My dad was a Chartered Accountant, and I remember telling him when I was in the third grade - "even I want to be a CA". At that young age, I had no clue what Chartered Accountants did, but I wanted to be one, I wanted to be just like my dad. He was and will always be my biggest role model.
Fast forward to the present and I've finally achieved that dream/goal. After all the setbacks I've experienced over the past five years, I feel extremely grateful that I earned my success through blood, sweat and tears, and I don't regret those hard times because they taught me lessons I would never have otherwise learnt.
My journey :
In the past, the only struggle I had with failure was in the fifth grade, when I constantly failed in the local language (marathi) subject. When I was in the sixth grade, I remember coming back from school, locking the door to my bedroom, crying my eyes out, and then making a promise to myself that I'd study like crazy and never fail in any subject ever again. And that's when Ellen the nerd was born. *wink*
I did computer science in the eleventh and twelfth grade, and got a really nice grade. Post twelfth grade, after scoring well in the engineering entrance exam, I suddenly came to the realization (through divine intervention, I'm sure) that I didn't want to be an engineer - I wanted to shift to Commerce. And so, I shifted to Commerce, studied the basics of accountancy from the eleventh and twelfth grade text books of commerce students, and simultaneously worked at my dad's office to understand the subject better.
I signed up for Chartered Accountancy in my second year of college, and cleared the first two levels in my first attempt, as well as topped in accountancy in my college in the final year of Commerce. After college, I did my three year mandatory internship at my dad's office, and then came 2015, the year when everything went south.
As I've mentioned in another post, I was in a toxic relationship in 2015, and was a victim of narcissistic abuse. To add to my misery, while I was preparing for my first attempt of the CA final exam, the neighbours who live on the floor above, decided to break the tiles of the room above my room. The drilling noise was unbearable and I could not study at all! We had requested the neighbours to stop work for two weeks till my exams got over, but they refused and that affected my confidence greatly. I gave one subject of that exam, but had to forfeit that attempt as I just wasn't prepared due to the disturbance. In addition, due to the abuse, I was sinking into severe depression and I realized it only at the beginning of 2016 - God saved me.
I gave my first attempt of CA Final in 2016, but as I was in depression, I could not study well. I thought I was studying normally, but realized years later that depression affects a person's memory. I gave my exams and expected to clear, but got the shock of my life when I didn't. I got certified copies of my papers and when I saw the corrections, I lost all hope. I started blaming everyone except myself, and for the next year and a half I kept giving the exams half-heartedly and kept failing. The problem was that I never took responsibility for my failures. Yes, the corrections weren't always fair, but blaming others for my failures would never bring me success - I realized this only in 2018, when I read the book 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck'. The main lesson I learnt from the book - take responsibility for your life and stop playing the victim card.
2017 and 2018 were particularly tough years. In Jan, 2017 my dad fell extremely ill, and his illness lasted for almost two years before he passed away.
I skipped an attempt of the exam in 2018 - I was frustrated with the failures and decided that managing my dad's office was a priority at that time as his health had become worse. Managing dad's office helped me become more confident, and it made me realize that I was capable of being a CA. A few self-help books later, I decided to start studying for the exams again, as giving up after reaching so far would be a regret I would never forgive myself for. A few months later, in Oct, 2018, my dad passed away.
Life is strange, but everything happens for a reason. Despite dad's demise, I gave the Nov, 2018 attempt of the exam. I wasn't able to study that well because of the grief, but I managed to secure my first exemption in a paper of Group 1 in that attempt. May, 2019 was when I passed Group 1 of CA Final.
In Nov, 2019, I failed by a few marks in the Group 2, but luckily secured an exemption in a paper. It was extremely frustrating to fail by just a few marks. What people don't understand is that no matter how many attempts one gives of this exam, the failures are always extremely disappointing and difficult to cope with.
The pandemic arrived in 2020 and the exams kept getting postponed. Surprisingly, the pandemic/lockdown gave me time to heal and to renew my faith in God and in myself. I studied like crazy, with the same enthusiasm I had before my life was struck by failures, and I also made it a point to change my pessimistic mindset, which had gotten more negative with each failure I experienced. With a healthy and happy mindset, I gave Group 2 of the exam in Nov, 2020, and finally became a Chartered Accountant.
The Alchemist :
In the foreword to his book 'The Alchemist', Paulo Coelho mentions that there are 4 reasons why we don't achieve our dreams :
1. We are told from childhood onwards that everything we want to do is impossible.
2. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.
3. Fear of the defeats we will meet on the path.
4. The fear of realizing the dream for which we have been fighting all our lives.
He ends by saying, 'If you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.' Beautiful, right?
I re-read The Alchemist during 2020, and I realized that due to the many failures and setbacks I had experienced over the past few years, my inner dialogue had become so negative, that I didn't wholeheartedly believe that I deserved success. Strangely, fear of failure had made me fearful of success too.
