Sagarikka Sivakumar from Tamil Nadu decided to take a year-long break from school after scoring average marks in her Class 10 boards. She shares how she spent her year, and the valuable lessons she learned.
“What should I pursue after school?”
After Class 10 boards, almost all of us ask ourselves this question. Now is the time to decide what stream or subjects you will take for the final two years of your school life, and in many cases, it could define what your career ahead will look like.
I, too, was conflicted about what to pursue after school.
I’m 22 today, and can safely say that this question, and how I chose to answer it, changed my life forever.
‘Class 10 ended, and I was clueless’
I was a fun-loving child throughout my school life, and when the results of Class 10 came out, I scored an average percentage.
All around me, I could see friends celebrating good grades and venturing into computer science and other popular streams. While they were starting the next chapter of their lives, I had no idea what my future looked like.
This was when I decided to do something that wasn’t really the norm. I took a year’s break.
The idea was to work on my health, practice technical subjects such as Physics and Chemistry so as to not lose my basics, and improve my practical knowledge. My father would often help me with this.
A typical day would entail waking up, reading the news, improving my vocabulary through reading, and enhancing my general knowledge. I also began doing internships to improve my skill set. I wanted to get a sense of various industries and their operations behind the scenes so I could then decide on a career path.
I interned at heavy motor vehicle companies and hospitals, where I worked at the reception and helped people fill their admit cards. Through this, I learned about the policies at these places. For instance, there is something known as ‘queuing theory’ which people usually learn about in their MBA. It revolves around creating a strategy where things happen in an orderly fashion, without missing out on any patient.
I also helped out at a pre-school. These internships would last a week or two. I would gain knowledge and move on.
Today, I have an informed idea about the models of these businesses. I know the backbone needed for them. It gave me a chance to distinguish between what I wanted to do later in life and what I wouldn’t enjoy as much.
When I had started out, I wanted this year to be impromptu. But through the months, subconsciously, I started creating a well-structured timetable for myself. I became disciplined and would even take time out for sports such as badminton, or hobbies such as coding. The fact that these were not remotely related gave me different perspectives.
With whatever I’d do, whether it was pertaining to study or leisure, I aimed to learn something.
So when I went to Mount Kailash for a trek, I made a documentary on my journey titled ‘Journey of a Lifetime’ in 2015. When I travelled to Ladakh, I made another titled ‘Eavesdropping on Heavenly Vibrations’ in March 2016.
The one year passed by quickly.
‘Writing the book was pure chance’
An important skill that I developed during this break year was blogging and reading. I would also attend press conferences and network with entrepreneurs.
At one such event in January 2016, during Pongal, I attended the Hindu Literary Festival where renowned author Alexander McCall Smith was present as well. During the panel discussion on stage, he responded to a question about the secret behind him writing so many books.
“I write 2,000 words every day,” he said.
These words remained with me. If he could write a book by starting with a few thousand words every day, I could too.
In April 2016, I began compiling the book ‘My Unskooled Year’ to highlight my learnings through the year. This was slightly easy, given that I’d been jotting my experiences throughout this period.
The book was ready to be published in December of the same year, and went on to sell 6,000 copies.
In time, I went back to the education system, and finished Class 11 and Class 12. After this, I went to the University of Portsmouth in the UK to pursue a Bachelor’s in Data Science and Analytics. With the advent of the pandemic, I began pursuing a BBA in Data Science online.
Learnings of a lifetime
I always say that the things I learned during my unschooled year can never be erased. Here are the experiences that always remain with me:
I topped my college
Becoming a topper in college from the girl with average grades in school was an enthralling journey. I started looking at things with a practical approach. Instead of mugging concepts, I’d understand them in depth.
If people throw tomatoes at you, make ketchup
When I took the break, my neighbours, relatives, even classmates would tell me that my parents were only spoiling me by letting me take this time away from my studies. They laughed.
When I went back to Class 11, my juniors were my batchmates and that was another reason for them to poke fun. However, in spite of these taunts, I have learnt how to make people laughing at you your driving force. Once they see your success, they will follow in your footsteps.
Take every opportunity you get
Everyone’s path is not the same. I had the opportunity to take a break and learn practical things. I took it. You might get a similar opportunity disguised as something else. Take it.
Rejection in the little things prepares you for the big challenges
Through the course of my internships, I joined my parents in their work of multi-level marketing. For a week, I would take contacts they had built through the years and knock on people’s doors to sell different products. I thought that since they were my parents’ acquaintances, they would oblige and be sweet, and buy the product as a 16-year-old was selling it.
But, that wasn’t the case.
Sometimes, people would shut the door on me. Though disappointed at the time, today this has stood me in good stead. I can gauge people and understand when they are likely to oblige and when they aren’t. I take rejection in a positive light.
I was fortunate to get a chance to take a break. Many children are not. To them I would say, it’s okay.
Don’t let the fear of what lies ahead bring you down. Have a timetable that allows you to dedicate your mornings and afternoons to school and then the evenings to your passion. Art, reading, entrepreneurship, a subject that you love — it could be anything.
Instead of diving directly into expensive hobby classes or courses, take multiple courses on different subject areas first. Then once you decide upon what you love, take the paid ones.
Along with trying to develop your intelligence, pay heed to developing your emotional intelligence. It will help you through life.
I often tell people that while I took the one-year break to get a foundation for my career, I ended up getting a foundation for life.
As told by Sagarikka Sivakumar, a 22‐year‐old from Trichy, pursuing her second year BBA in Data Science, to Krystelle Dsouza