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This is the winning submission (tied) for the Ping!xLitClub writing contest held during Induction for the 2k19 Freshers.

Mayank Goel

It was a crisp chilly morning, and the birds chirped around the studio apartment where I lived. Government-mandated trees stood merrily around the streets and the joggers trotted on their hopeful paths, bracing for the day. I looked at the alarm, it read “0600 HOURS”. I sighed, and turned it off. It was time to sleep, I had been awake all night

I really don’t remember when the insomnia started. It probably started when the depression did. Then, when did the depression start? I could not remember the last time I was happy. Truly, blissfully happy. Drugs were a great form of escapism, but that artificial high just felt lower than the lowliest moments. Marijuana had run its course, and some ill-brought childhood resolve restrained me from entering the realm of hard drugs.

A thousand years ago, the world was ruled by the strong. The Mongolians who could perform archery on their steeds, the Vikings on their longboats sailing towards America. The rulers of empires, and men. Today, the world was ruled by scrawny men who had no friends in high-school. That thought gave me some pause

The world likes to classify us, segregate us, degrade us into simple definitions. I should be thankful, I guess. To the world, I was a success. I was a computer programmer in the most fertile Valley ever in the world. Forget the Pyramids along the Nile, Palo Alto was the greatest monument ever built by Man.

I grabbed my brush and applied toothpaste on it. Mechanically moving the toothbrush on my teeth was one of the last vestiges of success I felt. My entire life felt like dark spots, with occasional delusions of adequacy. I grabbed my brush, and the remaining cereal. I was going to head to my job.

My “disease” had a name. Imposter’s Syndrome, it was called. It particularly hit the tech industry hard, and it was probably no surprise that it did. The vast majority of us worker bees worked on going through emails and depending on StackOverflow for our wage. Yet, the money flowed in. Vast, vast volumes of money flowed in everyday from the imbeciles running the finance market. Everyone did what the smart ones did, and the smart ones wanted to screw everyone. The 2000 Dot-Com Burst apparently cautioned no one. The 2008 Real Estate Crisis just slithered by our inconsequential timeline. Our entire business was based on fooling each other, and psychologists on their arm-chair wondered why we felt like imposters.

As I copied the massive block of code for image analysis that someone way smarter than me uploaded on GitHub, I couldn’t help but feel like a screw-over. I earned over 100k a year, but half of my workday was spent browsing Reddit, and lurking through various wikis for MMORPGs which I would play at night, when others would read books about programming.

I had decided to major in Computer Science because my girlfriend did too. That was it, there was no other logic. Of course, she screwed me over a week later with her ex-boyfriend. “I am sorry, but you know I still love you.

Love me? Yes, which was exactly why I was stuck in a Major I had little to no interest in, and no way to run to. I had almost taken up Music. I wondered if life would have been better if I had done so. I wouldn’t even be close to earning 100k though. I would have been happy still. I wouldn’t be scamming people saying I knew Machine Learning because I had done some lessons on Kaggle in my seventh semester because it seemed cool to do so.

My workday ended with me choosing my Main for DOTA that night. However, I decided to introspect. Should I really do what I am doing? Is there any mercy in living a life of lies and deceit? I walked over to the pub nearby to muddle over my feelings. I sat on a stool which stood in the shadow of the bar. Might as well drink myself to death, now that I can afford to do so. A woman sat nearby, reading a book. Such a desperate move, I thought. Reading a book in a bar to attract the attention of nerds who would go to her and remark on her literary choice. Only depraved men would approach such a Siren. I walked towards her

“Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace? Lovely choice. I really like the juxtaposition between the dark humour and the social commentary.” I cringed inwards as I bowed to the desires of my inner animal.

“Oh, have you read it?” she asked.

“Ah yes, I did in college.”

“Oh that’s great. What do you do now?”

“I’m a Machine Learning Engineer.”

“That’s so fancy!”

Another person being scammed by me, I thought.

“It’s really not. I don’t work at a large company. It’s just a small-cap consultancy firm.” I spoke, now guided by my conscience

“Ugh stop acting so humble.” Drat.

“So what do you do?”

“I am a music teacher in the local middle school. I actually took up Music because my boyfriend did, but was going to take Economics because of the career stability. I know, stupid.”

The parallel sounded almost comic to me. I decided to enquire more.

“So are you happy?”

“What?”

“I mean, are you happy in general?”

She seemed resolute. “Sometimes, I guess.”

“Most of the time?”

“You know how stuff works. Modernism leaves little strength to be happy anymore. The bills in this town are driven crazy thanks to smart people like you.” She smiled kindly. I looked at her face. It wasn’t what you would call pretty, but she had a radiance to her. I saw her eyes, sad, but proud. I knew those eyes. Every morning I brushed, I would stare at those eyes in the mirror. I had no intention of spending the night with someone who reminded me of myself. I politely said goodbye. She seemed a little disappointed, but almost like she was glad. People went to bars and pubs and parties to forget themselves, not to stare at their like without all it’s sunny glamour

I thought about her life. Her struggle with money, her daily hard-work. Why did I deserve to make so much more than she did? Why did I deserve those luxuries? Just because I made some arbitrary choice and she didn’t?

I thought back. I remembered a line. “People say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Ferrari than on the streets.

The person who wrote that line was an absolute idiot. I walked into my Ferrari and shot myself on the head.

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