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.
Did anyone ever tell you that you should read books to change your life? Actually I would go as far as to say one of the synonyms of personal growth is reading.
I started reading non-fiction and fiction books sincerely only for the last four-five years. But in this duration, I read some books that shifted the course of my life. They exposed me to unbelievable facts. They laid open the science that 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 unfurled the greatest lives. They told me life can be lived in many ways. They reassured me that it was okay to be who I was. But also that I could grow.
You don’t know what is out there until you read. And then the ghosts don’t leave you alone, ever.
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 have put my computer aside more than once to cry over an unjust email or to get my fair share in a fight with my partner or another close friend.
I have had bad days. I have sometimes taken off on those hard days. Instead of writing, I went out on a drive and bought tiger prawns or cried and slept or read Charles Darwin while drowning myself in chamomile tea.
These bouts of sulking in my misery or fighting followed by pampering and sometimes spending time with the other fighter of the duel leading to the exhilaration and then to that moment of clarity where I justified the time spent crying as just another day lived and felt that life was as clear as a night sky have sometimes lasted for an hour and up to a day or even more.
One young summer of my life, I was living in Himachal, the home of the Himalayas. While learning the flute, practicing yoga, working on my blog, and trying to stick to Vipassana meditation techniques, I didn’t realize that I had buried myself under a lot of pressure to be the perfect Bohemian. Ironically, I was on a laid-back mountain staycation.
One Friday, my abuse of self-expectations pushed me to the abysmal depths of moroseness. I didn’t even want to lift my feet to walk to the bathroom. I spent two to three days lying in bed and weeping and sleeping and avoiding everyone and then hiking to a mountain alone.
In the two days of nothingness, I ignored all work, didn’t practice the flute, and put the yoga and meditation aside for wiser people. And on the third day of the rendezvous, I hung out with my travel friends and chatted away in the sun while eating palak paneer with garlic naan.
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 the things I had failed at before. It was like I had found vigor again. The more I read, the more I understood, the more life questions I had, and the more incomprehensible it seems now.
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)
A lot of us get bored with work. But we think that it is okay to get bored at our jobs and we continue working. In this article I unfurl why we expect work to be boring, why it shouldn’t be, and how does this belief harms us.
We always say that work is supposed to be boring — because adults separate the idea of fun and work early on for us.
Since childhood, we are trained to think that work sucks. We are told that we should play all we want for we would have to work one day. We see elders going to their jobs, but they don’t seem to have fun — they say that work is something they have to do even if they get bored at work and don’t enjoy it.
No one ever mentions having a good time as part of a profession/job, and we start believing that work is a dull thing grown-ups do to earn money(the more the better) irrespective of how they feel about their profession.
Now no one can ever enjoy 100% of her work 365 days a year(I’m happy if you do) but the problem arises when we are mostly bored of work and do what we do to only get money.
We witness enough close people following the idea that work is boring.
My father opened his shop every day of the week except Tuesdays. He never complained about his business, but he never cared if he enjoyed his work or not. He was only concerned about making enough to raise his family. Our teachers, relatives, elder siblings all seemed to pursue a career to earn at their maximum potential.
Fun was never discussed in the context of work and even frowned upon. In his book Le Petite Prince, the French philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exupéry raises similar thought-provoking questions about adults keeping their matters of consequence disjoint from (and above) fun.
You want to work or all you want to do is have fun? Someone would say when we created a game out of a mathematics problem.
From our younger years to adulthood, we grow up concreting the idea that something we enjoy can’t become our career.
But this isn’t true. Let me tell you why.
We all hope to become a better version of ourselves. I want to be a better writer. My partner wants to be a good coder. My friend wishes to be a good mother. You dream of winning a swimming championship. Someone fancy playing the piano as Lady Gaga plays.
One way to achieve these set goals that I mentioned above is to possess the willpower to get up and do the thing, every day. Another way is to form a habit (I will explain what are habits as the article progresses) which you practice regularly to move towards your goal. I should develop a habit of writing daily. My partner can become an efficient coder by developing a habit of focusing on the quality of his code every time he codes. My friend has to create a habit of not losing patience when her child annoys her. You get my point.
But you might ask the difference between having the willpower to do these things regularly and forming a habit to practice them as a routine? Both ways need you to work.
To make this distinction clear, we will understand habits in detail.
You would encounter sharp rocks jutting out of every mountain you wish to climb. Through my perseverant journey as a new writer, let me show why you have to go on even if your hands bleed. Never give up. Fight for your dreams. It is the only way to succeed.
You start. You are exhilarated. You shriek at the top of your voice from the roof of your confidence. You laugh from your stomach. You give long motivational speeches to your friends about how they need to start living. You wake up singing a tune praising the morning sunshine. You look forward to Mondays because life has taken a route you could only dream about.
People say you are inspiring. They applaud you. Your friends like and share everything you post. They read everything you write. Some of them even help you correct the grammar. You are glad as getting set right by friends is better than being ridiculed by unfamiliar readers.
You don’t worry about the money, yet, as the savings save you. Your family is appalled by your decision. But they don’t say anything this time. The last time they did, their words dug a deep valley between you two.
Your Mac is your new Nietzsche. All your philosophy seems to pour out of it.
We were in September, and the sun had been hiding away for many days from Chiloé, a southern island of petite Chile. Rain thudded the brick-tiled roof unabashedly. I shivered after a shower on a cold evening in Castro. To avoid getting scolded by my host mother for not drying my hair well, I walked down to warm my head near the kitchen fire.
My host mother, who was already sitting at the round, wooden dining and sipping mate from her cup, called me to join her while patting the thick sofa cushion on her left. Perched on her right, the British volunteer, who was also teaching English to Chilean students with English Open Doors, rolled his eyes as he saw me accepting her invitation and approaching them. Respecting our usual friendly banter and rekindling the Indo-British feud, I threw some bad words in his direction.
Then as the three of us huddled at the dining and sipped tea in the cozy kitchen of our uninsulated home, my host mother told us that her brother had just come home to request some wine, and then she warned us not to trust him as he was an alcoholic.
Though I had seen her brother visit us every day, eat bread and cheese at the dining, drink wine, of which she kept a big bottle in her kitchen especially for him, I never realized that he was an alcoholic. Maybe I was focusing on cracking the heavy Spanish that darted to and fro between the siblings.
But his alcoholism was not the devastating part of the story.