A Mid Year Review of the 2017 Plan

In the month of April, I was involved in a minor accident, that resulted in a knee injury and a badly cracked phone screen. It was an oddly proud moment for me.

I see you going, “Huh?” Allow me to explain.

Growing up, I didn’t fall down much. I had one big fall in ’92 (hurt my nose, shin, and foot), and another big fall in ’07 (fractured my elbow). Smaller, forgettable injuries may have taken place, who knows? This injury-free childhood and adolescence is a result of a life lived with extreme caution. When you live over-cautiously, you rarely make mistakes. Nothing, of course, is a bigger mistake than not ever making mistakes.

By this, I mean actions you perform out of your own volition. There were plenty of things that happened to me that I see as mistakes, but ones that I always found someone else to pin the blame on. There’s only so much anger and resentment you can live with before you start suspecting if you’ve developed a victim complex or if you’re simply so unlucky that you’re always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Both of these explanations were unacceptable to me. I had reached my threshold.

The accident I mentioned happened on a trip I took. I’ve written in multiple birthday-resolution posts about how I pine to take trips but life does not allow me to. Taking off on my own was a big deal for me. Getting injured, therefore, was an indication of reduced caution. Reduced caution was an indication of being open to more risks, being open to finally making mistakes. Being open to finally learning from them. Being open to finally taking ownership of my life. There is something so liberating about being to look in the mirror and say, “I am the reason I’ve hurt my knee and broken my phone. Me. No one else, but me.”

I started this year with some major stocktaking and a desire to go back to the root of what caused my depression and fix it. I even decided to document my journey, with the hope that it may benefit someone. What I didn’t mention (explicitly) was I had decided to go back to college to earn a Master’s degree – that had been my big plan at the start of the year. That didn’t work out (for this year) because the Uni I really wanted to go to rejected my application, and my second choice, where I got accepted, was asking for the kind of tuition I couldn’t afford even with student loans.

I have a tattoo on my right wrist – a tribute to two books I like – that, roughly translated, means to accept whatever happens in life because it has all been written beforehand. A rather fatalistic view that, at the beginning of this year, I forced myself to reject and take action to affect the outcome that I wanted. It is true that I once believed in fatalism (hence the tattoo). But such a world view makes us complacent. You wade through life, accepting your lot, believing, hey, this is all predetermined anyway. 

For this reason, I’m glad that I did something this year: applied to college, returned to writing, took three trips (so far), became more accepting of things I cannot change, and more that I will speak about when the time is right. Whatever the result may have been, I can’t say I sat idly by, watching life unfold. From here on, whatever mistakes I make will be my own, and my scars will make me as proud as my accomplishments will.

While I’m no longer the kind of fatalist I started out as, I do still believe there’s a plan in the cosmic scheme of things that we cannot see. However, that is no reason for us to be lazy. Good things come to those who, instead of waiting for miracles to happen, get off their asses and make miracles happen.

Linking to #ChattyBlogs



Decisions at a (Metaphorical) Gun Point

I had life all figured out as a six year old. There was nothing to it – you grew up, became an adult, and then everything would be at your fingertips. Quite simple.

It was as I grew older that I felt I was losing fragments of my grand plan, and that things weren’t as transparent as they seemed. This led to maturity giving way to immaturity. Like I’m Benjamin Button, but on the inside. Frankly, I was at the peak of my maturity and ambition at age six.

How did I get here?

There’s a reason why we are told to make decisions with a cool head. The reason being, the decisions we make at a metaphorical gun point are often terrible.

Depression does not allow you to have a cool head. It is a permanent gun pointed at you when you have it. Your actions seem mechanical and you feel you’re just going through the motions. At the same time, there’s an incessant restlessness in you, a tingling in your feet that tells you to run away, do something reckless just so that something happens and you feel something. Anything to forget what’s hurting you; anything to feel anything else.

In December, I made some poor choices out of the desperation that comes from being there – I got back in touch with a group of people I had broken ties with because I intensely dislike their hypocritical and negative outlook towards life [it drains your energy right out], just so I could have someone to talk to. I was so terrified of the fact that if someone did not tie me up, I might harm myself, and my future looked so blank and bleak (mostly blank) that I just wanted someone from the future to come and tell me everything was going to be OK. Reassurance. I wanted to take a trip, just to get away from everything. I wanted to relocate to a different city, because I felt claustrophobic over here all of a sudden.

I held myself back.  For once I let lessons learnt in the past rule me. While I did reconnect with the people I mentioned above, and also may have said/done some borderline imbecilic things, I did not let myself make any decisions that would in the long run have severe repercussions. I decided to give myself a month to “calm down” so to speak.

