Category: Self discovery

30 and Learning: You Can’t Go Back

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Now that I’m back in Buffalo, I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with old friends. Yesterday, I spent the evening with a group of friends who’ve all turned 30 during the course of this past year, myself included. We walked to a cafe, ordered salads and soups, then walked to another local coffee shop down the street for our nightcap, if you will, although a cappuccino (no sweetener, and an extra shot of espresso, please!) would hardly aid anyone in falling asleep, not me though! We occupied a couch and couple of chairs, Friends-style, and talked about all sorts of things.

As we were leisurely strolling back at the end of the night, we walked past a bar where we used to once hang out. Looking at the crowd inside, loud and packed elbow-to-elbow, I couldn’t help but observe, “that used to be us once“. It’s not that we don’t go to bars anymore, but they’ve become rare occurrences now compared to what they were up until few years ago. Nor is it that we decided one day that now that we’re thirty, this is what we’re going to do. In fact, it has been a very gradual, organic transformation and we hardly ever notice it until something like this happens.

One of my friends is pregnant, so there was a lot of talk about babies. Politics, of course, is a subject that is omnipresent these days, and we discoursed at great length about the ongoing Presidential race. We talked about fitness and how we’re all making healthy lifestyle changes (hence walking and ordering salads). I shared my ‘before’ picture that I took last week. Now that I have all the time in world, I have decided to dedicate most of it to fitness. I start my day with an intense cardio workout, followed by a wholesome protein smoothie. I eat fish and salad for lunch, and chicken breast for dinner. And every other day, I do strength training in the evening. Today, however, was my rest day! At 30 years old, I’m in the best shape of my life right now, better than I was in my early 20’s, but I want to see how much better I can be if I’m dedicated. And I want to do it the right way, by eating healthy and working out.

As the evening progressed, the conversation steered towards more intellectual subjects. We were talking about various socio-economic issues and related studies, and soon about our own expectations from life. I slowly started to notice a theme, no one is truly satisfied with what they’re doing. I am, of course, an exception right now, but even my friends with steady jobs and big paychecks seem to feel that they’re missing something at a deeper level- a feeling of fulfillment. Thinking back to the time when I was still with my previous employer, life was much the same for me too. Work-life balance is getting more and more skewed in corporate America, with the work-end slowly tipping the scales. Annual compensation packages sound great at face value but when you do the math to see how much you make per hour for the number of hours you actually put into the job, the result is rather dismal. This is assuming you’re an exempt employee, which was the case with me and still is for my friends. And after all that hard work, there is very little of significance to show for it.

This part of our conversation really got me thinking. I’ve undergone many transformations during the past few months, most of them life-altering. A part of me wants to share what I have learned with the rest of the world. Life lessons don’t come by easy. We have to fall first in order to learn to stand up on our feet again. And the harder the fall, the tougher is the struggle to get back up. I cannot make another learn this, everyone has to do it themselves. When they’re down, they have to find the strength to pick themselves up. But perhaps I can share with them my own experiences so that they know there is hope, and that they can do it. The more time I spend away from the daily, mundane grind, the more I feel the urge to do something on my own. And do it not for money but for the sole purpose of giving back that what I’ve learned.

When we were 20-somethings, we all wanted to look good, have high-paying jobs and drive around in fancy cars. A decade later, we don’t just want to look good on the outside, we want to feel good on the inside. We don’t just want to make big bucks, we want to make a difference. We don’t just want material acquisitions, we want spiritual enrichment. Perhaps this is what quarter-life crisis looks and feels like. But it’s a sure sign that we haven’t just grown in years but also in intellect. I don’t think this is a ‘crisis’ though, it’s our individual quest for a greater purpose, it’s a process of defining what ‘success’ really means to each one of us.

