The Toxic & The Terror

I recently resigned from a job I loved. It was a tough move – there was so much happiness there. I went from someone figuring out life to someone who knew what they were doing within the three years I spent there – with a team that appreciated, celebrated and stood by me through it all. I didn’t really think I would leave as early as I did but I also can’t believe I stayed there that long.

Every workplace has problems. It can be workload, it can be processes, it can be pay. But sometimes, it can also be a person. In a department of 60+ amazing human beings that I loved working with, that one person had more effect on me than they should have. It all only started when they started.

After a year of everyone around me being jealous of the experiences I was having through my job, I had an experience nobody would want for themselves. A casual conversation used against me to keep me out of a project. Something I said I intend to do in the future was turned into “We never know how close the future is. She could leave tomorrow.” That should’ve been my red flag, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

In a flat working environment where my former manager is now one of my closest friends, they tried to set hierarchy. I was beneath them and they wanted me to know it. When something I did wasn’t working for them, there was never a conversation. I never received feedback on the 14 versions we worked on together where I tried to keep up with changes that were continuously presented on wrong drafts. I simply got removed from the project when they responded directly to the person on their same paygrade. It bothered me but I told myself, “One less thing on your to-do list. Focus on the rest.”

I should have seen how the small things were adding up. Not just in the real world but emotionally. How this person was making me feel with every decision they made against me. But that’s the thing – these things never capture our attention long enough for us to know. If only I’d known.

6 months since they started. That’s when I knew. The anxiety, the panic, the constant jitters on calls with them. But I’m not silent. I’ve never shied away from letting the world know how I feel. So, I spoke about it. I spoke to the people around me. I spoke to the ones who had power to make change. I spoke to colleagues who could sadly relate.

There were emails – words that person wrote to taunt others just so they wouldn’t get called out for their own flaws. There were phone calls – things that person said to put ‘people in their place’ so we wouldn’t tell that person how they were failing at their job. There was so much that so many people were going through together that we all spoke about.

Nobody cared.

So, I made a decision. I stopped talking. Instead, I observed. I went to meetings and said nothing. Watched everyone try and watched every reaction on that person’s face. I sent emails with different people on copy to learn when their tone changed. I learnt to work around them, never having to be in a call together, never having to talk to each other. It’s no way to work but it’s the only way I could.

For the first time in a really long time, my anxiety was tolerable. I wasn’t panicking every time I heard their name. My heart wasn’t in my mouth when they said my name. I was able to function because I taught myself how to manage them and when I couldn’t, I followed their tactics and asked to be removed from their projects. I was lucky enough to have a team that understood.

Not everyone does.

When you are a manager and your team member tells you someone’s rude, someone wasn’t nice or that someone was making them nervous – listen.

Don’t encourage them to have open conversations with that person. Toxic people are often narcissistic. They don’t like hearing how they aren’t doing something right. When you encourage a person affected by them to speak to them, you are encouraging someone who trusted you to walk into a war path where the other person will always hold more power.

Don’t tell your team that the toxic person is nice deep in their core. Don’t humanise their behaviour. Bullies with a million reasons are bullies still. If there’s a deep underlying cause, it is their responsibility to work on it. It’s not yours to tell them. It’s definitely not the victim’s.

I watched a toxic person rise through the ranks after we told people how they behaved. I watched them build a stronger army. I watched them fail at everything and get away with it every time. I watched them stay – no matter how badly we all threatened to leave.

I ultimately left for a very different reason but the day I left and realized there will never be another call, another look, another casual sentence thrown around to prove how low on the food chain I stood – I felt my shoulders relax, my heart stopped racing and I knew I’d done the right thing.

Not everyone can.

Chennai: Never just a city

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. I live a few hours away but it’s been a while since I’ve been home.

I hear about a possible third wave. I read about carelessness. A city unmasked and unafraid. It scares me all the time – I have parents and in-laws that are old enough for me to be worried. Two dogs I haven’t cuddled my weekend away with in a really long time. A flight to Chennai is almost impossible. And that small chance of maybe? I can’t take it because it all sounds so scary from where I see.

But in the chaos of the news that feels like my worst nightmare, I miss a lot more than just loved ones.

I miss home.

I’ve been talking to my sister about it – What makes us so special? Us adults from Chennai. It’s this tie that we can’t break. In a foreign country, when everything seems different, “Chennai-ah?” is all the connection you need to be best friends.

I miss that home.

That feeling of stepping out of the flight and getting into my mom’s car. The ever-familiar road that leads you away from the airport, “Wow. So much has changed. Traffic alone doesn – epdi poraan paaru.”

You know you’re home when travel is a musical experience – radio or roadside dialogue, to each their own.

The incredible food. Gangotree pani puri, Saravana Bhavan ghee dosa, Ratna Cafe sambar idli, New Woodlands full meals. I’ve never visited without a list. I’ve never left unsatisfied. Street corner akka or Shree Mithai aunty, I miss the friendly banter with total strangers. The extra mile they always go to ensure you enjoy your meal. I often wonder how the aunty and uncle with the delicious channa samosa stall opposite SIET are doing. I wonder if they had enough saved for a rainy day – or year. The bajji akka outside Giri Traders in Mylapore. The chikoo seller outside Ratna Stores in Pondy Bazaar. So many more like them.

The helpers who walk to multiple houses. The tiny arguments our moms always have with them. “Paavam-di ava,” is how the day ends. Have they remained employed? Do you still pay them through the lockdown? There’s so much uncertainty from where I see things.

But one thing remains.

This feeling. If you’re from Chennai, you know what I mean. This particular emotion that makes you play cheesy Madras songs on a cozy Sunday evening. You’re not sad, no. You’re wishful. Longing to be back in those streets. Amongst the colours, the energy, the people.

Unmasked, maybe, but unafraid we are. The news terrifies me, I won’t lie. But I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the Chennai I can’t stop thinking of. The one that saw trouble and didn’t wait for help. The Chennai that wasn’t afraid of flooding water, rising waves or an Earth that shook. The Chennai that rose to the challenge, together. The Chennai that risked themselves to save their neighbours. The Chennai that is proud, brave and resilient.

The Chennai my husband is tired of hearing stories about.

A Chennai we won’t get to be in until – for a change – we distance ourselves and stay indoors.

A Chennai I miss, every day of my life.

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. Years may pass, lives may change and roots may form, but Chennai will always be home.

And the music, the movies and the million keepsakes I can’t throw away will keep me wrapped in warm memories, until I return…

Counting Down… Endlessly.

“I’m not alone.”

I say that because it’s what’s kept me sane for so long. As we went through lockdown and phases of reopening, my heart felt okay because I wasn’t alone. If I needed help, if I needed a hug, if I needed nothing but another human body to sit within my line of sight – I had someone.

I told myself every day that it made all the difference. For months, it really did. But as we continue to struggle with a world we didn’t think we’d ever encounter, it’s not working. My reasons, my excuses, my ability to convince myself – they don’t make sense anymore.

To no reflection of the person sitting with me, holding my hand and telling me it’ll be okay, I find myself feeling not okay.

People have different relationships that they’ve been stranded away from. I’m now counting 6 months since I last saw my parents. 6 months since I was home with them. 6 months since I last cuddled my aging dog. It’s the longest I’ve ever been separated from any of them but that’s not the problem.

The 6 months I’ve stayed apart has already passed. I’ve lived through it. Can’t change anything about it. It’s the future.

April 2020 – I told myself I’ll be with them by October. Flights will resume. The world will be healing.

June 2020 – I told myself I’ll be with them by December. It’s slower but everything will be fine.

We’re at the end of July – February 2021 seems almost unrealistic. Like something I can’t plan for because I don’t know if the world will heal – by then, if ever at all. I’ve watched my friends who live alone struggle with the depression that came from the negative news cycles. I encouraged them to remain positive. To not absorb it. I told them when restaurants opened, I’ll be there for a cup of coffee, maybe some cake?

But somehow, it was the opening of things that really made all the difference. When life showed me a glimpse of normal, I felt trapped – it was like dangling a dream in front of me that I couldn’t grasp. I could go out, I could meet people, I could laugh and giggle and have the time of my life – just not with my family.

I can’t get on an impulsive flight over a weekend because I missed my dog too much. I can’t go running to my Mom when my brain was overworked. I can’t be sitting across my Dad in conversation about my understanding of the world.

Before the pandemic, I got through long weeks by counting down days until my next flight home. I can’t do that anymore. For every week that passes, months add on. And that flight… it seems farther and farther away.

Maybe, at almost 28, it sounds ridiculous. Maybe, almost married, it sounds immature. Maybe, my parents are right, how could I be such a baby and cry?

But of all the things that COVID has thrown my way, healing a part of the world and not the rest has been the toughest to deal with.

I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to normal. I don’t know when I’ll get to hold my family – furry and human – close to me again. But I know I’m not the only one stuck like I am.

Do your part in keeping yourself safe and reducing the spread. When you help yourself, you help us all.

My Lighthouse

 

I’ve been kind of lost for the last six months.

My life went through a drastic change and as I tried to find where I belonged in this new phase, I feel like I lost who I have always been.

When things end, they say it gives way to new beginnings. I thought my new beginning would feel free. Like I could do anything without ever having to worry about how it affects another person. But the thing was, there wasn’t much left to be done with that freedom because the things that controlled me remained. Money, exhaustion and just life, in general.

So I began to cling on to anything that felt new. Maybe a new person, maybe a new role, maybe a new dress or a new passion. Maybe I should focus on myself finally. Or my job. Or maybe I should look for a partner. Maybe not. Maybe I look for the old me. The teenage-me. The care-about-nothing and just-have-fun me. Something had to give because my life had to change drastically. It had to.

But it didn’t. And I couldn’t accept that. I turned frantic in my search for something that replaced what I had lost, not realizing that as I tried to walk towards something else, I was walking away from myself.

So I started to add pressure – to me and to the people around me. I watched others’ lives change and began envying them because mine wasn’t. But it had. It didn’t feel that way because my routine hadn’t necessarily changed. Nothing I did every day changed. It was only an emotional disruption and I didn’t know how to process that. I didn’t know how to point and say, “This is why it’s different. Even if nothing changed around me, my emotions are in disarray. So that’s what I need to focus on.”

I searched for a solution to my emotions in the physical world and failed, consistently. I tried to throw myself into work, but it didn’t feel enough. I tried to balance work with life so I could focus on myself but when the day drew to an end, I was left feeling unsettled again.

Maybe this was my way of grieving. This frantic search for something, anything, that made me feel like my life had gotten better. Maybe this was my way of going through the emotions that come with separating yourself and your life from someone. Maybe this is how we all feel at 27 and it’s nothing but a mid-life crisis. 

The problem was, until three days ago, I didn’t understand any of this. In my frustrations with the world around me, I never realized that perhaps the reason I couldn’t find what I was looking for was because it wasn’t in the real world. 

I haven’t painted for over a year. I’ve given myself a lot of excuses as to why I don’t have the time – to be creative, to draw, to imagine, to clean up after. And on a very busy Sunday, I was just done with the excuses. I always imagined painting a lighthouse, Van Gogh style. There was something about it, standing next to the ocean, alone but surrounded by the beauty of the world that made lighthouses seem so fascinating. They reminded me of the wind against my face, sand between my toes and the sound of the ocean. Far above the land, almost touching the sky, just a little bit shy. Lighthouses reminded me of home.

It’s amazing how art cures the most complex of your problems. As I slowly began painting something I’ve been wanting to for so long, I found what I had been missing. Why I had felt so out of place. What I had been searching for since July.

Myself.

I smiled for the first time in a while. From my heart. It was like standing in the rain, every drop taking you closer to yourself. I painted my happy place, finding it within myself along the way.

Maybe this blog isn’t the right thing to post at this point in my life. Someone recently told me that if I were to get married, blogs with so much honesty cannot exist when they google me. Maybe they’re right.

Maybe you’re not supposed to know how I’m trying to find my place in this world. Maybe we’re all just supposed to pretend we’re put-together and perfectly fine with lives that go through nothing at all. But I’m not going to take this away.

We all go through changes. Some are obvious. Some aren’t. You know they happened, you experience the difference even when you can’t see it. Those may be the most difficult ones to process. 

In the process of readjusting my life to a new reality, I lost myself.

It took me six months of searching and one painting to find. And I know this could happen again. Another change I don’t know how to handle could make me lose sense of who I am.

But when it does, I’ll know better. I’ll know the patterns and the emotions.

I’ll know to breathe deep and close my eyes for just a few seconds.

I’ll know to look for my lighthouse.

If you’re out there reading this and you’re not sure where you’re headed, what you’re doing or why you’re acting a certain way – this is your reminder.

Breathe. Imagine your lighthouse. What does it feel like?

Lighthouse painting

I’m Depressed

There. I’ve said it. It’s not the first time. But I don’t want to say it again.

I’m depressed.

Not your milennial kind. Sitting at a cafe, rolling my eyes at the girl I don’t like and complaining about singledom, “Ohmygod! I’m so depressed!” No. Not that kind.

The real one. The emotional kind that people tend to treat lightly because they don’t understand how serious it can possibly be. So, welcome to my world.

