My eyes struggle to open in the cold breeze of the morning. It’s December the 19th and the year happens to be 2018. A recurring guilty pleasure song runs in my head, it’s been the cliché Instagram caption for many who turn the same age. “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling Twenty-Two….” go the lyrics of an artist whose music I’ve outgrown at this stage. On this Wednesday morning, my thoughts revolve around how much has changed, and the amount I’ve grown during the past year. Changes like these are considered very improbable and when they do happen, people consider them to be “Inspirational”. It’s a funny coincidence that my name means the very same thing- Inspiration.
I used to be a person who was very fond of birthdays; my childhood consisted of many different kinds- The ones in the village, the ones in the various Air Force Enclaves I lived in, and the ones with just close family. We’d have games, snacks, dancing and the ever-present “Birthday Cake”, presents and return gifts- frankly a GALA of a time. But despite it all and numerous fond memories I’ve had, I stopped celebrating traditional birthday parties and rituals since sixth grade. Ever since it had been an intimate gathering with family and close friends. Oh! How can forget the surprise one Riya threw for me in college hostel (We had exams the very next day and we ended up flunking the paper, but it was so worth it).
Spending time recollecting these long-forgotten memories, I am filled with nostalgia which transforms into a smile on my face. There’s also a scary realisation of how drastically we morph into different people throughout our lives. We don’t notice the contrasts when living day-to-day, but a retrospective glance often discloses that everything we’ve known has changed. You wake up one day and realise that the person looking back at you through the other side of the mirror is the fundamental truth of your evolution and the person you thought you were is a complete stranger.
Changes are a result of choices, and choices, in my opinion, are one of the most important elements that constitute life. This past year, I have consciously made an effort to live a less-impactful life in consideration to my external surroundings; but on the contrary, these very choices have left a deep dent in my soul and in the lives of the people closest to me.
How did I spend turning a year older?
After years of being conditioned to expect special treatment on the day we were born – an event which is neither an achievement to receive laurels for nor anything one has even the slightest degree of control over – I made an effort to let go of “I” that is ego and treat it like just another day. Key was to use the time to be as productive (if not more) as any other day. But, since I was still turning a year older based on this measurement system which takes into account the position of earth at the event of my birth; I did make it a point to get myself a little treat to mark it, later during the day.
December was the month I started discovering more about Veganism and what being “Vegan” actually entails. Pune’s vegan community had treated me good earlier in the month and I was excited to try out Vegan-friendly places in the city I live in. My vegan search took me to a café called JustBe- incidentally, it had been suggested by a friend prior to my visit. I went on to have the “Me” time I deserved- with delicious vegan pizza, buttermylk, a book and some work done while I was at it. Heed my advice- people can surprise you in the most unique ways. Kirtan showed up at the café, to wish me on the occasion; despite having an exam the very next day! (No I haven’t turned Vegan; I’m just mildly curious about everything).
So let’s plunge into how this past year – the year I proclaimed my age to be 21 – has transformed me for the better, despite the hardships:
Lessons I learnt about Travelling
Exploring my own backyard before I take off into the unknown
Ever since I began travelling seriously; I’ve come across many a tales where travellers and bloggers are guilty of not having a concrete answer to the question – How is it in the place you come from? Often they know more about other places they’ve been to rather than their roots. Yes, travelling to an exotic place is great but knowing about where one’s from is equally important. So, I’ve decided to use this approach and I’m spending my time exploring the vast beauty “India” is- before my feet find themselves in foreign soil. Hopefully, I’ll have a concrete answer for it when the time arrives.
The difference between being a tourist and traveller
I admit that I’m guilty of being a very careless and irresponsible traveller in the past. Back then, I couldn’t comprehend the impact of my actions. Travelling was limited to being a vacation – a breather from the normal mundane routine we tend to make of this precious commodity called life. I often overlooked the details, didn’t delve enough into a place for it to leave a lasting impression – we’d look at all the places to see and leave. In my honest opinion, I don’t remember a lot of things I’ve done on such trips.
