Something to hold on to…

As Instagram suggests, I have been dancing (sort of) for the past 2 years now. I don’t know what this suggests to you. To some it may seem that I have nothing else to do in life. To me it is something to hold on to. It’s something that keeps me sane and going. The funny thing is – I did not even know that. I was asked if i were joining both the sessions and I responded – 

“Yea, I need something to hold on to”, I said.

I studied Engineering. I always wanted to graduate from a reputed school and I did. I have an amazing job that I had never even dreamed of, beautiful set of friends, homey apartment, supportive family, extremely comfortable couch, entertaining TV and 1 and a 1/2 first-world problems and I still need something to hold on to? I was left wondering if this was a first world problem as well. Is nurturing your soul a cosmetic problem? Is wanting to do more than work unnecessary?

Maybe not. Work is not everything. Good grades don’t guarantee you a good life. Mental health is important too. You need something to forget the world momentarily, multiply your happiness, change your mood, be passionate about, look forward to after you’re done working for your dividends; something to hold onto. This ‘something’ is necessary for peace of mind. I realized this more as I grew older.

And by all means, this ‘something’ can change. Be it dancing, meditation, yoga, exercise,reading, writing, running …whatever floats your boat. Do it. We all need that something to hold onto…

#lessonsOfLife

I grew a year older and wiser this month. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned in the last year –

  1. I am fully capable of living on my own… in the heart of downtown… alone… \m/
  2. One can sleep after watching a horror movie because… (see the next point)
  3. Sleep is the most important thing ever.
  4. Earplugs work just fine for the early morning trash trucks.
  5. Some things are just not meant to work out.
  6. People change.
  7. People leave.
  8. Some people leave for a reason. The reason stays even after they’ve left.
  9. Work is life but life is not work – however you want to put it.
  10. Mental illness is real.
  11. Medical bills are huge. Be fit. Stay fit.
  12. ‘Me’ time is a real thing. You need ‘Me’ time.
  13. French fries are an acceptable lunch option.
  14. It is absolutely fine to fall asleep while at movies.
  15. It is okay not to party on a Friday. You can be a homebody if you want to.
  16. It is not okay to be indecisive. Decisions are important.
  17. Let go and move on.
  18. Forgive and forget. Don’t get back in touch though.
  19. If you think you have “problems” in life may be read a newspaper or watch the news for 5 mins. Follow the theory of relativity. Your problems are the uber first world problems most people would die to have. There would be at least a million people on the face of this earth who would be more than happy to live your life.
  20. Family is the real deal.
  21. Travel makes you wiser. Travel as much as possible. #wontEatWillTravel
  22. Milky way is beautiful. Try star-gazing as much as possible.
  23. Netflix is chocolate cake and amazon prime video is the icing on it.
  24. Live life with no regrets.
  25. Past is in the past for a reason. Never turn back. You are not going there.
  26. Some people do not understand the concept of ‘olive branch’ and it is not your responsibility to you to teach them.
  27. Your mood should never be dependent on the people around you. Stay calm. Stay foolish.

Of Choices and More…

8:00 AM: I left for Trader Joe’s to buy cucumber as instructed. Fire sounded very serious about picnic plans and I wanted to prove my support. We left for the hike soon after the successful purchase of every item from the list. P.S: None wants to play with Fire.

11:30 AM: The Baby (read: Fire’s niece), Fire and I reached the trailhead after having fought with traffic and found a parking spot (#theStruggleIsAlwaysReal). We started the ascent.

11:45 AM: The name of the trail had rung a bell before but I decided not to jog my memory.  20 minutes into the hike and we reached a bridge. Everything came rushing back to me. I had already 2 of my facebook display pictures clicked here in two different outfits with two different group of people. This was going to be a hattrick for me – 3 consecutive years to the same place with 3 different groups of people. Not cool. Should take this as a signal and try different hikes.

1:00 PM: Fire led the troupe as usual. Baby followed her and I was at the tail-end. The hike got busier as the day and hike progressed. Dogs of all sizes made a point to annoy me. I tried to distract myself by eavesdropping.