I’m not an actress. My life isn’t a Bollywood movie. I’m not sitting by the window, staring into space and nothingness. I don’t have a single tear running down my face as I lose sight of what’s happening around me. I’m not snapped back to reality. A hug isn’t going to heal me. A boyfriend cannot fix me.

This is real.

I’m right beside you. I’m not in hiding. I’m everywhere I need to be. I’m talking to you when you’re talking to me. I sound like I do everyday but I care a lot less. You just can’t tell. I show up to the event, dressed like a dream. You can’t tell it took me effort to put it all on. Not physical. Emotional. To get out of bed and prepare myself to smile with a world I can’t connect to anymore.

I can’t tell you I’d rather be at home. Not listening to you talk about problems that don’t affect me and having to give you comforting advice when I can’t even think. I can’t tell you I’m two seconds away from breaking apart even when I seem to be laughing.

You help me. Sitting across the table, as a best friend. You help me. Knocking on my door for a small conversation. You help me. A distraction for a few seconds. But you can’t take it away.

I want to confide. To tell you how I spiral. To tell you how this is all too much. I think I’ve taken on more than I can chew. My overthinking has taken me by my hand and led me back to my dark place. I was depressed a few years ago. I think it’s back for me. Or maybe it never stopped at all.

I wake up every morning. I walk out the door, that takes a lot of effort. I look through my checklist, ticking off things that pay my bills. I eat my lunch to Netflix. I come back home, turn the lights on, find my corner of the bed and suddenly I’m lost. I switch between streaming platforms. I grab my phone and get on Instagram. There’s nothing to watch. Nobody to see. I don’t care about any of it. But I have to. Because if I’m not watching Mike Ross fight with Harvey Specter or Lorelai and Rory Gilmore fast talk their way through Luke’s coffee, I’d want to slam my head against the wall, crying.

I ask myself everyday. Is it the end of my relationship? Is it the amount of work? Is it the personal woes? The inability to give back to the people who gave me everything? Is it the drowning debt? My answer is the same every time. No.

Someone once asked me what depression feels like. “Is it a state of mind? Can’t you change your state of mind?” I tried to tell her.

It’s like an empty room that hasn’t been lived in for decades. It’s hollow, your voice echoes multifold. So your worries echo multifold. It’s dirty, not the sexy kind. It’s broken windows and rusty doors. It’s haunting without the ghosts. It’s a feeling of sinking. Like something bad is always going to happen. But it’s not. You know it’s not. Yet you feel like it just did. You feel like you’ve lost. Maybe it’s the loss of life in that room. Or the loss of happiness. The loss of light. It’s a dark room. Maybe there’s light. All it takes is the flick of a switch. But you’re stuck. You can’t get up and turn it on.

She asked me why. I didn’t have an answer.

My depression doesn’t need a reason to cling on to. My emotions don’t have to explain themselves for sinking again. I can’t write down why I’m not okay. But it’s the truth. I’m not okay.

How do you ask for help when you don’t know what you need help with? What do I say?

“Hey, I’m depressed. I don’t know why. I don’t know the fix. But help me?”

What do they go on with? What solution do they give to a problem I can’t describe?

So I try what I always have. To smile. Maybe if I smile enough, the happiness will become real. I try to giggle. Perhaps the silliness will help lighten up my heart. I try to create. Art helped me once, so it should again? I try to live. But as I sat there at that boardwalk, staring at fireworks, my sister turned to me, “Are you crying?”

I had to say no because I didn’t want to explain myself. But the truth was… Yes. The fireworks made me cry. I don’t know why. They always make me happy. And I was happy. But something within me made me cry. Because I wasn’t really happy.

How do you explain that?

Things that bring me an abundance of joy cannot lift me out of this dark hole I find myself stuck in over and over again. Maybe we’re all depressed and we just don’t admit it to each other. Maybe as you’re reading this, you’re relating. But you can’t tell anyone either because when they ask, “Your life is amazing. What do you have to be depressed about?” what do you say?

What do I say?

So I shrug my shoulders, look down in guilt and swallow my tears. I look at them, a lump in my throat and softly say,

“I’m not okay.”

 

Living In Contradiction

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I am the girl you’ll see on the streets, smiling at strangers, forever cheery.

I am her, nose in the air, uncaring, uninterested, just a little bit snooty.

 

I am loud, to you, maybe to her. You’ll hear me from the other room, laughing and making jokes.

