How I spent my junior year figuring out “ikigai” : Reflecting on the pandemic-enforced lockdown.

It was March 17, 2020. I just got home from my hostel due to “Vaishvik Mahamari” or the pandemic! News was flooded with the havoc that COVID had created in other countries.

Nation was under a strict lockdown. People were clapping and banging thaalis to show solidarity towards the frontline healthcare workers. My 94 year old Grandmother also participated in such activities.

I got an internship at a startup within the first week I landed up in Ahmedabad. I devoted next couple of months to do 2–3 different internships that was supposed to give me “work experience” for the upcoming “college placements”.

Parallely, I developed a knack of reading self-help books. On my reading list was Ikigai.

Ikigai Book Photo

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

This key takeaway for me, from this book, was the Venn diagram. This book changed quite a few things for me. And I decided NOT to sit for the campus placements.

This was no easy decision and definitely required a strong sense of clarity. I was sure to do Master’s and take up research and hence the step.

I completed a few internships and also read more about different research domains. By the end of my internships, I was sure, I want to go for a career in research.

I read about HCI and the related field. By the year end, I had initiated my own research project. I still remember the new year and the self-reflection exercise that I went through.

I now feel that I have found my ikigai or at least I am on a path of finding one. Ranveer Allahabadia, the guy who runs the “Beerbiceps” podcast says that our thoughts constantly evolve and our career trajectory is pretty volatile till the age of 25. And by 25, we find something concrete to work upon and feel happy about. I am very much on this trajectory and embracing this journey.

Following ikigai is a lot deeper experience. It is also very tough, when compared to “Following the herd” or a shallow “Following Passion” approach. It has several layers and perspectives associated with it.

It has been a year since I came back home. All my current work assignments align with my research interests. The cherry on top: 2 of my position papers got accepted at CHI’21 and I got a Travel Grant to attend and present my work. Looking forward to that wholesome experience of attending such a large scale conference for the first time. Can’t wait for the keynotes talks and learnings, fanboying and networking opportunities.

On this year-long journey, I am fortunate to get guidance from many mentors. I am surprised by the sheer brilliance of human-designed knowledge graph algorithms. Social Media has helped me connect with the top academicians, researchers from my research area of interest.



Human. Reader. Aspiring Researcher.

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