Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gratification ... delayed

"When I am hungry, and I pay attention to the food that I eat, it is all the more damn tasty," I said the other day.

Maybe I am one of those who might have aced the marshmallow test, had I been administered that when I was a kid.

The more I think about it, the more I see delayed-gratification everywhere in my life.

I was at the grocery store the other day.  At the checkout counter, the cashier asked me if I had my summer off.

"Kind of.  I have a conference paper to write, and other work to do."

"You are always writing."

"I suppose I am.  But then that is my job.  If I were not writing, I am not doing my job," I replied.

Yes, in a way, I have my summer off.  But then this is delayed gratification at work.

I remember how poor I was as a graduate student.  I rented a crappy room in a drug-infested neighborhood because that is all I could afford if I wanted to live by myself.  The tap water almost always ran brown.  It was a slum!  A college-mate, Karl, was the one who told me about the place--he was living there and informed me about a vacancy.

I was always only one paycheck away from becoming a starving graduate student.

Meanwhile, graduate students who were wrapping up their masters degrees in a year-and-a-half or two were coasting away to prosperity in their new jobs.  While they bought their new cars, I was crying over my bicycle that somebody stole while it was locked.  Not that it was a fancy bike either--it was so old that I was able to buy it for next to nothing.  So, now, I didn't even have a bike.

There were bleak moments when I wondered whether this was all worth it.  Like a kid in the test wondering whether it was worth not eating the marshmallow that was right there, in order to wait for the reward of more marshmallows.

Some in my cohort had already gotten married, bought homes, and even had children by the time my life as a starving graduate student ended.

And just like that I was handed a bowl of marshmallows as a reward.  Year after year, sweet tasting summers.


Ramesh said...

There's no way you would have aced the marshmallow test as a child for we were rarely offered one and the concept that you could have two was unheard off !!

Really, you had a bicycle in the US of A ?? Is there even one bicycle in the US of A ?? If it doesn't guzzle gas, it ain't good enough I thought !!

Sriram Khé said...

You will be impressed with the number of bicyclists in urban Oregon, from Portland down to Eugene. I don't mean the weekend warriors, but even during the weekday, people of all ages biking to work and school ... even when it is cold!!!

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