I haven’t been feeling well since this morning. Got a minor throat infection (thanks to the UK weather) and mild fever. It was a rest day after many weeks of exhausting work shifts and a wonderful Scarborough trip. Basically I’m not sleepy and kinda bored of tossing and turning in bed so I’ve decided to write a random life update instead. Bear with me.
It has been close to four months since I started applying for jobs with no success (yet) and it took a huge toll on me. I was in this constant state of being stuck, a helpless low and I kept questioning my worth every other day. It was tiring. Over the last two weeks though, I’ve consciously worked on not stressing out too much and find solutions instead. I’m not sure how long it is going to last, but at least I have some clarity now. I’ve figured out what I want (if only partly) and what are the practical things I can control. It is working out, bit by bit. But it has been a long, lengthy and frustrating process.
In the last few months I’ve also grown up a lot, all of a sudden. It is not only because of my personal experiences but also because of the role I’m playing in the lives of the people around me. I’ve been so involved in so many people’s stories, sometimes by just giving them an ear to vent out and other times offering words of advise. All in all, it’s been a struggle. I’ve not been writing at all. But more recently I’ve made it a point to read regularly. I’ve picked up The Outsider by Stephen King – it’s thrilling! If you’re not into “extremely weird” and nail biting who-dun-it, then look the other way, this one’s not for you.
I have so many things on my mind right now, so many feelings, so many decisions to make, so much to plan ahead that my INFJ indecisive mind is muddled. Everything is a chaos but I feel hopeful. I guess I just figured out why sleep eludes me tonight.
*3.29 pm* a dull Wednesday afternoon, runny nose and six tasks with today’s deadline
Monsoon is my least favorite season (but also the most favorite one because nature is at its best). Every year, as soon as the wet monsoon breeze flows in, all my allergies wake up from their hibernation and enjoy full 3 months of vacation, blossoming in my nose and throat. The continuous sneezing sucks out all my energy and makes me feel tired and restless. My day is divided on the number of steams I have to take, medicines that are needed every 3 hours and of course, lots and lots of wet handkerchiefs from all the snot. Between all of this, I find little time to get some work done. In fact, I might be writing this in a dizzy state too, after a long sneeze session.
Before the onset of my sardi, I had been feeling anxious, bored and frustrated with the lockdown. It was like life had become stagnant and the constant pressure to do something creative or productive all the time was maddening.
I vented about this to my dear friend Sam and she introduced me to Kensho Factor. A kind little initiative by two lovely girls Shivangi and Dinima who, surprisingly, have never met. They started a week-long online workshop where you just join a Zoom call or a Google meet for one hour every evening to talk about your feelings or not, no pressure. You get to listen and learn some easy and effective tools to process your thoughts. Some of the things you might already know, but these fine people do a great job of reminding you what you’ve been forgetting.
Both Shivangi and Dinima walk you through simple techniques of how you can convert your negatives “I don’t want to be sad; I don’t want to be scared; I don’t want to feel like shit” into positives “I want to feel happy; I want to be fearless; I want to feel amazing about myself” & eventually into “I am happy; I am fearless; I am amazing”. You see how the narrative changed? How you think and what you put out in the universe is what you get back. One of my favorite quotes “You reap what you sow” thus, stands true. If you can train your mind to think and react with positive words and positive emotions, a lot can change, speaking from experience. This was one of the many things I learnt during the workshop. There was also an insightful session on Self Love and how it is far from self obsession or selfishness. I think it is an important difference each of us needs to understand.
I made some new friends, started writing a gratitude journal, learnt that forgiveness is more about me than about the person I’m forgiving and reconnected with my 5-year self, all within a week. Every evening was an emotional roller-coaster but I ended up feeling lighter and happier with each passing day.
Apart from the workshop, I invested a bit in art therapy. I used to love drawing, coloring and painting when I was in school but had lost touch. I decided to rework on my skills so I bought a coloring book and some color pens from Amazon. The joy and satisfaction of filling the design blocks in this book with bright colors has been the most calming exercise for me. It has become my fortnitely ritual – on nights when I am too bored to read or watch Netflix, I grab my new color pens by Faber Castle and start coloring.
Since I am writing about my week of healing, how can I forget my good old friends – books!
After a whole week of healing, I won’t say that I am 100% alright. Healing is a process. It requires you to realise a negative thought and correct it. Best way to do that is to use some mood-shifters like coloring or playing with your pet, talking to a friend or any other small activity that helps you feel better. It is a process that takes continuous, conscious work. I’m glad I have started it. Hopefully, you will too.