Fortunately or otherwise, this process has been fast-tracked for me. I have been yanked away from the life I had become so used to. With this downtime that I’ve been given, I am now trying to figure out what I want to do next- go back to that life, or make a radical change. Change is never easy but sometimes it is imperative. Having undergone so much in less than a year, I almost feel it would be unfair to not make a change, to not have a worthy outcome of this mayhem when the dust settles. Sure, the lessons I have learned will always stay with me, but is that enough? If everything goes back to the way it was, over time it will seem like none of this ever happened, that it was a bad dream, and that I’ve woken up in the same rut in which I once was. I want to wear my scars with pride, not let them fade. I have relinquished all control over my destiny to life right now but I’m hoping to have some of it back. I’m turning to the Universe for signs. If life hasn’t allowed me to fast-forward my challenges, I will not allow it to hit ‘reset’!

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Need Help? Try Asking Yourself!

In response to the Daily Post Prompt: Help

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(Image courtesy: Celestinevision.com)

I really like the idea of Daily Prompts. It’s incredible to see how each individual interprets a word differently when there is no context. One simple word can mean so many different things to different people! When I saw today’s word the first thing that came to my mind was ‘grounding’. What does that mean? Let’s examine.

I’ve been going through some exceptionally challenging times since last year. Here is a link to the recap I did few days ago. Help has come to me in all forms and I have needed it desperately all along. I’ve had help from friends and family in staying positive. I’ve had help from my therapist in breaking free of a downward spiral of depression. I’ve had help from attorneys and other associates in employment and visa-related matters. I’ve had help from well-wishers who always sent good vibes my way, and still do. I couldn’t have made it this far without these helpers. So why didn’t I think of any one of them when I read the word ‘help’?

All the people I named above are external to me. No matter how much they care, or how badly they want to, they can never fully understand everything that I’m going through. And it’s not because it’s me, it’s because we are all unique individuals and no one can understand us better than our own selves. It holds true for everyone. I am sure I cannot understand a friend’s problems the way he/she understands them. We are all complex creatures, and knowingly or unknowingly, we control how much of ourselves we expose to others. Like I said in a previous post, I shared very little with friends and family. I shared a little bit more with my therapist, and I shared completely different concerns with professionals. I controlled how well they understood what was going on with me at a deeper level. We all do that.

Writing this blog has been another great help, because it closely serves the purpose of introspection; most commonly, it is the outcome of introspection. It helps me clear my thoughts and understand myself better. As I was learning to navigate through the darkness that had enveloped my world, I stumbled upon meditation. Meditation helped me clear out all the noise and listen to only what matters- the voice of my soul. When I meditate, I take plenty of time to focus on my chakras, specifically the root, the solar plexus and the third eye (see image above). These chakras help me in finding my purpose. They help me reassure myself of my value in this world, no matter how insignificant it might be to someone else. They remind me that I am a person and that I am important to me. They also help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. The third eye is supposed to strengthen intuition. I don’t claim that it turns a person into a seer of the future. What it does instead is to reinforce the idea that good things will follow. When going gets tough, we often hear people repeating platitudes such as “night is darkest before the dawn“, or that we are being “tested” by an unknown, unseen force. We nod our heads and agree. But how many times do we really, truly agree? Again, they don’t know exactly what we’re going through. They don’t know that my night actually just got darker! Why am I being tested when that guy over there is a complete profligate and I was actually living a moral life? The point is, banal sympathies only help to an extent before losing effectiveness. When we learn to look inward, the encouragement comes from deep within our soul, and that counts! What intuition tells me is not that my troubles are over, or that I will win a lottery next week. It tells me that no matter what comes next, I’ll weather it, and soon troubles will pass. And until better days arrive, I have enough strength to hold on to hope.

This to me is the meaning of grounding- feeling connected with myself and the world around, knowing that I am capable of overcoming anything that life throws at me- the oneness of mind, body and soul. If we lose hope, we stand to lose everything. But no one else can give us hope. It is something we need to find ourselves. It lies within each of our hearts and all we need to do is to tap into it, and build a lasting bond with our inner selves. I have chosen meditation. Someone else might be able to connect with themselves through art, or nature, or simply by sitting in a quiet room. The important thing to remember is this: if you ever need help, ask yourself first!