I needed to believe in myself once again. So, throughout 2020 I put in a lot of effort to undo my negative tuning, and to attract positivity and success, and I'm thrilled that it worked. I learnt the hard way that intelligence and hard work are wasted if one does not have a positive mindset.
St. Jude :
My maternal grandmother had great faith in St. Jude. The saint was Jesus' cousin and is the patron of desperate cases. Whenever my siblings and I had an examination when we were young, my grandmother would send a prayer request to the shrine of St. Jude at Jhansi, India.
Over the years I had stopped praying to St. Jude as I had felt that praying to God directly made more sense, but I decided to start again. A month before the exam I sent a prayer request to St. Jude on the online site of the Jhansi shrine. Till today I say the novena every single day, and it has not only helped me achieve success, but has also increased my faith in God.
The lessons I've learnt in the past 5 years :
1. Don't be afraid of failure. In India, since the time we were in school it had always been drilled in our heads that failure is a bad thing. I grew up with that mindset and when I did fail in my first attempt of CA final, it hit me so badly and I took a long time to recover. I wish I was taught that failure is necessary in life, and that it will make you stronger than you ever thought you'd be. Learn to forgive yourself and try again.
2. Giving up is easy, but it's not worth it. Although it took time for me to reach my goal, and giving up seemed like the better option many a time, I'm so proud of myself for persevering. I would never have forgiven myself if I gave up, because I knew all along that I had the potential, and I just needed to find my way back. (Read 'Quitting Is Easy, Don't.')
3. Have faith. Having faith in God, in a higher power, in anything bigger than yourself, is something that can change your life. My favourite Bible quote, which I keep as my phone's wallpaper is, 'If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.' (Read 'Faith.')
4. God has a plan for all of us. Until we submit ourselves to Him completely, we will never be truly happy. Another favourite Bible quote of mine is, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.' (Read 'God's Plans Are Greater Than Our Own.')
5. Haters will always hate. Many people have said extremely mean things to me over the years with respect to my failures, and it used to hurt me a lot while studying. Being someone who overthinks, negative criticism would play on my mind for years. But I finally learnt how to use that negativity to fuel myself, to push myself harder towards my goal.
6. You need to be your biggest cheerleader, and have a good support system. Not everyone will be supportive towards your goals, but you need to realize that most people do not like others achieving the goals they never managed to achieve themselves, and they will do anything to make you doubt yourself and your abilities. So, make sure that you surround yourself with people who genuinely care for you.
7. Learn to attract happiness/success. Affirmations and vision boards are something I read a lot about in the past, but I always found them to be a little overrated. Turns out, I was wrong - they actually work! Repeat to yourself each day 'I will be a success' or any affirmation that you like, and you will be surprised at what happens. Believe! (Read 'Ask & You Shall Receive.')
8. Put in the work. In 'The Power of Your Subconscious Mind' the author writes about techniques to harness the power of one's mind. However, visualizing success is one thing, but working towards it is another.
9. Show yourself some love. If you feel frustrated/angry/demotivated, take a few days off, and focus on healing. Move away from people who drain your mental and physical energy. Take a break from social media for a few months.
10. Commit and re-commit. All human beings are flawed, and not everything we plan works out just the way we wanted it to. If one plan doesn't work, reassess your strategy and try something else. You can change the plan, without changing the goal. I always thought that the way I studied was the best, but over the years I realized how wrong I was, and only when I changed my way of approaching the studies and the exams, did I succeed. (Read 'Keep Climbing.')
Thank you :
I am forever indebted to God, for giving me the courage to keep going despite all the twists in my path. He is the one who kept me strong and who carried me till the end.
My parents have been my greatest support and I would not be the strong person I am, had it not been for their love and guidance. My mother is my best friend and my rock, who has always had more faith in me than I've had in myself.
My amazing family, especially my brothers and sister-in-law, I don't know what I would do without you all.
A big thank you to my friends, who stood by my side despite me isolating myself every few months when I had to study. To my closest friends - Vrushali, Ashlesha, Tanveen, Reshma, Sherine and Kristan, big hugs!
A huge thank you and shout-out to Husein and Keshav from the podcast Far From Fact, who were always super supportive and kind to me. Their podcast has always lightened my mood and helped me bear my burdens with laughter, which is the most ideal way sufferings should be borne. A big thank you to Husein and his wife Sakina, who are both Chartered Accountants, who helped guide me recently about what I should do after CA.
A huge thank you to all my wonderful blogger friends and online friends from all over the world, who have been a source of motivation and joy, and who have made me believe in goodness once again.
Last, but not least, a big thank you to everyone who reads my blog. Your constant support is truly appreciated!
Thank you for reading! Stay blessed!
Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash.