Looking back at my 2020 goals

Since 2019, I made a firm decision to live my life on my terms and be everything I always wanted to be. I was tired of going with the flow, because it was leading me nowhere (Read more about it here- Hello 2019). It turned out to be a productive year, I managed to lose 10kgs of weight, went on several dates, made some financial investments, etc. Overall a good year for progress. And as every other human on the planet I had high hopes from 2020 (Read about it here- New year, new me), and had planned few goals. I am loss of word as to how and where do I start summarizing the year that has made history. Let me give it a try- It started with me getting ghosted yet one more time by a very promising date, which followed by my company informing that they’re laying off people (I was of course one of those people that they decided to lay off even though I had been their most valuable employee) and I lost few friends. All this happened within the first two months and I remember thinking, “Well, it can’t get worse than this”. How naive, and innocent I was 10 months back! Here are few of my goals and how they turned out to be:

  1. The first goal I had in my mind was to be more Social: I don’t know if I should laugh or cry at this, because it was first time in my life I hadn’t been outside in sun for 4 consecutive months. Being social only happened through social media this year. Somehow, the goal turned out to be okay to live with my own self, which I think everyone can agree, is much more difficult than being social.
  2. I think every living being on this planet and outside this planet had this as their resolution- Travel more: I hear the Gods laughing, and now I am laughing too. As travelling was out of question, going for walks in my locality became a thing. I have to say I have underestimated a simple activity of going on a walk alone or with loved ones.
  3. Become a better Front-End Developer: In the middle of the year I had an epiphany that I would like to be a Designer. Okay, it was not an epiphany, I always wanted to be a designer but it seemed like good time to take charge and turn the course of events when I actually can.
  4. Dating: Yeah, that’s the end of the joke.
  5. Read more books: Ha! The only goal I seemed to have completed without fail. I read about 30 books this year and it was my only escapism from the real world. It was highlight of my whole year.
  6. Stay healthy and not gain weight all over again: This was the hardest task this year. I somehow managed to lose more weight while quarantining, but my definition of staying healthy has now changed forever. Being healthy doesn’t only involve losing weight. Its physical, psychological, emotional, and includes many more factors than only exercising.

Things turned out to be okay for me. I wouldn’t say I am doing great, but neither I am doing bad, and I’ll take that any day after seeing what this year has been like. It seems I’ve lived multiple lifetimes, I’ve matured beyond my age, my perspective, priorities have been completely altered in only last few months. January me seems like a teenager me, who doesn’t know what’s waiting for her and December me is a wise adult now. And somehow resolutions and goal setting seems like a bad idea right now but, hey, even having a vague idea of what you want and who you want to be will take you to places you never have imagined. And I’m pretty sure you’ll come back as a much better person than you had anticipated.

So lets get ready for some more uncertainty. We’ve got this!

PS: This post was inspired by recent John Green’s vlog of the same name. Its quite funny.

What I learned about Perfection by posting everyday on Instagram

After watching the Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’, I felt an immense self inflicted pressure to delete all social media and start living my life as a monk, which I did for a week. I realised how problematic the documentary was(more on it later), but on the other hand, my addiction to social media didn’t budge at all. So I came up with something opposite of leaving social media- Posting every day on Instagram for 30 days, around the same time. Even though it seems very much simple, it wasn’t.

If you have been active on Instagram for some time you’ll know how much fuss everyone makes about this satanic thing called “Algorithm”. Post at this particular time, use these hashtags, tag these people, make everyone comment on your post, make them share it, pay for it to show up on explore page, sacrifice a goat, bathe with its blood, offer your prayers to the “Algorithm Gods”, etc. And if you’ve done this all right then maybe, maybe you’ll get the desired likes and comments on your post, along with the instant dopamine release and you’ll feel validated, for like 3 seconds. And then you got to do it all over again and again as this impulsive-dopamine-junkies that we all are.

