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.

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?

Let’s Talk About This

I’ve been there. So close to the end. So ready to fall. But something always pulled me back. It’s not because I was brave enough to face life. It was because I was terrified of ending it. And nobody really talks about this. But I want to.

And I’ll do what nobody else does. I’ll talk in favor of the ones who take the plunge. The ones who fall. I’ll justify it. But know that I don’t support their choices. I don’t support their courage. I don’t believe the end is truly the answer. But let’s just imagine this. Imagine being in their shoes. Imagine those moments.

Your parents yelled. Your loved one passed away. Life got too difficult. And you’re there. Sitting on a chair in a home you’ve loved. But you’re not home. You’re not seated in the middle of the room you decorated yourself. You’re in a corner. A dark one. An unfamiliar one. You’re struggling to breathe. Something hurts. You don’t know if it’s emotional. You don’t know if it’s physical. But the pain exists. You can’t identify it. You can’t fix it. And it’s getting worse. With every passing moment. You feel it more. You cringe. You wrap your arms around your knees and will it away. But it doesn’t vanish. You cry. You scream. You yell. But nothing changes. It’s there. Unavoidable. Indestructible.

You curl yourself into a ball. You shake with fear. With disappointment. With emotions you can’t control. With a pain that feels like a million knives stabbing you all at once. Your jaw clenches. And you tell yourself, I’ll do anything it takes to stop this pain. Anything it takes to feel normal again. 

Your body listens to the desperation in your heart. Your body gets up. And it walks. And your mind is suddenly clear because you believe deep in your soul that you’ve found the cure to the pain. That you now know how to end this suffering. It is to fall. So you fall.

Too far. Too deep. With no return. You’re no longer in pain. You’re no longer suffering. But the ones who love you are.

This is what suicide is. It is your body listening to your desperation and reacting without thinking. It is getting rid of your pain in the easiest way possible.

How often have you heard the phrase, “Suicide is for the cowardly” ? They’re wrong. Suicide isn’t for the weak hearted. Suicide isn’t for the cowards. The cowards wouldn’t get up from that corner in the fear of enduring more pain if they did. The cowards wouldn’t walk into nothingness. The cowards would never fall. The strong ones do. The selfish ones do. They find a way to fix their problem and go after it. They forget the ones who love them. They forget the ones who care. They forget the opportunities that life has to offer.

They focus on ending the moment’s pain. They walk. They fall.

I lost a friend when I was young. Her parents yelled at her about school and she hung herself. I’ve wondered what drove her there. I’ve been depressed. I’ve wanted to end it all. But I always imagine my parents and my sister after. I imagine my mother finding me dead in a corner. I imagine her face. I imagine her falling to the floor with shock and tears. The way their lives would change. How they’d never forgive themselves for not knowing my pain. How it would affect my sister’s life. How I will make things worse for the people I care about.

Surely people think about these things when they consider the end. But something pushes them still. Something drives them to take that last step. Why isn’t what’s stopping me, stopping them?

Why is the person strong enough to fall not strong enough to face the wrath and find a way through it?!

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 9.02.09 pm

Everyone noticed Robin Williams’ jokes. Nobody noticed Robin Williams. Do you ever wonder, if instead of asking him to tell them a joke, someone had just taken the time to talk to him, he would still be here?

No one person in this world is born with the will to end their life. No one person is raised believing the answer to a problem is suicide.

Something drives them there. Something makes them believe that nobody cares about them. That they’re alone in this. That they have to end their life to survive the pain. And if I told you you could help, would you?

Because you can. You can save a life. All it takes is just one sentence.

“Let’s talk about this.”

_____________________________________

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out:

India – http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/india-suicide-hotlines.html

US – http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

International – http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

Life goes on..

Today, May 4, is the birthday of someone very very close to me. “Happy Birthday bro..” It’s been a while since I met him and when he saw me he said, “You look bright. Full of hope. It’s nice to see you like this again.”