I believe I have transitioned to being more mindful of my actions now. I feel a place, more appreciative of the beauty that is the local ways, their home and culture. I started seeking a purer form of travel and I strive to find and live it every day. I focus more on experiences at this juncture. Stories I hear, form and happening at that very moment are the principal to me. They’re treasured and adored and always manage to put a smile on my face. This goes without saying that I prize the uniqueness, the wondrous landscapes, flora and fauna.
Travelling sustainably for a “Better Earth”
This might be hard to gulp, but there is a dire need for sustainability right now. Everywhere you go, there is hardly any importance given to waste management with sights of garbage: mainly plastic being a common sight. In remote areas, they don’t have enough resources to segregate, recycle and pick up the trash you leave at a place- hence dimming its beauty. Being aware of how we have been degrading our environment and following the principles of LNT and 4R’s has helped me a lot to make environmentally conscious decisions.
I live an essentially plastic-free life (completely eliminating the use of single-use plastic) and waste-free life. Though witnessing how integrated plastic is in our daily life, it is extremely difficult to completely eliminate it. When I do produce non-compostable waste, I collect it and take it for recycling. I also try not buying new things that I won’t require, restricting myself to being a minimalist. And this lifestyle is a continuous process, I am constantly looking for sustainable alternatives for plastic objects and commodities I’d have to buy.
Cherishing the Universe and its creations
The universe is a vast entity. No one knows what it means, what it contains, of its size, of its growth, of its finiteness and we never might. One cannot even begin to understand it. Maybe we’re not meant to understand the universe, we’re meant to experience it. Well, the universe created me so that must mean something right?
Accepting these simple truths has made me love the universe of simply being it. My goal now is essentially to cherish its creations, me being one of them. I came across something very meaningful said by the Doctor in one of its recent episodes that gave me a lot to think about:
None of us know for sure, what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Keep faith, travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly.
Lessons I learnt about Life
Appreciation for this fragility called Life
They often say one doesn’t have a major outlook change until one experiences near death, situations that fill you with gratitude for every breath you take, situations that leave you with fewer physical capabilities than the person you were. Same could be said about me, I’m grateful for what I’ve been through in the past as it has helped me to be the person I am today. But I’ve already cognised the fact that life in itself is a fleeting beauty – We’ll never know how much of it we have and it can shatter or end at any moment. This reality is not grim; on the contrary, it can free us from the shackles that have bound us for so long – thus enabling us to do and be what we were meant to be all along.
The true purpose of life
How many times have we been guilty of slogging ourselves into courses, jobs and work that bring us no joy? On the contrary, we invite a lot of misery, inefficiency, negative aura and unrewarding experiences in our lives. This, in turn, leads us to experience emotions like regret, guilt, despair and desolation; making us distant from the things that once brought immense joy.
Maybe, the pursuit of knowledge is futile. And quite possibly, it takes us away from the real purpose of our existence & viewing life for its utter senseless nature. There are things happening that we’ll never quite be able to comprehend, events happening at each moment we won’t even be aware of. In these catastrophic times, there is only one goal to achieve the mental serenity we seek: Being happy. Sounds simple right? In actuality, it is a mammoth of a task to find true peace and happiness – a continuous process we sometimes call “growth”. It takes conscious effort to make choices that add to our contentment and not steal from it.
Enjoying the little things
Since childhood, we are reminded so very often to ignore the little things and focus on the bigger picture. But when you look back into your past you’ll notice that it was never the big achievements that brought you that unadulterated joy; in fact, in many instances, they were those little details you didn’t bother paying attention to, hence couldn’t experience the delight of those moments to its fullest.
One of the key differences in my outlook on life since the recent past has been that I enjoy the little things a lot more now. I close my eyes, take a deep breath when stressed, think of all that I’m grateful for and take on life – one moment at a time.
