Hamster On A Wheel

In conversation with one of my closest friends, I told her about my life. The routine and the things I hated that have become part of the new-normal. She interrupted, “Like a hamster on a wheel?”

Nothing had ever made more sense to me. 

I was that teenage rebel who swore she would never live a life where two days felt the same. It’s been two years of the same day every day. A few breaks every now and then, but I miss so much about life before all this. Surprising even to me, it’s not the fancy vacations, the trips to Paris for “work” or the drunk stumble home. 

I miss the little things I don’t get to see anymore. The different people on the train every morning. The ones with earphones, wet hair and a lost stare. The ones in a suit, hoping to be more productive today than the day before. The familiar face that worked in the same building, a small smile of “I see you even if I don’t know you.” I miss elevator rides. You never know if you’ll be in time for your best friend or your boss. The walk to get a morning coffee, not always because you need it. It’s more for the conversation, the steps, a loud sigh about the people we had to deal with as we waited for a latte we all knew wasn’t worth the money.

I miss walking into the office, turning on my computer and knowing my day has begun. The random knocks on my door for “Lunch?” “Second coffee?” “Walk?” or “Yay you’re here. I need help!”

The moment I walked into my house at the end of the day. I knew the day I’d had the moment I dropped my bag – productive or procrastinated. Did I spend too much on Starbucks? Do I continue to feel energy to pre-make lunch for tomorrow? Am I cooking? Netflix and instant noodles it is.

There was a joy in knowing I would wake up and see a whole new world of people the next day. A different train, different passengers, different barista and a different routine.

I miss familiar moments with strangers. Getting ice cream at McDonald’s as I headed to my apartment. A little treat to myself. Her stories of a boyfriend that refused to respond as she swirls the ice cream cone perfectly. I’ll never know her name but I’ll always know she’s annoyed at him. 

I miss long nights at my parents’ house. It was in the dark that our laughter was at its loudest. Past bedtime, dogs curled up at our feet, talking about our day, our lives, the people in it and the many memories. A sarcastic comment from my sister that sends us into fits of uncontrollable laughter. A remark from my dad we tell each other we’ll remember forever. Unafraid, unbound. 

I miss the feeling of there being no end to my physical world. If I took a plane, I could go anywhere. I could get in my parents’ car and we would drive for hours. We’d pass fields and towns, windows down, music loud. We had a destination but if I chose to, I could drive on for days. I could see nature at its purest. That stretch of sunflowers I notice every time. The group of old men sitting together smoking and talking as cars fled past them. I look out the window, observing. Knowing I’ll never see them again. I’ll never remember their face or that exact place. But in that moment, they were there, and they were part of my journey to a destination my parents were taking me to.

That’s the hardest thing about the last two years. The feeling of being walled in. There’s no endlessness to my physical world. I can try all I want, there’s only so far I can go. It wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t travel for my ‘gram. But it matters that a plan I’ve been making to go visit my parents at the end of this month is yet again in jeopardy. I feel like I have yet again been caged in.

Repeating the same day over and over again. The same emotions, the same processes, the same people. Wondering when the groups of 5 will turn into groups of 2 again. Wondering when the imaginary walls of the country I live in will open to let me be free again. Wondering when travel to see my parents filled with fear and agony of infecting myself or worse, them, will change again.

I miss knowing my parents are healthy still. I miss not being afraid to lose people before I could spend enough time with them. I miss existing in a world where I don’t feel terror when hanging out with my best friends. Not having to wonder every minute of every day where every person I see on the street has been to over the last 14 days. 

I miss breathing. Not the “say no to masks” kind. The emotional kind. The calm as I took on the world kind.

Every morning, I wake up and for a brief minute, I imagine being somewhere else. Head out the window, driving for hours past fields, towns and cities I’ll never remember. Wind in my hair, nothing to think of but the stillness of my emotions. Calm and happy as I breathe in a world without walls.

I get out of bed and go repeat my day. A hamster on a wheel again.

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…

To Find Meaning

I’ve been reading this book called Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. If you haven’t read it and belong to the generation that does not understand stress-free life, I would strongly suggest giving it a go. It has made me admit to myself something people have said to me before (while I constantly denied it and called them insane).