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An Extraordinary Life

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As if there wasn’t enough chaos in my life already that as of last week I am no longer working. There have been some hiccups with my work visa, so while I can stay in the country legally, I cannot work until these problems have been resolved. It may seem like a rather unnerving news, but quite frankly I couldn’t stop laughing when I got the call informing me that I couldn’t go in to work starting next day until further notice. I am beginning to feel like I’m living in the pages of a Shakespearean comedy of errors where nothing seems to be going right, although there hasn’t yet been a case of mistaken identity and yet if it were to happen to me tomorrow, I wouldn’t even be mildly surprised considering the events that have transpired since last fall! What is also typical of such a comedy is a happy ending. I was in Rhode Island for a weekend to see my best friends. On Saturday morning, I decided to go out for a walk/jog, and explore the neighborhood. I spotted a park a little over a mile away on the map, and decided I was going to head that way. It seemed like it was close to the water but there was a street separating the park from the waterfront- beach houses, in all likelihood. But as I approached the park, I noticed the houses ended at one point and there was a series of steps right next to it. Excited, I ran towards it and, lo and behold, ocean, and an endless beach as far as the eye could see (above)! My friends had no idea they lived this close to a public beach. I spent few minutes taking in the scenery and reflecting on what it meant to me. During my run back, I concluded that this was a sign that I’m about to find ‘my beach’ in real life too. I have been on an adventure for many months now, not knowing what lies ahead. Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong, anything that I could lose I’ve lost. Today, I’m playing the narrator instead of the protagonist in the drama that is my life!

Act One: It all started last summer with my long term employer deciding to withdraw their sponsorship for my employment in the US- the very basis of my existence. And they did so with little to no justification, rejecting any legal expertise I brought to the table through my independent counsel with various immigration attorneys. What followed was a series of power plays by authority figures that culminated in my abrupt termination, despite my stellar track record. But in a world of at-will contracts, ethics are non-existent. Being jobless is one thing, as stressful as it is, but being without a sponsor in a foreign country- now that’s something practically unheard of. There is a lot in this one sentence that I want to talk about in detail, from the convoluted process of visa sponsorship to how I have been made to feel like a ‘foreigner’ although this country has been my home for many, many long years. Since I am going to have plenty of time on my hands in the coming days, I will take them one at a time. For now let’s talk about employers.

Employers are almost always sympathetic to the fact that if a person’s whole life depends on a piece of paper that they control, that they let this person make other arrangements before they pull the plug. But I had made some powerful enemies who wanted to pull the plug and watch me squirm and die. And so they did. But I was already expecting them to strike me where I was weakest- my immigration status- and, fortunately, had my modest team of attorneys on standby. With their help, I was able to safeguard my legal residence. That was the ‘situation‘ that I refrained from talking about in some of my earlier posts from last fall.

Act Two: Act One left me without a job in the most dramatic and unexpected way. In Act Two, I started plummeting towards bankruptcy. Cash flow was upside down. I had no income but expenses had skyrocketed with attorney fees and other immigration-related dues. I am not entitled to claim unemployment although I contribute to social security- another topic for next time. Moving on, I was offered various part-time jobs but the multitude of visa restrictions made it impossible for me to accept anything that came along. I was all alone during this crisis. I didn’t say anything to my parents or they would have driven themselves sick with worry, and I put up my bravest and best face in front of friends. But deep down, I was terrified and lonely. So when I couldn’t get my playboy to stop texting me, one day I asked him to come over and hold me. He did, and it was so sweet! But the universe was determined on breaking my bones and bringing me to my knees. So during what has undoubtedly been the darkest time of my life, my playboy once again did his disappearing act and left me just as he had found me that day- terrified and lonely. No job, no money, no love, no support- I decided to end not just the Act, but the entire play altogether. I have already written about that so I won’t go over it again. But sure enough, nothing happened as this story isn’t over yet!