Lessons I learnt about People
Acting on the constructive human emotions
We have heard this all through time, the world is a cruel and harsh place. What we haven’t been groomed to think is, “What if all we’ve been doing is complicate the simplest of matters?” We harbour emotions like hate, envy, deceit, coldness – isolating ourselves from external energy; forgoing the qualities that have the ability to influence and pull people towards your aura. Exhibiting traits like hope, kindness, mercy, gratefulness and empathy literally have the transform people and situations around you – without any conscious effort. Doing and being nice without any ulterior motives or expecting niceties in return is crucial (something human race desperately needs). But its true benefits are reflected on your soul; turning you into the purity you are meant to be.
Shunning ignorance and fear of the different
This little society of ours breeds hatred towards everything that is unlike them. The ignorance-fuelled prejudices we form of a place and people, without interacting with them in the first person is grave injustice done to them. The newspaper and media’s focus on the negatives rather than the positives of the society doesn’t make things any easier.
We tend to fear what we don’t understand. But at times, one does not need to understand to appreciate the unique elements that make a person, customs they’ve formed and their way of things. It is merely a response to circumstances and resources. Dismissing this ignorance and fear leads us to develop into a broad-minded individual. I’m going to leave you with a quote from Mark Twain about the same:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Lessons I learnt about Me
Acceptance of who I am
All my life, I’d been trying to pretend to be someone else. Someone who I thought would be accepted by her peers and society. There were different versions of me existing for every person I knew – like little echo universes, copies of the original thing but not quite the same. In the process I lost sight of who I was; the elements the constituted the original “Me”. I spend a great amount of last year trying to find who I am. But somewhere down the line, this little work I put in every single day from the past six months made me believe and see me for what I am: Truth, Love and Beauty.
Discovering eternal confidence
When you base your level of confidence on external factors like your achievements, praise, compliments; you realise how empty, futile and temporary the confidence achieved is. Instead, I started channelling my internal energy towards my confidence. This has resulted in forming my innate confidence, which remains unaffected from external factors and is everlasting. This confidence I’ve started portraying has been described as being infectious and has lead people to make remarks like “strong person” and “an inspiration”; when in reality, I haven’t any external enormous achievement or award to support such claims. This also helps you to finally break-free and find freedom from other’s opinions and the “Log Kya Kehenge”
Body shaming and its consequences
As an adolescent, I was very unhappy with the way I looked. I’d been extremely conscious of my body because it failed to fit the society’s standards. I was fat – in the most straightforward way. I was too fat and ugly to be loved – or so I believed. I avoided looking at my body for too long. I was body shaming myself, big time!
Big changes came into my life when I started to lose weight. Since then it has been a rollercoaster ride- gaining and losing weight in unhealthy ways. But I finally focused on being healthy and strong, how I looked in the process was of no importance. This weight loss left a lot of excess skin, stretch marks, flab and sagging breasts. It paved the way to kind of acceptance I have towards my body. But it took me a lot of courage to love my body for what it is and dismiss the society’s standards of beauty and truly believing I’m good the way I am.
Replacing Self-hate with Self-love
I have struggled with insecurities all my life. I’d hate on myself every time I couldn’t live up to the standards I’d set. I’d be my own worst enemy every time I slipped. I treated myself in the harshest way possible for each mistake I committed. I was afraid to look at the person staring back at me through the mirror, in the eye – desperately trying to avoid the guilt mine carried.
I overcame this unhealthy practice, by a simple ritual of telling myself, “Prerana, It’s a beautiful day. You’re going to do amazing. You don’t need love, you are love. Be love, always.” I also asked a simple question every time I let lethargy and self-doubt take over my being. Every time I felt the need to punish myself for my own faults – “Is this something, someone who loves herself would do?” And the transformation since has been amazing.
Mindset growth and the benefits
There are two broad types of mindsets – fixed and growth. While individuals with a fixed mindset believe that talent, character, intelligence and personality is inherent and can’t be changed; individuals with a growth mindset believe they have a starting point with these traits and they can be further developed with effort, outlook and persistence.
