This one is a long read. So sit tight with a cup of coffee or tea or whatever your drink is and read on…
I believe that learning new lessons is an organic process. It comes naturally when you strive to evolve and grow to be a better person each day. However, unlearning old ones can be a bit of a challenge. Now, what do I mean when I say ‘unlearn’? It is somewhat similar to how governments change policies and laws to keep them relevant in present contexts. They evaluate what works and what doesn’t, and accordingly tweak their systems. Unlearning old lessons is also necessary to continue growing.
After graduating from a premier institute in India, I was thrown off my high horse rather brutally. I struggled to find a job, then struggled with finding meaning in the job I finally got, and also struggled with making tough life decisions. One of the important lessons my grandfather had taught me was that hard work always pays off. I have a family that embodies this. My dad worked 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, for 35 years. And that is just his professional life. Even after retirement, he continues to put in at least 40 hours of work every week. (I mean come on!) My oldest memory of my mother is of her feeding me food while supervising my brother’s homework and ensuring that grandpa doesn’t smoke secretively. My brother has worked throughout the night and turned up in class the next morning. His job requires him to stand for the most part of the day and he just enrolled in a university course. He married an equally hard working woman. For me to work hard has always been a no-brainer, and I have always tried to surround myself with others who share this ethic. Therefore, it was difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that I was not getting good enough opportunities. I had worked hard, really hard. I should be getting a great job. That was extremely important to me. Everything else seemed like white noise. I am still craving for that opportune moment when I am at the right place at the right time to just grab the job I know I will love.
Don’t fret. I got an average job in my hometown which meant that I had to leave the glorious city of Bombay. Then came the wedding and prepping for Toronto. Here too I worked hard. I helped my folks, was a real adult about the long-distance relationship and had saved enough to sustain my lifestyle while I was unemployed. But when I moved to Toronto, it felt flat. I was coping with the weather, the transition from being close to my parents to being on the other side of the world, the expectations that I had with myself etc. I also spiraled out of control and had emotional implosions. Anxiety, fear of failing and not working hard enough got to me. Not having friends around only worsened the situation. Every time someone asked me how I like the city, I just politely said, “It’s alright. It’ll grow on me,” when, in fact, I was close to hating it. In spite of being in a wonderful phase of life, I was fixated on being nowhere in my career and how I will just have to accept defeat. And then something changed.
About two months ago, rummaging through my journal to find an old photograph, I stumbled upon something that I had written soon after moving to Bombay. It was titled ‘How to Love a New City’ and although absolute trash, I will share it here because it helped me gain a new perspective on my life.
“Begin walking in search of bylanes. Walk some more to find colored walls inside. If you find yourself stuck in an array of black and white streets, walk some more to find a can of paint. Splash it all over. Even if you cannot make great art, at least you walked your way through it. Walk some more and find a street corner to fill with all your new shenanigans. That is the beauty of a new city- you always have enough bylanes to discover and make your own!” (15.12.2014)
After reading this, I felt like a moron for the first few minutes and then understood that I need to update my lessons. Working hard is important, yes, but equally important is to identify circumstances that are not in our control. I have believed that patience is the most overrated virtue and yet I continue to flourish in that department. In the last two years, I have learned that patience almost always has strings attached. I had to learn how to practice patience effectively and I fail at least once every day. I was always taught that time is of the essence, but I always associated this with establishing a career and being ambitious about it. Time is of the essence, period. Even if most days are just about average, we have the time to make the next one better. I have all this time to figure out how to be the better version of myself and I was wasting it away lamenting over things that were out of my control. Back in school, I had learned another lesson: greater the risk, bigger are the chances of making a profit. It hurt me that in the race with my expectations, I had hardly ever gotten out of my comfort zone.
I bought the domain of this website on the day I read that little note in my journal. It made me realize, among relentless cajoling by my brother, that I had to put in efforts to like Toronto and that all this time needed to be justified. Thus, this website. It also fits in my 2018 resolutions- I intend to write more this year. I must take control of my narrative. I cannot stop emphasizing on how important that is. Being hard on yourself will only fill you with negativity and self-doubt. And that too I learned recently.
Life is great. I am a privileged human being who is loved, respected, heard, and I am grateful for that. Everything else is just white noise.
Part 1 here.
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Until next time