentally called Obi-Wan and well, he guided me, a young padawan, as per his namesake. He directed me to the Steam Workshop, and I realised I could make in-game content called Stickers and Skins for CS:GO. So, I began. I started learning about how to design stickers, and I did what I had always done so far on my journey, scoured articles and tutorials.

The first sticker I ever published took about a full day, including the night to post on the workshop. It was exhilarating to view the demo, so I continued naturally. Around this time, I was involved with a small CS:GO team with my friends so we’d practise a bit more seriously. While I was designing individual stickers, it was getting exhausting to not get any traction at all. So, I stopped for a week. This was my dad’s idea. He suggested stopping before continuing again to bring back the creative flow of it all. It worked because I suddenly hit upon the idea of creating stickers based on the roles we were playing in as a team.

These stickers gained some traction, and people wanted them for more roles than the five common ones I had chosen. So, I made two more. Then, a poll was created, and we ultimately stopped at eleven, I think. Some traction, a Reddit post gaining a lot of upvotes by a good Samaritan later, nothing happened. So, I forgot about the stickers, and I kept freelancing. Although, I was getting tired of the drudgework by now, so I had started declining jobs.

Sometime after this, in 2015, I went to study computer applications. While I was there, in December, I woke up to the sound of the Steam app. It was Obi-Wan, and he had congratulated me that my stickers had made it to the game. It was a feeling like none other because I did not know what to expect. By the time 2016 ended, I’d have made about a hundred times more than I had made freelancing. I stopped freelancing, and graphics design practically left my life entirely. The skills remained, but I stopped pursuing it professionally.

Eventually though, as some time would pass, it would get better for my family, myself, and I’d be able to go through college on my own, with a better lifestyle than I could have imagined for myself ever, and quite frankly, even years later, the money was consistently coming in although not that much. However, that allowed me to take a gap year eventually but before we go there, let’s go back to 2011.


The year is 2011, and my adolescent self is heartbroken. So, I start writing poems. These are lousy poems and have a forced rhyme scheme, but eventually, something hits, and I quit the poems. The poems turn to paragraphs. Then, one day, my social sciences teacher, who was there as a substitute that day, for some unbeknownst authority and audacity told me that I was not going to be good at anything because I was always jumping to the next thing I found.

Here’s How It All Went: Blogging / Writing

So, I come home, and I search for “a person who is good at a lot of things” and, somehow, I come across the word: Polymath. I’d immediately start a blog and with the help of my brother, get a domain name. The first post, and quite frankly, the first hundred that would follow would be just bad writing. My grammar was an absolute mess. I’d be writing based on instinct only (and I still do somewhat), but I’d continue for years.

By 2013, I amassed a local reputation for my blogs against the school system, the society, and so on but this was all the edgy teens around me appreciating me for my extremely warped understanding of the world. If a logical adult had intervened, I would not be laughing at most of my early writing on that blog and asking myself why I wrote all of that today. It was just a lack of understanding of anything, to be honest, and quite frankly, embarrassing in hindsight. It was around this time that I participated in Indiblogger’s Blogger Awards in the under-18 category because I still fit the age-gap. I didn’t win.

“In hindsight” is the key phrase here though because the content would not matter by 2014 or even by 2015, and I would still write one or two good ones, but it was the consistency of it all that started to do some magic. I could write better and faster.

The fact that I was a gamer and perhaps, some other things included, helped me get invites to different gaming conferences. These were mostly press release events where they would show off some new gaming hardware, and we could have fun, play and well, eat whatever we wanted just so we’d write a nice, fluffy piece about them.

I didn’t do that because that felt like selling my soul. However, I did try a half-assed attempt at a decent research-backed opinion piece about the Indian Gaming Scene, and that would somehow pave the way for most of what would come next for the blog. Around the same time, I also went to Mumbai for a bloggers’ conference by Indiblogger, a community I had a love-hate relationship with until then but after it, I embraced some parts of it with open arms. This was the time where I’d also learn that it was possible to shake hands with your favourite musicians and artists, and so, I’d get a taste of that side of life as well. Nothing seemed far away anymore, but this was still October.

By December 2015, and January 2016, the stickers got in-game, and a lot of that context changed. So, my blog posts became very slice-of-life, and I enjoyed that because I was getting to write about my life, in a less obnoxious and edgy kid way as compared to earlier. Some time would pass, and 2017 would arrive where I’d find myself in Mumbai and in love, and outside Mumbai and well, out of love in just the matter of a few weeks.