A month later, the immediate restlessness had subsided and I collected my follies from the previous month. Whatever hurt me then was still hurting, but not in a slice-your-heart-open way. I was definitely calmer, could sleep better, and while I still desperately wanted to see a therapist and get help, I was stopped by the doubts I have on the competencies of Indian therapists, given some less than satisfactory experiences I had had in the past [If anyone reading this has a recommendation, I would surely welcome it]. I considered a career change, and when nothing came to light, and I began to feel restless and directionless again. I did the only thing that I could think of then – call up my oldest friend in the middle of the night and cry (this is not alarming – she’s used to it by now, I think).

My friend and I look alike; everyone tells us so. When my son was a year old, he met her and was confused as hell. It is because of this that when I look at her, I think of her as me in a parallel universe – a universe where I have not made the mistakes I’ve made. I always looked up to her for her independence and her levelheadedness. She never bowed down to parental pressure (yet another gun point of sorts) and has so far made a good path for herself. So imagine my shock when I was crying that night about how lost I was feeling and she replied with, “Dude, we’re all lost.” Of course, I insisted I was more lost, and that at least she had a plan. Turns out she also did not have a plan. No one has a plan.

In any case, having a plan negates everything I believe in. But I had assumed as a six year old that by now, I would be thirty and thriving. Instead I’m thirty and confused. Which is frightening, because a decade ago, I was twenty and confused. I have said it before that nearly every mistake I’ve made in the past twelve years can be traced back to one great mistake. So while I still do not have a plan, contrary to what I had hoped for at the end of my previous post, and may never have one, what I do have is an idea: to retrace my steps to that one great mistake, and start over.

Let’s see where this goes.

Epiphanies and Second Chances

The knuckles have been cracked. A neck rotation stretch has been done. But the writing is still a little rusty – beginning with sentences in the passive voice. But write we must, and here’s why.

After a terrible few months, I think I had an epiphany of sorts. Make that two epiphanies. No, correction: one epiphany and one sort-of-revelation. You’d think an epiphany would be a grand event that shakes the ground beneath your feet, tears the sky open like a curtain, lightning would strike and thunder would roar, and lions would fall from the sky. But, like nearly everything of importance that happens in a person’s lifetime, epiphanies strike without fanfare. Silently. A simple thought that seems to clear a lot of the fog.

We’ve been taught since childhood that we must not let go of that which we love and that which loves us. I love to write, and on some days, the good days, writing loves me back. It would be foolish to waste that for the reasons I had. My reasons included plagiarism, the terrible state of literature, the terrible state of the world, the terrible state of my life, the rampant back-scratching and reciprocation in the blogging community, the lack of audience, false friends and more. If you think about it, really think about it, I think I did not give up writing for myself, but I gave it up for others. Which is… mind-numbingly stupid.

I may not be as great a writer as my dad thinks I am. But I’m not as bad as my colleague thinks I am. I may not be as good as a certain writer, I may not be as bad as another certain writer. But I’m a writer in my own right, irrespective of where I stand on a scale that someone constructed. And that’s true for anyone who is or wants to be a writer – it doesn’t matter where you stand or who reads you – you have a gift, don’t give that up. We don’t give up on gifts; so few have them, and even fewer have the chance to use them.

So while I sat, wallowing in misery and self pity, and doubts about my ability as a writer, fears about my ability to even carry on with life, a voice whispered, “You don’t get second chances. Don’t give up on writing; that’s the one thing you have that’s entirely your own. Don’t give that up. If you do, you’ll never turn the clock back and get back to it.” I think it was the voice of rational thought. Or, for the spiritually inclined, maybe it was the voice of God? Or maybe my role models speaking to me from the beyond? Whatever it was, it made me realize that I have to do this – I can’t protect my work from being stolen, I can’t force people to read me, and I can’t control what happens in life or who I meet or how they treat me – writing is something I must do. Anything else I say, anything I say to not write, is an excuse, feeble at best. Granted, to reach this conclusion (or epiphany, as I like to believe it is), to understand that you don’t get second chances, to get it through my head that you don’t let go of what’s important, I had to go through the worst pain I’ve known – something, which, at the time, I believed, it would be impossible to recover from – but it’s taught me so much. It’s taught me what’s truly important, and made me realize I was about to throw that away out of pettiness. And I’m recovering. If you had met me this time last month, I would have told you that’s never gonna happen. But to heal is a choice I must make for myself. And that’s what I’m gonna do.