The lockdown was a much-needed relief when it first began but its unprecedented extension has been nerve-wracking. Anxiety, frustration and hopelessness have come as a package!
I took the last 6-7 weeks to argue, sob and sulk in order to cope up with the helplessness I was feeling. While my parents resumed their work from office, I felt like a lonely, left-behind, good for nothing loser, trying to work from home. I didn’t want to agree when my Dad said “we have to live with Corona”. I wasn’t ready to accept “this is the new Normal”. The situation is out of our hands, and with an increasing number of cases, it still doesn’t feel hopeful. So what changed? What made me get back and write this blog?
Nothing deep. It was boredom. You see, I was bored of feeling sorry for myself. I was bored of crying to bed every night, bored of arguments with my loved ones and bored of self-pity. One random night, as I was watching Conspiracy on Netflix I had an epiphany. I realized that if I just change the way I look at things, I can be unbored. I decided not to wait for the situation to get better but to take control of it and do something meaningful in the present.
I took up reading again, starting with ‘The Undomestic Goddess’ by Sophie Kinsella – a simple, light-hearted fiction to indulge in, on a lazy Sunday. It was followed by some insightful reads like Rana Ayub’s Gujarat Files – Anatomy of a Cover Up & Shashi Tharoor’s Why I am A Hindu – the later one had been on my bucket list for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. It answered a ton of questions I had about my identity as a Hindu in the current political climate. It talked about Hinduism’s beliefs that are rooted in history, its various interpretations and how they have shaped our present. It provides details on the culture, the heritage and more importantly clears the bias of ‘Why am I a Hindu?’ and provides an affirmation on ‘Why I am a Hindu?’
Ayub’s book was a revelation. Her eight month long undercover operation during Gujarat riots brought too many hidden and hushed stories to light. I would recommend every Indian to read this one and with an unbiased mind to understand, possibly realign their political affiliations. A shocking, stunning read!
Currently, I’ve been reading ‘Jasmine Days’ by Benyamin – a fictional story about South East Asians settled in a Middle Eastern city and how their life changes after a revolution. I have been enjoying it so far, can’t say more until I finish.
Apart from reading, I have been spending my free time in upgrading my knowledge and skills on Linkedin Learning. I had first installed the app in December last year but never got the time to enroll for a course. Four weeks ago, I finally opened this dormant app on my phone and completed a quick course on writing. I am on my second one now and it has been fun so far as it hardly takes 3 to 5 minutes per video.
Back in May, I had attended an informative online session by Satyanshu Singh of the Cinemese Twins on how to write the Beginning, Middle and End of a story. It had helped me gain much-needed guidance on some critical aspects of story/script writing. In continuation of that, I signed up for a month-long course on Coursera – ‘The Craft of Plot’ by Brando Skyhorse. I’ve written three assignments that have garnered pretty good reviews from my peers and I’m looking forward to complete the fourth assignment this weekend, and eventually reaching to the Capstone!
I have become better at organizing my thoughts on paper. I have learnt about some basic dos and don’ts, learnt about the technical details of a script, got some handy tips and pointers on how to write a character, a scene and a setting. I am now in the process of working on a story that I had started last year, and I hope I don’t give up this time. I want to see this story written, it is a special one.
The lock down also gave me an opportunity to reconnect with my parents. We celebrated 28 years of their marriage last month. On some days we watched movies together, ordered in meals from our favorite restaurants, and saw many breathtaking sunsets from our balcony. But watching our little home garden bloom to life has been one of the most pleasureful experiences. I’ve got some amazing photos of the dramatic evening skies and the vibrant, colorful flowers.
I am as average as a person can be, so when I write about how productive I’ve been or how I changed my perspective, let me tell you, it didn’t come easy.
Despite being surrounded by loving parents, and being connected to cousins and friends over calls or messages, I’ve struggled with feelings of loneliness, restlessness, hopelessness and anger (so much anger!). Add to it the monthly turmoil of hormonal mood swings and you have a complete recipe of a mess. It has taken a lot of effort for me to get up and redirect my energy towards better things. Every day is a small step and I am working through it, hoping for a better tomorrow.
*03.18 pm* engrossed & amazed by ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari
Last week was tiresome as I had been thinking or rather overthinking about my career situation. I have been ranting about it on my blog for far too long, I know. But it is one of the most important things in life right now. I often question myself and the web – Why is it so stressful?
