I heard this phrase for the very 1st time in 2005 at someone's promotion speech as they described how the assignment that got them promoted had been one of their toughest ever. This was 3.5 years ago. The phrase stuck cause it felt cool to enunciate. I repeated it to myself for a few days, finally relegating it to the status of a fancy term I'd like to use given the opportunity.
Which is when the powers that be decided I needed to learn through experience. Enunciation was just not good enough for Ms. Tic.
There was October 05 to Feb 06 which had me working non-stop under the most stress I had ever encountered in my sheltered existence. It wasn't just the deadlines. It was the deadlines coupled with the need to suddenly grow up at work and outside it. It wasn't just the late hours all week; it was the late hours with no one to go home to. And there were no weekends worth speaking of. It was all work and more work. And then some more.
By the end of a 3 month spate of long hours, I was close to a breakdown and had to go back home on what could certainly have qualified as 'medical' leave.
Of course, when I look back upon this time, it strikes me as the era of my best ever work in the assignment. What we started back then amidst the hours and the late nights is a legacy that has stayed on even after every single one from the original team moved on.
Today, I remember very little of the long hours or lonely evenings. What I DO remember rather clearly, is being productive and being amply rewarded for it. :-)
Then there was 2007.
The year that as it started had 'personal hell' written all over it. Replete with what seemed like earth shattering disappointments, it seemed like the year would beat me down by the time it ended. There were days so awful, I had to physically force myself to just go about doing the things that constitute living - cooking, eating, writing, working and the like.
And yet, when I look back at the year, it's tough to remember many specific instances of pain. There is the fleeting memory of bad phases, but most of all what has stayed in mind is how it turned out to be one of the richest as far as personal accomplishments go.
The 100th and possibly 200th blog post were written within this year. A very fun production was kick started. My 1st ever solo trip (New York) finally happened (setting into motion a series of events I would never have anticipated). Mogambo made her presence felt. The Penguin made her grand entry. I discovered Jamie Oliver, Curtis, Nigella and reveled in the joy of dishing out one new dish after another in my poorly constructed, yet well stocked kitchen. After putting it off for almost 3 years, I enrolled for singing lessons and actually enjoyed them.
With the Penguin leading the way, I entered one new experience after another with a mind that decided it wanted to be more open than closed. Auctions, new resturants, random plays, funky recipes - you name it, I tried it.
And for the 1st time in my life, I think I learned how to embrace optimism. And perhaps cultivated the slightest ability to laugh at myself. Precious! :D
Worth a mention here is that the year marked my 1st ever interaction with the world of Bharat Matrimony.
Fun fact: Every guy I was introduced to through BM ended up getting hitched within about 6 months of having met me. To another woman, of course. In exactly the order that I met them. EXACTLY.
(Incredible, I know!)
And although I whined and cried through it all, wondering why I had to put myself through a process I had little or no enthusiasm for, I do believe it helped the cliched process of self awareness and might have played a big role in making me realize what kind of person I wanted to be with.
No small feat, that!
And finally 2008.
While the dust settled on other parts of my life, this year gave me reason to wonder if I could ever continue in a job that was starting to get so physically and mentally exhausting. With my health sauntering coolly out the door, the hurting hand made me snappy and impatient at work and curtailed my physical ability to put in even a few extra hours if I wanted to. I questioned everything from my willingness to my ability to perform and went through intense self doubt and more intense physical pain.
And yet, in retrospect, 2008 seems like a year that was WELL worth living through. The work was great and more importantly, projects that took the most out of me turned out to be worth every minute that was spent on them. I have new found respect for my health and have learned my discipline with medicines the hard way. Most importantly, the lessons I've learned in the last 8 months at work, bitter as they were to experience, have provided perspective I would never have acquired otherwise.
Cliche after cliche, I know. Yet, all of it true.
It didn't dawn upon me until recently why the phrase 'Baptism by fire' was termed as such.
Now I understand. That moment when you stand at the exit door of an experience that was all agony as you went through it and look back. That moment that you feel cleansed and richer for the experience. That moment that you *know* why it all happened.
That moment, when you finally accept that the goodness of the outcome is so overpowering that it drowns out the memory of everything bad that happened, it's when you've had your personal baptism by fire.
Baptism, indeed :)