Sunday, January 19, 2014

The thing about visiting India and settling back into routine

I have a list of things to do that are at varying levels of unpleasantness. And immediacy. And importance. And so I choose to not do any of them and instead find a way to distract and occupy myself for the next half an hour or so until I drift into a 'semi-guilty but whatever' sort of sleep. Hence this post.

I'm just back from a short 2-week vacation in Chennai and I've had a week's worth of jetlagged hazy days and answering questions that went along the lines of "so how was your India trip?" The problem with being an Indian and visiting India is there is no simple answer to that question. Usually I get back from a vacation from a new place and I'm gushing about it for days on end. With India, life gets murkier. There were things that have changed tremendously. New buildings. New people in the family. Much changed friends. Older people. Auto drivers respecting the meter. There were things that were exactly the same as they were when I last visited and that ought to have changed. Prices were still high. Roads were still bad. The house was still a confused mess. Random men still commented on my boobs as I walked to the bus stop. Visiting friends and family I hadn't seen in more than a year was amazing but also a reminder of how different all our lives are now. There have been weddings, births and deaths.

Add to that the fact that two weeks is a short period to recover from first-world withdrawal and get used to the Indian way of life. I find that the longer I live in the US, the steeper my adjustment curve to the rest of the world gets, even if the place in question is a place I've lived in for the largest part of my life. I find myself biting down on the urge to yell at the people in SBI as they send me running from counter to counter for a simple task, the people at BSNL when I call to complain about the internet, my parents for not making my vacation seamless. I find myself trying to accept that electricity, internet, water are not taken-for-granted always-available utilities. I find myself having to relearn old habits, which truly is a lot of fun, like turning the heater on a couple of minutes before a shower, passing money and tickets back and forth in the bus when standing next to the conductor, tucking the folded bus ticket under my watch to hold it in place, looking to make sure I don't step on my dog every time I get up from the couch, dialing up to connect to the internet with a data card, crossing the road when not being able to rely on the fact that as a pedestrian you will be given every right of way.

And when I had to leave, it was more painful than I could remember it being. It feels like every time I come and go, it gets progressively more difficult to leave. I remember packing silently in my room and wondering why we choose to complicate our lives this way- leave the place we grew up in to sink roots elsewhere and divide our lives to varying degrees between all these places that we have touched. I remember wondering, as I have wondered several times before, if there is a way to bundle all the people we love into a personal universe and take it with us wherever we choose to go. I remember wondering how life would have turned out if I'd stayed back or if I'd lived in a time when travel was forbidden, to never feel this sadness at leaving and to never know what I'd be missing out on.

Now life has settled back into its usual pace and rhythm. Almost. There are still things that need to be gotten used to- a new job, a new longer commute, a new schedule. I feel like an impostor most of the time at work and I have to force myself to say yes to new work and new people even though I am paralyzed with fear that I will mess up mostly everything. "Yes (I will figure it out)". "Yes (I will wing it)". "Yes (I will fake it till I make it)". I vaguely remember a time when I used to feel the same way in grad school. And before then, I remember feeling the same way in high school right after I switched schools. I don't remember how long it took in either of these cases to form a comfort zone or if I ever did. In small ways though, I have been putting myself through this new-place-new-activity jitters-in-the-stomach feeling all through last year. I felt this way when I walked into a french class and I realized I don't understand a word that was being spoken. I felt this way everyday I walked in to my crossfit class, in to a warehouse with loud music and iron clanging and sweaty, groaning, muscly people. This "what have I gotten myself into?" phase is apparently the place where life begins if several popular quotes are to be believed and for now I will take that with a side order of kool-aid please.

I hate being alone at home and not entirely convinced of it. I hate hearing noises in the floor above that should be deserted but doesn't sound like it in the middle of the night. I hate my involuntary peek in to the closet right before I switch off the lights. I hate how my friends would grin and make fun of me if I recount this to them. I hate wondering why I am this paranoid and not others as much. Does no one else read the news? Are you as paranoid? Do you always check to make sure the doors are locked, even in daytime? Do you make sure you have the keys in your hand as you start walking to your car across a dark parking lot? Do you have nightmares of being attacked in your house?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Personal zeitgest of a 25 year old