Act Three: My free fall towards an unknown abyss continued and I decided it was time I sought help. I had started seeing a therapist since I lost my job but now I actually took therapy seriously. My therapist made a comment that came as a wake up call to me, “You have forgotten who you are, you think you are your immigration status…“. Perhaps we do have an element of mistaken identity after all! He was right, I had forgotten that I am a person, I could only think of myself as an immigrant, and by extension, erroneous as may be, someone who is not a human being at all. I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t sleeping right, I stopped working out, started smoking- I had lost all regard for myself. But now that I had made my therapist an active partner in my recovery, I was being held accountable for my actions and each week I had to report my progress to him. It didn’t take me too long to bounce back. There were minor setbacks along the way, like a toothache when I was out of insurance as well as money! But I was able to find positivity and hold on to it.

Act Four: Emotions were under control but I still needed a job, and a steady source of income. The only job that came along, that would meet visa requirements AND where the employer was willing to take over my sponsorship, was far from Buffalo, in Michigan. Buffalo, NY is where my heart belongs; as a matter of fact, one of my early posts is dedicated to Buffalo. Being home was my final tether to any remaining sense of security and comfort. Now it was severed. I had finally lost all that I ever loved. Someone could have driven a stake through my heart and it probably would have hurt lesser than it did through the whole process of packing and moving (here’s an example).

Call it fate, intuition or perhaps, weakness, but when my property manager in Buffalo refused to let me out of my lease early, I was secretly happy and I decided not to move my things to MI just yet. All I have over there are few dishes and cooking utensils, an air mattress and a TV. Everything else is still in Buffalo, and as of last week, the cats and I have moved back in! Paying rent and utilities in two places hasn’t been easy but to me it is a small price to pay to hold on to my ‘home’ until I’m ready to let go, or come back forever, whichever happens first.

As Act Four draws to a close, I’m once again grappling with visa issues. But on the bright side, I’m back in Buffalo in the interim, and finances are beginning to improve. There has been no development on the playboy front, except a brief reappearance and yet another disappearance. I did run into him during my last visit to Buffalo and we acted like perfect strangers, like we were transparent to each other. Meditation has been a significant underlying force during this whole time and my mental state has never been more tranquil in my entire life, not just these few months. It has also awakened me to the voice of my own instinct. As I look to Act Five I am confident that after all this chaos, everything is suddenly going to snap into place and things are going to get better, just as haphazardly and abruptly as they fell apart. There’s something inside me that can smell the ocean in the air already, and is telling me that the beach cannot be too far now. Tomorrow we commence this new Act and I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what’s next!

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Tomorrow Never Comes, Indeed!

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Another weekend, another Meetup, and another group of great people! We went to watch St. Patrick’s Day parade and then to an Irish hooley at a local microbrew. I didn’t spend 13 hours with the group this time, but I did form a special bond with one of the members. She and I are in a similar situation, the only difference being she is just starting the uphill climb whereas I think I am on the descent now. I shared my struggles with her and she was able to find comfort in knowing that it is possible to make it through this no matter how hopeless things may seem right now. She said, “I was meant to meet you today“, and it warmed my heart to realize that perhaps my struggles weren’t for nothing after all- they helped someone else take heart.

At the beginning of February I had said that I could feel spring in the air, I was my own Phil, the groundhog, and something reminded me of that this morning. So browsing through my Netflix list, when I saw the movie title The Groundhog Day, I just had to watch it. For those who haven’t watched the movie, here is the link to IMDB page. Bill Murray plays an egocentric, arrogant weatherman who has to go to Punxsutawney to report on the titular event. Through some inexplicable phenomenon, he is stuck reliving that day over and over. What’s worse is that he is fully aware that he is trapped in that day but no one else remembers a thing from the previous day, which was the same as today, and will be the same tomorrow. Initially, he goes about being his old grumpy self each day, running into the same people, having the same conversations. Soon he realizes that his actions couldn’t possibly have any consequences since tomorrow will never come. So he starts exploiting the situation and having some fun with it. But fun gets old pretty quick. Desperate to break out of this cycle, he tries to kill himself several times. But no matter what he does, at 6 am, he is back in his bed, waking up to the same song and chat on the radio, and once again, it is February 2!