Two friends/colleagues, both probably in their late twenties, walked a few feet behind us. The conversation was about the risks they had taken in their lives and relationships. And then something one of them said caught my attention –

Friend 1: But then, I can’t even imagine how my life would have been had I stayed back and continued my job…you know…

Friend 2: Yeah, me too. And I think it is wrong to think like that. When you doubt your life choices and decisions you are in a way disrespecting yourself.

4:00 PM: We reached the trailhead, drank hot coffee and drove back to Seattle.

That sentence about doubting life choices ran in infinite loops in my brain. I had been doubting my decisions for a while now. Every time I saw the numbers on my credit card bills, salary account and student loan account I doubted my decision of coming to the US to pursue my dreams. Dreams are expensive. I could have avoided the debts and the hassles and tension. Every time my grandparents were sick and hospitalized I questioned my choice of leaving India. I wasn’t around when my grandfather passed away. I shall be forever guilty about that. Guaranteed, I would not have been in the position I am at had I not taken the risks. There is no way I could have achieved what I have had I not taken the risks. But still, I do try and imagine how my life would have been had I not taken the steps I did. Maybe life would have been better… or maybe not.

That made me realize… when I doubt my own decisions I am disrespecting myself. Whatever path you chose to walk on was your choice. Just because you had hiccups does not mean you made the wrong one. You gotta walk till you reach the destination. In the end… whatever the deal is… you gotta face the consequences and own up to it. Period.

 

 

#firstWorldProblems

7:50 AM: I turned the hot water knob. I turned the cold water knob. Could not get the water temperature as desired.

7:55 AM: The above steps had been repeated around 100 times by now. I was frustrated. I had a meeting at 9 AM and the shower wasn’t doing its job. I was going to be fashionably late to this one (as usual).

8:40 AM: I ran toward the train station. I was going to be late for the meeting but the only emotion I had was of ‘disappointment’ toward my ‘shower’. If only shower could feel.

7:00 PM: It was a regular IMO with my parents. 10 minutes into the call I found myself cribbing about my shower! 😐 My parents laughed out loud. I wondered why! It was a legit problem for me. It took me complete 5 minutes to adjust my shower every morning and that mattered to me. The equation goes like this —>

5 minutes in the morning > 50 minutes in the evening

But my parents LOLing at my “problem” (the world should be read with quotations) made me realize the intensity of my problem… which was none. It was as if I had made something up to crib about. Getting late for work because of not being able to adjust the shower… in the bathroom of my 1 bedroom apartment… at the heart Seattle downtown sounds like a problem people would love to have.

After a close assessment of all my “problems”, I realized that all of them were #firstWorldProblems. I started taking mental notes and came up with a list.

  1. Shower temperature adjustment – In the bathroom of my 1 bedroom apartment that is located in the heart of Seattle downtown. 1 – You cannot get any more downtown than this. 2- I should be glad that I have running hot water/water all the time.
    The more I think about this problem the more the picture of barren lands and people dying of drought comes to my mind. I come from a place in India where running water is a myth and all lands are barren; irrigation doesn’t exist and the only way farmers can be debt free is by committing suicide. When I think about that I think this might be the most first world problem I can ever have.
  2. “I have no clothes to wear” – At least 4 piece of clothing falls on the ground when I open my wardrobe. I have an insane number of clothes and my wardrobe is always going to overflow unless I get rid of like half of it. I still cannot find clothes to wear.
    This is one of the three essentials of life – Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. The problem of my life is that I have a too much of ‘kapda’ while people in other parts of the world cannot make their ends meet. I think I am probably blind to have been saying this.
  3. Books – I like books. Books on the lines of clothes are overflowing too. My bookshelf is full and I need to find an overflowing section to keep my books. This is something I figured today.
    All this while adult literacy rate in India is only 72.1% (Adult literacy rate for China: 96.4%. Please don’t blame India’s population here). Even Myanmar surpasses us by 21% (Myanmar at 93.1%) and the world average is 86.3%. The no. 1 reason they say is poverty. Too many books to read… probably a good problem to have.
  4. Cannot get my makeup right – My makeup can be shiny/too shiny/perfect/bland/WTF is that? depending on the proportions of foundations and moisturizers I use. I cannot have the same look any two days.
    So… I have enough money to buy multiple foundations and multiple moisturizers and cannot get the proportion of all of them perfect. And I crib about my makeup not being perfect… Yea… this is certainly as stupid as it can get.
  5. My bathroom does not have a plug – So I cannot use all the hair curling/straightening/drying gadgets in my bathroom.
    I crib about this while 2.5 billion people do not have access to a loo.
  6. ‘Alexa’ doesn’t listen – And Fire has come across this problem as well. Our little robot (maybe?!) does not listen to our orders if and when she is playing loud music for us. Our voices don’t cut through the music probably. This is too fancy to even be considered as a first world problem.