All this mess had not only made me conscious of posting on Instagram but also I started to fear it. I cared a little too much about the number of likes and followers and less about why I used to post on Instagram in the first place. I used to take hours before posting a single picture, overthinking, trying to make it perfect and growing my reach and even after doing all those lists of tasks I mentioned before, I would end up disappointed (I think its because I skipped the goat part). This further resulted in comparison, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, you name it. That’s not how I wanted to use social media. I wanted to use social media to have my small community, to find like-minded people, make new friends, share my thoughts and my artwork. I don’t know how my mindset became all about business, reach, influencers, sponsors, money, etc. I already have a fulltime job and social media is not supposed to be, or even I want it to be my additional fulltime job. That’s the reason why I always felt burned out and as if I’m not doing enough. This needed to change. So I conducted a little experiment about posting every day on Instagram for 30 days. It seemed like a bizarre option, to be honest, but I had nothing to lose. And here’s what I learned:

  • Action is greater than overthinking : The only thing keeping you from achieving 90% of your goals in overthinking. Sometimes you just have to tell your brain to shut up and start doing stuff even though you don’t know what you’re doing. You need to start somewhere. Put the perfection in a trash can where it belongs and as Nike says- Just do it!
  • Stop caring about what other people like : It’s so easy to focus on what other people like and in doing that we are already moving away from our expression. To be able to genuinely deliver something without any idea, without any expectation, without wanting to impress the other person, it takes real courage. It’s quite difficult. But at the end of the day, there’s guaranteed at least one person is happy and at peace- You.
  • Consistency is the key : You can’t wait to be motivated or to be inspired to do certain stuff. If I worked out only after coming across a fitness video on the internet, then I’d be working out like once a month. And if I workout once a month I cannot complain about losing breathe by walking for 10 mins. When you do something every day you get good at it, and people start to notice it, and that’s how you get the results. That’s also how you train your mind to think less and do more.
  • Planning will save you a lot of time : Breaking down your goal into tiny tasks, and planning them accordingly, saves a lot of time. And you don’t have to waste your time about making trivial decisions, and you won’t end up procrastinating.
  • You decide your success : I can either be disappointed by the number of likes a picture get or I can be completely happy with the fact that I took a pretty picture and wrote something on own.
  • Your inner critic is a mean jerk, who needs to learn compassion : If my friends accomplished even a tiny bit of achievement I’m always cheering up for them, praising them, supporting them, giving them a good constructive criticism about how to do it better, I’ll help them out and so on. And when it comes to me I put all these qualities into a dumpster. Anyway, I’m still learning how to be nice to myself, its a huge process but I’m getting there.

To summarize everything, Perfection = Overthinking and Overthinking = Self-destruction. The only way to get rid of Perfection is Action.

About my Instagram, lots of people unfollowed and followed me over the 30 days, so the number is almost the same. Few of my posts did well without me intentionally doing anything. But the most important part is- I am not anymore afraid of posting, neither do I care about the numbers on my page, or even being active. I no longer create content for Instagram, I create it for me. So that’s something.

So I guess it was a quite successful experiment, I learned a lot. It makes me want to do more experiments. Life’s pretty boring right now, you know, with the ongoing apocalypse and all.

An actual conversation I had with my therapist

Me: I am a weak person, I don’t think I can deal with this.
Therapist: What makes you think you’re a weak person?
Me: People say because I cry, I’m emotional and sensitive about certain things that makes me weak.
T: Have you ever met a person who hasn’t cried or wasn’t ever sensitive in his life?
Me: Umm… nope! They had their moments.
T: Exactly! Would you say your mother is a weak person?
Me: Of course not.
T: So, can we say that you are weak in certain moments because they are not in your control, and that doesn’t make you a weak person as a whole?
Me. Yes. Thank you.

