What Happens When I Switch Off Robot Mode


How often do we sit down and look back at how we grew up? What made us tick? What made us succeed? What made us fail? What was our state of mind as we approached our daily life? For me, those were the days where I didn’t think too much. I just did. A lot. Like a lot, a lot.

You see. After a conversation with a friend where I explored how I grew up, I came to the realization that my childhood could be described as being in a perpetual state of robot-hood. That’s not to say I didn’t laugh, enjoy myself, and do activities I loved.

But the scarily efficient and productive way I was able to plow through work, partake in up to 10 extracurriculars at a time, maintain an 8 hour a night sleeping schedule, and maintain all my grades was somewhat reminiscent of a robot.

Who else do you know that finishes an extended essay (for the non-IB-ers, it’s a 4,000 word independent research essay that’s considered the bane of our existence) 7 months before the deadline. Yes, 7 months. I was nuts. Still am tbh.

What is Robot Mode?

For me, it was:

  1. Being able to run through a laundry list of tasks without ever procrastinating. I had a daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists on my wall.
  2. Going through a routine of wake-up, go to soccer/basketball practice, classes, clubs, eat, HW/essays/projects, watch TV, catch up with my friends and boyfriend at the time, sleep exactly at 10.30pm (11.30 if I was feeling really rebellious), and repeat. I had optimized this routine over 3 years without thinking if this is what I wanted.
  3. Not thinking. Seriously, I had filled my day with so many activities that I hardly had self-reflection time. When I did, I would get a wave of existential angst and depression. And what did I do? I filled my day up again so I wouldn’t feel this way.
  4. Minimal emotions. I had my days where I was a crying mess. But I had heard the comments of me not caring about other people, being particularly selfish, being robot-like, being emotionless growing up. I guess it was easier to keep the emotions down to a minimum.
I don’t regret robot mode though.

If I wasn’t a robot, I don’t think I would’ve been able to get into Brown. And if it weren’t for Brown and the people I met there, I wouldn’t even recognize robot mode.

The Challenge

My friend challenged me to think: what other modes could I tap into? If I let go of the programming, what would happen?

First reaction. I FREAKED OUT. If you remove the programming from a robot, the robot doesn’t work. I didn’t think I could actually function if you removed my robot-like, work-horse style attitude towards life. I also didn’t think I had any other modes.

But I took a day to sit on it. Mull over the question. And I came to find a few other modes that are dormant but exist within me.

Creator Mode

When I removed my robot layer, I realized that I’m a creator at heart. The robot mode kept me focused enough to finish the creation, but it wasn’t doing the creating. The creator within me was doing the creating.

When I play the piano while I’m improving, I create the music bouncing off the keys.

When I design a website, magazine or book, I create the aesthetic, the flow, the movement, the copy, the branding, the messaging.

When I write, I create the words that sometimes people can’t say, but I know we all feel.

Helper Mode

For some reason (I don’t know why), I love to go over and beyond to help people. And this includes total strangers (True story. One stranger messaged me out of the blue to read his college essays. I didn’t know who he was, no mutual friends, nothing. And I read and edited his essays for 3 months haha. He’s now a good friend).

If you’ve ever asked me for help, chances are I spent a few hours explaining everything in detail as best as I could, made myself readily available for follow-up questions, probably went overboard with how much information I provided, and then connected you with more people to help you out.

Don’t think robot mode can explain all of that.

Self-Reflective Mode

This article is a result of self-reflection so it definitely exists within me haha. When I was fully zoned-in on robot mode, I wouldn’t let myself be as self-reflective as I am today. I wouldn’t ask myself “why” questions. I wouldn’t check my own temperature. I completely ignored how I was feeling.

Coming to Brown and meeting wonderful people within it, I’ve been able to discover my self-reflective mode.

A mode that asks myself more questions. A mode that challenges why am I doing something. A mode that refuses to believe the statement, “This is just how things are.”

If self-reflective mode didn’t exist, I would’ve continued pursuing an Economics degree despite knowing how unhappy it was making me.

If self-reflective mode didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have acknowledged the emptiness and lack of motivation I felt at Brown. And I wouldn’t have declared a gap year to give myself the space I needed to come back to myself.

If self-reflective mode didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have told the CMO of Morgan Stanley that I do not, in fact, like finance and want to go explore my emotions. And we still stay in touch!

Robot mode would’ve stopped all of these choices I’ve made.

Human Mode

Moving away from Bangladesh, I’ve learned to love and accept the human side of me that I ignored as a robot.

I have and occasionally still do struggle with food and body image issues. Should probably stop eating ramen every meal.

I struggle with depression and lately, have been feeling more anxious than usual.

I spent half of Beauty and the Beast crying and it wasn’t even because the movie was that emotional.

I have my lazy days where I binge-watch Say Yes to the Dress because I don’t have the energy to get through the day.

I feel so much love and gratitude for my family and friends that have shown me so much support in my life.

I let myself be filled with happiness and joy from exploring a city on a beautiful day.

I experience life at its highest and lowest.

I let myself be human.

Final Thoughts

Exploring the other modes that make me up was initially frightening because I didn’t think they actually existed. But when I took a step back, I came to realize that I’m far more complex than just a robot.

However, I don’t want to permanently switch off robot mode. It will always be a part of me. And it’s how I actually get shit done haha.

But these modes are not independent of each other. They work together.

Through parsing away a few of the modes that make me, me, I’ve gathered a better understanding of myself and how I approach the world.

Challenge to You

I’ll challenge you to explore your own modes. Some questions to think about are:

  1. How do you approach the world?
  2. What is your primary mode?
  3. What other modes exist?
  4. How do they work together or separately?