If I had to sum up 2017 in one word and what I learned from the year, I would say Gratitude.
The first six months of 2017 were blah for me and no word, thought, sentiment or feeling can describe what I went through.
Talking about feelings, I have always liked this dialogue from Breathless, a french neo-realism movie I studied in college. “Between grief and nothing, if you had to choose something, what would you choose?
This question was always a great conversation starter when I wanted to know someone beyond the small talk. It was fascinating to hear their opinion on the two words, and what they associated with them.
For the longest time, I haven’t had the answer to this question. I know I am someone who would want the best of both and play it safe. Look grief is miserable and nobody likes misery.Nothing is scary because you won’t have anything to look forward to. But maybe with nothing you reach a stage when you are content in life and that leads to self- actualisation. Or nothing is more like the stoicism? However, would you want to lead a life of nothingness? Or is it the feeling that we associate with the two words makes our choices?
And so the choices that I make, the narratives that we weave around these emotions make us who we are. I was reading an article by Mark Manson, a guy who has revolutionised motivational speaking he says- Fuck your feelings.
“Fuck your feelings. Sometimes, good things will make you feel bad. Sometimes, bad things will make you feel good. That doesn’t change the fact that they are good/bad. Sometimes, you will feel bad about feeling good about a bad thing and you will feel good about feeling bad about a good thing–you know what? Fuck it. Just fuck feelings.”
Gratitude to 2017 and life choices.
The last six months of 2016 had been back to back travels that had exhausted me. On new year’s eve, I wanted to be around my people and not have new experiences. You know, when you are so much out of your comfort zone, you like the comforts.
There were also other family commitments that kept me occupied and 2017 pretty much looked like that too. More travels, work, family, and friends.
However, busy meant multitasking and too much was happening all at once. I accepted that “something” was not right. I had quit my job and was travelling in India. People who saw me on the social media, read my posts, saw me travelling were inspired by it. Some said I was “lucky” enough that I was able to do live my dreams. People would even say that it is great that I don’t have to take permissions from my parents and that they are all right with the choices I have made. I didn’t even know how to react to these statements because at every point I had to negotiate for the choices I had made.
Cancelling my North East trip for a course in counseling
All my trips are self-funded and I like to keep it this way. The freelance assignments I took up, helped me fund my travels.
In February 2017, I had booked a month-long trip to Northeast India and was so looking forward to the time. One day, for a work assignment, I was two hours late. It was because I was not able to wake up on time. Being late for work was becoming a routine. As a freelancer, you have to give your 200 % to prove your worth.
In a jiffy, I canceled my tickets and decided to take charge. All this posting on Instagram, social media and the Fear Of Missing Out(FOMO) needed to be stopped.
Instead, I joined an advanced course of counseling and was learning Rational Emotional Behavioural Therapy. (REBT) In short, the course works around this philosophy.
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realise that you control your own destiny.” Albert Ellis.
However, I was not able to give my practical exams as I was going through chronic pain and was fighting with a disease that I have already mentioned. Even when I was in pain in the hospital, I felt that giving the exam and getting a certificate would have been so much better. Many months later, I asked myself why did I even want to do the course? The answer was – As I wanted to get my life sorted. And so, the certificate did not really matter.
When chronic pain makes you a better person
Months of March to July seemed the most difficult months of my existence. My body and mind were going through hormonal changes, pain, emotional disturbances beyond my control.I was suffering from endometriosis Either I was feeling all at once or feeling nothing at all. Then, I was asking myself this question, “Why am I feeling what I am feeling?” This was without being able to pin that feeling and express it. I was trying to find an answer to the why and what of something I didn’t understand. You, get the drift, right?
However, now when I look back, I am glad that it happened to me. There is a certain sense of calm that the pain got into me. I realised the importance of the here and now, and today, I am a grounded person. I won’t say everyone should go through pain and ill health, but this was life’s way of giving me a new meaning and showing me a new perspective.
Look all these motivational speeches, books and movies that tell you to fight back, be strong, do not work in reality. Sometimes, you need to allow yourself to not be ok. All we need is a walk by the park or seeing the waves pass by. And hey, it is absolutely ok sometimes to not do anything at all.