Over time, and partially in an attempt to woo his producer, something changes in him. He starts using his ‘power’ to do good things, to help people, to keep them safe, he even tries to prevent death. He becomes a good man. No longer are his days the same. He takes the time know other people, acquire new skills and do all the good he can in that one day. Because of his newfound kindness of heart, at last he is able to win over his producer and he is released from the time trap.

As I was watching the movie, it made me think, “what makes one day different from another?“. It’s not simply the date on the calendar. Often times, I wake up in the morning and feel saddened by the realization that I’m still here, it’s going to be another day just like all the days before it since the beginning of this year, another day of hoping that something will change, that I’ll find a way back home. I am stuck in my own time trap. But aren’t we all? What’s the point of living if there is nothing to aspire to? My aspiration right now is to be able to return to Buffalo. But instead of thinking of each day as being same as the one before it, I can try to make it different. So I go out, try new things, meet new people. I think of ways to get closer to my dream and act in that direction. In whatever I do, I remember to live today to its full potential. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I don’t even know if I will get a tomorrow. Today is all I’ve got and if I waste it with negativity and inaction, then I would have failed myself. So what does make one day different from another? It is what we do with it.

The only advantage Bill Murray had over the rest of us is that life wasn’t passing him by. He was no older the next day when he woke up. But for us who are living in the real world, each day we lose is one more day we can’t get back. We can’t go back in time to fix things, or do them over. So it is but obvious that we must be extra careful with the choices we make today. When we are going through crisis, it is easy to lose sight of today. We just want it to be tomorrow, and not just any tomorrow but the tomorrow we are yearning for. I am all for a fast forward button for life, but while the geniuses of the world figure that out, we must all face our todays, no matter how grim they might seem. So why just face them, why not make them worth something? That something doesn’t have to be extraordinary, even a small something like going for a long walk, but surely a something that is positive.

Something else I watched this weekend was the movie Becoming Jane, based on the life of Jane Austen. I, like every single girl in this world, grew up reading Jane Austen and fantasizing about a life filled with romance. The thing with novels, though, is that they end at a point where everything is perfect. But life doesn’t end there. If I were a character in Jane’s novels, my story would have ended when my former boyfriend asked me to marry him- I was young, successful, happy, and so completely in love- all elements of a perfect ending. But life went on, we broke up, in came my playboy, the rest you know. The point being, even if we could skip to our desired tomorrow, there is no way to make it last forever- now don’t tell me you want the geniuses of the world to make that happen next, that’s just plain greedy 😛.

Life will always be full of challenges, and there’ll always be times when we’ll want to skip over the bad part. But the bad parts are the true test of our character. It is not easy to make it through, but make it through we must. And if it is something we must do, we might as well give it our best. Life is simpler living one day at a time, so let’s stop worrying about tomorrow, or next month, or next year. Let’s seize today and make it better than yesterday!

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Making Happiness

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Sometimes, the most remarkable things can happen in life. It was a mere two days ago when I said I didn’t have much going for me. It’s not that I was writing from a place of self-pity, or that I hoped to garner sympathy. It was simply an observation about the state of my life measured against the common barometer of ‘success’. And although it might give the appearance of lack of success right now, I am quite happy with my life because I don’t doubt my choices, and perhaps more importantly, I haven’t given up hope. It wasn’t always this way, and it wasn’t easy getting here, but through perseverance, and perhaps some good fortune, I have managed to find peace.