To seek answers, I have often found myself turning to The Book of Life and it has helped me put a lot of things in to perspective. I realized that we all, at some point, have grown up with a notion that we’re meant to do something great when we’re older, be someone notable and make a difference in the world. It is a beautiful dream to grow up with, no doubt. However, the fact is, when we are at the peak of our adult life (say ages 24 – 26) we realize that we haven’t really achieved anything noteworthy. The stream we wanted to excel in, the financial stability we thought we’d have or the cool job in another country we‘d be working, is all a distant dream. We are, in reality, working a 9 hour job near our house, have messed up sleep patterns due to an addiction to OTTs and no time or will to enjoy the earnings.
There is little that meets our expectations. While this isn’t true for every one & some people do achieve what they wanted, or even more than what they expected, most of us are just settling down in our schedules and being unhappy over the fact that we’re, after all, just average.
I really miss the time I was carefree. Back in school & college, I’d happily spend my days travelling, partying and living in the moment with a hopeful dream that one day I’ll grow up and be amazing. I am an adult now & nothing is as I thought it would be. There’s hardly any amazing. So naturally, self doubt, sadness, disappointment show up & the myth I grew up believing in, is still a myth.
It takes time (more for some than others) to accept that we are average, just like our parents, just like most folks all around us & it is okay. It is okay to be an average person and still strive to do better. This does not mean you settle or stop having hopes & dreams for your future. It absolutely doesn’t mean that you stop working for things you wanted when you grew up. It only means that you accept your present reality & work towards making it better, one day at a time. Accepting it will ensure that the way ahead is a happy ride, no matter how mediocre it is.
Also, I know I am pretty late to the party but Sapiens is such a wonderful book. If you haven’t already read it, please do. Highly recommend it. Being a Geology student, I am aware of theories of evolution of Earth & how different elements of physics, chemistry and biology got us to where we are today. But Mr Yuval Noah Harari has weaved all the theories so well together & in such a simple manner that even a layman can understand it.
I’m fascinated by reading about our ancestry & to imagine an alternate reality that could have existed, makes me wonder at the vastness & the hollowness of the universe & our existence. Blown away!
*5.07 pm* Back to work after a long and happy Diwali weekend.
Breaks are so damn necessary. I recently came across a video explaining how we tend to over work in order to achieve our goals & forget to pause & breathe. It made me realise that I often beat myself up over not doing enough & it ends up taking a huge toll on my health, both physical and mental. Of course, the highly competitive world we live in & the fear of lagging behind is the root cause of it. But it is also a choice that we consciously, repeatedly make.
No matter what field you are in, the stress and hustle is the same. We’re surrounded by technology that is moving faster than ever. It feels like life is just passing by and you are not doing enough to get on board the train. So you run too, to get there & you can’t stop, not now, not when everyone is running. You are simply going to miss out or worse, lose. It is maddening. A vicious cycle!
My parents tell me I am “over-ambitious” & I need to look after my health once in a while. And I agree. I am quite hard on myself when it comes to my career. But the need to be independent, to have a career of my choice and do equally (if not more) than what everyone around me is doing, is difficult to control. However, it ends up blurring the line between working to live & living to work. Read that again!
I had this moment of self-reflection a couple of days ago and the Diwali break couldn’t have come at a better time.
Spending time with my family last weekend made me realize that I needed to slow down. The stress of not doing enough was making me highly unhappy and I had become an emotional wreck. It was affecting all my relationships. I was angry all the time, had unreasonable mood swings, arguments & a whole lot of negativity leading to a continuous gloomy and dull mood.
During the 4-day Diwali break I completely forgot about work, about deadlines & what should be the next career move. I spent one whole day shopping, went for a day trip with some cousins on another and spent a spiritual evening praying with Mom – Dad on the evening of Diwali puja. I felt so peaceful & content after months.
I told myself that if I take out some time from my day to do what I love, or do nothing at all, I will not be missing out on anything. I will not lose. I might get there later than everyone else, but I will be happy when I do. I needed to de-stress & do it immediately.
So, I have a beautiful week planned ahead for myself. I will be reading two new books that I recently bought, go midnight cycling on the weekend and maybe even attend a dance workshop. Or you know what, I might just take a day-off & stay at home doing nothing, taking a breather.
It feels so good just writing about it. Can’t wait to update you all on how it goes.
*11.30* in the middle of an extremely busy and productive work week.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
This proverb has never made sense to me. I have always found it boring to be a master of one when you can be a jack of all. I have been a jack of all trades since school. I used to participate in everything from dance and drama to yoga, from Olympiad and scholarship tests to rifle shooting and lathi fights – you could find me in every team, every group. And of course, Samadnya – my soul sister. We’d be together in anything, EVERYTHING and win. Most of it was to avoid sitting for lectures, but guess what? We would still be teacher’s pets (Samadnya being the Principal’s daughter was not the reason, or so I want to believe).