After reading the list of my first world problems I thank God/whoever made me so privileged/my parents for granting me everything I ever wanted/did not want/never thought I would have. I have no wish list anymore. Do you? I think it is time we stop thinking about our fictitious problems and do good to eliminate the real world problems from this world. Use your resources well. Do your bit.

Of Moh and Maya

Flashback: From a long time ago… 

2:30 AM – It was a random morning. I had unexpectedly scored exceptionally well on a test that I thought I would have to take again. I had sneezed 20 times already and the day had not even started. Everything was weird about the situation – the place, my unexpected trip to Mumbai, the time, the weather (very cold; something that I never get to experience). I was abnormally laid back about my early morning flight. I hadn’t even packed yet. Today, I wanted life to take its course.

4:00 AM – We left for the airport. We were obviously running late. My family always takes the pain to drop me off at the airport and waits till I check in, be it any time of the day. Yes, I have been that lucky! Our ride to the airport was supposed to cover all the serious topics on the agenda for this trip. The family meeting began. Thoughts were aligned. Priorities were refined. We reached a consensus. Everything was resolved. Everyone was happy. It is unusual for your priorities to align with those of your parents. None of us compromise on anything. And it was never about ego. Ego does not really exist in my family (Touchwood).

The last month had been terrible for me personally. Life had forced me to take a series of desperate decisions. Desperate times desperate measures. I detested evenings. My parents were worried. My decisions were questioned. I stood alone. All I wanted was to realize my dreams. Every little disagreement killed me a little. I could not settle.

5:00 AM – I checked in and swiftly moved around the airport. Mumbai airport always feels like home. It is as if I belong there. My brain feels and thinks brilliantly every time I am at an airport. I should have taken all my exams at the airport. Who knows I would have aced every one of them!  Mumbai airport is also shopping paradise for me. I checked in at Foursquare, tweeted on twitter and hopped on to the bus that led us the plane. Early morning flights are lovely (read: complimentary breakfast).

6:00 AM: I found my seat, and made a small talk to the Saudi based south Indian seated beside me. I was so engrossed in the movie that I did not realize the plane taking off. I did not realize the turbulence maybe because a- I had grown used to flights or b- the movie was awesome.

And it struck me…how much I was used to the pleasures of my life. Frequent flying, chauffeur driven cars, eating at the best restaurants in the city, staying at the best places, buying the most expensive things impulsively – and not thinking about anything while doing any of these and more. I realized how material-driven life was/is. But how long can a Gucci bag make us happy? Desire is real. Everyone wears brands, every kid wants the best of the toys, every girl wants a diamond, every man wants a Roland…the list is endless. Personally, I am drowned. And I see no signs of recovering.

8:30 AM – While I tried to define ‘simple living’ in my mind the pilot spoke in his supremely sensuous voice. I had never paid attention to announcements but his voice too compelling. We landed. The sunny weather awaited me. I politely left thanking the flight attendant and hoping that my luggage had traveled back with me.

I wonder if material pleasure equals happiness! It certainly means a lot though. The pleasure is way over-rated. I am not really sure why the world has turned materialistic- peer pressure maybe. Everyone believes in ‘If you’ve got it…Flaunt it!’. It is a vicious cycle. ‘Simple living and high thinking’ said someone zillion years ago. I wonder if it holds true in this world and age. I wonder if we can denounce the pleasures and live a really simple life. Probably not.

Wiser on the run…

June 6, 2015.

10:00 AM: It was a sunny Seattle morning and was going to be my last one in Seattle for a while. I was on my way Portland- 3 months at the Nike headquarters. I was excited. I boarded the train. It was going to be a scenic ride.