I’ve often heard people talk about the power of manifestation. If you send positive energy into the universe, the universe will send positive energy back at you, and if you can maintain this exchange long enough your thoughts and desires will  eventually manifest themselves. Now, I am a fairly rational person so I don’t identify with something as hyperbolic as that right away. But this weekend has certainly swayed me towards the believer-end of the spectrum.

Saturday started out being an ordinary day. I recently joined a local Meetup group and I was going to attend my first lunch get together with them. I was supposed to meet the others at the restaurant at noon; I expected to spend no more than two hours there, then go for my weekly hot yoga class later in the afternoon. I arrived at the restaurant at the designated hour and made my introductions with the three other ladies who were already there. As the hostess guided us to our table, I realized that it was actually four tables joined together, set for nearly 30 people! I thought, “wow, all those seats for us?“. Slowly more people started showing up, and indeed, the table was soon full.

Lunch was less than spectacular to be honest, but I had great people on either side and across from me, and conversations were truly captivating. I have a bad habit of losing interest quickly but I must say, I didn’t find myself reaching for my phone to glance at the time, or hoping there was a message I absolutely had to respond to. In a couple of hours people began leaving, but not our end of the table. There were five of us and we were immersed in discussion that kept going from one topic to next spontaneously. I did eventually check the time, only to realize that I had already missed my yoga class.

I will spare everyone the details because as it turns out, I didn’t get home until 1.30 in the morning! Of the five of us who were left, one person bid farewell reluctantly as he had prior commitments he couldn’t get out of. The rest of us proceeded to Starbucks for coffee and eventually to the chic Mall Rd (pictured) for dinner and few drinks. I had never met these people before that day in my life, but the way I connected with them I felt like I had known them forever. There wasn’t one dull moment in the 13+ plus hours that we spent together and conversation flowed naturally. When I woke up yesterday morning, I had no friends here. I was optimistic about making new acquaintances at the Meetup but I ended up concluding the evening with a group of people who went from being total strangers to acquaintances to friends in a matter of few hours! What’s more, I think I’m going on a date with one of them tomorrow. I say I think because I’m not entirely sure if it is a date. We became such good friends that when he asked me this morning if I wanted to watch a movie tomorrow, I couldn’t tell if it was a good pal asking or a guy I just met 24 hours ago. I don’t care if it’s one or the other, I’m just glad to have my social life back.

So going back to the power of manifestation- I don’t know if this was just a coincidence or the universe does actually resonate and reflect our energy. Since the beginning of February, I had been feeling a surge of positivity, that in turn helped me find serenity. I must have been radiating all this positivity and serenity into the universe and now the universe has sent it all back to me, only twice as much. There is no way to prove it but I daresay, it’s well worth a try. We have all heard that happiness is a state of mind, and we all know that sometimes no matter how hard we try, it’s just not possible to get to that state of mind. So instead of forcing ourselves to be happy, maybe we just have to focus on being positive.

Despair is an emotion too and I have never believed in denying any emotion, good or bad. Unless we acknowledge an emotion, we cannot find a way to deal with it. So we have to acknowledge despair but at the same time, also look for the slightest sliver of optimism and focus on it instead. Thoughts are like building blocks, we can keep stacking them one on top of another. Dwell on a negative thought and soon you have an insurmountable pile of troubles. So we must first and foremost learn to keep our thoughts in check, and then only dwell on the positive thought, daydream a little! (And only a little because thought without relevant action is no good). The thought will soon give way to positivity emanating from within. And maybe, the universe will start reflecting it back, and maybe we will be able to make good things happen. We haven’t got anything to lose by trying, so why not, right?

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A Quest for Peace

It’s been a long time since I wrote. Like I said in the beginning of my journey, I think, and when I think I write. It’s how I sort through my thoughts and make sense of things. The simple fact is that I haven’t had any thoughts lately. It’s hard for me to believe that I am capable of having a mind that’s devoid of any thoughts but life has been so uneventful, and drama free, that I have no reason to ponder over anything, and hence nothing to write about. But I miss writing. So I’m going to start writing and see where it takes me!

