A Letter to My Younger Self
I know you like them words. But an introduction doesn’t work everywhere so let me get to the point.
I know you like them words. But an introduction doesn’t work everywhere so let me get to the point.
Virginia Woolf was once asked to speak about women and fiction.
Woolf wandered the streets of London, sat by the riverside, pored over shelves full of books in the British Museum, went to luncheons, and considered the then state of literature. While working in a constricted space in that London where women weren’t even allowed to walk on turf paths in colleges (only men and students could), Virginia created a masterpiece on why there were limited women writers and even more limited writings by them.
Woolf delivered the lectures in October 1928 at the women’s colleges of Cambridge University. Published in September 1929, A Room of One’s Own is an essay based on those lectures.
Woolf went back to the works of Proust, Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Kipling, Keats, and many more known and unknown writers to understand the truth. She read fiction written by women and studied her contemporaries’ books. She contemplated why the writing of men scorned women and if women were writing good fiction.
In the essays, Virginia emphasized — while showing her detailed thought process — “that a woman needs money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
In addition to being a seminal work on feminism, A Room of One’s Own is an infinite pool of wisdom on writing and life. In the essay, Virginia Woolf argued passionately and statistically about how cultural, spiritual, and financial restrictions may limit our creative freedom.
Given the essay has so much to read into, I will only delve into the lessons on life and writing that Woolf was so benevolent in sharing with us.
I had planned to share lessons from the book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” and experiences from practicing a sustainable and conscious lifestyle in this piece. But as I wrote, I also added health concepts I had learned (and practiced) growing up in India, lifestyles I had studied from books, and ways of living I had seen while traveling.
So now this article is a conglomeration of the most logical, useful, and effective ideas — that I’ve found — on living a healthy, simple, and, yet, purpose-driven life.
Has anyone ever asked you to read books to change your life? I would go as far as to say reading is one of the synonyms of personal growth.
I started reading books, both fiction and non-fiction, sincerely only for the last five years (linked are the best books of the category I read in 2020). But during this time, I read some books that shifted the course of my life. They exposed me to unbelievable facts. They laid open the science I didn’t know exist. They told me stories I could never imagine. They made me cry like I hadn’t before. They made me laugh as if I had nothing to worry about. They accompanied me when I was lonely. They told me life can be lived in many ways. They reassured me it was okay to be who I was. But that I could learn, too.
By a life changing book, I don’t necessarily mean a bestseller.
By life changing books I mean the books in which the most obvious things have been said in the simplest form; that tell the history of life not as how people want us to know but how it happened; that show life writhing out of the mouth of suffering with full force; that remind us of adventures we had as little children that give sense to our today, too; that seem long and convoluted but essentially they talk about things we have always ignored; that make us reconsider if the thing is worth beating ourselves about; that make us look at life with a child’s eyes again; that make us ask questions we were too scared to even think about; that unravel the science behind all this and help us be a little less clueless; that give us hope that change is nothing but little things done every day; that show us compassion and tell us we are okay as who we are.
On my 30th birthday three years ago, I had written 30 life lessons my twenties had taught me. From exercising regularly to fixing a hung laptop before anything else to not running after money but finding my calling and chasing experiences were the core learnings of my 20s.
As I’m about to turn 33 in less than two weeks, I found myself riding the life lesson wave again. “How am I managing life in the 30s” question stared at me.
Contrary to how it might look like, I always say that age is just a number(as many of my friends told me when I asked them to contribute to this article). Ignoring my steeping age that rushed towards my 30th birthday like a break-less ambassador car and blocking my parents who looked at me as if the time for me to do anything good had gone by, I shifted my life gears in my late 20s — changed my career, left my apartment to travel long-term, found the love of my life, took physical health sincerely, and finally chose life skills over money and ignored short-term gratification.
Though my late 20s lifestyle has poured over into my thirties, life feels different now. Personal awareness and growth have been the top priorities on my mind since I graduated into the 30s decade.
I woke up feeling low-spirited today morning.
As my 7:10 am alarm rang, I extended my arm and fumbled for my phone on the floor, where it lays at night. I switched off the alarm. Then I pulled my arm inside my white duvet again and closed my eyes. My partner shut off his 7:20 am alarm, too.
While he pushed his phone under his crumbly pillow, we took a peek at each other, and then our eyes closed.
I remember a quote that once said, ask the right questions. Over the years I have realized that questions are much more important than answers. Without asking the right queries we can never hope for the right knowledge.
But it took me a while to even understand what questions I should ask of myself. Some of those doubts were always there in the background, hovering, emphasizing that I didn’t understand life. I had a vague feeling that I was dismaying over things that didn’t matter while ignoring the universal realities that would pull me out of my little problem bubbles. But I wasn’t sure. And I never took out time to pin those deep questions about life, and, hence, could never answer them.
The process of questioning deepened when I started writing and reading full-time. As I had redesigned my life from a corporate cycle of drudgery, I was too eager to question everything and to be better at things. It was like I had found vigor again. The more life changing books I read, the more I understood, and the more life questions I had.
