Apologies for the inactivity we have experienced here since well, almost the beginning of this year. There are basically two spells of motivation I have in any given year – one being when the year actually starts, and the other one at the beginning of my birthday month.
No points for guessing – I am a sucker for birthdays. Turning 24 this year, and inside my head, my birthday is still as big a deal for me as it used to be when I was 16 or even 8 for that matter.
What this motivation has lead to is the germination of this idea that I should be posting my scribbles/ thoughts/ advice/ musings, however short or long it might be, here, in the form of numbered posts. Since I am starting (well we are 3 days into it) my birthday month, I’d like to go ahead with a post on some advice I’d like to give to my younger self.
Please note, by no means is this list exhaustive – it is basically a transcribed version, (albeit grammatically more sound) of an audio I recorded while driving.
Just be sincere towards things
Don’t take life too sincerely, but don’t lose your sincerity. it’s okay for you to not have everything figured out. It’s okay for you to not have many ideas about what you want to do. Just sincere and conscientious. Whatever task you perform, it should be a reflection of you.
That probably is just a rephrased version of ‘How you do anything is how you do everything’.
Moving on – If there is no other legacy you leave behind – no form of art, a blog post, a podcast episode, or any creation in your name, then let this task that you have been given the opportunity to perform you do be a reflection of you. Also, please note how this is a much better way oh phrasing it than ‘Ugh I have to do this’.
Please don’t take shit from boys This point really didn’t have any necessity of being part of a public blog post. However, if I am meaning to write here more often, then let this be a glimpse into my world for the current readership running in single digits and the potential readership of thousands of course. (Should really get a candy for this optimism!)
You will get someone who likes you, for the person that you are and will do so in the way you want or need to be liked. If not anything else, then it would at least be someone who gives you respect and isn’t emotionally deranged or constipated. You’ve had enough of both these categories and some normalcy in a coupledom would do you good.
You will get out of these damaged relationships, and you will move on from them too, but the happiness you delude yourself into experiencing will come at the cost of future emotional scars that will take years to heal. Don’t settle.
Have interests outside of school, studies For starters, read. Please read.
When mom asks you to read Champak (or any other kids’ magazine), please don’t frown because she is forcing you to read. Instead, give it back to her and ask her to give you slightly more complex stuff and READ it please. It will take you a long way.
Be curious. Learn about different things. Expand your horizons. You internalised all this just before you turned 23, but if done sooner, the journey might have taken a completely different route for us!
Have hobbies, build skills. Be involved in multiple things – basically anything that isn’t Facebook or your landline that you spend time being hooked to. Additionally, this might even help with #2.
There would be a dozen other things I could go on about, and several things that I could advise on year-wise, but this is all I came up with in my short drive and I don’t want to unnecessarily elongate the post with personal tales.
This post briefly ties to the thought process I have been having on the principles I want to build my life on. Maybe the next article would be about that. Stay tuned!
If you were the pages of my journal, you’d not be surprised to see this statement, because it’s what I start my entries with, on 90% of the days. Okay now I sound like someone with a perfectly crafted life, which is a lie, but it’s just something that naturally comes out when I pick the pen and enter the date and time and commence the documentation process. I don’t know what a bad day is. I mean, for a day to go bad, roughly how many things need to go wrong? And no matter what the answer is, what is that one thing that you could do to make it be, say, a less bad day?
For some people, it is that one person they turn to, who makes it all right for them, at least in that moment. For others, it’s food. Then there are those who turn to exercising. I mean – the world has so many kinds of us. It marvels me.
That person for me would be my mother. Or my best friend Monisha. Food is obviously always a yes. Surprisingly now, I am a person who would definitely feel great after an intense but quick run.
It was a good day because no one else was there in office from my team. That translates to me being able to leave office much earlier than I normally would. Nothing can be better than that for someone who isn’t a fan of her job. Or cubicles. Or fixed time schedules enforced upon by others.
Unlike the usual stuff I would do in this case – head home, hit the gym, or laze around, read some stuff, or plan to read stuff, laze around further, grab five things to eat because the weather makes the body demand the gluttony, sulk about the dearth of decent men in this universe or majorly in my periphery – I decided to head to a cafe even further away from home, to sit, sip tea and write. It was a decision I made to not turn the WiFi on, to minimise the number of distractions as much as possible, which isn’t the easiest task in today’s day and age.
Take the metro. Check.
Walk to the cafe. Check.
Order chai. Check.
Might get hungry, don’t want the hunger to be a distraction, so order a snack. Check.
Sit in peace, don’t listen to songs, turn the laptop on. Check.
Sitting on my right is a group of three discussing their respective wedding plans. One is in the near future, while another one is a bit further and the third is a hypothetical event that might never actually happen.
Seems distracting, should I turn some music on?
No, observe. Observe the people, the scenery, the wall art, the shops, the street pets. That’s the task. Observe. You’ll get material to write on.
Fail, so far.