Last year I had to give up almost everything I had. My plans changed, my life changed. I spent the entire year in depression. Everything made me cry. There was a point when I believed things will never change. That my life was over and all I have to do is sit and just let the end come when it may. Now when I say it, I realize how over-dramatic that sounds. But at that point in my life it seemed like the most logical thought process one can ever have at a time like that.

It’s funny how when something bad happens, we believe that it’s the end. I’m not talking about a fatal sickness or an accident but rather just incidents. When you quit / get expelled from university, when you get fired, when you break up with your loved one, when someone close to you passes away or even when you fail an exam or miss your dream university by 2 points. It seems like a life or death situation. I mean, I get that it possibly is very life altering but it’s never the end.

It took me one and half years of moping around before I decided that I have to change things. ONE AND HALF YEARS ! You know how much I could’ve done in one day? Let alone 500 days ! 500 days before I realized it’s not the end because it’s not happy. That in fact, all I had to do was accept that things have changed. Because the only thing constant in our lives is change and the best I can do is to make use of all that I’ve got. I mean, I’m sure I could’ve sat around another year and half dreaming of what could’ve been but that’s just another 500 days that I won’t get back.

In my life, I’ve learnt that there’s nothing better than dreaming big. Dream what nobody dares to dream of. Dream to fly. Like Peter Pan. To just take off to Neverland. But that’s impossible if you never put your feet on the ground. Even a flight has to hit the runway, move forward and only then can it fly. Sitting idle and wondering about would-be’s and could-have-been’s will never get you anywhere. You have to put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.

I’m not a settler. I’ve missed what many would call “incredible opportunities.” When my previous dream crashed, I had to get a new one. I wasn’t, and I’m still not, mentally prepared to create a big dream again. I’m afraid that it’ll crash too. So I set my goals a little lower. Instead of a big future plan, I set my eyes on simpler things. Things that are more NOW than five to ten years from now – A company that’s not really easy to get into. A publisher that probably won’t even take a second look at my manuscript. I told myself that I won’t take anything besides this. I will get into that company if it’s the last thing I did. I will send the publisher every story I will ever write and at some point, I’m going to write something they will publish.

Think back the years you’ve lived through. How many moments have you had where you thought it’s the end of the world and it wasn’t? No, I’m not talking about December 22, 2012. I mean, you’ve lived through tough times. You’ve moved forward when you thought you wouldn’t. You’re alive and present. When you think about it you’ll realize that all those bad experiences have only made you stronger. Brave. Never weak.

Two years ago, I had it all. I didn’t work as hard as I could have. I didn’t make use of the opportunities. Now I can’t go back. I have to look ahead and I feel stronger than I ever did. Positive that if I could live through that, then I’m sure I can live through the next disaster and the next and the next. Because.. Have you ever sat in front of the ocean and stared at it? You know how beautiful and mentally soothing a view like that is? The way the waves move and hit the shore. The salty smell that comes from it.. Now, imagine sitting in front of the same ocean but this time, it’s still. No waves, no sea salt smell. Just still water. It’s not as beautiful, is it?! That’s life too. It has to have its ups and downs. I promise every wave has something incredible to give to you. A life lesson, a person, a memory.. And when you look at it as a whole, it’s beautiful.

No matter sunny or rainy, draught or storms, the waves in the ocean never stops.. The way, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how many times you tell yourself it’s over, life goes on..

Understanding the Differences

In a world of over-achievers, I’m a mediocre. I live my life in a way that I see fit and not everyone understands or approves of it. But that’s every one of us, isn’t it?!

My brother has a book coming out called Ketchup & Curry. As he explained to me the concept of the book, I started thinking – We live in a world that is unbelievably diverse. What I saw in Los Angeles,  I can never imagine seeing in my city and it works the other way around as well. So what happens when one of us decides to go and live in a place that is filled with people who couldn’t be more different than you are?! How do you live in a foreign country surrounded by people who are unlike you and still live peacefully and happily?

