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?

(4/6) The Firebranders

Patience.

That was the first thing I learnt when I waited half hour for him to show up for my interview.

Patience.

It’s what I saw when he told me to come back to work when I know I should have been fired.

Patience.

It’s what they all embraced while I created havoc.

But never once was I stopped.

In a world where degrees were a necessity, Arvind hired me for my ability. Never once were my squashed dreams a hiccup. It was always what I could do and couldn’t do. And if I couldn’t do something, he was right there, willing to teach.

I walked in on a bunch of guys that acted like a stranger had crashed their secret club. I actually had to complain to the boss that they wouldn’t talk to me. Not even to get work done! I was hoping he would talk to them in private. But you see, that was never Arvind’s style. In he walked, to the middle of our space, and announced out loud, “Shame, you guys. A girl has to complain that you won’t talk to her. What are you all doing?”

I bet sometimes he wished he hadn’t done that. Because that became the beginning of one of the best years of my life.

There weren’t that many of us. It gave us the ability to get to know each other.
The Philosopher (Hey Raj!)
The Married Man (Girish Thaatha)
The Patient Yogi (*coughs*Arun*coughs*)
The Brat (Mannoooj)
The Boss Man (He hates being called that)
The Fun Traveler (She doesn’t mind being called that)
And how can I ever forget… The Intern (Meri Shaaaamil)

Shamil was the only other girl in the gang. She also was the first person to talk to me besides the boss. We’re almost the same age. She laughed at all my jokes. She flicked me every time I swore. We got along brilliantly.

The two of us began to work our way into the secret club. With post-its about smoking, tsk-ing about nothing and laughing over everything, the wall was finally broken and the boys remain friendly until today for which Sham and I take full credit. You’re welcome newbies.

Amidst our achievements I found out that my boss wasn’t actually my boss. Arvind told me she’ll come to office at some point during the week. I expected a stuck-up and bossy human to come dictate my life. The person who walked in was anything but. She is chaotic fun redefined. “Poornima! Nice to meet you! You’ll come to my reception no?” I’d only met her ten seconds ago.

Karishma. She is your dream boss. She is my dream boss. She doesn’t care if you show up at noon. She doesn’t care if you’re working at night and wasting all day. She doesn’t care if you take a trip in the middle of the week. You can be in Antarctica, drinking with Panda bears, she won’t say a thing. “Just get the work done and have the client approve.” It was the best! 

She is downright the most chilled out boss you’ll ever meet. She’ll even be your therapist if you’re struggling with something. Her reception is also where the ice was finally broken and the team became a team

I learnt social media at this company. I learnt how good I am with ppts at this company. I learnt how to get work done at this company. And most importantly, I learnt how not to judge a book by its cover here.

The shared office space meant more people – Bushu, Laaloo and Tanya. All the people I first looked at thinking, “I bet they’re snooty af.” All the people I call with problems and gossip today. I haven’t bought something they don’t have a picture of so far. There’s not much about my life they don’t know. I can’t imagine a world where they’re not on my last ten whatsapped. The number of coffee breaks we’d take just for the heck of it. Their boss hated it so much.

Mine would join us. Both of them. That was the best part about my year. My bosses never acted completely like bosses. I’d get yelled at, obviously. But if we walked out of that meeting, they didn’t carry that fight with them. It was one of the first things Arvind told me at my interview. “We’ll argue. We’ll fight. But that’s not personal. Work is work. You can’t take it against the person in this company.” And that’s how it was. Always. Like a big gang of friends.

When I curled up sobbing about a boy, when I couldn’t finish a particular work because I wasn’t feeling upto it, when I felt sick, when I needed to go on a date, when I needed to vent – Oh my God! The number of times I needed to vent! – when I needed a punching bag, when I acted childish, when I demanded things I couldn’t afford, when I started things others couldn’t be bothered with – Nothing scared them. Nothing made them go, “Absolutely not!” I got them to play Charlie Charlie, a game that invites the demon, and they did!

