I’m a fan of effortlessness. I like things to be smooth, natural… like it’s how it was always meant to be. Not to break a sweat, not miss a line, or skip a step.

I had that attitude as a student too. As my sister sweated out the final hours leading to the exams, I’d chill. I’d tell myself, relax. It’s too late for anything to make a major difference. I’d read a book, or watch a film. Anything to take the edge off. Pretend that it’s just another day, nothing to stress about. And that’s how I’d go take the exam. And I’d wonder why my sister was stressing so much. It was only an exam.

In the 10th grade, I scored 99/100 in Samskrit. I am a fan of Samskrit, and I worked hard at it. But it never felt that I was working hard. It simply felt like I’d discovered my groove, and I slid right in, easy and smooth. It again felt effortless. I had a similar experience with Math too. I worked hard but it hardly felt like work. It came easy, and I simply had to put my mind to the task.

Thus I became a fan of effortlessness. But now I wonder, was I simply lazy all the time?

My husband is a great fan of “applying yourself,” a phrase that means/meant nothing to me most of my life. He has had to “apply himself” a lot. Not everything came easy. He had to work hard for nearly everything. Of course, there were a few sweet phases where there was ease and convenience (relatively speaking), and things came smooth to him. For most part, though, he has had to work hard to get what he wanted.

Now, that is not my story. Most things I have got have come easy to me. I haven’t really worked hard. I have always viewed “working hard” as doing something you’re not particularly inclined to, but you keep at it, long and persistent. That felt very charmless to me. I have zero qualms about working hard but I draw the line at mindless slogging. Now I know that “applying yourself” isn’t mindless at the least. But I have a tendency to discard things that don’t come naturally to me. If it’s hard at the beginning, I sometimes think it isn’t meant for me. This isn’t always true, though. I was in deep love with the idea of learning martial arts, and I spent months trying to figure out Aikido, until I wearily realized that that form wasn’t meant for me. I “applied myself,” and I am sure my husband would agree too. But I had to give up eventually. I was sore and exhausted… and not enjoying it at all.

So, here I am… nearly 40, and trying to figure out what it means to “apply myself.”

I have enjoyed success in my early years in terms of performance at school, extracurricular activities, etc. I was a quick learner, good with language and articulation and math, and I wasn’t very ambitious… so I didn’t set lofty goals or have major aspirations. I was mostly cruising on my relative smarts, and then I hit a wall. And then another. Suffices to say that by the time I graduated at 21, my confidence was at an all-time low. Then I joined the fun world of software development. I was determined to give it a real go, despite the fact that software held no charm for me. But I stuck on, tried my best to make it work. I couldn’t. I didn’t give up, though. Took another role, then another… it was so soulless for me. But I was sure that I was the one who had to make it work.

What a darned waste… or not.

Anyway, I am not quite convinced about my husband’s “apply yourself” credo. Perhaps it works for him. For me, I think I need to find what charms me, what brings me joy and beauty and nourishment. I am drawn to fulfillment in ways that are not about “applying myself,” or ”stretching” or “pushing boundaries.”

I kinda have to figure this out my way. Because you see, it is the only kind that actually works for me.