In all honesty, it’s actually nice to have an uneventful life. Between my former job, the move, and my playboy, I had a lot going on in my life, and it was quite stressful. Now that all of that is a thing of past, I’m content to not have anything to worry about, at least for the time being. There’s still a lot of uncertainty but I don’t find myself rushing to get to the other side of it.

I attribute a part of this serenity to my yoga practice. Besides practising hot yoga once a week, I have started meditating for 10 minutes every evening, and I daresay, it works! To have those few minutes each day to focus on nothing else but the oneness of my mind, body and breath has helped calm the once rapidly firing neurons in my brain. I am a thinker and I love to analyze. It has had its merits but too much of it, like anything else, can be bad. Given my present circumstances where nothing is stable, I could potentially drive myself crazy by thinking about all the various turns my life can take. So in those 10 minutes, I focus on nothing else but achieving as much stillness as I can, of body and mind. Thoughts try to creep in but I let them pass. I have learned that if you can train yourself to not acknowledge those thoughts and let them fade like waves crashing at the shore, they begin to lose their appeal. Soon the mind doesn’t even know they are there, and it keeps getting easier. I can sit still for long periods without feeling agitated or anxious, without feeling the need to think about something, or getting up and doing something just to stop myself from thinking. I am truly at peace 😇.

Peace is so easy to find yet so difficult for most of us. To give it some perspective, I have a temporary job right now, my new visa is still pending approval, I haven’t seen any income in over four months (because my visa is pending approval), I have two households to sustain with practically no savings left to my name, I have no friends close by, and my playboy, who was, in a rather dysfunctional way, the only romance in my life, has become a distant memory. For argument’s sake, I have no source of joy in my life- I am a 30-year old with no job security, no love life, no money, and looming immigration crisis. And despite all that, I’m actually really happy. My friends are getting married, having babies, those who are immigrants like me are on their way to becoming permanent residents. But I haven’t stopped for a minute and wondered where did I go wrong. I know in my heart that I have lived life on my terms; even my struggles, I’ve chosen to go through them instead of throwing in the towel and settling. So I haven’t gone wrong, it’s simply that my path is a little more tortuous than most other people’s. That is the source of my peace- knowing that I wouldn’t have done it any other way, knowing that I have no regrets, and knowing that I have the strength to endure much more.

Life presents us with choices at each turn. There is no way of knowing which is the right one, because there is no right or wrong choice. No matter what we choose, life will shape accordingly. But there’s always one choice that stands out if we only look closely. There’s always one choice that we just know is ‘the one’. It is the one that our mind, heart and gut can all agree on. There is no internal conflict. It’s not always easy making that choice because it takes courage to trust our own instinct. As a society, we tend to rely on what is generally true. But general is just that, it may not apply to everyone. Yet we find it easier to make a decision based on a generally accepted notion than have faith in ourselves, because if the former doesn’t work out, well, then it’s just a likelihood we signed up for. But if the latter doesn’t work out, we have no one but ourselves to blame. And who wants that! It’s easier to quiet that little voice in your head than to defend yourself later on. Trust me when I say that I have had a lot of defending to do lately! According to my parents, I could simply let them ‘arrange’ my marriage and it would be a swift solution to all my problems. It’s still a fairly common practice in India- although my parents actually dated for six years, and their marriage wasn’t arranged- no one would judge me for making that choice, and I have seen many happily married couples whose match was arranged. Marriage is a gamble after all. No matter how long you’ve known someone, you don’t know what they’ll become once they get the title of ‘spouse’! And arranged marriages these days are not what they used to be where the bride and groom met each other for the first time at the altar. There is a considerable period of courtship to ensure there’s enough romance. Because matching everything else of significance has more or less become a science- social status, wealth, education, tempers, likes/dislikes, and what not! But it’s not for me.