I am a workaholic (that wasn’t the admission but we’ll get to that in a minute). I love working. I can complain about my job, my pay and even toxic environments but when you ask me to stop working, I’ll only come up with reasons why I can’t. I can’t stop. I was in a meeting until 7pm today. I was dragging my feet to the train but my ego was flying. I was so busy, I had to be in a meeting until 7pm. Like that makes me feel really good.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all like different things and I like to be busy working. It makes me feel important and productive and like I’m doing something with my life.

Now let’s get to the thing people complain about that I don’t like admitting – my work defines everything I do outside of it. I was on the train at 7.30pm and told myself, “Don’t check your emails. Shut it off and focus on the music and the words on your Kindle.” You know what I felt? Not anxious, not peaceful and definitely, not focused. I felt guilty.

I feel guilty when I don’t respond to emails beyond work hours. I feel guilty when I turn off at the end of the day. I feel guilty when I take a day off because the doctors thought I might have cancer. I feel guilty when I am not working for not working because my work defines every other aspect of my life.

Before I read Ikigai, I had read Man’s Search for Meaning – thank you Abhishek, if you ever read this. Viktor Franckl talks about logotherapy which is mentioned a lot in Ikigai. The core concept of both these books are the same. (Can I please mention I didn’t go looking for these books? It came to me through suggestions and surprisingly they had the same messaging.) That when you have a why to live, you’ll do so no matter how. So I spent time thinking about my why.

I often tell people I want to be really rich. That’s the purpose to my existence. Money. I want the kind of money that people I grew up with can’t even imagine. To be so rich and yet so humble. To buy the things I see and I see a lot. To own my own place – massive with floor to ceiling windows and a view you would kill for. I don’t want to inherit it. I don’t want to be married into it. I want to earn it. My work will bring that money that will be mine.

Except, I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t really true.

I work at an amazing place in Singapore. It’s great. I get to go to these incredible events with speeches by amazing human beings. One such event in October addressed purpose and stress. She asked us to look at the person next to us and talk about our purpose. My answer was easy. “Money.”

Then the person next to me mentioned, “I want to do good through my job.” I stopped and realised that it’s what I really wanted but didn’t like admitting because it doesn’t offend my parents as easily. I wanted to do good for the beings on four legs that can’t speak for themselves. I couldn’t admit it to myself, I wasn’t going to tell her that. So I said, “Cool.” But I kept thinking. I always told people I wanted to start a rehabilitation zoo. For abused animals. To recreate a forest in a closed environment so they were home without being subjected to hunters or abusers.

That carried into Viktor Franckl’s explanation of logotherapy. I continued to think about the things that really make me wake up to that insane alarm at 6am. And now as I read Ikigai and they repeatedly talk about the thing that keeps you going, the meaning, the reason and the purpose behind my need to keep existing in this seriously not-so-great planet, I am realising the truth and I don’t know if it’s the wine typing or really me but…

Remember how I mentioned that I got very used to answering “Money” because it offended my parents? Imagine my surprise when I realised the purpose to my existence was really them.

It didn’t matter how much money. It mattered what I could buy with it for them. It didn’t matter how big an apartment. It mattered how successful it made me appear and how much prouder it made them by default because…

I wasn’t an easy kid. I was smart that wasted the smarts and emotional that made stupid decisions based on those emotions. And my life, this incredibly weird thing I didn’t ask for that they gave to me, I spend working like a mad person because it gets me closer to making them look like they birthed a fricking genius – a result of which makes them stand taller than the others in any room – something they deserve.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this post to get so real as well but I just wanted to put this out there.

Sometimes, it’s good to find the meaning behind the things you do. It may make them that much more worthwhile.

So, yeah, I’ll say it. I’m a workaholic. I chase after success and I will slave my soul away until I reach it. My purpose is money. But there’s a meaning behind it.

Find yours.

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.

 

 

Laugh Like Her

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I’m a 26-year-old living in Singapore working a job that takes me to different countries. I buy clothes every weekend and complain about how many nights of wine and cheese my colleagues throw in lieu of a party.

I post pictures of me with large groups, great food and brilliant surroundings. I spent an evening in Paris at an apartment one street away from the Eiffel Tower with women who are so strong and brave, it’s unrealistic. You saw the champagne, you saw the image, you never saw the truth.

Welcome to the facade of us happy working women.