As Franz Kafka once said, “Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate… but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins.”
The effort continues.
I am putting down some thought-provoking questions that have hitherto found me here. I have followed a natural course and have clubbed thematic questions together.
I have answered all the questions to keep an account of my thoughts on the matter. As you will see, I have some answers, but some of the questions to life still dodge me. You can completely ignore my responses and find your own.
Along with the important questions about life and their answers, I am also putting down the books that have helped me understand the matter.
I plan to update these self reflection questions and answers year-on-year or whenever my understanding changes.
Till then, I present to you the questionnaire of life from my lens.
Let me recite a story from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habits. This is a true story of a woman named Lisa(as per the records) who was the subject of a scientific study for understanding behavioral change and habits.
Please note: Though the story is the key to appreciate this article, I am summarizing the story for those readers who don’t want to read it. If you want to read the story, go to it here. Else continue reading the summary.
Like many others, I read about the lives and work of many great artists, writers, physicists, musicians, innovators, and thinkers. But rather than quoting them, I generally prefer to share my interpretation of their ideas. I feel I haven’t assimilated their words well if I share them plain rather than kneading them with my thoughts.
Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Virginia Woolf, Ruskin Bond, Rainer Maria Rilke, Vincent van Gogh, Marcel Proust, Nietzsche, Josh Waitzkin, and The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry — I’ve adapted lessons, inspirations, and visions of all these great human beings.
But it is not always about the source or amalgamation of motivation. Ideas and inspiration need to keep floating in the universe irrespective of where they come from. After all, we are only the means to an end, and we all need a guiding light.
In this piece, I am sharing some of the most deep, inspiring quotes about life I have come across. The hope is to read these avant-garde quotes, to come back to them whenever we need them, and sift through them even when we feel we don’t require them. Thus we keep ourselves soaked in inspiration and don’t let it deplete.
Let the journey of imagination and belief begin. (Also Read: What is Self-Improvement)
The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself .
While writing full-time for almost three years now, I have spent a lot more time looking inwards (and would continue to do so) than I did before. When I reflect on myself, I see how imperfect I am. With this self-knowledge, I am able to look outwards with more compassion. I have also realized that life, though, complex, is also simple. It all depends on how we look at things.
These growing insights into the external and internal world lay the foundation of my personal growth and creativity, both of which, in turn, help me understand more. (Update May 2022: I’ve been reflecting inwards for close to five years now. And I’m updating this list of things I have learned as per my current understanding. I also have my learnings from the year 2022 written down separately, in case you want to look at the latest only.)
Learning paves way for more learning.
In this piece on the most important lessons in life, I share everything I have learned so far. I have penned down the ways that help me simplify things. I believe that all that is important must have made itself available to my mind and heart while I’m writing the article. And if I have missed something, either I do not care about it enough or the learning will appear in some form later.
This collection of lessons is more a cheat sheet for me and less a guide for a reader looking for life’s wisdom. But I do hope I have shared experiences that will help one sail along this immense sea of life with a bit more ease.
This list of life learnings is long with sections randomly arranged. If you like the article, consider bookmarking it to return to it later at a time of need.
While you are here, also consider checking out my collection of deep meaningful quotes on life. I have put these together from years of reading.
One of India’s most popular writer Ruskin Bond was born in 1934 in Dehradun, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Ruskin’s parents — both British — got divorced when he was four. After a few years of the divorce, his father put him in a boarding school in Shimla for he couldn’t keep the little boy with him.
Ruskin was only eleven when his father died of the plague in the second world war in Calcutta. After his father’s death, Ruskin continued studying in the same school in Shimla and lived intermittently in Dehradun with his grandmother and mother. When Ruskin was seventeen, he went to London to get a job there and work. His mother had insisted him to build a career there.
But neither did Ruskin like London nor did he enjoy his job. He wanted to become a writer since he was a little boy.
2019 was a roller coaster ride.
Waking up in my rooftop room that serves as my intermittent writing studio in Bengaluru, incorporating travel blogging with On My Canvas by writing throughout the year about my past and recent travels, connecting with other bloggers and travel writers, slow traveling in the Himalayas for four(4) months of summer while focusing on health and personal well-being and working remotely, writing thirty(30) long and super-researched articles in thirty(30) days in August, traveling in Karnataka on short and long trips, collaborating with both national and international travel organizations for the first time, getting my work and writing acknowledged over other media platforms, and then making my way to Myanmar via flight (after my plans to cross into Myanmar through Northeast got canceled because of the protests) and spending three weeks there — I never felt that the year was slow even though I slowed down quite a few time.
Oh, On My Canvas also won three travel blogging awards within my first year of sincere travel blogging.
Let me tell you my favorite and not-so-favorite moments from this hap hazardous list of actions and achievements. Later I will also summarize the things that I feel I couldn’t do justice to and wish to focus on in 2020.