Being sad is a positive emotion but the feeling we associate with being sad is where the problem lies. It is all about the self-talk we have with ourselves.For the longest time, I was in pity, seeing myself as a victim and was not able to face my own self. It reflected in my relationships with people around me. Not everyone is going to get you, and it is ok. It is not their job. They have their own shit to deal with, even when from your perspective, your shit may look bigger. It may even be bigger. It does not matter.
Rediscovering life all over again
I felt that my life had no meaning to it and that I would not be able to travel again. I used to not like seeing travel updates of so many people that I would otherwise always love. This was the reason I had stopped writing about my travels.
It seemed like all my dreams were shattered and that I would never be able to follow my passion. I had a self-funded project where I wanted to cover the entire coast of India and before my birthday in June, I wanted to cover 30 beaches before I turned 30. I had pitched to a media organisation and I was to write positive news stories for them. I also had another organisation that I was freelancing for. All of this suddenly stopped and gave me a big blow.
However, It made me re-look at life. I started to appreciate little things more, value my friends more than ever and was grateful for the love and support my family and friends showed me. Not everyone is that fortunate.I started to embrace vulnerability and realised it’s power.
Saying yes to a full-time job.
I have not said this out loud yet. So here goes it. From quitting to freelancing to traveling, I am back to a full-time job. It was a crucial decision for me to make. However, it seemed only practical to go ahead with a full-time job and being stubborn was not helping. I like my work and add value to what I get to work. There are times when I have the urge to travel, and that’s when I do travel.
My first solo trip of 2017
October was my first solo trip and my first travel in 2017. I went to Gokarna, however, since it was crowded during the long weekend, I decided to spend two days in Goa instead and loved it. I did not like Gokarna. I am not someone who is a fussy traveller or has super expectations from a place. More often than not, everything fascinates me. Not liking a destination was something new for me. I even asked myself this question, are you sure, You really like to travel? Are you sure you really want to do this?
My first trek
I hate to trek. Not because I do not like it, I do not like to see my body go through discomfort. But saying yes to a trek and equally enjoying it was a good start to my Diwali. For someone who would have never gone on a trek on a normal day,
Travelling without any luggage and surviving it like a rockstar
A sudden and urgent work trip made me travel with only my wallet and id card. Once I took that first step and dared to do that, I realised I didn’t need a lot. Wants and needs were redefined once again. I was crashing at friends and hopping from place to the other and staying in hostels. I pulled off one week and the work was also done better. This gave me so much confidence and remains one of the craziest things I have done till date.
Giving up 70 % of my clothes
I had drastically reduced shopping and buying things that I did not require. One obvious thing was because I wanted to save up for my travels and the other was because I wanted to declutter.
This is the first time ever I am talking about this here. I have been wanting to lead a minimalist life and have been getting there. However, it is time to act now. Travelling without luggage gave me the confidence to give up my clothes.
I gave them up to friends and family and the rest I have donated to an NGO. How does this make me feel? I feel lighter and do not come with tons of baggage- Both literally and figuratively speaking. Hail minimalism.
Getting back to saving up
I suck at finances(no more).Earlier, saving up meant saving for travels only. But now I am a lot better when it comes to finances and has been saving up for health and also have an emergency fund.
Being inspired by visiting R. K Narayan’s house
This was a different kind of special that which cannot be expressed in words. Visiting R.K Narayan’s house, reading about his passion for writing, hearing other great writers talking about him, inspired me.
N. Ram, the then editor of Hindu wrote about R.K Narayan and said, “He was in the habit of writing his fiction, short stories, and novels in old diaries or elegantly bound books. The way a book was bound was important to him. He would keep all the old book and dairies, he never destroyed any of them… That day, just hours before he went on a ventilator, he asked me, Can you bring me a dairy today?” I said, I would. He then asked, Will it be a 2000 or 2001 diary?”I told him it would be a 2001 diary Till the last minute, he thought only of writing. At the same time, he would say, “I have become lazy after I entered my nineties. That, for you, was R.K Narayanan.
Getting back to writing for my blog
I had taken writing offline and would use notes on my phone to pen down my thoughts. Whatever little contemplative thoughts I was sharing, I used Instagram for microblogging. I am glad I am back to writing again. All good things take time, they say.
I am proud of myself and the life choices I have made. Like Oscar Wilde said,“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”
What is that one word that sums up 2017 for you? What is that one thing that you want to work on in 2018?
I would love to hear from you, it has been a while 🙂