Letter No 86 - Don't make the tunnel your home


There is light at the end of the tunnel.

But the tunnel itself is dark, dingy, and scary. And the fact is that we have to go through the entire tunnel until we get to the light. Sounds funny, but in a dark kind of way, doesn't it?

There are times when we are in the light.

We are popular, results are coming, we are looking and feeling good, we have friends, we socialize, we feel we are learning and growing, and we have the strength to overcome challenges.

And then there are times we feel we are in the tunnel. Everything is scary, we are unsatisfied with ourselves, we feel we are unworthy, so many of our efforts seem futile, relationships seem on shaky ground, and the future is uncertain.

I've felt this way a couple of times in my life.


My first memory is as a 7th standard boy, when all my friends had girlfriends (of some kind), were in some school sports team, and had a bunch of boys they played galli cricket. I had none of those.

Then there was the time in my final year of engineering when I felt that all was lost. I was three or four subjects 'down', had not attendted colleged seriously for more than a couple of months, and had had a painful breakup. I felt like a vagabond, used to wear kurtas with holes in them and jeans, and sit on the katta in the galli outside my house, smoke cigarrettes and watch the traffic go by.

Then was then when I had done my MBA, and was into my fourth year at my job at IBM. After the few highs of having a corporate job and fancy visiting card and all that, I had hit the low. I realised that this was just not my cup of tea. I realised that I could not spend 50% of my time just polishing the right ego's so that they notice me and give me the best opportunities. I wanted out.

And most recently, there's been the last year or so where I've been battling the divide between passion and business, between small is beautiful and big is powerful, between doing what one loves and doing what must be done.

These are some of the 'tunnel' periods in my life.


Today, as I was being a thinking partner for a 'conflexion' written by a young friend of mine in Enterprise, I realised that she was feeling the same way. She too was navigating this feeling of being stuck in a dark and damp place. She too was writing about wanting to feel 'alive' again.

And then she wrote about being 'outside the comfort zone'. She wrote about feeling the thrill of being alive and learning and growing, and doing, and being seen as unique and valueable by people she cares about, once again.

And then a thought struck us - it is like being in that dark and dingy tunnel. We are going through the tunnel. The light at the end is visible like a faint start in the distance. But the tunnel is so dreary to go through, that we are tired and weary. And at some point, we got tired and sat down in the tunnel. We stopped moving through the tunnel and just lay down there. And then we got cozy in the cold damp darkness of the tunnels wall. We learnt to like the feeling. At least it was known and predictable. And soon the light at the end of the tunnel became just a distant start, to be admired but not to be flying towards.


But we are not meant to make the tunnel our home!

The tunnel is just a conduit. It takes us to the light. And then we can bask in the light. But then we must move on to another light through another tunnel. Stopping and sitting down and making the tunnel home is not an option.

As we journey through a couple of tunnels, I am beginning to realise the beauty and brilliance of the entire process. The tunnel is also beautiful. But just like the airport maybe beautiful, but you don't make it your home, you don't make the tunnel your home. But it's beautiful.

Why not just stay in the light? Why go through another tunnel if you already found the light? I'm sure you are asking this. Well maybe in a future letter I'll ponder on this. It's a great question. But for now, I'll settle with - that's just how it is.

Here are some things that I feel going through these tunnels again and again has taught me.

  1. When we are in the light, we forget what the tunnel feels like
  2. When we are in the tunnel, we forget what the light feels like
  3. It's good to remember the light in the tunnel, and the tunnel in the light
  4. Being in the tunnel, gives one the ability to empathise with others in the tunnel.
  5. But being able to empathise with others in the tunnel when one is in the light, is truly remarkable

Hehe, I know these sound cryptic. But I hope some of it touched a chord somewhere for you.

If yes, I'd love to read about it

Do write back whenever you feel like. Thanks for reading my letter and sending you lots of light and love.

In fratitude (friendship + gratitude)