Does this mean people don’t call me weak/sensitive anymore? Well, not. It is just that I no longer take it as an insult because now I know better. It says less of who I am than it says more of who they are as a person. The right people will see it as your strength 😉

I mean just look at Harry Styles or Timothee Chalamet! It’s these qualities that make them a hundred times more attractive. So here’s to being soft and sensitive!

Why do we pretend we don’t care

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while dealing with my mental wellness is how to pretend that I’m doing great. Am I having the time of my life or am I going through a panic attack in my head, no one will ever know. I have been leading this double life since almost a decade now and I think I am very much eligible to be nominated for the Best Actress, Academy Award. 

Well, I can tell why most people pretend that they don’t care- it’s either they don’t want to deal with their emotions or maybe they never learned how to process them, it makes everyone uncomfortable. I think it also involves some power dynamic because showing people how you really feel is often labelled as being weak. It’s a-no-brainier that our society puts certain people on a pedestal who feel less than the ones who feel a lot. And if that wasn’t the case then currently our world won’t mostly run by narcissists and psychopaths. Something like- ‘The less you feel the more successful you’ll be!’ Everyone aims to be that person. We all just want to be super-humans, running after what we want mindlessly so that nothing can ever hurt us and we never have to deal with any kind of negative emotions ever in our lives. This is the reason ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK’ is one of the bestseller self-help books and AI is taking over the world. It is like we are living in constant denial, and in the process, we also deny ourselves of all the positive emotions, we deprive ourselves to be human. 

Okay, I know what you must be thinking if I’m so wise and all why do I pretend to be all cool and not care? The answer isn’t that easy. It’s somewhat my defence mechanism. It is something that has kept me safe from people who don’t understand or don’t care enough about me. When you have a history of mental illness or any kind of traumas you wouldn’t go on pouring your heart out to every person you meet because you’ll be judged, ridiculed, rejected, and worse- abandoned. And when no one believes what you feel is real you start questioning your sanity. Having no control over your emotions is sure shot way to get you labelled crazy, weak, weird, freak, etc. I bet you don’t want to see that in your annual assessment at work every year. Dealing with anxiety (or anything really) is already hard enough that you also have to constantly deal with people who can’t stop reminding you that you’re not normal or there’s something really wrong with you.

I find it extremely funny when people post on social media, “If you need someone to talk to I’m always there” and shit. There’s a reason people like me are not open or seek help quickly because we’ve been shamed constantly for all our lives. And for what? for having emotions? And then the guilt comes along as no one told us it’s okay or it’s normal. So how do we trust the person in front us, how do we know he won’t ridicule us, abandon us, or make us feel like less of a person we already think we are? It’s our survival mode, to pretend everything is cool, everything is safe. But is it really?

I was constantly told and expected to be quiet all my childhood and that somehow became my personality as an adult. If anything bad happens with me my instant reaction is to completely shut off, to be quiet, not say a word, and not to react at all. I was applauded for that, I was called a good girl who is so matured that she can keep her shit together even being so young. And for a very long time, I thought that’s the way to be, to be a perfect adult. Little did I know that if you keep bottling up every feeling it has a fatal effect on your mind, body and soul. I’d rather be healthy and sane than be a good girl people around me expects to be. I’ve kept this facade for such a long time that now I can’t even label my feelings properly. I’m constantly confused, I don’t know how to ask for help, even thinking of opening up to someone gives me a panic attack because I’m so sure that person is going to hurt me, its as if my well-being is in danger. That further builds up into loneliness, despair and isolation. 

It took me some time to figure out that pretending not to care is not the answer and even though I’ve mastered being vulnerable on the internet I also need to be honest how I feel with myself and others around me. I’m extremely tired of living this double life, being so secretive, as if I’m some sort of a superhero living in my superhero universe.

Hence, I came up with a list of things that can help me, or anyone else, who want to stop pretending that they don’t care, process their emotions, let people exactly know what you need and what you don’t. 