And I’m gonna keep writing till I can. Cos that’s what writers do.

Out The Frying Pan

Recently, I joined a new team at work. Call it an introvert’s curse, but I do not make friends as easily as my peers. I am bat-crap crazy once I get to know someone, but the pause between *awkward-handshake* “Hi, I’m Sreesha.” and *drunken* “I am about to jump; help me! Oooh are those stars or comets?!?!” is so long, so heavy and so awkward that a teenager with acne is probably doing a better job asking his crush out than me making friends at a new place.

Call it another curse, but right from school, I have been plucked out of my comfort zone every now and then and placed on an alien gola, without a locket to take me back to mother ship (no, I do mean mother ship, cos I was in hostels as a teenager and my mommy wasn’t with me).

But this has happened so many times in the past, that this time my mind just said that I am gonna survive all the embarrassments of being the new awkward girl. My mind is simply so old and wise now that it just cannot be bothered with the complexities and tantrums of my other mind (which is a little immature and scared). So the wise momma mind just told the baby mind to not bother momma and go play in the new team.

I tried, cried the baby mind.

When you leave a team, it is not just your friends you leave behind. It is “familiarity” that you leave behind. It’s your chair, your printer, your white board, your chaiwala, the awkwardly-dressed girl whom you were always a little mean to (behind her back, cos let’s face it, you’re a fattu to do anything up front), the arrogant guy you always wanted to slap without knowing why, your favorite spot in the cafeteria – it’s all that and more. It’s the smell of the air when you leave every evening. When you step out of the new office, the bloody air smells different. Cleaner, yes, but it just isn’t the air you’re used to.

Then there are the slightest things that trigger memories, which in turn trigger tears. Okay, I exaggerated a bit. Apart from the fact that I don’t get to eat any of the usual stuff from my old cafeteria, and the people at the chai counter do not even pretend to recognize you as the girl who orders ginger tea everyday, nothing has really triggered tears (yeah, the old chai counter guys just knew madam ka order by heart).

Then there’s the silence. You do not talk for fear of sounding like the odd one out, desperately trying too hard to wheedle your way into the conversation. You do not wanna keep quiet for fear of coming across as aloof.What does one do in this situation? How do people manage to make friends. Why is it that my old and wise mind does not care about such important issues?!?!

Because that side of the mind, ignoring the other side of my mind, knows when you fall out of the frying pan and into the fire, you’ll find ways to burn brighter than what’s trying to kill you.

Dear Willpower… And, Ohh Temptation!

I saw an entire booklet of Sodexo coupons lying under my seat this morning on the bus. Entire. Unused. Booklet.
Of late, I have been noticing that my own Sodexo coupons seem to magically vanish. I do not recollect eating huge amounts of food (no, I really don’t!) and yet, I am out of coupons by the middle of the month. Seeing the booklet, just innocently sitting there waiting to be picked up made me feel I shouldn’t disappoint it by not picking it up. So I did. The bus was empty at the time. So there was a) no one it could belong to, b) no one who would see me pick it up. I could just slowly slip it into my bag. I’ll be richer by about 1000 bucks. I momentarily dreamt about ordering pizza everyday, till my new booklet is just an empty front and back cover. I could give little treats to my colleagues.
Temptation is a sweet, sweet devil. No one would know.
Except me.
And in that thought of “Except me” I gave up on all the delicious (yum!) dreams that Lady Temptation allowed me. I kept the booklet in my hand. Up for all to see. While I was about to get down, I handed the booklet to the bus driver. He looked very confused. Forgot to even beam up at me (of course, I was expecting a big grin!) But he took it eventually. I alighted.
I heard a couple of people sniggering behind me (I had earphones plugged in, but I had turned off the music). They said (to each other) I was a fool to not keep the booklet for myself. Yeah, perhaps in their eyes I was a fool. And yeah, I have often considered myself to be underpaid 😛 But I have not yet reached a “Beg, Borrow, Steal” stage. When/If I do, I sure hope there are some booklets lying around 😉 😉 😉
Other instances where I have surprisingly found money (abandoned or otherwise):

  1. While walking on Pune’s MG Road one evening, a couple of years ago, I found 200 bucks on the road. I gave in to temptation that day. I got a royal scolding from my mother, who is strictly against picking up fallen money off the streets. 
  2.  I wore an old pair of jeans to office on a Friday. Suddenly found Rs. 5 in one of the pockets! It looked crumpled like crazy, probably cos I had washed the jeans with the money still in the pockets. But it was still good money. That was the only time I felt 5 bucks could make me feel like a lottery-winner!