Angst of life

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readJun 8, 2020

Source : Google photo of teen age angst

Synopsis : Teen age angst affects many but there is hope. To have angst is quite normal but there are ways to overcome them as the blog here explains.

We all at some time or other have dreadful anxiety called angst about one thing or other in life and learn to cope with it the best way we know how. It is quite normal to have anxiety or angst about known or unknown things that we face. Only the degree varies from person to person because this degree of anxiety is related to how strongly you feel about the issue you are confronting.

I had a roommate in California who was very naughty and got into all kinds of pranks in the dormitory. I often thought of him as not a serious person and was convinced of it when one day he announced out of the blue that he was going to get married to a woman he had just met a few days ago. I never saw him again but was amazed at his nonchalant way he handled such a serious issue as marriage. He had no worries or so it seemed.

Then there are people who can’t decide what they want to do with their life so take it easy and one day realize that college education is not for them so they drop out. Others get very nervous as the exams approach and they find that they are not at all prepared for them . I had such a classmate who slipped out of classes more often than I could remember but one day he confessed that he was not prepared to take the exams due in two month’s time. He asked me if he could study with me every night because he was so anxious and his home was just nearby.

So we studied together whole night every night sitting inside a mosquito net with all our books and notes in our outside veranda while dad kept a benevolent eye on us. He approved our hard work so we studied hard and passed our university exams with good grades. He was intelligent but could get easily distracted so he needed someone like me to study with. Later on he would get a Master’s degree somewhere and got a Ph.D as well. He was successful in life with a good job, good wife and two lovely kids.

We all get jitters before we get into a tough exam or before going to an interview for scholarship or a job somewhere because we do not know what they will ask and how we will answer them. A whole lot depends upon how we do in exams or in the interviews so we can get very anxious especially if it is the first time.

I knew a girl in our neighborhood who was very intelligent but would get feverish before the exam. She was also very superstitious so wore the same sari in every exam because she felt that it was her lucky sari that gave her the courage and success every time.

People who have a strong character and make up their mind about just about anything quickly are the least affected by jitters because they know what they want and go about getting it . They prepare hard for their toughest exams and are not hesitant to seek help when they feel the need for it so they always succeed. They take the same attitude when they start working because working hard becomes their nature so they make progress in their career steadily because they believe that any job worth doing is worth doing well.

But there are those who can’t decide simple things like what to order from a menu or what to wear. They always hesitate because they are not sure of themselves on any subject. I had a fellow in my project in Sudan who sat with an urgent report I had written and had asked him to read it and make useful comments that I would later incorporate into my final report. I gave him one week because the report was urgent but he kept it for over three months annoying me very much. Finally one day he said that he was writing a prologue that I had never asked him to write. He probably also had a great difficulty with the English language.

When we are very young, we tend to be more carefree because at that age we are not worried about anything. We know that our parents will take care of us. We were not conscious of how we looked and about our clothes or shoes. We were not jealous of other kids who had better clothes or toys because jealousy was not a part of our character. We did not care about money or shiny new toys or gadgets. We understood if our parents could not provide them so we made our own toys.

Later as we start to grow up , we come face to face with the harsher realities of life when passing tough exams is required in order to get admission to a prestige college or institution. The expectations of anxious parents does not help either. When we were young, we knew that parents wanted their sons to be doctors or engineers or professors in good universities. They expected far less from the daughters but now the times have changed so the girls are getting good education and becoming doctors and engineers or professors .

So the pressure to fulfill the expectations of parents can become a cause for worry or angst if you are not interested in becoming a doctor or an engineer. I have written about Naushad in a previous blog ( read it here called The empty nest) where as a young boy he dreamed of one day becoming a music director in the movie world of Mumbai that his father did not approve of so one day he was just asked to leave. He suffered hunger and many deprivations in a friendless city like Mumbai where he slept on the sidewalk until he got a break and someone opened a door for him. He would become one of the most successful music directors in the film industry but he had to struggle very hard to become so. He had the courage to struggle on until he succeeded because he knew what he wanted.

Not many people do who come from well to do families where they are pampered and sheltered so they grow up with weak personality. So I think poverty can make a person stronger like Naushad.

The angst comes from the lack of self confidence in a person. This is related to the shy nature of a person who gets very nervous facing a crowd if he is asked to say something. You will notice this in your school or college days when some of your classmates stay at the back row where the professor will not notice them. The noisy and bold ones usually sit in the front who come well prepared to the class and do their home work well.

But a good teacher can bring a shy person out by encouraging him or her to present a paper or write an essay or do something extraordinary and then praise him or her in front of everybody for a job well done. Once a person finds that he has a hidden talent for writing or art or music that someone notices and encourages , it makes the person less shy and helps him develop his own personality because he starts to gain self confidence. That is the key. A confident person becomes less shy and shines if his abilities are known and encouraged by a sympathetic teacher or parents.

The frauds are noticed immediately so they are ridiculed. One person I knew told me that he had passed the tough entrance exam to the Naval Academy in India so he was accepted there. I was very surprised because I knew him not to be an intelligent and smart person so I asked how he did it. He said that his father paid someone to get the questions before the exam and then hired some one to prepare all the answers so it was outright cheating.

The outcome of this cheating was evident when the fellow found himself with the smartest boys and girls in the Naval Academy where he developed a terrible inferiority complex and ran away one day to return home. He had the jitters because he knew that what he did was wrong so could not face the smart students in the academy. It also showed that poor upbringing by an immoral father who taught his son how to cheat made him a dishonest person.

When you face your own weakness and decide to do something about it, wonderful things can happen as I mentioned in the case of my classmate who studied whole night with me. If you have the resolve to do what it takes to succeed then the jitters go away and you emerge as a confident person but it requires hard work and the admission that you have weakness that needs to be worked on.

I have noticed that children who are not shy come out as good extemporaneous speakers in public speaking contests and come home with gold medals. The fluency in the language and a clear idea about the subject to speak on are two ingredients in the making of a good orator. This ability later serves them in their jobs where they show leadership and take control of any situation by instinct. They connect with their audience in a straight forward way that leaves a great impression on them.

Such people are very intelligent and often get the job as anchors in great TV stations where they get to interview important people whom they ask very intelligent questions because they do their home work well before they go to work. It is the same habit of smart students in any class where they go well prepared and do the home work assigned to them by the teacher.

To have angst is quite normal for most people who are ill prepared for what comes to them but those who have confidence in themselves do not have angst. So I see it like when a person learns to drive, he gets nervous but slowly as his driving skill improves, his confidence in himself improves as well and one day he passes the tests and gets a license. When he drives his car alone in a crowded street, his skills come to play to make him a good driver or a jittery driver who may end up causing a serious accident.

So you have to learn to overcome your fear, your shyness and your feeling of inferiority complex in order to become a confident person. I know that knowledge is a morale booster, confidence builder and a maker of a strong personality in anyone. When you speak from knowledge, you speak with authority that people react to instantly.

Cheating and fraud is definitely not the right way to do it.

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography. My blogs can be shared by anyone anytime in any social media.

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Anil’s biography in English.

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.