I loved being part of the competition. I loved the preparation, the hustle and the effort, especially when we’d perform and give it everything we had. I don’t want to boast (or maybe I do, for a bit) but I was also the Best Student of my class for two or three years and the head of my scout-guide group (not a big deal that one, but since I’m mentioning everything..) and then there were couple of times when I topped the class in the end semester exams. My school days were the best, I was an all-rounder who loved herself, and always wanted to do everything.
I loved to do all my homework in time, so much that my parents would force me to stop studying. But I would also play for hours without a care. Life was simple, I was carefree and happy. Eventually, school days were over and I moved on to college, one after the other, and then into the professional world. All this while, I had left behind the little girl in me who’d always be happy and cheerful. The girl who would enjoy studying the American and Russian Revolution or solve Algebra and Geometry for hours, who would play kho-kho with such conviction as if it was the Olympics, who would go train as a commando, or go camping at a remote village for months, who would swim in a pond with frogs, play King Lear’s daughter in the Drama competition and also win every dance contest in town.
I lost her. And damn! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I missed her. It only took a couple of people over a few years to pull me down on my self-esteem bar. I felt unambitious, inferior and self-conscious of who I was and where I came from for the longest time. I had loved every bit of my childhood and yet, I had grown up to hate it for most part of my teenage- why? Well, for one, I didn’t feel confident in the new world outside of school and second was influence. Influence works wonders if you’re an unsure teenager exploring newer things. But that’s a topic for another blog. However, it took a long time for me to accept myself and fall in love with me, again. It took a lot of self-convincing and assurance that the place I came from was beautiful with the most loving, and genuine people. It took a lot of effort to go back to my childhood and cherish those memories instead of looking down upon them as something to be ashamed of.
I’m writing about all of this today because I had a fulfilling day at work. I felt like the child in me was back – a child who would be excited to go for one dance practise after another and participate in literally, everything. Today, I reconnected with what I have always been on the inside – a jack of all trades, an aspiring master of all and proud. So I am just going to make this blog about telling myself “I missed you. Welcome back. The world is ready for us to conquer.”
It has hardly been four days since I moved in to a new place. I have shifted from the small south Bombay hostel room (my first self rented home in Mumbai) to a clean and cozy apartment at one of the most happening areas of Mumbai- Versova. The house is surrounded by lot of trees, parks, multiple eateries and peaceful residents. I’m quite happy with how comfortable and perfect the house is.
At work, I’ve not had any new and exciting assignment recently. I’m bored. I’ve literally spent most afternoons reading novels just to avoid falling asleep at my desk. I’m hoping for a positive change in that front. Also, I am looking forward to spending the Dusshera weekend back home as I’ll be seeing my ‘mau’ after three weeks. I can’t wait!
I also have to plan a lot of things for my next trip to one of the most beautiful and divine place in North India which is due in Diwali. I am super excited for that – for reasons best known to me and a couple of friends, haha!
More on the novel I read last week: It was titled ‘Wake’ written by ‘Amanda Hocking’. I happened to come across this novel in the shop below my office that scraps paper. I read the synopsis and was instantly drawn to the story line. I bought it. Just for 20rs. Yes!
Its been long that I read a good fiction/ fantasy novel, and this book had it all. From a cute romantic sequence between two teenagers to murders and supernatural sirens, it was quite a read. It took me back to my teenage when I had read the likes of Twilight etc. and would be extremely fascinated by the plot and characters. I would get lost in a world of fantasy and this book made me feel like a kid again, made me believe in sirens, curses and how killing humans to drink their blood is spooky but quite cool.
Owing to my ignorance, I googled the author to know more and turns out she is one of the best-selling authors of America. And.. there are video trailers of all the books she has written. ‘Wake’ is the first book of the ‘Watersong Series’ and the trailer is great. Although in my imagination, the characters looked prettier, I would definitely watch the movie if it were to be made.
Okay, I am very nervous about starting this weekly thing. I have backspaced these lines for over a hundred times. But, this is it. I have finally started something that I wish to continue and be regular at.
