Its that time of the year again. The ink and sheets of paper are out again, as everyone suddenly gathers their will power and pens down a list of what they have decided to do with their lives in the coming 365 days. Some have decided to just continue with the same list they had made last year, either because they haven't been able to complete what they had sought out to do, or because they are just too lazy to make all that effort again. And there are also some who have just given up on this exercise altogether, convincing themselves that all this is just a sham, that New year is just another date on the calendar.
This year, though, does feel a little different. For me personally, this New Year has been about the realization that its not just about the plans you pen down for the future, its about learning from the year gone by before doing so.
So here is what I learnt from the past year. A few observations, a few realizations, which hit me as I watched the past year unfold, some self experienced, some seen happening to the people close to me, whose value I have decided to appreciate as another year begins. These are no resolutions per say, but I get a sense that if I recognize and accept these few truths, I might not even need to make a list of things to do this year, or maybe any year in the future.
1. Life is never sorted
Everyone wants a perfectly happy life. Its natural to hope that for oneself. We all hope for a life which is simple, happy and without a lot of stress. But ask yourself, won’t such a life be a pain? Waking up everyday knowing that its going to the same as yesterday is as boring as its frightening.
And that’s precisely why life must be unpredictable. And this past year has shown me that although we try our best to make our life as comfortable and one paced as we can, we will never be able to succeed in achieving that target. Ever. Just as we ease up on life, thinking that it has finally relented and has settled into a normal, easy going, and pleasantly boring rhythm, it strikes back, throwing up some convoluted challenge back at us, mocking us for trying to even think such a preposterous idea was possible, challenging us to tackle it with all our might and set right what it has very conveniently entangled.
And that is the beauty of life in the truest sense. Doing, getting it all undone, and then doing it again. Life is meant to be fought for. Life is, if anything, a wrestling bout where punches and kicks are meant to thrown with full might, to get at the ultimate prize – Survival.
So if you are stuck in a hole the next time, just don’t give up. Because there is always a light at the end of the tunnel for those who are brave enough to keep going. The next time you think life is unfair, just remember that it’s ok. Its not injustice, its just an invitation to the next round of the bout.
2. Friends will be there for you till you die
While life will invariably throw numerous challenges at you, it will also give you the strength to brave the harsh winds by giving you the shelter of your friends. I have always maintained that all the ‘friends’ that we supposedly have on social media are ideally just Contacts or acquaintances. The truest, closest friends that you have will never have to be on Facebook, they will never have to check your status to know what you are going through; they will just be there.
They will stick to you when you are low, even when you would feel that you are better off alone. They will back you when you are troubled. They will celebrate your wins more than they will celebrate their own. And for that you owe them deeply.
So I learnt to never ever ignore a chance to spend time with friends. It doesn’t have to be a large group. In fact, I believe that the larger the group becomes, the shallower and more superficial the bond becomes. Even if you do have a large group, there will only be one or two in that group who will truly understand you. It’s you who has to recognize them in the crowd.
Remember, these are those people who will stay with you for life. Siblings will get married. Spouse will only come much later in your life. These guys enter early and will go the whole distance with you. So treasure them, give them your best because whether you do or not they give their best to you.
3. Travel is the ultimate teacher
True education is not what you cram up from the school textbooks or your college labs. True education is when you head out into the unknown, with nothing but your instincts to guide you. And that is exactly why travel will always be my ultimate teacher.
Whether its with your friends or your family one must travel. The greatest lessons though, will always be learnt when you go out alone. I did that this year, to an extent that is (as chronicled in my previous post), and the sense of freedom and self sufficiency it brought to me was so immense that I seriously can’t imagine putting it in words.
As a famous saying goes, travel without a map because sometimes, you have to lose yourself to find yourself.
It doesn’t have to be a lavish vacation or a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara kind of road trip. It can be as simple and as trivial as a hike up the mountain near the village you stay in, or a day in the forests just outside the city. Its all about discovering the unknown. It can be as inexpensive as a solo trip to a yet undiscovered city by train. Believe me, the experience, however bad or tough you find it in that instant, will harden you, make you grow and help you become battle ready for the life ahead.