I am shy and anxious. Timid when I see them. Afraid of my voice, terrified of the crowd.

 

I long to be free. To be rid of the Louis Vuitton dreams.

“Find me a corner and my old computer. I’m in the mood to watch TV.”

To be rid of my wants, focus on the needs,

To buy less clothes, to save fewer links,

To return my credit card, to live debt free.

 

I am the ideal consumer. Have something pretty? Does it smell luxury?

“Bring it to me, won’t you please?”

It’s not for show. It’s not for them to see.

It’s for me. It’s for the way they make me feel.

Powerful. Rich. Just a little bit snooty.

 

I suffered. A childhood that left me broken. Insecure and sceptic.

I’ve had days where food wasn’t real, when home wasn’t existent and life was on hold.

Yet, here I am, spoilt. Like a kid in a candy store who won’t stop crying. 

Not because I’m sad. Because I want what I want when I want it. 

 

I love people. The closer I can keep them, the happier I feel.

I hate company. Leave me alone, don’t want to speak.

 

I long for a partner. For someone’s arm to hold.

To smile, to flirt, to laugh. To hug when I’m cold.

I am his woman, in love, smitten. 

“Where’s my ring? Can’t wait till I marry him!”

 

I imagine a world, my company, I’m Queen.

There’s no king, no man. Just me and my employees.

It’s an empire. It’s mine. It’s hard work, long hours, no sleep,

But when I stand at that window, overlooking a world that I can finally touch and feel…

I would be invincible… but wait, that’s not it.

 

I want more. Out of this life, this world.

To have it better. To fight for more. 

A better job, better salary, better rights, better government, 

Better love, better laughter, better people,

I just want…

 

I want to be content. Happy with what I have. 

Accepting of others. To have the ability to say,

“You are your best version and that’s okay.”

To them, to him, to me…

 

But I just don’t agree.

 

 

A Year That Was

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I wrapped up my 2018 on an emotional note. I am struggling with the resurfacing of suppressed emotions. I’m grieving a loss eight months after it happened. Or maybe, it’s just the feeling of such an overwhelming year coming to an end. But I’ve been emotional and always two minutes from tears.

This year has been all over the place. When I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. When I thought it couldn’t get better, it did. Sometimes, I can’t believe it all happened in 365 days. But it was filled with lessons for a lifetime.

I started my year with a job offer. The people around me looked excited, but I knew it wasn’t the right one. I knew there was something better waiting for me. I still took it. I traveled 3000 miles for it. I sat in a hotel room with my mother who was there to help me settle in and I knew in my gut I wasn’t supposed to be there. I cried, sobbed and came back home like a kid on the first day of kindergarten. With that, I learnt to trust my instincts and tune out other voices because I was right.

But making that choice meant living off of my father’s money again. I know a lot of people who don’t mind this part. But I do. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY do. My need to live on my money is high. And so I sank. Deeper and deeper into depression. The kind I haven’t known before. The kind where I volunteered to get help against the wishes of the ones near and dear to me. I was prescribed medication. Yet, on a dull afternoon, I picked up a pencil and started to draw anything that made sense. When I finally put the pencil down, a weight had lifted off of me. I was free. I can’t express why. I can’t tell you how. But it was like my emotions had poured itself out and a light had found me. With that, I learnt the importance of art for my mental wellbeing.

And I thought to myself, Well, the worst is behind me. Life sat in a corner and laughed knowingly.

For the first time in my life, I learnt loss. I learnt how to know and love someone and have them be taken away. I learnt pain like nobody can ever teach you. I watched as the light went out from my fur baby’s eyes. The young one. The sweet one. The one I didn’t fear losing because I had another four years older. And I never understood how to process that pain. I never truly felt that loss wash over me. I find myself unable to say her name without breaking inside today. The therapist tells me it’s because I didn’t grieve. But I don’t know how to. I’m so used to not letting myself feel this pain, I don’t know how to just let it take over. This year, I learnt to love and lose, never to see again. I learnt the importance of grieving as I continue to struggle today.

They said she took the evil away. That worse things needed to happen but she took it so we could have it better. I don’t find myself enjoying the better when someone adds that spin to it. Because if I had to be at home depressed out of my mind to still have her with me, I’d do it in a heartbeat. And that is how I learnt that I’m not going to be the hard-ass, heartless and cold entrepreneur that I hoped to be. Because I can’t walk over people I love to get what I want. I need the ones I love around me, always.

A few weeks after my fur baby passed away, I landed the job I knew I would get. The one that feels like a dream.