OkCupid has a question that asks you if you would rather your life be interesting or good. I chose good. But I can see how interesting could also be nice. 2013 has been interesting, sometimes in ways I would have rather had it not be. At the end of 2012, I drove down to San Diego alone and in my lonesome journey (alone, not lonely) I passed time by thinking about the year that was and planning for the year ahead. And 2013 has been good mostly because I did everything I told myself I would do in that drive with myself. And life gave the rest. 2013 has been the year of girl friends. All of 2012 I moped that I didnt have enough friends, in particular girlfriends. That worked itself out last year. 2013 was also the year I figured out I would stay in America all my life if I could. It took a fiasco with my H-1B for the realization to hit me in the face but I'm glad I did because life would have been so irresolute if not for that. 2013 was also the year when I finally decided to get off my butt and do something about the things I was not so happy about. It was the year of my first intended job switch. It was also the year when I decided I'd try online dating. 2013 was about major lifestyle changes- going Paleo, going Proactiv, going curly girl- and happiness with the results. It was the year for the loss of an aunt, an almost loss of a family dog, a year for the wedding of a cousin and another going off to college. It was the year for friends and accidents, friends and weddings, friends and career switches. It was the year for traveling, the year for old hobbies, for books and art and music, the year for reconnecting with some good old friends just as it was for falling off the good books of others. It was a good year and an interesting year. I couldn't have asked for more.

2013 was for self-realization. I realized I am a jealous person. That I was prone to fits of anxiety that I was not doing all that I could do, being all that I could be, living up to my potential, losing out on my slice of eudaimonic happiness. And seeing other people do all the things I could and should be doing sends me into swirls of panic. I realized most people, even the people I was jealousing on (that should be a phrase), go through this and I realize that should prove to me this is inconsequential and unnecessary. I also realized that happiness requires some effort and one is not just handed it on a platter. And that one must surround oneself with art and music and beautiful things to live a life with art and music and beautiful things. I realized my support network is best populated with people who are in the same places in life as I am. I also realized it is immensely rewarding to talk to other friends too once in a while and to see the people they have grown into and to be inspired by them. With that in mind, I realized that it's time for a new support network, that it's time for a new city. But that's for a later time. That's for 2014.

Here's to an amazing year!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday Night Laundry

Sometimes I channel Martha Stewart. I google for DIY carpet cleaning solutions, cook Italian, redecorate rooms, fix tears in cushions.

Sometimes I channel Virginia Woolf. I read Jezebel and shake my fist at the world, I write inflammatory posts and delete them because I dont think the world is ready for me, I pick arguments with friends and smile as I tear them up.

Sometimes I channel crazy party girl. I drink till I'm almost sick, I dance on chairs and fall off them.

Sometimes I channel calm and content woman. I build a fire at the fireplace, I pull my beanbag over and sit in it with a book.

Sometimes I channel the classy socialite.

Sometimes I channel the whiny, needy friend.

Sometimes I channel the lets-do-it-all-yolo yuppie.

Sometimes I channel all at once.

Sometimes I dont know what I am. And thence are these moments of dissatisfaction- where I go through my entire contact list to find all my friends busy and finally give up and load the washer for lack of a better thing to do, where I leave a party early so I can come home and curl up in my bed to my friends' eternal confusion, where I play the Beatles on my guitar at midnight hoping the neighbors are out of town.

I am lounging on my bed, all dressed up for a night out on town, with my new hair highlights and my in-your-face Russian Red lipstick, bored and irritated, listening to my laundry swirl, staring at the books next to me- all of them great, none of them interesting now- wondering if I should eat.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Life update and thinking out loud

Note to readers: I know I haven’t written in a long time. I can come up with an airheaded apology but I don’t know whom I’m apologizing to. Probably myself, because writing is an extremely fulfilling hobby. It helps you think things through, find solace in tiny black letters appearing on a plain white page and, as I have often mentioned here and which ultimately tipped me back over the edge to the world of penning, more importantly, preserving memories. Not the stark ones, the extremely joyous trip to , the time your boyfriend surprised you with , the day you got married or gave birth or other important life checkpoints. You probably have a facebook album for that anyway. Not even the days you were depressed to your bones and couldn’t find anything in your life worth the effort, if you would like to remember those sorts of things, maybe as a lesson to future self. I am talking about those quiet sorts of memories that disappear into dusty corners of your mind until a sudden snippet of a song or a flash of a dress in a shop window or any other random sensory stimulus pulls it out for a brief minute. The day you went walking in the park because you were bored, the drive down I-5, the time when someone started that absolutely hilarious conversation about horcruxes that lead you to a new perception of reality, that one sunset…unless you have a facebook album for times like those too (which I totally do not judge you for. I think any way of preserving memories is a good way, even if they are on the racks of data centers of social networking companies if not your own mind), those are moments lost for a really long time, possibly forever. I only have to read some of my older posts on this same blog to find validation to that claim. I have forgotten so much, so so much of the years past, even though I thought I was invincible and that I’d never forget. I look at faces in my friends list sometimes and I wonder how I know them and sometimes people talk about incidents in the past and I wonder how I could ever have forgotten that but I have. I repeat again my dear readers, writing is a beautiful hobby to have.