  1. Identifying how you feel: Labeling how you’re feeling is half work done. If you know whether you’re sad, or angry, or disappointed, or just uncomfortable, you know how to manage that feeling better.
  2. Expressing yourself: As someone who finds this as a deadly task, its also the most important. Letting someone you trust know how you feel is crucial. And if you want to confront someone, form simple passive sentences like- your this _action_ made me _feeling_. No explanation, nothing.
  3. Writing down how you feel: writing down your feeling on a paper mindlessly without caring about your handwriting, grammar, or if anyone will read it, is the best feeling in the world. And later tearing that paper into shreds, the cherry on top!
  4. Practice self love: You need to treat yourself the way you treat your best friend (how many times you’ve heard this by now). Feed them, be there for them, make them laugh, love unconditionally, don’t stay mad at them for too long and trust them that they can take care of you.

And the most important thing to remember is you’re an adult, you are completely capable of taking care of yourself, you’re safe, you can survive even if people don’t understand you or decide to leave you because they don’t like you, or cannot handle you. Why do you want to be with people like that in the first place? If you cannot get rid of them completely, maybe keep things to yourself from them and them only. There are so many people around us that I believe we can find at least one who can connect and accept us with all our mess.

In the end, I’ve realised the reason I’ve been doing this for such a long time was that I was afraid (and I still am) that people will reject me if I tell them how exactly I feel, but now I’ve recognised that I’m more afraid of regret- Regret that nobody would know who I really am, regret that I’ve hidden my true self from everyone I have loved. Rejection is temporary, but regrets live longer. And seriously who would want to be friends with someone who can’t be themselves around you?!

So cheers to breaking that bubble and seeing the world and people around you with a new open, kind and vulnerable filter!

A children’s book written for adults

The first time I read ‘The little prince’ was when I was a teenager and I loved it how much it resonated with me. Of course, I hated each and evey adult at that time and of course I never thought I would turn out to be that exact adult I feared the most.

I recently re-read this book and it dawned on me that I’ve became the accurate representation of a dull adult, stuck in a rut, running on a hamster wheel, who can’t see anything beyond numbers and anything ahead of results. And if you see that’s what our lives revolve around right now- numbers. The number on our paycheck, number on our weighing machine, number of friends we have, the number of our age that decides when we should do certain things, number of things we possess, number of likes, followers, etc., you get the gist of it.

This book gave me the much needed introspection to make some very crucial changes in my life, the curiousity, the wonder, and the open mindedness my inner-child still craves. 

Some books are not meant to be judged and this is one of the finest example. It’s one of the easiest read and most profound book that you’ll cherish all your life.

Is there any end to this emptiness

I have so much of this love to give, things to do, and life to live that sometimes it gets so overwhelming and I don’t know what do with it, where to put it all. And as time goes on this feeling keeps digging deeper and deeper into my heart. Now it’s so deep that it seems as if there’s this neverending pit which I am not sure how to fill it up or heal, or how to not feel this empty anymore.

I think people lie when they say time heals everything, it doesn’t really. You just get better with filling that hole and keeping your mind distracted with meaningless things. And while you’re busy distracting yourself, some day, someone comes along and shows you other side of the world, shows what you’re missing. And you cant lie to yourself any longer, you want things to change, and you want to be a part of that other side. 

So the only option you are left with is to be, open and vulnerable and hope that they’ll do the same. But mostly no one does. They are somehow so good at concealing it all so well that its always me who is left behind wearing my heart on my sleeve. I’m afraid I’ll die with this endless hole in my heart. I wish there was some way I can fill it up with my own love. May be with time I’ll learn that as well. May be some day, but not today. Today is just another day where I sit through my feelings and curse everything and everyone.