And so began the better part of the year. We adopted a stray dog. I identified my real friends. I announced my second book. I wrote the first draft of the second book. I ticked off two new countries on my list. I met global leaders, I shook hands with people I hope to one day be and most importantly, I found myself surrounded by women doing all the things the world I came from told me was absolutely impossible. I found myself inspired everyday and after endless months of not knowing why I’m here, I found my reason again. I found the need to move forward. And for the first time in a long time, I found hope.

My job makes me travel. And in October, I went to Paris. I saw the Eiffel Tower in shivering cold! It was magical. I remember standing there with four women who were way high up on the food chain at work laughing with me and teasing me. It was… perfect. Life laughed again. I spent two weeks in France unable to really experience my surrounding, faking laughter and fighting tears. Wanting to leave, knowing I should stay. I can’t ever explain what happened. But those two weeks taught me – I’m stronger than I think I am.

Because now I know. I know how tangible happiness is. How fleeting perfection is. And no, I won’t hide. I won’t be afraid to take bold and bright steps forward. But I’m going to be prepared. I have the ability to say, “I’ll make my plans, you do your worst. I’ll find my way again. I promise.” That was the biggest lesson 2018 taught me.

We all slip and fall. A number change in the date doesn’t change that. Sometimes, we fall harder than ever before. It doesn’t matter as long as you find the courage to rise again.

In 2018, I learnt the meaning of the words, “This too shall pass.” Because the good and the bad, they pass. And every morning is a fresh start. Every minute is a new one. Ride the waves as they come but be prepared to fall off the board. You’re the only one who can get back on it again.

I spent my last week of 2018 in Dubai. With people I love, doing things I enjoy. I created, I worked, I toured and of course, I fell more in love with life again.

2019 will change many things for me. Personally and professionally. For better or for worse. I’m going to tell myself what I hope you’ll tell yourself, too, when life gets the better of you – Keep moving. Life doesn’t stagnate, you shouldn’t either.

Have a fantastic 2019! Happy New Year from me and mine to you and yours!!

With lots of love, bright smiles and bear hugs,

Me

In memory of Mika (2016 – 2018)
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My 26-Year-Old Life in a Blog

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I don’t think this is the life I imagined for myself as a girl heading towards 30. I did say, girl. I don’t feel quite like a woman yet. I often compared my life to the overly successful 26-something ladies and wondered if I’d get there. I often compared my life to the horrible 26-something ladies and wondered if I’d wind up there. But somehow, I’ve gotten to neither.

I set an alarm for 6 every morning. I wake up at 8:10 when I’m supposed to be at work before 9. Did I mention work is 30 minutes away? Yep. I get through my day with 80% work and 20% chit-chat. I enjoy it. That’s something I was afraid I wouldn’t. I never wanted to be in my “prime” years, hating what I was doing. So I’m glad.

I want to wrap up at 5:30 every day. I end up staying there past 6 EVERY DAY. I make plans for coffee. For a quick dinner. For a drink, maybe. That sounds ridiculously old. “I catch up with friends for a drink after work.” That’s the new normal now.

I make plans and I always show up late. I was never late. I’m now always late. I smile, I laugh and I make eye contact as I say, “Cheers,” while I text fight with the one constant in my life not tied to me by blood.

I sigh through Thursday nights wishing it was Friday. I get so much done on Friday because I wish I could get to bed fast. I’m still out at 1am on Saturday morning wishing I’d worked on that ONE LAST THING so I didn’t have to work the weekend. I wake up past noon wishing I’d woken up sooner. I Netflix all day wishing I could turn it off and get some chores done. I start doing chores wishing I was Netflixing instead.

I skype. I text. I watch as my calendar fills up and my bank account empties. It’s the last four days of the month and I’m counting pennies until the salary kicks in. But payday isn’t what I imagined it to be.

Because now, you’re right. I do get a lot more money than my parents gave me for pocket money. But my expenses are sky high, too. Did they tell you about this magically horrible thing called BILLS? No, they didn’t. Because learning about subatomic particles was more important than bills. I don’t even know what subatomic particles are anymore. But here’s what I do know. I pay bills. Every first day of the month. And then my bank account reduces by half. And then I pay this incredibly crazy thing they call, “Taxes and Pension Fund.” I know taxes help keep my city safe and working. I know it. I wish they’d all had other ways of income so I can afford to do some retail therapy after that texting fight I mentioned before. But no. I pay it. I mean, I also need to have money when I’m 60, right? RIGHT? No, I’m not right. I don’t want a pension fund. I want money. To eat out. To have one extra drink. Why is there no rule that you don’t pay pension fund in your 20’s so you can have a life and then you start saving at 30 for your 60’s? There should be, right?