4. Lose your soul to Music
A soul is one’s dearest possession. It is often said that a man who loses his soul is not worth existing. Without a soul, one loses his purpose of existence. If there is one target that we must set ourselves, it should be to enrich our soul with good qualities.
Music does that. It’s the only thing I believe is worth losing your soul to. And I say that only because once you do that, it gives your soul back to you, just that little bit more enriched, just that tiny bit more purified.
There is no good or bad music. Music is omnipresent; its all around us. Music has this amazing ability to sense one innermost feeling, the joy, the sorrow, the desire. And when you truly surrender to its might, you can feel the stress and tension of the otherwise mundane life just getting washed away.
So keep all kinds of music with you – the whacky ones, the funny ones, the deep ones, the sad ones, the romantic ones. And when you are going through your playlist wondering which song to listen to, it won’t be you who chooses the song, the song will choose you.
5. Make a Difference
Yes, an X-Box console will give you a lot of joy. It did to me. You will play with it for quite a while, learning to master the intricacies of its controls, feeling victorious as you beat your opponents again and again.
Yet, there is another person similar to you who has similar ambitions. He wants to play on an X-Box just like you do. But unfortunately, he doesn’t have electricity in his small hut in the far off village.
This year was about the realization that material possessions count for very little in the long term. Yes, they offer us some short term happiness – a sense of pride at having something very few others might have ever even imagined being in the possession of – but eventually it dawns upon us that we outgrow every possession we have, sooner or later. And if we don’t, it’s only because there is something very personal, something very special connected with that lifeless object which you just can’t give up.
I will keep that thought in mind. It won’t stop me from buying possessions for myself. But it will keep me grounded. It will make me appreciate that I am one of the lucky few in the world who has access to such facilities.
So do what little you can to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be hefty contributions to NGOs. It is always about the little gestures. When you stop at a juice stall and have juice, spare twenty bucks and gift a glass of juice to the hungry kid who is sitting on the road next to you. When you are about to throw away huge piles of leftover food you ordered for the party you threw, think of the people who starve every night and be gracious enough to leave your apartment for a few moments and treat such people. Believe me, whats leftover for you, will be the best feast that such people might have in the whole year. While you piss on the corner of the road, try and think that there might be a homeless family who uses that space to sleep at night.
It is really not very tough. After all, we are humans, aren’t we?
6. Never give up on Love
When it comes to love, I tried a lot to find very famous sayings by very famous people to emphasise my point. But I couldn't find a more apt summary of what love is all about than the lines of the movie Crazy Stupid Love in which the protagonist says these lines meant for his separated wife – "Love is when you find that one person you know you want to be with – your soul mate. When I found mine, I loved her through the birth of our children. I loved her even when I hated her. And right now I don't know if all that will work out. But one thing I promise – that I will never stop trying. Because when you find THE one, you never give up."
Love is never easy. It is very easy to confuse a crush or infatuation as love. It is also very easy to be physical with someone and still not be in love. And if you do find true love, it is complicated even more by the social and cultural barriers that our dear country throws up.
It only takes one special person to change all that, and when he or she arrives, you will know it. And if ever you have any doubt, all it takes is a simple moment of self introspection. Look inside yourself. When your friends are talking about their boyfriends or girlfriends or spouses or fiances, if there is a face that props up in your head; when you think of where you will be a decade down the line, if there is a person you imagine standing by your side; if there is one person with whom you imagine traveling to new unseen destinations; if there is one person with whom you desperately want to share how good or how bad your day went; if there is a guy or a girl with whom the most special moments are the ones in which you just talk and do nothing else; if there is anyone whose presence gives you those pleasantly painful jitters in your belly; if there is that one face in a crowd whom you keep looking at stealthily without making it obvious to others around you, then no matter how much you deny it, you have found your love, your soulmate. And you will know that in a perfect world with no barriers of societal pressure, you would do anything to be with that person. It’s not a perfect world, however – as I said, life is never sorted according to our wishes, but that is why Cal Weaver from the movie said what he said. That although he doesn't have a clue whether it'll work out, he will never stop trying. One should never stop trying. Because tomorrow, you don’t want to live with the regret of not having tried enough.
