What do I do now?

I spend a lot of time thinking since I've joined college.

I had postponed a lot of introspection during the two years I spent slogging away for the JEE. But now, with ample free time and practically no requirement to go to classes, I've finally got some time to look back and see how things have turned out. College started off on the back foot, and while 1-1 had its charms, I wasn't exactly happy about how things had turned out at the time due to a bad time with the entrance exams for all the wrong reasons.

But I digress, as time has passed, I have learned to live with my failure a little better every day, though it still sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise decent academic profile. Despite this, it has been an interesting exercise is to compare what I expected from college a year ago and reality.

To be fair, BITS Pilani (this applies to all campuses, but in this case, Hyderabad Campus) has some of best internal systems among all Indian colleges. Optional attendance, good grading system, decent infrastructure, and a lot of freedom is more than what can be asked for in a lot of other colleges. Despite some glaring flaws such as the lack of a solid technical culture, this college has punched above its weight for a new institution.

But as an engineering utopia? I feel like we are way short of the mark Aaron Swartz mentioned in his blog:

"Perhaps it’s natural, when doing something so greedy and practical as a startup, to pine for the idealized world of academia. Its image as a place in an idyllic location filled with smart people has always been attractive; even more so with the sense that by being there one can get smarter simply through osmosis. People describe a place of continual geekiness, of throwing chemicals into the river and building robots in free time. A magical place for hackers to just enjoy themselves."

This aside, I am of the opinion that the version of me a year ago would have been sorely disappointed by the version of me today. I feel that I was much more hardworking and efficient back at that time. The two years in JEE preparation were undoubtedly the worst years of my school life but now looking back, those dark days brought out the best in me in the briefest of moments. Had I not prepared for JEE at all, I would have had no idea just how driven and hard-working I could be for a goal that would always be just a touch out of view.

Despite my frustrations with life during JEE preparation, the epiphanies I used to have on weekly basis with studying physics kept me going. It was a positive feedback loop with no goading required. On the other hand I can't remember the last time I actually enjoyed learning something in class in this college. I hope it isn't a sign of things to come when I start "engineering" coursework in my second year but as of now, I have pretty much lost all motivation to study. The unbridled enthusiasm I used to have when studying for the entrance exams and the giddy thoughts of making batshit crazy projects in college has dwindled. In my first semester, it was a convenient excuse to blame this on burnout after pushing my limits for two years but I've come to realize that the reason is probably shallower than that. It's not just with academics though - wasting time still feels painful but I have nothing I want to do to fill in the gaps. Is there a cause for this? Probably. Have I figured it out? Absolutely not.

It feels like an artificial conflict of time between these misguided academic pursuits and to actually work on something worthwhile. I could put up with it in school with the thought that there would be enough free time to pursue this in college - and while there is - it begs the question why such artificial restraints on time in the form of exams are always looming in the first place.

At this point of time, I don't know what to do. With compre in half a month but a GSoC project and a couple other projects I've planned in the pipeline, it's a pretty easy decision to make the choice of which one of these two things I would want to work on. For a CGPA for which I cannot care for anymore, it might be one of the worst decisions I can make.

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