Practising mindset growth has been extremely challenging for me, and I believe it’s an ongoing process throughout life. It means not evading problems, challenges and putting in an effort to see results. And it has been especially helpful in turning my life around and making all these changes effective and possible.
I recommend reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck if you want more knowledge on the subject.
Focusing on the significance of Overall Health
Given the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself, I’d been shocked by how unhealthy my choices had been in the past years. They drained me of my energy, contributed to lethargy and made me bloat reducing my physical capabilities. Ever since I have switched to eating heathy, conscious of what goes in my body and engage in a nice little workout dedicated to increasing my strength rather than just losing weight.
And I agree, there is more to health than just physical. After suffering from depression in the past; it was imperative that I focus on keeping all aspects of me healthy. And I’ve found that being a healthy body, mind and soul i.e. overall, intertwine somewhere along the line. Changes in my overall health have been immense ever since.
Self-expression for self-awareness
There is a difference between doing something to impress and engaging in an activity to express oneself. When you focus on just impressing, external validation becomes the main criterion, while when you focus on expressing you gain internal gratitude and validation, with external appreciation as just a by-product.
My personal choice of self-expression is writing. My blog and mainly my journal have helped me to understand myself in a huge way. And thus self-awareness was born. When you journal, you write in the most honest way, since no one will ever critique your work. You pour in this that would be considered too risqué and scandalous by the judging world. And it also acts as a platform where you admit your faults; and when you do, you happen to make a conscious effort to rectify them. It is one of the most effective and healthy ways for dealing with every obstacle. Finding self-awareness has also helped me see external happenings as an extension of me – which bring a new realisation of how involved your every choice is with every event and changes going on.
What am I focusing on my 22nd year?
My 22nd year hitherto has been nothing short of a blessing. I’ve had what some might call a near-perfect beginning to a year; which has been spent contemplating the mysterious universe and the enigmatic existence under the scintillating starry night accompanied by an early morning moon rise, paddy fields extended in my field of vision and my back to some dramatic boulders with nature creating its own symphony, calming our nerves as we lost our worldly possessions (more details on it soon). I just want to extend the energy and awareness I found and continue building what was started the previous year.
At the dawn of ’19, I began envisaging what would and should consume my time:
- Start the blessed practice of journaling: There has been a recurring thought in my head for a while, pondering over the benefits of journaling and I would like to finally take the step and do it. Read Elita’s post on everything journaling here.
- Learn Latin Ballroom dances: Dancing has always been one of my passions but I’d always prioritised music over it. This time around, I would take the time to learn it and figure out a balance between being a traveller and learning how to “break a leg!”
- Learning to play the piano: For reasons unknown, I’d always play keys since childhood. It’s an instrument that has appeared in my life in many forms a harmonium, a keyboard. But, took one of my lovers to give me a private piano concert that would make me want to go back to its familiarity. I was completely mesmerised by its sound, which did a mighty good job of teleporting me to the most obscure of places – barefoot in the wilderness with canopies filtering light through; drowning in melancholy wrapped in paper-thin content while sitting on a cliff facing the immeasurable sea and dramatic sky, etc. So, this brought upon the longing to learn more about the magic of the piano.
- Travelling more: Taking that leap of faith and embracing the location-independent side of me. I’m working on my finances, sustaining myself and other details of blending myself, my hobbies and my habits in this essentially nomadic life I’ve been wanting to pursue.
- Continue with all the affirmative changes I’ve made: I’ve realised that though many people are hesitant to take that first step; it’s actually going on and not giving up that requires more work.
- Be more outspoken and increase socialising: I’m known to be a bit reserved, not interacting enough with my friends. I also tend to be a workaholic and convert my socialising time into more work time. I need to work out finding this balance between work and life.
So, what has turning older/last year taught you? What are your aspirations/resolutions for this year? I’d love to know about them in the comments.