And when I told them I’m leaving them in a hurry because I get to go back to study and couldn’t do much hand holding to the next guy, they smiled instead of complain. That’s why this place is so amazing.

I still go to the office. More often than most people do. I miss faces like Deepika, Tharini, Ramya Akka, Duggu and Reshma when I walk in. But they’re replaced with faces I got to know towards the end of my time there like Renuga and Vinoth. It always feels comfortable.

I still call my bosses to chit chat. When I find things that make sense to me, I always pass it their way.

I got to keep so much from my time with them. The golisoda bottle, the tiny despicable me character, the secret Santa presents, the insane birthday memories. The best of all? The friends. Sharath, Akku, Manoj, Raj and the entire lot.

The first time I saw High School Musical, I wanted to be Gabriella somewhere. I got to be her at Firebrand Labs. I got to be me at Firebrand Labs.

To finish it off the HSM way,
Once a Firebrander, ALWAYS a Firebrander.

The Fear of Falling

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There are these moments in life. These moments when you see someone for the very first time and you feel your heart skip a beat. Not because you’ve fallen at first sight. But because in that instant you know, with time, falling for this person would no longer be a choice.

I met someone for the first time recently. He caught me off guard and if only I didn’t know better, I would have said the skip of a heartbeat was from feeling startled. But it wasn’t. It was the moment when I saw trouble.

Ten seconds later, I felt my heart hammer. Because I knew. This was a trap I was going to walk into, willingly.

There are three kinds of people when it comes to circumstances like these – the ones that never take the first step forward if they knew it was trouble, the ones that would walk in a little and then choose to back away because they know it’s unhealthy to their heart and of course, there are people like me. We know it’s trouble. We know how this ends. But we will still keep going with the hope that this will be different from the last time while always knowing deep inside that this path is taking us to a place we’ve known before. A place that’s going to emotionally cost us a little too much than it’s worth.

It’s been a few months now. We get along quite well. He’s one of my closest friends. And I feel that pit in my stomach because I know what’s happening.

We have so much in common and yet, we couldn’t be more different if we tried. We want the same things from life. Just not in the same way. We’d be right for each other but it won’t last. And somehow, I’m still here. Because I enjoy the time we spend. I value the little things that only I know. And beyond all, there is something about finding company that’s been where you have and understands the nooks and crooks of all the emotions you feel at very specific moments.

Which is precisely why, at this very moment in my life, I feel nothing but fear. I’m afraid of falling for this person and ruin a friendship that I hold dearly. That I’m going to make this awkward. That we’ll never get back to this place of comfort again. And I’ve thought of the million things I could do to stop this including the middle of the night ridiculousness that is “I could always move to Mars!”

But quite honestly, I don’t think that’s going to work. I’d miss my dog too much.

So I’m going to do what I do best. I’m going to sit back and hope this goes away. That this turns out to be different than the rest. That what I’m feeling is not the hint of a crush but rather a fondness for a friend.

And if it doesn’t..

Well, you’ll probably find a blog post about heartbreak within the next year.

Life Choices : Choose Happiness

My friend and I were just having a very heated argument about life choices. The guy I have the world’s biggest crush on works at a giant corporate and gets paid a pretty decent amount. He can ask the company to send him a cab every morning to take him to work and back, he gets a bonus for every holiday, health insurance – pretty much the whole package. Here’s the catch : He hates his job ! He always talks about how every minute he spends there he feels like he’s going insane. So why on Earth can he not quit his job and do something he loves? “The money it pays.”

I’m an intern at an advertising agency. I don’t get paid at all. But I find a reason to wake up every morning and show up here because I love what I do. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be like? Doesn’t every person deserve the right to happiness? Should money really dictate his life? That was my side of the argument when my friend fired back at me, “What about his family crisis? What if they need the money he makes?” I did not have an answer to that. So I paused as I ran that idea through my mind. My parents don’t expect my money. So I can make a choice that makes me happy. But can everyone afford to do that? Can everyone choose to be selfish when in fact, maybe his parents have been waiting for him to graduate so he can contribute to the income in his household? How can I suggest that he stop doing that?