PS – Do watch the movie. It is a beautiful representation of how insanely complicated but how insanely mesmerising love is.
7. Your destiny is in your hands
What is in store for us in our future? It’s a thought that bothers every single one of us. Yet it’s the fun in not knowing the answer to that question that keeps us alive. When it comes to our careers, most of us have a clearly drawn out plan, about what they plan to do, where they dream of working and how they aim to become better so that they can make it big at their dream job. But somehow, the same kind of zest often goes missing when it comes to our life. Career, after all, is just a part of our life, it isn’t our entire life. Then why, when it comes to this, do we resign ourselves to what the higher force has written for us?
The kind of person you want to be, the kind of person you want to be with, and the kind of person you want to be seen as is all defined by what you are willing to do about it. What you truly wish for won't come decorated on a platter for you. You will need to work for it, you will need to sweat it out and struggle to achieve it. Leaving it all to destiny is like wishing to eat a juicy mango and then just looking up at the sky with your mouth open hoping for a mango, already peeled and very conveniently cut into slices to drop right into your mouth.
So go and get what you want. Be true to yourself and your aspirations. Yes, you will find a lot of hurdles. People will discourage you, people will try to drag you down. The same people whom you thought were close to you will push you away, they will insult you and try to block you out of their lives, all because you are trying to change yours and maybe their lives for the better and they just can’t understand it right now. It is ok to feel upset, it’s ok to cry your heart out. Don’t be embarassed by it. Sometimes it is all that you can do at a particular moment. But it’s NOT ok to concede defeat. So despite all what you face, keep moving forward. Because what you will achieve in the end after putting yourself through almost impossible odds will be that much sweeter to taste.
And as far as the matter of destiny goes, its apt description is given by this Korean movie which is based on a true story of a college kid in which a girl believes that everything is meant to be. She believes that twisting and modifying destiny to suit oneself is the wrong way to go about life and we should leave it all to the force above. But an old man who sits beside her in a park asks her one simple question - What if twisting and modifying your destiny is what is destined for you? Because even when destiny wants to accomplish something for you, it still can’t do it alone; you still have to show up.
8. Its ok to be a Child once in a while
“Grow up!!” “Act your age!” “When will you ever start thinking like an adult?”
I’m pretty sure almost every one of us has heard the above lines in one or the other semantic being shouted at their faces. And we have all just cowered back in retaliation, believing that maybe we are actually not as mature as the person in front of us who is uttering these words. I still remember how badly I wanted to grow up when I was a kid. And now, all I can think of is if there is any way back.
How do you define a grown up? Is it age? If it is then why is old age called the second childhood? Does being mature just mean that we carry a serious looking face to work every day and do what is expected of us every single time? Is it about ceasing to think that good things can actually happen in this world and just starting to believe that whatever happens, good and happy endings are only supposed to happen in the movies?
Well, if that is what ‘mature’ is all about, I’m much rather be an immature person all my life. I have realized that it’s ok to bring out the child inside you once in a while. It is perfectly fine to do what your heart says. It is in fact necessary that you do so. Life is not meant to be drawn out in black and white. Life is going to give a lot of kicks up your backside (see point no. 1) and it would be much better for you that it happens in a colourful canvas rather than bland monochromatic one.
So be wild once in a while. Take that unbelievably crazy idea that no one would understand and show it to the world that it can be done. Go out and do stupid things once in a while, because that is what will make you smile a couple of years down the line.
Being mature is about handling our lives responsibly in our own way, it’s not about accepting what society says is right. Being mature is about learning how to be better with each of your experiences, it is not about playing dead when you have not even reached your coffin yet.
So that is what I learnt this past year. I don’t know if I will be able to actually implement all this during the coming year, but I’ll surely try my best. And that is a promise I have made to myself. That I’ll eat healthy, pray deeply, love unconditionally. And I’m pretty sure that before I know it, New Year resolutions will take care of itself.