I noticed her while still struggling with my carry-on luggage. She was pretty and old; her eyes spoke volumes about her suffering; her body language screamed fear, yet her elegance stood out. I know I am no psychologist, but she was an easy read. She looked at me and said ‘Hi’ with a broad yet faded smile. We started talking.

We spoke at length about how we make decisions in life, our relationships (failed and current) and her marriage and mine. She lived the life I fantasized (for a vacation) and I lived hers. She lived in a shell, having an alcoholic for a husband. And I always lived in mine. She never had kids and asked me about mine. I said ‘sure’! I didn’t know why I said that. I quickly calculated her age and mine and realized she was old enough to be my mother!

I had been soul-searching recently and she answered some of my ‘should I? should I not?’ questions. She asked me to wait. We take a lot of decisions to achieve (emotional, physical, financial or mental) stability in life and parking decisions may not be an option in a lot of situations. But she asked me to wait. And I found that to be a better idea than jumping guns. The conversation made me ponder about all the pressing concerns of mine.

What if I decide to stay single all my life? What if I decide to live by myself all my life and not care about what the world had to say about it? What if I gave up the job I disliked? What if I give up on relationships that have been hurting me?  What if I could just say no?

Every word of hers made me wiser. Her voice deepened as she spoke. She regretted her decisions in life and so did I. I am sure all of us have regrets. What is a life without regrets?

Time flew. We reached Portland. She was walking back into her unnerving life and her disappointment was evident. I was sad to let her go. We hoped our paths would cross again. It was a goodbye. How I wish I could keep her with me.

I felt privileged to have had such an impactful conversation with a stranger. It’s funny that we find answers at the most unexpected places. It’s almost as if every person you meet has a purpose. We actually learn something from every person in our life. Maybe ‘meant to be’ has more than one meaning. Maybe some paths are meant to be crossed and some journeys are meant to be taken. That’s how we grow.

Until next train ride…

It’s never going to be enough…

1st September 2017, Friday.

2:30 PM: Work had just started flowing in but we decided to leave anyway.

5:00 PM: I was 2 beautiful glasses of wine down. C and I had just had an amazing afternoon together. She had decided to swing by to see my new apartment (obviously not neatly kept). I don’t know what I would have done without her. So grateful to have her around. I decided to adult around after she left.

7:00 PM: Movie night/daytime (Summers: When it’s light out till 10 PM). I had sobered down by then. While waiting for the others our friend decided to show me around. He lives in this swanky and expensive apartment (and works for Amazon. No prizes for guessing). Superb location, killer apartment and breathtaking view from the rooftop. I silently wished I made a little more to have afforded an apartment here. The rooftop was… I am short of words… AMAZING to say the least. I did not wish to leave ever.

IMG_1156

 

#livingTheDream #lifebesochill

7:30 PM: The food had been ordered. #eat24 The wine had been poured. We had the full screening room to ourselves. Movie night was about to begin.

IMG_1164

8:30 PM: The food arrives. Earth, the Sangria Queen, walks in with all ingredients to make Sangria. Sangria has been the heart of everything lately. Fire, Water and I are busy talking and figuring out who sits where; which sofa would be the most comfortable; if the leather couches would be too cold for us once the AC catches up; what could be used as a footrest and what would be just the right temperature for the AC in the screening room to avoid the chills. While having this intense discussion I reached out to my organic lip balm in my Kate Spade bag. The others are Michael Kors fans.

A minute later Fire said, “Our life is so awesome! Our problems are more trivial than first world problems.” Water laughed and said, “And yet we wish for more.” And that made me think.

I guess it is human to never be content, to want more, to want it all and to strive for goals until you achieve them. I wonder why. Why can’t we count our blessings and be grateful for what we have? We have been living the life/dream/whatever you want to call it. Why can’t we live in the moment and cherish what we have? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have the list of ‘Things I want’ to be empty for a while?  It feels amazing not to *want* things all the time. It can be very liberating. I challenge you to try it. I know *wanting* things is essential for us to grow but that is a different ballgame altogether.

