Tag: dreams

And I lived happily every after…

And I lived happily every after…

I once told a friend “I wish I knew what the rest of my life will look like, I can’t stand not knowing.” I was all of 23 and very anxious about what I would do once I graduated with a Master’s degree. What if it wasn’t a first class degree though? What if my dissertation wasn’t a revolutionary essay that would forever change the course of social work in India? What if I didn’t get a well-paying job? What if I got a well-paying job and then everyone judged me because social work isn’t meant to be about the money?

By the time I turned 25 I had moved to London, had a job that paid extremely well (by Indian standards, oh the judgement!) and had started living my dream of travelling the world. Yet I remember spending sleepless nights after hours on Facebook looking at people’s seemingly perfect pictures of coupledom, marriage and babies. I don’t even have faint love-interest let alone a boyfriend, what kind of an Indian girl isn’t married by the time she is 25, worse yet what kind of girl doesn’t want to have babies, oh my God what if I’m not married by the time I’m 30?

I travelled to Berlin on my own in June 2013, the day I was coming back to London I had some time to kill before my flight. I remember sitting at a roadside café in the sunshine (I am aware of just how posh this could sound, but stay with me!) looking through my journal. This is a journal I’d brought with a flourish way back when in 2006, and I would have spurts of writing furiously followed by months and even years of blank pages of silence. I took it along with me thinking this would a trip of introspection and achieving self-actualisation, and of course I didn’t crack it open until it was time to head back! Berlin is such a fantastic city yet my most vivid memory is of not being able to sleep at night worrying about work. I was about to rant in my journal about just how stressful my job in social work is, I needed to figure out something different to do with the rest of my life, once I switched jobs of course everything was going to be perfect.

For the first time since I bought my journal, I looked through it from the very beginning and I had a massive Oprah-esque AHA! moment…my journal was proof that at every stage of my life I’d been anxious, restless and hankering for that next big thing to make life perfect: once I pass this exam, once my crush likes me back, once I’m skinny, once that horrible person that is mean to me goes to a land far, far away, once I have a lot of money. It is now blindingly obvious, but at the time I remember the revelation sinking in that it was something in me I had to change: I was the constant through changed circumstances over the years. Anxiety, stress and worry had become such an intrinsic part of my life that sadly I didn’t know what it was like not to feel those things on a constant basis. It struck me then that I could win the lottery and never have to work again, and yet I would find something else to worry myself sick over, catastrophize and ruminate about the elusive perfect life I didn’t have.

I wish I could say from that moment on I was a changed person, Mary Poppins and Little Miss Sunshine rolled into one. But changing years and years of thought and behaviour patterns takes more than a little hard work, and I really struggled. What do you do when you’re used to waking up every morning feeling sick with anxiety and you don’t even know why? Or when all you’ve ever thought about are the things you’re seemingly lacking in, it’s impossible to think of yourself as being complete just as you are?

It’s called gratitude. I started off practising it in quite a militant fashion; I remembered Oprah (yes I love her) talking about a gratitude journal on one of her shows…somewhat dubious I looked it up anyway, and started making a list of things I was grateful for. Uhh…what? It felt so forced and trite but I kept at it anyway, didn’t do it again for a few weeks, and tried it again when I’d had a particularly hard day, forgot about it and then came back to it again. Sometimes it was things as basic as having a bed to sleep in, other days it was being grateful for a chance encounter with a friend or having a handsome stranger wish me a good day.

It apparently takes 21 days to form a new habit, or is it 40? It took me much longer than both put together, and I’m still a work in progress. What I am thrilled about is the fact that with time, effort and practice my perception of myself and my world is slowly shifting. I don’t own a house, car or a husband but I’ve been to Iceland and seen the Northern Lights in all their glory because I wanted to. My job can be insanely difficult, but at least I don’t have to work as a butcher (no disrespect to any butchers, but this is about me and I cannot think of anything worse than having to kill and dismember hapless animals to make a living!) Anxiety and worry have slowly been replaced with feelings of well-being and contentment. During difficult times I have the foresight to remember that this too shall pass, and there will be lessons learnt. When I’m particularly angry or frustrated I want to tell the voice in my head to shut the f*ck up enough with the clichés already, but time and experience have proven her to be annoyingly right and I’ve started believing her more.