This entire ordeal changed how I pursued my writing, and in an attempt to save myself from the heartbreak that would otherwise consume me, or at least it felt like that at the time, I’d write a post every day irrespective of anything. Eventually, I wrote more than the number of posts that had been put up on the blog in just a few months alone. The theme of the content would be self-help; naturally.

I wrote on Minimalism, Productivity and Life. As I wrote more on those themes, I read even more on them. It all became a self-feeding loop of life experiments. Around this time, I started working out more often, quit meat temporarily (and then permanently), and you get the idea. The everyday writing aspect of it was the best thing that happened to me by 2017 because of all the practice I got for almost everything.

In 2018, I quit writing self-help. Eventually, after watching and attempting to write about the condition of students in a government school in a village in Hyderabad, I lost all sense of using my writing to do anything. So, clubbed with my writing style on Instagram as well as the few posts I had managed to write, I moved to writing creatively and started writing Journals which were snippets as well as some short fiction pieces. All the while, continuing to post small vignettes on Instagram on different themes.

This brings us to 2019, I revived the self-help section but also, tried to write less obnoxiously on it and tried including heart to self-help which is still under the test of time. In other writing news, I’d write more on Instagram, some Journals, and less of fiction again. The reason I couldn’t write as much as I would before is, to much extent, attributed to the fact that I was a Data Professional now, but that didn’t just happen. Let’s go to the beginning of 2018 again.


In 2018, I decided to take a gap year after college. However, with some wisdom conked into my head by my elder brother along with intrigue towards data engineering from a course I took at college, I also decided to pursue a master’s diploma in data science.

Here’s How It All Went: Stats and Data

I also started pursuing various courses and nanodegrees. Eventually, I’d get myself well-versed with the different aspects of what we call data science. It is a buzzword, to be honest. It is just statistics and mathematics with programming. It came interesting to me because I had always collected data about myself.

Starting from eleventh grade, I was creating a list of tasks I had during the week be it orders from Fiverr, blog posts, and anything else that was there to do. I’d look over each week and see what I accomplished. I was always fascinated with statistics and numbers.

I also started a course on game theory from Coursera. This was the same course I picked up in eleventh grade and left, and to my surprise, I realised I was always interested in statistics. Eventually, I cut my gap year midway and started applying for internships.

A month later, in 2019, I ended up at Townscript as an intern. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated, but the team was (and is) great! In fact, I have never felt more belonged to an environment before. All the internship stuff came as a surprise to a lot of people because I had always run away from normal adulthood activities, but I enjoyed what I did.

We set up a data lake at Townscript, and each problem was more interesting than the last. By July, I moved to a full-time position. With the job (and the internship), also came specific changes in my life. The days got longer. I started engaging in sports as well, to the surprise of everyone I have ever known. I loved the energy, though. Eventually, I set up a strict routine that was based on a rule I called “three things every day”; more on that later.

I even got the opportunity to present what I do at two different talks which had me stoked as an annual benchmark of sorts. Meanwhile, I wanted to explore more opportunities, so I started another part-time job with Udacity as a Mentor/Reviewer. The days got even longer, but the overall experience was exhilarating. It was nice to not stop at all for once. It felt nice to have unending days with dates changing.

2019 went by fast though, and besides some minor turbulence, was a good year. Adolescent me would be surprised to see me have a job, and like what I do at that. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised either. In any case, come 2020, I’ve already submitted my thesis for a full Master of Science program which, hopefully, means I’ll be a complete graduate in Data Science soon.


But, 2018 was an important year, in another absolutely different way as well. Throughout this year, I went through different phases. The first was losing my dog, and it is a loss I have still not been able to overcome. The second was volunteering as a teaching coordinator at a rural school in Telangana.

Here’s How It All Went: Personal Growth

These two events shattered a lot of what I knew about the world. Looking back now, I was already broken when I went to camp. However, what I saw and experienced there, and the conclusions which were so obvious, they could be plastered over the walls of the school we were at, I lost all sense of grandiose ideas of trying to save the world.

This was perhaps, the first time, I looked at my younger self in absolute ridicule. I became a little of what my mother calls “practical”. I’m not sure what the word is yet. I’m only finally letting go of one word that has been attached to myself for a long time now.

I built a system called three good things: You do three things every day; one to get your body moving, one to get your heart beating, and one to get your mind working. Everything else is extra credit. This, coupled with certain activities built up what I call today the life of consistency. You keep doing little things every day, and eventually, it all adds up. So, I read, exercised, walked, and studied every day. This system existed during 2017 as well, but it was still in its infancy, and I couldn’t see it.