But there isn’t. So I live on 1/4 of the money I make after one month of waking up at 8:10 and staying at work till 6:30. And I repeat this every day, every month, all year long.

And I spend my Saturdays feeling like I have all the time in the world to do chores and Sundays wondering why I slept through Saturday. I get to work on Monday wishing my boss hasn’t reached yet and smiling while scared when I realize she did. CAN SOMEONE TELL ME HOW BOSSES HAVE THE ABILITY TO WAKE UP AND GET TO WORK ON TIME? LIKE HOW? I MEAN THEY HAVE FAMILIES. THEY WAKE UP, THEY DEAL WITH FAMILY AND STILL GET TO WORK ON TIME! I only have to deal with me. I don’t even eat breakfast. I wake up, shower and show up. But I’m still late.

And this repeats. Over and over and over again. I meet with friends from college. We can now stay out past 10pm! WHAT A REVELATION! My friends and I can travel! – That’s not really approved though. I’m just pissing some people off in the process. Do I also have to mention the many people I piss off by not texting back because I was in a meeting, then I was working, then I had plans and I totally thought I did!!?

I deal with, “You’re old enough to be married,” and “Are you dating someone? We can get you married to him.” I find myself repeating, “I’m not into the idea of marriage.” Then the elderly continue to tell me why it is important while I dream of a weekend in Bali and tune the other voices out. Sometimes, I also dream of pizza. I mean, come on. It’s PIZZA! It’s the poor man’s Michelin food.

I fight with my best friend. I show up at work sulking. We fix our fight. I go out  saying, “I’m not drinking.” I come back stumbling. “Which way does this key go in again?” I hate myself the next morning as I get through four cups of coffee. I tell myself, “I’m never going out again,” as my phone rings and my next plan is made. If you’re wondering, no. I can’t afford this. But we do it. Because if I wasn’t drowning in credit card debt in my 20’s, am I really alive?

And so this continues. I pay the bills. I spend the money again. I pay it again. I spend it again. I drink. I swear to never drink. I drink again. I set alarms I sleep through. I buy shoes I’ll never walk in. I buy clothes I don’t have time for. Don’t even get me started on make-up and self-care products. I’m not awake long enough to be self-caring. BUT OMG! Did you see the new face serum?

And then, as the month draws to an end, and I sit at home broke on a Saturday evening that feels like morning because I just woke up, I write a post after quite a few months to tell you all, “Here’s my 26-year-old life in a blog!”

Is yours the same?

Figure It Out

travelnow-or-crylater-721285-unsplash.jpgNobody has it figured out.

I know how they make it look and I’m sorry we all do that one another. I look like I’ve got it figured out, too. I’d even tell you I do. But the truth is, none of us know where we’re headed.

And the ones who tell you they do, they’re telling you their imaginary version of their future. Because there are too many variables. In the things we know. In the things we don’t know. In the things we couldn’t possibly know. And they all matter in my ability to eat McDonald’s for lunch today. Let alone my ability to become a successful author 10 years from today.

But I’ll pretend. I’ll pick out my lazily ironed clothes, wear my ID around my neck and walk out of my apartment, computer in hand, looking like no-one can take away how good I feel about myself. Truth is, I feel like a mess most mornings. I’m rushing. I’m trying to be calm but I know my boss is probably already at work. I know I didn’t make lunch and will spend more money on food again. I know my hair and my life are a flipping mess. But I look like it all couldn’t be more under control and… I’ve got it all figured out.

That’s most of us, isn’t it?

I could look at your fancy new haircut, brand new clothes and that great job you have and not know that behind the screens, you went to a cheaper salon than you used to, looked for the cheapest new thing to buy because even the greatest job ever isn’t paying you enough to have sustainability and you’re struggling to make ends meet. Your responsibilities are sky high and your finances are at rock bottom. I wouldn’t know.

Your bright red lipstick and your pointy stilettos – you look like the world will bend its knee to you. But maybe, you’re depressed. Behind that smile you throw to a stranger on the train, there’s a sadness they’ll never know. That lipstick isn’t confidence. It’s the thing that holds you together. It makes you feel like you can survive the day.  Yet, I’d smile back at you as I think to myself, “I bet she knows where her life’s headed. I bet she has it all figured out.”