So while I have very little going for me right now, the ten minutes of calm each day has pervaded through my whole life. Now that I’m not busy worrying about tomorrow, I can finally take the time to appreciate where I’ve been. I am content to know that I chose to follow my heart whenever life gave me the freedom to choose. There have been a lot of instances in the last several months where I wasn’t given a choice. I just have to accept that, even if under protest. But whenever I could choose, I made a choice that I still stand by, a choice that my heart, mind and gut agreed on, still do. I have no internal conflict. I don’t second guess myself because at each turn I’ve chosen what I knew was the only choice for me. That knowledge is what brings me peace, it is what makes me happy!

P

Strength: Sometimes you have more of it than you realize you do…

airportI was watching Wild last night. I started the movie with the hope of vicariously landing myself a much-desired moment of epiphany. I cannot get up and go on a thousand-mile hike myself but I was hoping that if I watched someone else’s process of self-discovery, I will have one of my own. Well, nothing happened. I am still questioning my whole life, trying to make some sense of what is going on. I was happy once, and it wasn’t too long ago. I used to wake up next to someone who put a smile on my face. I used to go in to work with renewed excitement each day. I loved the people and I loved my job. At the end of the day, I used to come home to someone who was happy to see me. I had home, love and career- everything that is needed for a successful adult life.

One by one, everything has been slipping through my fingers. I wake up alone these days, no one on the other side of the bed to share my night’s dream with. I go into work a bundle of nerves- what is my boss going to do today, how is he going to harass me? I get a blank meeting invite from him, and I pop the first pill of Clonazepam. I am not allowed to have a neutral witness in the room with me, I am not allowed to record the conversation- he rejects my requests. He intimidates me behind closed doors and I have no proof of it, except that I cry each time I step out of his office. Everyone can see it. Everyone feels bad for me but we are all helpless. HR doesn’t care. I pop my second pill of Clonazepam to make it through the remainder of work day. 5 PM and I am relieved to go home. I get home but there is no one to ask me about my day. I look around me and I suddenly realize that this is all temporary. I don’t have the right to decide what is home. I was born in a country I cannot call home. And although I have lived here for several years now, only my employer holds the power to make it my home. My boss single-handed controls my fate and he is determined to destroy it. I struggle to fall asleep, I struggle to stay asleep.

I did nothing wrong, except for a foolish love affair, but who doesn’t make that mistake. I was always sincere and yet I stand to lose everything. People say hard work never goes to waste, but it hasn’t brought me any good, none that I can see. I listen to Linkin Park’s In the End on a repeat loop: “…I don’t know why, it doesn’t even matter how hard you try…“. I want to know why this is happening to me. Did I really deserve this? I want to know what’s on the other side of this misery, and I want to get there quickly. I want to get away from all the chaos, on a quest of my own. I want to find happiness. I want this uncertainty, this daily torture to be over.

If your heart isn’t crying for me right now, then I’m sorry but you need to go see a doctor to make sure you have one 😉 Anyway, the point I am trying to make: yes, it is very difficult to lose a parent, especially if they brought you up all alone, in the most difficult circumstances imaginable, making sacrifices all throughout. But what I am going through is no less. But not once has the idea crossed my mind that abusing drugs, or indulging in reckless sexual behavior is the solution to my problems. Except for the few times when I am crying, you will never find me sulking. I still smile a lot and keep a positive attitude. There are days when it seems like I have hit the bottom, but on such days I am able to tell myself that the good thing with hitting the bottom is that there is only one way to go from there- up! So even in the darkest times, I don’t feel inclined to compromise on my values. I am not saying this to undermine Cheryl Strayed’s struggles and recovery in any way. But I am stronger than that. I don’t need to put myself through an extraordinary feat of courage to emerge as a better person. I am already that person and I show extraordinary strength each day simply by getting out of bed and facing what’s to come. So while I did not find the answers I was looking for, watching Wild made me realize that I am proud to be me. I am sure there is a rainbow around the bend not too far away. Good days will return once more. It will take a lot of patience and perseverance to get there, but I think I’ve got it and I will not give up 🙂

P