*Huge breath*

I am in one of those phases that you sometimes slip into even in the most splendid and best of days, where you wonder about your life and you wonder if this is where you want to be. And you feel sad because you seem to want to feel sad for yourself and the more you think, the more you attract sad thoughts.

I am thinking now of relationships, why it is so cold and whether I should buy a dog. The reason I haven’t gotten a dog yet is because I somehow feel like I would betray my dog back home in India. Another big reason is because I came to US with no intention of long term stay. I gave myself 5 years here and I told myself I was going back. The more I stay, the more this magical number of 5 multiplies. My roots here go deeper and I sometimes wonder why I should go back at all. The only reason I see is an inflated sense of patriotism where I think it is my duty to go back to India and contribute to the future of the country, to take up the challenge of democracy. Most days I wonder why that should be at the cost of personal comfort, my lifestyle and my career. As Siddharth’s character in Ayudha Ezhuthu said “I am an ordinary selfish person.” And with that comes ordinary selfish thoughts. But I digress. A dog would mean deeper commitments to where I am since I do not want to put any dog through the stress of uprooting homes and international travel. Now that I am being more honest with myself, I can see that I probably will not move for the next couple of years, so might as well.

With relationships- that entire category in my pie chart of happiness (does anyone get the 30 Rock reference here? Wasn’t the finale amazing? I’m going to miss it!) seems to be completely unoccupied. I usually avoid conversations about relationships when friends ask. “But what are your plans? What are you doing about it?” they would ask, and my usual response would be a shrug of the shoulders and that would usually be followed by a lecture on taking responsibility and initiative until the time they give up. To those who have not been in the loop with regards to my life, I realize I have to provide more detail. What my friends mean by responsibility and initiative is to join an online dating site like Match or OkCupid. Since, most of us do not believe in serendipity and meeting the love of your life in the supermarket aisle or in the park while you are jogging, or believe that the guy who is hitting you up at the bar is looking for anything more than a one-night stand and since the only place you get to meet new and interesting people these days is at work where everyone seems to be married or in a relationship already, the only conceivable way to get into a relationship seems to be by going online (If you know any other way, let me know). Sitting around and waiting for time to happen is not an option. I was listening to a TED talk by Judy Balan (you will find a link to her blog on the side) yesterday on serendipity and letting life happen and I do not subscribe to that school of thought. Yet. And if you are interested in why online dating is an algorithmically superior way to meet the kind of people you want to meet, do contact me and I shall provide you with a summary and conclusion of several nights’ worth of discussions we have had about the same. But as much as I know I should, I don’t think I have the mental makeup for online dating, yet. It requires a certain objective decision-making and precision and walking away from sucky decisions that I do not yet possess. So, in time, I tell myself and my friends. In time. I wonder when that time shall come.

It is cold. Coldness clings to everything it touches, like a skin on the carpet, on my bed linen and on my own self. Spring is definitely coming, the days are growing longer, the hills that surround the Valley are greening, I can go to bed without the heater cranked up to high and some days, just some days, I can walk outside in the evenings without an additional layer. But still the cold refuses to go away for good. Waiting and waiting.

To people wondering about me, my usual update: my life is pretty good. Do not let my whining post deceive you in to thinking otherwise. Friends are amazing. I would not be lying if I told you that I have finally found the friends I have always wanted to have, though it sounds unfair to my previous friends. I am taking French classes since I am bored (have I mentioned that before?) They are coming along fine though they are taking a lot more effort on my part than I’d originally thought. I finally joined the local library and I have been immersing myself in books since. And I learnt a new life lesson in the process- to a reader, you never truly belong in a place until you find a good source of books. And I finally belong. I am developing new interests (wine) and renewing old ones (guitar). I am sticking to my new year resolution of ‘get active, get healthy’. I am making travel plans, trying to be more fiscally responsible and stop eating out so much. I am getting back in touch with a lot of people I haven’t spoken to in ages. It’s a slow process but a rewarding one. I sometimes feel overwhelmed like I won’t have enough time to do all that I want to do but as a friend tells me, it’s a good problem to have. Work is plateauing a bit but with the hope of picking up soon. Car is amazing. House is great. Health is fine. But my doctor wants a pap smear on record, so I am mentally preparing myself (deep breaths) to make that call to fix that appointment.