I remember trying to share some of my newfound wisdom with my sister when she was going through a particularly rough time in the not too distant past, and she pretty much told me where to go and where to shove it too. I persisted as I annoyingly do with her, and today I take immense pleasure in telling her I told her so: everything does work out one way or another just not necessarily the way we think, analyse and plan.

I’ve started to realise and accept there is no such thing as happily ever after. What’s important and real is happiness in the here and now, and hey my sister is just about 23 now and there’s hope for her self-actualisation as well!

Voy a España!

Voy a España!

My love affair with Spain and all things Spanish started when I was about eighteen years old, I met this wonderful Spanish girl at a charitable organization we were both volunteering at in Calcutta. I remember being really excited at meeting a “foreigner” and was amazed at the Bengali she had already picked up and taught her some more (if you’re reading this, you know who you are…”khub bhalo!”), she in turn taught me how to tell a man he has very beautiful eyes, as well as how to call a man a pig, all in Spanish. Very useful. We spent a lot of time together, she came back to Calcutta a couple of times to the same organisation and I’m thrilled to say we are still friends and catch up whenever she is in London. I had however promised her a decade ago that I would visit her in Spain the first chance I ever got, I loved everything she told me about the place and I loved Ricky Martin (no connection really, I know now, but I was in love back then).

Cut to about five years ago, I’d just moved to London and was miserable, cold and the realization that I was not, in fact, Bridget Jones and my Darcy wasn’t waiting to sweep me off my feet at Heathrow was sinking in. My friend on the other hand was very excited and asked me to visit her as soon as I could before she moved to Brazil for work. The woes of being an immigrant, I couldn’t get a visa because I hadn’t been in Europe long enough. Ah well, a dream deferred.

Another time when she went back home to Seville from São Paulo on holiday she asked me to visit, only I had a trip planned to India then. No regrets about this one, I’ve now travelled far and wide but nothing makes me happier than going back home and I breezily figured Spain is practically next-door, I could go anytime.

A while later, my friend moved to Madrid and in April 2013 being unusually spontaneous one day I told her I was coming to see her and booked my flights, my visa was already taken care of. Third time lucky I believed, and I had already started harbouring fantasies of a chance encounter leading to the love of my life and settling down on our own tomato farm in rural Spain (my job causes me a great deal of stress, I figured plants can’t do that).  I got to the airport, texting my friend with both of us hardly believing this was finally happening! Must have been a premonition of sorts…that was the day hundreds of flights were cancelled at Heathrow because a blessed bird had hit a plane.

I waited six hours to be put on the next available flight out to Madrid, thoughts of living it up with my friend, and cavorting on my tomato farm with my hombre keeping me going. Six long, tedious hours later only to be told the next available flight to Madrid was on the day I planned to come back to London after the bank holiday, needless to say I did not take up their offer. I remember getting back home feeling extremely annoyed, fed up and dejected all at once, surely it shouldn’t be this hard to get to Spain?! I could walk there if I really put my heart to it, that’s how close it felt and yet so far. A couple I knew in London, dear friends of mine who have since moved to Australia (I miss you, come back!) felt very sorry for me and said they would bring Spain to me instead…what I remember of that weekend at their house is lots of tequila, sangria and music. While I had a smashing time with them and that weekend is among my favourite memories of my time in London so far, my Spanish dreams remained unfulfilled.

Until now finally in three days I’m meant to be heading out to the land of Gaudí and beyond…only my friend is going to be in Bali! All first world problems I’m well aware, but this time I have a gut feeling not only is this trip going to happen but it is also going to make up for all the anti-climactic times before. And maybe, just maybe this will serve to break the jinx my friend and I seem to be under? Watch this space!