Writing has always been my hobby. As a kid, I would enjoy reading story books from the school library and then try to remember all those stories while writing essays in the exam. However, my first real inspiration to write something by myself was when I came across a book called “Wise and Otherwise” by Sudha Murthy. Initially, I was too ignorant to know who this lady is, but as I read the stories in this book, I couldn’t stop obsessing over her. I was fascinated by how she had described the human facades in a very simple yet detailed manner. Her non-fictional stories and their characters inspired me deeply. The incidents and situations that are written in it spoke to me and although I was too young to relate to them, a thought that I too can write an imaginary story having some characters similar to the people in my life gave birth to the writer in me. But, reading one book was not enough. I lacked the ability to describe my thoughts in a well-articulated manner. Thus, I started to read more of Sudha Murthy’s work. I bought copies of “The Old Man And His God”, “The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk”, “Gently Falls The Bakula”, & “How I Taught My Grandmother To Read And Other Stories” and I was filled with too much of respect and love for the author. I read about her life story, about how she was the first female engineer at TATA and how she gave up her job to support her husband in his startup- Infosys. I already knew about her social work as I read her books and she inspired me not only as an author but as a human being. Her simplicity, her purity of thoughts and the way in which she described the human behavior and its myriad shades was incredible.
During my vacations after the tenth class board exams, I began writing a small story about two friends and the experiences they go through together while at school. These characters were inspired by two of my close friends at that time. After writing two chapters of this story, I asked my parents to read it and they were amazed at how well I had described these two friends and their surroundings. They immediately guessed which two characters from real life were described in this story and that was my first achievement. My first two readers could very well understand and relate to my descriptions of the characters. I began reading up more fictional books after this. Many Indian, as well as foreign authors, started to become my inspiration day after day and my stories took a new shape. The descriptions of events and places became much more detailed and realistic. My personal diary became my whole world as it gave me a secret stage to openly express everything about my day. The words started flowing easily and the diary entries became more interesting by the day. This led me to write another story of about 120 pages. It meant a lot to me at that time. It was during the first few days of my college, I had been reading a lot of other books, learning how to build up the story. I was also making new friends at college and it helped me shape some characters of my new story. More than anything, I loved that I could express my own thoughts and feelings in form of the characters in my stories. I enjoyed the freedom of making my characters feel and say anything I wanted as opposed to the real life.
What took this small hobby of mine to another level was when my essay in the mid-semester English exam was appreciated by the Professor. It was then that I told him how I liked reading and writing stories. I showed him my 120-page blurb with a mixed feeling of excitement and the fear of being judged. This was the first time someone was going to read my unsupervised thoughts and I was really anxious. After a couple of days, he told me that he was quite impressed with the way I had expressed my thoughts in this write up and suggested I should try writing short stories instead. He appreciated how each detail was carefully put and asked me to reduce the length of the story, combining it with some kind of a message at the end. An English subject professor appreciating and encouraging me with my writing was another big achievement for me. I did take his suggestion seriously and published short stories in the college magazine for the two years that I studied in that college.
After I joined the senior college for my next course, I started writing a lot of short stories, few of which made their way on my own Blog site. This was the first time I had gone public with my writing and I was nervous about the review I might get. But, it was another big achievement when these short stories were well appreciated by my friends and it gave me a huge amount of confidence. I wrote mostly about friendship as my world revolved around my friends at that time. I also included a lot of travel stories when I became a volunteer for a camping organization. I started roaming around in the forests and capturing the wild in my camera. This inspired me to write about the jungles, the animals, the rivers, the city spaces and the shades of life observed in different parts of the country as I traveled across states. I also tried writing a short murder mystery, a poem about the dilemma and a few more things which were liked by my group on social media. Most of the creative ideas however never got their conclusions and still hang around incomplete. It is usually because of procrastination and sometimes just because it is really silly.
I have found myself awake on many nights sitting with my laptop and coming up with ideas for my blogs. Even though all those ideas don’t end up being published on my blog site, I enjoy the process of pouring out my thoughts on the screen. It gives me peace and a feeling of freedom like no other. I never took any course in creative writing (which now I feel I should have) and yet I think I’m doing pretty okay for a start. So, here comes the purpose of this weekly blog. A medium of expressing what I feel, as me and not through a character in any short story. A small attempt to tell about the amazing people in my life and the crap they get me into for being a good listener. It is a small effort to deal with the quarter-life crisis by sharing my fears, my mundane adventures, my small bits of happy days and big life decisions that are to be made.
So, here it is. I’m Nikita, a 23-year-old girl from Pune. I have a post-graduate degree in Geology and I have no idea what to do with it. I don’t know what to do with life anymore anyway. Short term goals: I am thinking of adopting a cat soon but I am just scared she will feel lonely if I go out and lock her inside the house. What do I do? No, seriously, tell me.