And so you fool me as I fool another and the cycle goes on as each of us live our lives believing that the other has it all together, has it all planned out. That the other has it better and figured out. But I… I’m just here.

I’m just in this life with no idea where I’m headed. Every plan I make, I’m terrified because something goes wrong. Something… always goes wrong. Because you wouldn’t know, looking from the outside, I struggle to make ends meet too. You wouldn’t know that I hang my head as I ask my Dad for more money. You wouldn’t know that I work so hard because I’m so afraid of being replaced. Because in this horrible, horrible world, in our terrible economy, in this shitty, shitty, shitty period of time, if you don’t have a job that pays you money, any amount of  money, you can’t really figure it out. But when you have that job, you spend all week looking forward to the weekend and you spend all weekend preparing for the week and the farthest future you end up planning are the Fridays that almost never work out the way you want it to because… You still don’t get it, do you?

Welcome to life.

I know I sound like a ball of negativity but that’s not what this is about.

It sucks. Your teenage plans don’t work out all the time. That one classmate may have made it. But he or she’s the exception, not the rule. And the thing is, it’s okay.

I like going home tired at the end of the day. I like sitting in my room with my sister and watching the most ridiculous TV show ever. I like spending my weekend preparing for Monday and I like walking into work feeling like it was all utterly useless. Because I know I’m not alone. Because I know the ones sitting next to me are just as clueless as I am.

Just as clueless as our parents are.

Just as clueless as the rest of the world is.

Because nobody has life figured out. I don’t think anybody ever did.

That’s exactly what makes it all the more interesting.

And scary. But mostly, interesting. Right?

Anxiety

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I try to explain to her,

“Nothing scares me, nothing at all.

But from the moment I’m awake till the moment my eyes close,

I’m afraid of everything around me.

The things that could go so right and those that will go wrong.”

She laughs. She doesn’t understand. “How could you be so afraid?”

I want to tell her how this works.

I want to show her all my thoughts.

Instead I explain with a lot of words.

“I fly a lot, don’t I? I’ll tell you how this goes.

I’m packing at home. I’m terrified of leaving Mom.

I worry my dogs will die again. This time I won’t be around.

I worry I’ll leave a medicine. I worry I’ll leave my passport.

I worry I’ll miss my flight. I worry of getting caught.”

“Caught for what?” Her cluelessness makes me smile.

“If I knew, I’d be careful. But I don’t.

And that’s just where this all begins.”

She shakes her head with a smirk.

I don’t blame her.

I sound insane, even to myself.

But how else can I explain?

“I’m afraid of sitting next to a stranger.

I’m afraid he’ll be drunk.

I’m afraid the flight will face turbulence.

I’m afraid we won’t reach at all.

I’m afraid our parents will find out.

I’m afraid I might land safe.

I’m afraid that I won’t have a place to stay.

I know I booked that great space,

But what if it’s a scam? What if they had issues?

What if I’ve lost our money on something that doesn’t exist?

What if my trip sucks?

What if I get mugged?

What if you find me dead?

My life revolves around a series of what-ifs

And I’m at a point where I don’t know how to tell

If what I’m feeling is an instinct or just plain ol’ anxious.”

 

“You sound stupid. You should be like me.

Not a care in the world. Things will happen as they should.”

 

I want to tell her that’s my biggest fear.

“What if it all goes wrong and I can’t stop it?

It’s out of control and my life goes to shit?

How will I survive in the middle of chaos?”

I hear his words from a recent memory,

You can do this, darling. I believe in you.”

I smile a little.

His words calm my racing heart, if only for a minute.

 

But then it starts all over again.

And I sit on a train, clenching my fists, holding my tears,

“Oh God, please. Not again.”

She’s lost, yet right next to me.

She has no idea how fast my mind was running

We were headed to sign a contract,

Another thing that makes me cry.

 

Not just tears rolling down my face

Like a yesteryear actor and a bottle of glycerin.

I cry like a baby does in the middle of the night

Loud, breathless, arms at my side.

Unable to speak,

Unable to move,

Unable to breathe.

I cry hysteria but I sit where I am.

“Because I can’t move.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will be the death of me.”

“Says who?”

“Me. A dark version of me.

A deep voice inside of me.

I can’t move.”

One hand on my chest, I remain as I am.

Waiting for it to end.

Waiting to breathe again.

“Until the next time

I go through it all over again.”

 

She tells me she doesn’t understand.

I’m now afraid to explain.