Turtles all the way down

Us humans spend most of our time in our head and sometimes things take a turn for the worse when our head starts behaving like a completely different invasive kind of individual who doesn’t agree with you, or obey you and its whole objective is to destroy you. When you’re dealing with any kind of mental illness you often forget what it’s like being not in your head all the time. You forget that there is this huge world out there, there are people who do love you in their broken way, most importantly, you forget that you’re a person too. You’re so in your head that sometimes the universe seems small compared to the vastness of the infinitely tangled labyrinth of our mind and, I know how difficult it is no to get lost or find your way out.
As John Green quotes in his book Looking for Alaska –

You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the past.

And that’s exactly what is happening to our girl Aza in the book ‘Turtles all the way down’. Aza is 16 years old, who suffers from OCD, which often manifests as a fear of the human microbiome. She is constantly worried about getting infected. So, before I go further, let us have two minutes of silence for people who think Monica from Friends is what OCD looks like. Very Cute!

Okay! back to reality- Aza spends an awful lot of time in her mind, trying to convince it that she will not get infected but her mind usually wins all of the time, and the result is picking scabs, bleeding, changing band-aids, washing hands, reading about the infection, panicking, and doing it all over again and again and again. She is so caught up in this deadly routine that she doesn’t realise how it affects other aspects of her life. She needs to constantly hide this version of herself from everyone, she cannot kiss or even touch a boy without thinking about getting infected, she has no idea how people around her are also struggling in their own lives, but the worst of all is she doesn’t know where her mental illness ends and where Aza starts.

Reading this book was like reading my thoughts in the third person. I do not suffer from OCD, but the thought process during the panic attacks is the same, the effect of Anxiety has had on my life is the same. I thought Classic literature is difficult to read but this book made them seem like an easy read. It was like going through every panic attack all over again, watching the broken and helpless hearts of my parents, realising how hard it is keeping up with any romantic relationship or even friendships. But it was also oh so comforting and relatable- to know that I’m not alone, for the first time it made me feel like a normal person, it was enough to know that someone out there knew this is not the end of the world and things can always get better when you decide you are not your mental illness.
So here’s one my favourite quote from the book (there are many because, duh, John Green)

Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.

PS: John Green, has himself struggled with OCD and anxiety for most his life, and he intentionally wrote this novel keeping in mind teenagers like Aza.

PPS: If you deal with any kind of mental illness, this book will help you understand yourself a little more and if you do not deal with any kind of mental illness, this book will help you understand those who deal with it a little more.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Why you should read The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde at least once:

  1. Oscar Wilde was an advocate of Aestheticism (a movement that argued that art should exist for the sake of art only). There’s a heavy undertone of aesthetics and art throughout this novel.
  2. To know what life was like for British aristocrats in the 19th century. (It was splendid)
  3. Long monologues between characters filled with amazing perspective and wit, which still stands true in today’s society.
  4. To realise how a persons influence at a young age can change one completely. And yet it’s our choices that make us who we really are.
  5. And, of course, the most important one, you can have it all- worldly beauty, a lifetime of youth, never-ending wealth and immense power, but they are never enough. You cannot escape your conscience.

In the end, if you could watch your soul deteriorating from better to worse with every choice you make, would you still keep making those choices?

Why representation matters in media

I grew up watching a lot of movies and they were one of the best parts of my childhood. I loved everything about it, places, stories, songs, drama, characters. Even though they brought me immense joy they sometimes also made me feel as if I am not pretty enough or something is missing in me. You see, there were always these actresses who were fair and with a perfect figure, extremely feminine, and gracious, with straight hair, and not even single one of them wore glasses. And even if they did, they threw it out in the mid-movie and get their hair straightened because now they were pretty?! Because the male actors couldn’t look in to their beautiful eyes? Yeah, that seems really important than being able to see stuff.

