So the settling in period is over. I have moved into my apartment – a place I can call my own for the first time in my life. I have started working at what promises to be a great company. And this is with a complete Devil wears Prada’s ‘Miranda Priestly’ type boss. Doesn’t life seem exciting?
But all the novelty in my life notwithstanding, I have also been thinking. (Anyone rolling their eyes here?) I am remembering the emotional excesses I go through each time I shift base. Whether it is moving from school to school, or changing sections or a new job or city, I dread the move more than almost anything in my life. I abhor straying out of my comfort zone. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures may have been romanticized to the utmost in literature and cinema, but I never enjoy the insecurity of it all. More than the excitement associated with the newness, I am reluctant to let go of what I’m leaving behind.
This time around, my Mumbai phase was especially eventful. A tad bit late to the adventure phase- wasn’t it supposed to be the teenage years or for the more conservative, the early 20’s- I goofed up sufficient times to be called ‘cool’. I thought I had fallen in love- with absolutely the worst type of guy I could have found myself. I suffered through one wild party after another and almost started enjoying it, till I returned to my senses and ‘found myself’. I cringed at the thought of leaving my ‘adda’ to start work in an industry that was alien to me.
Until the present that is. After all the usual drama at the Mumbai airport while saying my goodbyes, as soon as I got on the plane, my tears dried up. I haven’t spent a single moment these few weeks reminiscing about the past months in India. Instead, a sense of anticipation is building up. After all, I am alone for the first time in a city with no grownups to bark instructions at me -technically, hostel life doesn’t count as independence! Of course, I am nervous with all the new responsibility. Of course, I am worried about screwing up. But for the first time ever, I want to embrace LIFE.
I am at an interesting juncture in my life – about to move to a foreign country, albeit one where I have lived for a year as a student, set to start life afresh as a working professional. I have reached an inflection point – should I focus on my personal or professional life? Soon to turn 27, as an Indian woman (does the modifier ‘contemporary’ fit me?) and as just myself really, I am aware that doors are closing just as they are opening. I have been through a lot in my quarter century in the world. Yet, I know there is a lot more to look forward to or be apprehensive of, depending on the lens I put on on a given day. It seems this is an appropriate time to record my life. Certainly, life promises to be an adventure. The actions I choose to take, especially over the next year, hold the promise of perhaps changing the entire course of my life. So I have promised myself to chronicle each day, articulating atleast one event- positive or negative- that has taken place on that day. Me being me, I will undoubtedly intersperse that with my ‘pseudo’ spiritual funda. An exciting journey begins. Bon voyage!
So, I haven’t read the book by Daniel Gilbert. But I did watch his TED Talks (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy) a couple of months ago, which again, I must confess, I don’t recall anything of, except that it was darned good. The theme of the talk stuck with me though. Over the last month, I have time and again, found myself reflecting on the title of his book. And it just started to make so much sense.
To give you a bit of a background, I am slightly hyper. I yearn for everything to be done my way, in line with my mental schedule (which nearly always is, quite impossible). Once I have decided that I want a particular event to transpire, then I unceasingly build my expectations around that event. Needless to say, the conclusion is not always the way I want it. Especially not as per my schedule. Grave disappointment results.
But my disappointment is not the point of this post. It is about my realization of how fleeting that feeling of disappointment is, in reality. The human brain really is a miracle machine. All it takes is a day or two (remember what a neurotic I am) to shake off the setback and start afresh. Just last week, my anxiety was out in full force, in relation to a job that I had applied for. The recruiter hadn’t gotten in touch with me as promised. I was beside myself, contemplating the various reasons that could have prevented her from calling me.
That phase of constantly checking my e-mail lasted just 2 days. Within that duration, my brain managed to come up with a thousand different options, of jobs that were equally coveted and that I could apply to, all the drawbacks of the position in question. In just 2 days, I had successfully convinced myself that the position wasn’t even worth considering. Shaking off the latest anti-climax of my life, I even managed to attend another interview that went off reasonably well.
Stumbling on happiness is exactly this in my opinion. Not always being rewarded with what you ardently wish for and lose sleep over. It is about coming to terms with and eventually even coming to love what you do have. It is the knowledge that we can get accustomed to nearly everything we face in life, and learn to be happy with it.
Life presents to you over and over again, your biggest fear- until you conquer it.
I came across this quote in the unlikeliest of places- an interview with Emma Watson and J.K.Rowling. But I really think it nails home the point that certain things we despise or fear keep happening over and over again- until we stop caring and start dealing with it. Pretty potent philosophy, isn’t it?