“I met the CEO of a fancy company. He introduced himself to me.” – I saw the CEO of a fancy company. I stood around awkwardly while he spoke to my boss because I was too embarrassed to introduce myself and so I just stared for a half-hour and he ended up being really nice and introduced himself to me.

“I went to Paris. My office sent me.” – I went to a small town that’s a one hour drive away from Paris where I didn’t realize things shut down on Sundays and has very limited vegetarian options all 7 days of the week. I lost a lot of weight and developed severe ulcers when I came back.

“Oh my God! I feel so bad. Are you okay?” – I don’t know how to care. Sometimes, I think it’s a flaw. Sometimes, I think it’s normal and we’re all like that.

Because, come on…

When someone falls down, do you actually care? Do you rush out of reflex because society has taught you to ask how they are, let them know you can help and pretend you give a fuck about anyone but yourself or is it because your heart actually hurts when you see someone fall?

I don’t. Not unless I really truly care. Which is so fucking rare. Because I’m in constant competition with everyone I know since I was in first grade. “I have to be better. I have to score higher. I have to look hotter.” You know what? Fuck that shit. Here’s the truth.

I have high-functioning depression. I see a therapist once a month. I fight with my friends every other day. I’m jealous of girls and their laughter even though I know it’s all fake, just like mine.

I spend endless hours staring at blank pages. I travel one hour in two trains to reach eight hours of work before I travel one hour in two trains to come back home and cook. I haven’t slept for 8 whole hours in a very long time. I don’t think I’m drinking enough water anymore. I don’t know if I’m eating the right things. I think I’m weak. I’m scared to check. My eyes are tired. My body is sore. My heart has been breaking in pieces for months. I’ve been staring at a draft of a second book that I can’t bring myself to edit.

I want to get married. I can’t admit it. Because it’s weak. Women don’t need men in their lives. Women are strong. Women can survive alone. But holy fuck, how desperately I want to live under one roof and play house.  Sometimes, I think it’s the companionship. Sometimes, it’s because, fuck you strong and independent, I want to be a wife.

I’ve been studying GMAT. For months. I suck at it. I want so badly to get good at it. So I pick up the book and my phone rings and I try to spend time with human beings in actual conversation but my emails go off and I want to be a good employee who responds to my boss past midnight and I remember my book that I would really really like to edit but then it’s past 1am and I have to be up at 6am and I want so desperately to sleep.

So I do none of it. I turn music on and slowly cry.

Sometimes I stare at my Instagram. Sometimes I stare at hers. I don’t know whose smile is fake. Whose laughter is painful. I don’t know whose life is a lie.

But we all want to say, “Mine.” Because I cried when I went home but I bet she laughed and loved.

I sobbed alone into my pillow but I bet he shares hers.

I broke down every night but I bet she partied forever.

Her life. Her travel. Her hair. Her nails. Her boyfriend fiancé. Because didn’t you see that ring? Didn’t you see his proposal? I did. They’re meant to be together. Maybe we’re not. They never fight. Oh, you should hear us growl.

So here we go. I’ll try this again.

I’m a 26-year-old living 3000 miles away from the people I love on a routine that leaves no time for me. I work a job that takes me to countries I can’t explore because I’m always broke. I buy clothes I can’t afford, credit card bills ceiling to floor and that free wine? It’s my one true lifeline.

I love my job. It’s the only thing that keeps me going.

But that’s the only thing you’ll ever hear me complain about.

Because, that’s the new normal, right? We’re supposed to have perfect lives and shitty jobs but it pays for the perfect life and so it’ll be yet another thing I continue to lie about?

I have a messy life.

I have shitty interpersonal relationship skills.

I have one best friend.

I’m worried sick about my aging dogs that live with my aging parents.

I’m worried sick about my aging parents.

I want to be rich through my capabilities as a creative thinker in the world of writing and advertising and marketing.

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’m anxious 90% of my existence and you know what I do when I am?

I log on to Instagram. To look at lives I am not living. To look at lies we’re both saying.

I follow a lot of happy looking women on Instagram. Because my inspiration is not their clothes or their face or their bodies. It’s that laughter.

And so I go…

In a crowded train, early Monday morning. Staring at my phone. I find myself wonder…

What an incredible life it will be… if only I could laugh like her.

And I post yet another fake picture.

Welcome to my lie.

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

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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?