I was on a gap anyway, and this still left enough time to have a good enough social life. I started dating again, and I got my heart broken again. So, I began to travel. That was when another unsaid rule of my life entered: all I need is a laptop, an internet connection, and some money, and anything was possible; sometimes, I didn’t even need the money.

While travelling, I tried to read, exercise, walk and study. I even gave two of my exams in a hotel room. Once I was tired, I came back home. This was roughly thirty days later, and during this time, a lot of things changed for me.

2018 was significant in crafting and recognising different things that have always been part of my philosophy. Slowly, I started to pour all of these into my writing. This is where my blog changed again. Remember the Journal and Words split? It’s right here because I realised it wasn’t as tough to do what you wanted to and be good at it.

Eventually, I would re-evaluate certain things, especially as I’d start working in 2019, but I’d regress back to the mean. In a lot of ways, 2018 formed me for a lot of years to come, and this is the last time I’ll probably be rambling like I am on this blog. This is the last Journal on The Polymath.


Here’s How It All Went: Together
Here’s Everything Closer

Why am I going on and on jumping between years here, though? That’s because I do have a Nudge for you here; the last Nudge on The Polymath.


The Nudge

Whoever told you doing multiple things and being decent or even fantastic at them was impossible lied to you. This is the 21st century. We’re always online. We’re living lives which are faster than ever. Do everything you want. Do it now. Keep doing it every day. You’ll be good at it eventually.

If you don’t know where to start, find three things to do every day; one to get your body moving, one to get your heart beating, and one to get your mind working. Everything else will follow if you stick to them long enough.

You cannot save the world, but there are two things you can save: yourself and those immediately around you. Do it. There’s no such thing as a grand gesture. All gestures are supposed to be grand. They are non-verbal ways to say you care, and care is never lukewarm.

If you want to do anything in today’s world, all you need is a laptop (or phone), an internet connection, and some money. Sometimes, you don’t even need the money.

Whoever told you doing multiple things was impossible was too afraid to try. Life is non-linear. Life is concurrent. You can be a hundred thousand things at the same time, and no one can question you on that, and if they do, let them.

Keep doing you. Prove them wrong.


Oh, and One Last Thing:

The Polymath will not receive any new posts from now on. It is now an official archive of my growth and failings as a person through 2011-2020. We’ve come a long way from I’m a Polymath, so what?

Everything I’ve said above is all I’ve ever wanted to say through it, and I’m glad I had things to show for it towards the tail-end. I started with calling myself a person who could be great at multiple things, and in the end, I settled for no label at all.

I guess it takes you eight years to embrace the label of nothing. In the end, I learned, there is a freedom in being nothing; it means we can be anything. What does that mean for the future? Well, for one, I have a whole list of things I’ll be doing, eventually and get better at, hopefully. Let’s leave it at that and see whatever follows.

Thank you for sticking around for all this time, if you did. Thank you, even if this is the first time, you’re visiting this blog. Thank you nonetheless. The last decade was fantastic. I have a vague sense of who I am not now, and I have only this blog to owe it to when it’s all said and done.

I guess I don’t think I want to call myself a Polymath anymore because I don’t care what anyone calls me anymore. There are directions in which I want to grow; directions too far ahead for a project created solely to prove a point; a point I think I’ve proven nonetheless.

All that said, here’s a final goodbye from this obscure corner of the internet.


P.S.

Going forward, to follow the journey of me, follow journal.coffee (The Journal), and to follow my tiny tips for a good life, follow nudge.how (The Nudge, which is almost completely set up now). That’s where the two separate sides will reside from now on.

About the author

Deepansh Khurana

I write code by day and prose by night. I'd say I love coffee but don't we all? I find stories, people and experiences. I blog about them.

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About The Content

There are three kinds of blog posts here as of mid-2019 – The Journal, The Words and The Nudge.

The Journals are thoughts, lessons, events that unfold in my life word-for-word and as barebones as I can put them out there.

The Words are creative pieces, narratives, short-stories that take from my life but did not happen word-for-word.

The Nudge has self-help articles that try to be less proud and self-righteous. They end in the nudge, which is a shareable takeaway that summarises the entire idea.

You can read more about this change here and here.

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Deepansh Khurana

I write code by day and prose by night. I'd say I love coffee but don't we all? I find stories, people and experiences. I blog about them.

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