So, I have my submissions coming up. Five assignments due in 3 days. Hopeless situation if ever there was hope. And yet, here I am, blogging. Do you know why? It keeps me from mischief on facebook. Stupid status updates, sharing really cheesy quotations and attaining the pinnacle of narcissism with daily profile picture changes.Thank God, I haven’t discovered the magical powers of Twitter yet.
The funny thing is that whenever I do something I myself don’t approve of, I get a strong notion I’m about to regret it. As do all of you, I’m sure. Yet, I am unable to stop myself. After some soul searching, I think it has something to do with that rush of adrenaline I get when I’m up to my just about to be regretted activity. Recent research suggests that the sole reason the human race is so stressed out is in fact, adrenaline. I now have two reasons to stop doing stuff I don’t like. Time to do stuff that’s difficult to do, but brings more happiness right? Something more challenging,which taxes out my tiny little brain cells.
I can’t say when you’ll get love or how you’ll find it or even promise you that you will. I can only say you are worthy of it and that it’s never too much to ask for it and that it’s not crazy to fear you’ll never have it again, even though your fears are probably wrong. Love is our essential nutrient. Without it, life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
I read articles everyday written by singles around the world. The eternal singles, the very recently turned singles, the too busy for love singles. Each one of them talks about why people should respect their singlehood status, not reassure them that they will most certainly find someone special in the future. I appreciate the thought. People have a right to choose to be single. But I do not choose that. I do not crave Independence. I love to have someone’s shoulders to lean onto. I am grateful if I have someone I can confide in. No, I do not have someone special in my life right now. But I am waiting for someone special to enter my life. I am not ashamed of admitting that I feel a void in my life. Despite extraordinary parents who support me in all my endeavors, despite having a great bunch of friends who never let me feel lonely, despite having a great life, doing something I love, I feel the need for someone.I am not apologetic about it.I am just human.
Setting your eye on a delightfully captivating blog post in the early hours of the morning is such a high! Almost like a rush of caffeine! And when that piece is arguing for more creation vs consumption (of content, not food), it is a sure shot way to lead me to my blog in the morning. I do feel like emulating persons who motivate me to unleash my (perceived) creative potential.
So here I am at my desk with steaming coffee in a red mug, humming ‘Pappa rappa pa ra ra’ (to the tune set in the Nescafe commercials). It is true, creating anything gives one such a feeling of contenment vis-a-vis checking out friends’ updates on Facebook, while they have been partying away to glory as you slept peacefully. This takes me back to a class I had a couple of months ago on what is termed ‘Cognitive Surplus’ in business parlance.
A concept referred to in a book of the same name by Clay Shirky, it persuades us that humans are naturally creative by nature; unlocking our creative juices is good for us mentally and physically. Not only does the act of creation personally benefit us enormously, many of the most successful businesses of today owe their entire existence to our inherent love of sharing knowledge. Think Wikipedia. Think Linux. Think of the hundreds of other open source projects where coders ( sometimes called incorrigible geeks) from across the world give up their free time to contribute to projects that do not offer any monetary rewards.
So what explains this uncharacteristic act of generosity? Aren’t we humans supposed to be selfish creatures? Shirky attributes these unlikely exceptions in human behavior to the need to derive meaning out of life. Jobs these days rarely require us to do tasks that wholly engage us; therefore the need many of us feel to move out of the mundane to a world where we can make a difference. Writing an article on Wikipedia or creating a new mobile app adds more to our life; we see tangible results that reaffirm confidence in our own abilities.
Out of the myriad options that exist, I love two creative pursuits the most: writing and singing. Strangely though, it took me a while to realize that I liked to write. Till I was a high school student, I had no option but to give in to writing- school essays, papers and of course examinations. After schooling, I entered a rebellious phase where I refused to write a single word. Then after I started working, realization dawned that I missed having an outlet for my emotions. Inertia though made me put off writing for ages. Finally, it was a friend who suggested that I take to blogging since I’m such a happy person with happy emotions after writing anything- be it a 1000 word term paper, an MBA application essay or just about my emotions.
My other favorite creative pursuit is something that I have always been aware of. I love Indian classical and Bollywood music. I usually take time off to record my voice on my laptop and publish it on soundcloud. Here is a sample:
But do my favorite creative passions let the cat out of the bag? That I’m a closet narcissist?