I’ve travelled quite a bit. My passion is to learn and understand different cultures and someday, write about it all. I need to be the most nonjudgmental human being on the planet to pursue a career out of that. Like I’ve mentioned before, my parents raised me saying “thou shall not chill with a man who is not your brother, father, family or betrothed.” When I first moved to a foreign country, the first couple I saw making out on the street were both women. Here’s the culture shock – you don’t kiss people in public. If you’re older than 20, your own father will flinch when you try to kiss his cheek in public. Then comes “OMG ! THAT’S TWO WOMEN !” But I thought that was the most beautiful thing. The freedom to be who they are and not having to hide. I lived there for about four months. When I left, I no longer had the need to judge people for the choices they make out of love. That was the first thing most people didn’t understand.

When I started university, my classes were only a few hours a day. I had plenty of free time on my hands and I spent three quarters of them on YouTube. Have you ever been so bored that you started out with a music video but a few hours later, found yourself in that weird part of youtube? That happened to me. I was watching Paradise by Coldplay and somehow ended up watching videos of people with Gender Identity Disorder and videos of Transgenders and their everyday struggles. In my city, the only kinds of transgenders I’d encountered were the ones who usually come and ask for money. When you say no, they try to bully you into giving them money or whatever it is that you have. So whenever I saw them, I’d get scared and try to walk away. But those videos forever changed my idea of them. I never realized how incredibly nice they can be if you just understand them and accept them. You know when you’re the black sheep in the family and everyone’s giving you the cold shoulder and you just look at them thinking “My friends understand. Why can’t you? Come on ! A little acceptance would be nice!” Imagine living life like that every day. But you’re not just asking your family. You’re asking the entire human race (with the exclusion of a few people here and there) to understand you and accept you. I might not be their best friend, but I stopped running away. I chose to stop and give them an answer when they asked me something. Sure there are some of them that are thieves and cheaters. Tell me a time when a man or woman you trusted wasn’t a thief or a cheater? We’re all human beings and the least we can do is treat each other the way we’d like to be treated. In a society that already lived like that, I learnt to accept them and live in peace. That’s the second thing most people don’t understand.

I still meet people who are completely different from who I am. I meet people who make choices I can never imagine making for myself. “She had six boyfriends in the past” is a statement that is approved in one culture while looked down on in another. Judging the people who disapprove of it isn’t going to make my life any better. But that doesn’t mean I have to change who I am. Every person is entitled to their own opinions. I can’t control my thoughts about things. Similarly, the other person’s thoughts are his own.

I can be cheesy here and say “Please let us love one another.” But that’s a statement that won’t ever work. We can’t all love everything. So let me tell you what I’ve learnt in my life – “Yes, we’re all different. We may not all have the ability to accept our differences and love each other. But the least we can do is to keep the hate to ourselves. Stop the stupid fights on comment sections. Stop comparing. Stop name calling. You do your thing and let them do theirs. If you don’t like something, walk away. It is not your place or in your right to judge someone who likes it. You can go ahead and live your life the way you want to. But the next person’s life is theirs. It’s their choices. It’s their interests and if they screw up, it’s their consequences. Unless you’re asked, don’t give your opinions. It’s as simple as that. Remember, who you are is insignificant when you’re gone. It’s the words you say and the actions you do that you leave behind..”

In a world of over-achievers, I’m a mediocre. I live my life in a way that I see fit and not everyone understands or approves of it. But nobody gets to judge it. Nobody but me.

And that’s the only thing I wish people would understand.

The People Who Change Your Life

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs.”

– Sushan R. Sharma

I didn’t believe in this statement because I was oblivious to it. I thought the decisions that changed my life were always mine. But it’s incredible how someone who has had minimum to no important role in your life can influence you in a way you can’t define.