Here’s how. Sure, they need the money. But parents who have waited for four years for him to complete his university, can wait a few more for him to make this kind of money again. Except, this time around, he’ll make that money happily. My friend got a job that he loves. But he can’t take it. I asked him why and he told me that his dad had made a comment : “When you’re getting your sister married, you expect the guy to have triple degrees. What’s to say that the girl who marries you won’t expect the same of you? You have to study more.” (This is in accordance to the Indian arranged marriage system) But shouldn’t the girl he’s with care that her husband is someone that is mentally happy and peaceful? Should she just look at his bank account? Should he marry someone like that?

My crush isn’t the only person I’ve known to complain of these things. My friends who work in similar companies pretty much all hate their jobs. “I have to work weekends.” “I have to work night shifts.” “I don’t get a holiday for New Year.” But why? If majority of the employees feel this way, why can’t the companies make a difference? What are the organizations doing that keeps their employees so mentally depressed and stressed? Why aren’t the employees (who are in majority) taking a stand against it and saying “I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY !” ?

My dad’s friend was talking about how his son had quit Harvard Law to pursue music, about how much he hated his son for giving up what so many other kids in this world would kill for. But in the end, he understood that his son is now happy. He smiled at his happiness. He said “Isn’t that what we parents want in the end? A happy child?!” I assure you three quarters of the parents in this world are no different to this one. They might be furious in the beginning, but in the end, they’ll be happy that you’re happy. So why is it so difficult for us to make this choice?

Why do we fail to see thirty years into the future? You need the money now. Sure. You’re unhappy now, but you earn enough to save for the future. What future? You’re not going to quit when you’re forty and take a trip around the world. You’re stuck in a job you hate already and thirty years from now, you’re still going to be stuck in a job you hate. Only then, you’ll be taking your stress and depression home and instead of depressing only yourself, you’re going to be depressing your entire family.

So think wisely now. Make life choices not based on financials or current situation, but plan them for what your life would be like ten or fifteen years from now. Choose to be happy rather than rich. When you’re working out of your mind with no time for anyone, you’re not living. But even if you don’t make enough money and don’t live in a fancy beach side duplex, when you’re happy, you’ll attract people and those people will always be there for you. You’ll have all the love in the world. Isn’t that what life’s all about anyway?!

Cancer and the Battle | World Cancer Day 2014

A couple of days ago, I read the book “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green. Though it may sound overdramatic, I’m simply being honest when I say, that book killed a part of me. To lose someone you love is tragic. But to lose someone you love for no fault of his/hers is unfair. It’s also the definition of Cancer. Every day you hear stories about it. Our parents, our well-wishers inform us about the vaccines that prevent it and advise us to get it done immediately. If we have lost someone in our family to Cancer, we live in fear that we might end up having to battle with it someday.

I lost two granddads and a grandmother to Cancer. Last year, I also lost an aunt to Cancer. I can never say I lost them because of Cancer. They didn’t die because of cancer. They fought a battle. A war, even. But they lost. They lost to a disease that seems to be affecting more and more people all around us every single day.

The thing is, if someone dies of a head injury, a drunk and drive accident or even a cardiac arrest, I’d get over it. Maybe not immediately, but at some point I’d accept it and move on. But I can’t seem to do that when I lose someone to Cancer.  Because they didn’t just die. They didn’t just say “Hey, I have Cancer” and fall flat to the ground. The pain, the agony, the screaming and shouting, the mood swings, the humiliation they feel, the loss of self-esteem, the loss of a life they dreamt they’d live, the regret they feel for putting their loved ones through so much pain, hurt and trauma – if this was so upsetting for my aunt who was above 60, imagine what this is like for a 6-year-old. An 8-year-old. A teenager.

