It’s becoming an annual birthday tradition to write down and share the lessons I’ve learnt over the course of the preceding year. If I could set up a weight balance scale, I would stack four decades of living, learning and experiencing on one side of the weight scale, and the last four years on the other side. Because that’s how intense the last 4 years have been. They have had a fairly equal share of the good, bad and the ugly. Ha! That sounds awful, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything because I’ve come out the other side with a stronger sense of self- an understanding of who I am and what I’d like to do with my time here. And in spite of the bumps in the road, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It’s like a picture, that once you’ve seen it, you can never un-see. This post is not to say that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do but instead, to acknowledge that a journey isn’t about the destination alone. I thought of train journeys that I took with my parents when I was a child when we still lived in India. I must have been about 7 or 8. As a child, you don’t think so much about the train station that you are going to get down at. Instead, you think about rushing into the train compartment, and claiming the coveted window seat. You feel the wind in your hair as the train picks up speed. You extend your arm out a little and feel the drag as the train hurtles forward. The snacks. The sheer fun of it all. The trepidation when you see your Dad get down to buy something from a book stall at the station. The hope, tinged with fear, that he comes back on board before the train starts to move. I remember pleading with my Dad not to buy anything and his reassurances that he would be back well in time (and tapping his wristwatch to show that he would keep track of time). As a child, you are not thinking about anything else but that moment. So many people say this so many times, but until your realize the significance of these words, they remain just that- words. It’s right now, this moment that matters the most. What you do with it is up to you. Everything else is either past or isn’t here yet. When I remember those trains, I remember the journey itself rather than the place we were going to. Over time, I forgot that was the important part. Only to be reminded now.
So what lessons did I learn this past year?
- Always do more of what makes you happy. Obvious, yes, but something you’ve to work at. I love writing and I feel amazing after I write something on this blog. It’s almost as if the blog is a confessional and I feel lighter after having written down what’s on my mind. To put it very simply, it makes me happy. In the past year, as my projects have grown, its been harder to maintain a consistent, daily blogging practice. I felt dispirited and unhappy with myself. Once I realized why I felt the way I did, I resolved to set time apart everyday to write. Good or bad. Long or short. Whether the only person that read it was me or it was read by many. It’s a practice that I have to honor. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Simply put, do more of what makes you happy.
- Which brings me to the fact that my happiness is my responsibility. No one else’s. It’s a very empowering and liberating thought. Again in author Elizabeth Gilbert’s words “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” I put the words on a picture so that I can print it out and tape it to the wall or desk, somewhere where I’ll see it every day.For me, realizing that my happiness is my responsibility hasn’t resulted in my crossing over a line onto a side where I am now perpetually happy. My experience has been that it’s something that I work on everyday. Some days the steady state holds, on others, it’s a work in progress :)!
- Please don’t equate your sense of self-worth to anything external – your appearance, what other people think of you, the amount of money you have, the zip code you live in, the car you drive and on. Research shows that it takes a physical and mental toll on us + this article talks through this subject.
- For me, the biggest turning point/lesson didn’t happen until the past month. I wrote a post about how I’d like to be treated. It was hard and I almost didn’t share it, but acknowledging and actually listing my vulnerabilities has had a life-changing effect on me- I feel lighter. I’ve said that before, but I expected to go back to feeling like my old self after a few days. But what has happened is that I am more focused, more excited and am able to accomplish more at work because I don’t feel weighed down by my fears any more. If you’d like to read that post, it’s here. If you’d like to read other birthday posts find a couple here and here. Raising my cup to another awesome year with all of you! I’d love to hear from you, so do share your thoughts! – Best, Priya
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