When I graduated high school, I was at cross roads. I didn’t know what to do with my life. College? Work? Marriage? I had no clue. Then I befriended someone on Facebook. We’d attended the same school and we knew the same people. So we started “chatting.” He asked me what I did for a living and I said, “Nothing. Still trying to make a life choice.” He then asked me what I’m interested in and what I like doing and I told him I’m very interested in music, movies, writing and so on. We got into a more detailed conversation about it and he said I sounded like a media person – “Mass communication or if you know what you like, a specialization course in film making or audio engineering. Study that. I think you’ll like that. You can even try applying for my university.” It was a passing comment in an unimportant conversation. I didn’t realize it had made an impact. I didn’t realize that he was the reason, two months later, I’d looked at those options. I didn’t choose the university he’d suggested. But I ended up pursuing media in a university of my choice.

Until a few months back, I honestly believed it had been my choice to pursue a degree in media at university. I was the one that wanted to do this. He and I had lost touch and I’d even forgotten all about him. Then one day, a friend of mine mentioned his name and I said “Oh wait ! What about him?” Apparently, he’d had a cardiac arrest and had sunk into coma. His parents were praying for their son’s life. It shook my heart because in that moment I realized, the reason for my happiness, the reason for my new goals and career choices had come from him. When I’d had no idea what to do, he’d given me direction. What he had mentioned as an option in a passing comment, I’d explored and made a life out of. The worst part, I’d never thought of it that way. I had always believed it was all me.

This pushed me to wonder how many more life choices of mine have been influenced by other people. It blew my mind when I realized how my life constantly changed for the better and worse because of the people I met and the things they said. How I’ve made choices based on simple conversations.

I don’t know how many of you remember Orkut – A social media website created by Google. It was India’s biggest “It” site before Facebook. In 8th grade, a girl in my class suddenly turned to me as I was leaving and asked, “Do you have an Orkut account?” I had no idea what it was. I’d never even heard of it. If she hadn’t mentioned it, I probably never would have. But that day, I ran home and figured it out. I even opened an Orkut account. An account that has changed my life in such an incredibly massive way. It has given me the worst memories I can imagine. But it has also given me someone I call my best friend today. Orkut was the reason I wanted to study abroad. Studying abroad, I met different people. I learnt new cultures. I explored boundaries. I set my own limitations. I also met a girl who later on moved to the country my dad lived in. So we hung out every time I visited my father. That girl started dating a really friendly guy and he introduced us to his friends. With one of his friends, I ended up having my first serious relationship. The worst and the best man I’ve met so far. That guy became the reason I picked a university in that part of the world. The course, however, influenced by a man now in coma on a hospital bed.

I met a girl at that university. She helped me through my break up and we became best friends. She cared for me, loved me and today, she’s like a sister to me. She made me want to be a better version of myself. She always told me, “Stand tall. You’re worth it.” With her words, my family’s support and an accepting society, I figured myself out. I took pride in who I was.

Accepting myself, I also learnt my likes and dislikes. This helped me find other people who were like-minded to me. I dated one of them who introduced me to his friend. That friend and I became pretty close as we both volunteered at a film festival. He taught me about his culture and the customs in his religion which made me curious and I figured out my dream job. After travelling innumerous hours across the globe and learning so many new things, I know now, I want to travel and live in different places and learn new cultures and languages and write about them. Something so very different from my former dream job as a “House wife,” modernly known as “Home-maker.”

Funny, to think, it all started with a casual “Do you have an Orkut account?” !

Honestly, take a second. Think back. You’ll realize just how none of your choices actually really came from you. Your worst enemy will start feeling like the best thing that ever happened to you.

I call my friend every other day and ask him, “How’s he doing? Is he awake from the coma?” My friend always wants to know why I’m so interested. I never tell him the story. The story of the guy that changed my life.

It’s a story I will keep to myself. When he wakes up, which I honestly hope he does, I will find an opportunity to thank him. For giving me a choice. For giving me a dream. For giving me a life. Until then…

 

Update : The guy passed away on the 22nd of June 2014. His mother was by his side and his close friends and family went to the funeral and paid their respect.

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..