Beyond the victims, imagine the trouble their loved ones go through. The mental torture. Every time I think of it, I just want to hug them. Every parent, every child, every husband, every wife and every friend that has had to lose someone they love to Cancer. There’s a part in this book where the mother says to her husband when they think their daughter is about to pass away, “I won’t be a mother anymore.” That broke my heart. It might be a fictional story but I can imagine so many mothers out there having to live with that as a reality. What did she do to deserve that? What did that poor child attached to twenty different tubes do to deserve that?

Especially, to learn that the cancer has been cured in their system, only to go back to the hospital three years later and realize “the Cancer’s back.” I have no words to describe that emotion. I can only hope that the love and the support they find around them gives them the strength to fight and win that battle a second time. In my mother’s friend’s case, a third time.

I would have loved for an opportunity to meet my granddads. The way my nieces/nephews would someday wish to meet their grandmother and I’ll them the story my parents told me. The story of how the vicious and scary ghost of a sickness and my aunt got into a fight. How she lost to it because she didn’t have the love of a very very very adorable little child. They’ll live with that story until they grow old and learn all about Cancer. How all the love in this world couldn’t have saved her. In fact, all the love in this world cannot save anyone battling with Cancer. But it can make the difficult journey a tad bit easier.

So on World Cancer Day, this February 4th, join me along with a million others across the world to raise awareness about that vicious and scary ghost of a sickness. Teach the world to accept and love the ones struggling to fight Cancer.  It might not save them, nothing but their own strength and possibly a cure for cancer can save them, but I assure you, it’ll make their journey a lot easier.

If you or anyone you know wish to give or seek support, there are so many websites and organizations that will connect you to the patients and their families. You can simply Google them.

Last but not least, if you are someone battling with Cancer, I want you to know, you have my love and support and I will be waiting for you at the winner’s lounge. Last round’s on me ‘kay? 🙂

The People Around You

When we’re walking on the streets, wrapped up in our thoughts, we forget that there’s a world that’s buzzing with life around us.. Have you ever stopped and looked at someone and wondered? Have you ever looked at a teenager and wondered what kind of home they go back to? Have you ever stopped and stared at a person in a suit and wondered what kind of pathetic boss they work for? Have you ever smiled at a kid that is enjoying whatever little time he/she has left as an innocent before the big bad world corrupts their brain? Do you ever take a moment of your journey to look at someone’s life other than yours? I did once and it changed every journey I ever took from that day on..

It was a regular day back from university to my apartment and I was so wrapped up with music and social networking that I almost didn’t notice.. You know how we have friends? We laugh, we fight, we giggle, we tease and we make the lamest jokes in the world? I saw a gang of seven people, in an MRT, do that.. through sign language. I might not have understood everything they signed, but I understood that laughter, I understood what it meant when one of those guys shook his head and closed his eyes while laughing uncontrollably.. I looked around me and saw every person around them stare at them in awe and they didn’t even know about it.. I will never forget the tiny tear a woman wiped from her eyes as she looked at these people who have so much more to whine about than you and I do, but yet they were so happy, so filled with joy..

Somehow, since then, I always look around, I always notice.. Those old aunties who laughed so much they had tears coming from their eyes, that cute couple that would not stop staring into each other’s eyes so so lovingly that it started to annoy the shit out of me, that little kid that dangled her legs because her feet wouldn’t touch the ground, that random kid who smiled at me for no reason when standing in line at Starbucks, that girl at the market that always gives me and my mum some extra vegetables out of kindness, that mother who was texting her husband about their divorce while still cooing at her daughter in the pink tutu, the mentally ill homeless guy that wandered near my old house and always had a smile to give, that old woman selling bananas who probably went back to a small house with barely any food to eat and yet asks you how you’re doing..

Take a moment, look around you.. Look at every life around you.. At all the happiness around you.. At all the people that are probably in way more shit than you’re in right now.. And give them a smile, just because.

For all you know, that’s probably the best thing that happened to them all day..