Most of the people don’t understand what a big of a deal this is. There are many psychological studies available that tells us about how media has a huge role in shaping the relationship we have with our looks. Not every kid comes from a strong, loving family. They don’t always grow up being confident or with high EQ and self-esteem, especially when their body is changing rapidly at every moment, and people around them don’t shy away in pointing it out, or comparing it in ruthless ways. If you don’t have the right people/media around you it can cause some serious issues which will follow you throughout your life. And the feeling that you’re ugly is the worst possible thing that can happen to any person in their young age. Have you seen the video of a 3-year-old African-American girl who thinks she is ugly? Watching it broke my heart. Now imagine no one ever told her she is not at all ugly, how it would affect all the choices she will make in her life? I remember reading about a fashion model who came from an extremely small village. So, whenever a model is asked if she knew she was pretty all along, all of them answer the same thing- no, they thought they are too awkward and gawky, skinny. But this particular girl said yes, she always knew she was pretty. Do you know what was the difference? Her village had no media presence whatsoever. She didn’t have anyone tell her that there’s only one specific way to be beautiful.

Bollywood is more orthodox when it comes to representation. Even if any actress with their different physical traits enters the industry she pretty much changes everything about her in a few years, be it her nose, skin colour, etc. And it is done so effectively and gradually that audience doesn’t even realise anything has changed over time. Its worse for actresses than it is for actors. Anyway, things pretty much changed for me when my father introduced me to Art cinema. And suddenly I was watching these badass women, with brilliant acting skills, who did not wait for men to save them in the movies, they had their own opinions, emotions, back story, flaws, that I had never seen before in Bollywood. And the most important part was they kinda looked like me.

In 2016, Simone Biles made history in the Olympics by winning multiple medals for Gymnastics, who is only 4ft 8in tall. Witnessing this moment in history, all my limiting beliefs I had about my height were shattered. After years of torment by people around me about my skin colour, came this speech by Lupita Nyongo on Black beauty essence. An oscar winning actress facing the same struggles as me! It made me feel heard, that I belong, that its okay to be me. And I understood that there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the way I look. I understood I am just idealizing and listening to wrong people. And I believe, even though everyone likes to say that “Looks don’t matter”, but deep down we all know, that they do, even if its a tiny bit. It matters more than you can imagine for some people. They are so used to see a certain type of character in media that they feel they could never be the hero of their own story. The medias idea of beauty is so warped, that I doubt it would count even 1% of our human population. I mean who came up with this? Who decides what is worthy to be shown to a infinite range of audience? And why is it so limited? I’m glad I’m not the only one who have been asking these questions.

Fortunately, things are changing for the better. Since the past few years, there came out movies from Hollywood, like ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Black Panther’ with not a single Caucasian characters! And everyone could not believe what they had seen. This was a huge turn for our white-washed pop culture, this had never happened before. Since then we have seen so many range of characters with all kind of representation in media, its incredible! Be it Miles Morales from ‘Spider-man: into the Spiderverse’, which broke all the stereotypes about who can be a spider-man, or be it Ellie Chu from the recent Netflix movie ‘The Half of It’, where the protagonist is an Asian, Bi girl, and very important- wears glasses throughout the movie. My 8-year-old self would have never thought she will see something like this onscreen, and I bet it makes her and people everywhere like her, very happy. And I know this is only a start of something great and soon no one will ever feel left out. It may not solve all our problems but it does help if you hate yourself a little less and accept the way you are a little more.

Oh, and by the way, I found some more women in pop culture that always rock glasses and make it look so cool. So I am going to stick to mine.

Happy World Photography Day

If you think, future and past doesn’t really exist in time. All that matters is this moment, right here and right now. Past is now a story you’d look back upon and future, well, it’s inevitable and always unknown. All we have is this present. And if you think a little more, you’ll realise that’s the answer to every age old question, this beautiful, alive, melancholic now.

So, here’s to photography, that taught me how to be in the moment, to be mindful of every little thing around me, to all the imperfect, dull, everyday moments that still had an ounce of beauty waiting to be discovered. And here’s to every social media for allowing me to share my perspective with thousands of flawed yet artistic people (just like me) all around the world.

Happy World Photography Day!

PS: Here are all the not-so-perfect moments I captured over time.