P.S. This is a new phase of honesty in this blog. Its going to take an effort, but I stop giving abstract hints about what is happening in my life or trying to sound cooler and nicer than I am. The flipside is I am taking the link of my facebook page so if my mother wants to stalk me and keep track of my daily ponderings and stress about my mistakes, its going to be harder for her to do so. But hopefully this will now be a near accurate record of the messed up state of my mind.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Time of Change and a Time of Acceptance

I’ve been meaning to create a new blog for a while now, an anonymous one, and write more freely and honestly about life as it is now, a new blog that my old readers will know nothing about so I won’t be scandalizing and as a result alienating my old friends and readers and quite possibly members of my family. And then I realized what the heck, my family members have proved to be a lot more resilient and open minded at most points in my life than I gave them credit for and that the readers of my blog are changing just as much as I am, so maybe, just maybe, my fears of this scandal-causing and alienation-happening will come to pass. Anyway, just in case, I am taking the link to my blog off my Facebook page and any other places I might have put it up and taking a plunge to the deep side of the discovering-yourself-and-being-honest-about-it pool. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bonjour tout le monde!

Just learnt that and liked the sound of it so wanted to use it. False alarm people! Go back to your lives!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

There was a lady we all know

Sometimes you get lost wandering. And you find yourself in a part of your universe you've never seen before, in an alternate reality where things that mattered so much before drop away and things you'd kept buried come alive again and you no longer seem to be the strict definition of yourself you'd come to terms with and you need to do the coming to terms with all over again.

That's where I've been. Busy. Bored. Dealing with a lifestyle change and all its accouterments. Fighting an idle mind playing truant. Filling gaps in the day with a thousand activities. Endless lazing about and discovering a new place and missing an old one. And talking and talking. New roommates. Old friends. Still the same old friends. Thinking random thoughts.

For people who want an update: I am learning to play the keyboard. I'd forgotten a lot of music theory I used to know from my guitar days and its an interesting experience trying to read two clefs at the same time and play them simultaneously nonetheless. I am learning French. I am reading Feynman's lectures in my free time. I am eating salads for lunch and doing jazzercise occasionally. I've lost the taste for alcohol. I volunteer to be the designated driver on most nights coz I know I wont drink much anyway. I still fondly remember nights of rambunctious revelry that have involved everything from dancing on and correspondingly falling off chairs to ending up on street pavements unable to move an eyelid. But now that I'm on the other side more often than not, trying to figure out how to move the person on the street pavement, I no longer find it all so very amusing. I am doing a project 52, though its not going very well on account of my laziness. But on the days I click pics, I end up taking so many that I tell myself makes up for the weeks I don't. I have become extremely cynical of relationships and distrustful of men. Every time somebody I know gets married, I think of the ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, all the old crushes and secret romances. And I wonder what those people think about. Every time I move, I think of how easy it is to transplant a life now- everything you own and everything you are in a couple of boxes in a car. Sometimes I think about how easy it would be to disappear now- if I tell my parents I don't want to be found and just up and leave to a new city, informing no one. I used to be the person who loved grand farewells. Suddenly I am seeing the beauty of just fading away in an air of intrigue. The romance in constrained choices. The curiosity in things that never used to define me. I am making friends with people I knew from what feels like a really  long time ago, on account of my roommate who is herself one such 'person from another lifetime'. I have a thousand things I want to do, a million thoughts bursting in my head and no mood to think or act. So I lie in my couch and watch the clouds go by outside my balcony. Life is dreamy.

It's tough trying to explain this to people who are tremendously mad at me for seemingly dropping off the face of the Earth. Its like suddenly I got bored of being the usual "It's been so long, lets talk" me and ran out of energy sustaining being myself. I could say I would try and be more like how I used to be and call everyone and mail everyone and blog a lot but I don't want to make no promises I might not keep.

Sometimes it is easy to forget what the point of starting this blog was- that there is no point at all. Back when everything I did had a purpose and every unit of energy spent was carefully measured and doled out, this was something I cherished- me time. Now that hardly anything in my life has a purpose, maintaining a blog feels like so much effort. But its still fun going back and reading your old posts, if only a little painful at the naivete of it all. I am even braving reading extremely sad posts from a long time ago that I try to never open because it reminds me of a time I don't like to be reminded of because of the stupidity and the pain I unleashed on myself through bad decisions. I am actually even listening to 'Stairway in Heaven' again, this time without the feeling of being overwhelmed by it.

I am back to this blog in the spirit of this week which has been all about paying homage to the past for me. i went back to LA for the weekend just 'coz I missed her so very much. I braved Carmageddon II to go to Santa Monica pier and stood amidst all the lights thinking about how very much I missed being in this city and how very much I would like to go back and grow old there. Its funny, the things I can commit to and the things I cant. But for now, I'm focusing on committing to keeping this blog alive if only so I can come back here 10 years later and laugh at my own petty self.

<3 p="p">Divya

P.S. May, I got your mail and I keep meaning to reply but like I said, I've gone crazy lazy. Tell me if you still want the stuff you were asking about.