I have – an amazing job, a super supportive family, true friends, 20 shot glasses from my travels, a beautiful apartment, a classy couch (that fills my entire living room but it’s okay) and a center table (totally made me feel like a grown up)… and still I want more. I am trying not to. The question is… do you really need more to be happy? Are you losing sight of what you have in a race for achieving more? Do you value what you have? Because what you have right now was something you wished for once… Cherish it! Count your blessings. Fin.

#timeToCountYourBlessings #moreTrivialThanFirstWorldProblems

Happy Father’s Day!

8:00 PM: I found my (annoyingly) middle seat on the flight and fastened my seat belt. I was ready to sleep my way home. I had spent an entire day at the hottest place in the country. My skin had broken into heat rashes and I had fallen apart. However, the middle-aged man at the window seat was in a mood to be chatty. I decided to oblige.

He was Ronaldo, about my father’s age. He was on his way to Alaska from Mexico for the salmon season. Salmon season was good money. The summer job helped him support his family. For the rest of the year, he toggled his time between working as a chef and a nurse. He had 3 children – 2 sons and a daughter. His eyes lit up when he told me about how a simple Happy Father’s Day text from his daughter had made him happy. However, his sons did not wish to be on talking terms with him. His sons defaulted school and were not serious about their grades. Him being a stricter parent did not bode well for the sons. All the bitterness drove them apart.

Flashback: I remember my parents being strict about education and grades. I had 100% attendance at school for a few years. I do not remember how much I agreed with life then. After I grew up and stepped out of my bubble I realized the reason behind my parents stressing on good grades and education. My father wished to imbibe certain values in us; he could see the bigger picture. Obviously, we were too little to even make sense of the picture that we were drawing for ourselves. I am sure Ronaldo’s sons could not see it either. Parenting problems exist across all continents and cultures I thought. I shared my experiences with Ronaldo and assured him that his sons would come around as soon as they realized his good intentions. One day, they will see what an amazing Father he has been! I wished him Happy Father’s Day. He said I had earned a friend for life.

As I fell asleep I wondered when Ronaldo’s sons would realize all the struggle he had been through for them. I am sure it is not easy to be a father. Ronaldo struggled immensely to make his ends meet. I believe all fathers have their own struggle. I took a moment to think about the struggles I have seen my father go through – sacrifices, despair and everything else.

1:30 AM: I felt like a zombie courtesy the long flight. I requested an Uber Pool and patiently waited for it. I wish to publicly accept that Uber and Lyft have instilled the quality of patience in me. After we dropped my co-passenger, I initiated a conversation with the driver. P.S: My Uber rating as a customer has gone down the drain and hence I make a point to talk to Uber and Lyft drivers while riding the cab. (I don’t really think my strategy is working though. Never mind. Bigger fish to fry)

My Uber driver was Davinder, probably my father’s age. It was well past 1 AM and I knew there had to be a strong reason for him to be working this late. I asked him if he always worked unearthly hours (Good conversation starter when you take a cab at odd hours). And he told me the story. His daughter follows her passion for Optometry in California. There was no way their family could afford her education and support her. They had suggested her to make a career out of something lesser expensive but she could not let go her dreams. So, the family now has a debt of 300K and Davinder and they work insane hours to provide their daughter with her living expenses so that she could concentrate on her studies and live a better life.

I took a moment to think about my family. Premium schools do cost big bucks. But that did not stop our parents from supporting us. My father always felt strongly about receiving education from good school. I felt blessed. I can never thank my family enough for everything. They could have easily denied us the privileged life we wanted. But they did not. They stood tall and have supported us through thick and thin. Davinder could have crushed his daughter’s dreams. But he did not. He decided to support her come what may.

Davinder said he saw his daughter in me. I wished him Happy Father’s Day before I got off the car.

I realized the universal struggle all fathers go through – my father, Ronaldo or Davinder. We should take a moment to think about what how amazing our parents have been and thank them for all the sacrifices and struggles they have been through to see us succeed. We live an amazing and privileged life because of our parents and we should be very thankful for that. As kids, we took everything for granted. But now is the time to give back and say thank you. It’s our chance to give them the support, love, and comfort they deserve. Tathastu!