So the past year of my life has been a whirlwind. I've faced a lot of unprecedented situations and basically lived a radically different life than what I was used to! I've not been communicative, had long periods of radio silence and probably not been the me you knew. I'd made a choice to hide. To hide from the world that hadn't been kind, to hide from the world where in it's conventional viewpoint - I was undeniably a failure. I thought if I could hide myself well, I’d never be found as the failure I clearly was. It's only recent events that have made me realize that if I’m okay with having "failed" with the truth on my side, it’s never really a failure.
"But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated."- Ernest Hemingway
But I'm done hiding. Almost a year to my life flipping off into a dimension I didn't know existed, I knew I had to take drastic steps to change it around. Before I proceed, please know that this is not a "success story", this is not a story at all, it is a narrative of an ordinary life that just took extraordinary courage to put out. And all of it starts with the end of February 2022.
There's about six widely accepted elements to a full, happy, content life - Physical health, Family and Relationships, Work and Career Prosperity, Wealth and monetary satisfaction, and Mental Strength. I'm not going to go cliché and rate myself on these, you are welcome to that exercise. I was merely going to dive right in.
For a year now, I’ve been unemployed. I’ve been in a legal battle, which, as anyone with experience could tell you- is severely time, money and energy consuming. I've had a lot of financial outflow and no inflow. I’ve been rejected by an innumerable number of companies after exhausting rounds of 5-7 interviews each because of the aforementioned reason. I’ve been severely sick for about 9/12 months (non-consecutively, until very recently). I’ve visited about 17 doctors around 30+ times. I've had 9+ antibiotics courses in addition to popping bacterial, fungal, immunity, gut, breathing etc. pills for various ailments. Got diagnosed with 2 severe, life altering medical conditions. I've lost out a lot of friends. I've seen the end of a significant relationship. I've had serious depression, anxiety and stress/harassment-induced mental issues.
Wow, that felt good to get out there. Even as I write this I'm coughing my lungs out so much that I think the neighborhood dogs have started protesting. You see, recent events have made me think about the point of it all. Why me? Why now? Why all this? Why altogether? For the longest time, I've been stuck searching for an anchor. Ah, us humans, we never learn right? Right?
To quote Dwight Schrute -
"Bears do not..." "Michael" Okay, I'll stop now.
The thing is, we learn. The indomitable spirit we carry, is that of survival. If we're blessed or just really determined, it's that of love. And if we have both, then it's of learning. And this is what I realized has been my anchor in this journey. And no, I don't mean the MBA school/corporate interview answer - "My biggest strength is my ability/hunger to learn!".
I mean - The petulant spirit to learn. The unkillable, immutable, desire for meaning that drives you to learn; for bare survival and then some. In fact, at this stage if someone comes by and says, "We want to teach her a lesson", I bring a notebook and a pen, and start writing. Of course, most often what comes out is prose, but hey! Life is just like a school - What the teacher is trying to teach and what you are trying to learn will barely overlap, but at the end of it, you'll remember all you need to survive and thrive. So, what did I do to learn?
"The time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time." - Bertrand Russel.
In the past year, I've explored 3 pristine travel destinations. I've read 44 & 3/4 novels ranging from classics to surrealistic fiction, from humor to death, from what the gene thinks to how a therapist therapizes, from the subconscious to the unconscious and so many more. I've completed 4 professional courses across varied yet allied fields. I've done some abysmal abstract photography (like trying to shoot the clouds moving outside my window). I've got complete knowledge on what the doctors think ails me (you can quiz me, but please don't). I've consistently pursued learning a language. I've written 2-4 times a week for my blog. (About a total of 80 odd pieces were written during the year of which about half have been published - per usual). I've completely given up alcohol and caffeine. I've done a looooot of soul searching and explored a lot of the esoteric. I've been blessed with meaningful friends. I've gone to therapy.
All of the above, done in windows of time I could gather between feeling like giving up on life and feeling too sick to live it.
And yet, what has been singularly humbling in this journey is - what I learnt from what I didn't think I was learning from, was infinitely more than what I learnt from what I specifically did to learn from.
We've all been so obsessed with success stories that we want every story to have a happy ending. We want to be inspired. We want to read the pain and then be absolved of the pain through a letting go, maybe a moving on, or of course, good old avengement. Imagine if someone told you, "Don't tell me about your troubles until you've solved them successfully, turned your life around and can give me the key to do mine too." You'd probably just never talk to them again. Closer to home, for me, this person was my own self. But this is the world we live in. In this, we end up hurting the ones we love instead of encouraging them. We only want to hear of pain as the unseen backdrop of a shining stage, we only want to see the silver lining and seldom the cloud.
“You have three aspects of reality that nobody gets to avoid. Pain, uncertainty, and constant work. Those are things you’re just gonna have to live with, no matter what. What will make you happy is the process. You have to learn how to love the process of dealing with those three things.” - Paul Stutz
We've missed a very important fact of it all - Pain is a constant part of life. There's no state of complete bliss and state of complete pain, just varying circumstantial associations that make it so. It's like time - there's no good or bad time, just varying circumstantial associations that make it so. In fact, as innumerable studies would prove, we humans are predisposed to pain/suffering. So let me tell you, it ain't going to get easier, but you'll survive. As the combined voices of my mentors lovingly put it - "You survived kid. If it is not your time to die, you're going to hurt and survive some more. If it is still not your time to die, you will succeed. If you still don't die, you'll fail again.....sic et ceterea"
At the end of it all - well technically, it hasn't really ended. In the midst of it all, I am still dealing with all the situations that have popped up this past year. I'm in physical recovery for a lot of the coming months and not sure what the future holds for me in any area of my life. I just know there's a lot I'm yet to learn and a lot I'm yet to do. However, this now warrants a patient pause as I heal, maybe another now will be different. But the past has been written, and so I shall write about it!
I write in the hope that if you're facing or have faced or will be facing or know someone who is facing a tough phase in life, you know you're not alone. I also write to give you a context about my decision to hide, share my experiences and just know more about what I have missed in your lives. I wanted to write about what I've learned throughout the process, but for those pearls of wisdom, I'll probably create a separate post. This one's is just to put it out there.
And as you fight your battles, as I fight mine, I share with you a few words I hold dearest to my heart:
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” - Viktor Frankl.
Picture credits - An original self-portrait, created by AI.
P.S. - There's a lot more to share, and over the course of the next few months, weeks, I will share a more nuanced and detailed view of the dominoes that fell, and especially about that first domino - tales of injustice that will sear your perceptions of people, friendships and maybe even career paths.
Of course, this post is incomplete without naming everyone that has been a part of my journey. But hey, the story is incomplete, so let the post be incomplete too! However, you know who you are, and this post is dedicated to you.