The plans have moved from the number of people who will be attending the respective events to the destinations these grand parties will be hosted at. Thailand comes up. Seems expensive, so they move to South India. Seems… unpopular apparently. We are back to Thailand. Islands are being named.
How am I supposed to figure out content for a post on self-discipline with this chatter in the background, or actually, right into my ears?
Before I find an answer, the venue has been shifted to Bali. Oh, wait. They discuss that if one is taking Thailand, the other should just take Bali, because of course Thailand is like the Kirana store behind my house – if one function takes place there, it will need an entire makeover that will last a year from the ruckus created by 50 odd people.
The hypothetical wedding case wants to get married in a court.
But where was I? Oh, I was thinking about how self-discipline should be taught before kids are made to gulp down the idea of discipline in terms of obeying rules of an institution. I mean, I was only beginning to think if that should be the case.
But this conversation has jumped to how if a hundred grand (In USD, my friends) is being spent on a party, the ‘court’ should at least be in another country.
Why, oh why, did I narrow down on a cafe in SOUTH Delhi?
Good idea for content, I think.
Frustration has sprung. I could never be a writer. Why did I even bother with this charade? A nap would have been more suitable instead.
I put on a song. The tittle-tattle on the right isn’t helping me get anywhere, clearly.
Interesting idea. The singer dude is talking about love. Always a favourite. ‘That love is love, that’s all it means. And I own you and you own me. But if so how could we be blossoming, into our own love?’
Frustration piles up. How can the songwriter pen stuff so beautifully? Maybe he buried himself into a cave and didn’t choose chattery cafes where humans spent hours discussing their First World Problems.
The trio leaves. Frustration pile reduces a bit, relief springs up.
Blinking cursor stares me in the eye. Frustration begins to pile up, again.
I had started a post. Then another. Just when I thought I should head home and embrace my reality – that I’m better off being a sloth who prefers naps over the chill outdoors with chai-sutta in one hand and fingers of the other struggling to type content with a blank mind, I realise –
What does a post about not being able to come up with a post look like?
To another day, another noisy place that offers hot beverages at affordable rates, and more attempts to come up with a story in outdoorsy places till Delhi blesses us with this pleasant weather. The countdown is here.
I picked up the book by Harvard Professor Michael J. Sandel after reading a couple of articles on conspicuous consumption. While the book is nowhere linked to that, and I don’t even remember the series of articles I jumped onto, one after the other, that I ended up reading one where this was mentioned, I am glad I ordered this.
The book is essentially a 101 course on what money can buy but shouldn’t and what money cannot buy. The contents of the book would give you a fair idea of what lies inside – five chapters with their titles and examples given as follows:
Jumping the Queue – Airports, Amusement Parks, Car Pool Lanes, Hired Line Standers, Ticket Scalpers, Concierge Doctors etc
Incentives – Cash for Sterilization, Paying Kids for Good Grades, Bribes to Lose Weight, Speeding Tickets and Subway Cheats etc
How Markets Crowd Out Morals – Hired Friends, Bought apologies and Wedding Toasts, Donation Days and Day-Care Pickups etc
Markets in Life and Death – Janitors Insurance, Betting on Death, Internet Death Pools etc
Naming Rights – Autographs for Sale, Luxury Skyboxes, Branding the Public Square etc
One thing What Money Can’t Buy (WMCB) is surely going to provide you with is copious cases you never would have known existed, and make you form a perspective on them. And then there will be those stories that you would have heard of, at some point in your life, but you will get a thing or two new to learn about them from Sandel.
The example of the day care centre putting a fine on parents for picking up their kids late is one a lot of us have heard of. Sandel makes you see the difference between a fee and a fine. In the daycare example, the frequency of parents coming late increased after the fine was imposed because they started treating it as a fees that they could pay for their lackadaisical behaviour, thereby making them get rid of the remorse and guilt they previously felt when no such pecuniary mechanism existed.
A case where a fine successfully managed to retain its status was with the speeding tickets imposed in Finland , where the amount varied as per individuals’ respective incomes. In a particular case, this fine reached a hundred and seventy Euros.
Are there some things money cannot buy, asks Sandel.
Think friendships, apologies, wedding toasts. Sandel states, and I agree, on how money could buy certain acts that could be considered friendly in nature, but friendship in whole is something that is out of its reach.
This particular example brought to my mind certain sycophants whom I know of, who are ‘friends’ with people purely because of their economic status, and the perks the act of friendship brings them. Count sponsored lavish dinners, free drinks, invitations to the most happening galas. This is a monetary transaction, in a way, but is the exchange giving the payer an actual friendship, or only certain acts that a friend would normally do? Sure, the receiver would accompany the payer in his/ her shopping escapades, or give dating advice, or like Sandel puts – collect your mail, take care of your children etc. Having said that, is it friendship when these actions are done in the exchange for a somewhat commercial gain, or an elevation in one’s economic standards, even if it is only for an evening?
Or is it friendship when this is done regardless of where the other party comes from, purely for the respect towards the connection you have established towards them?
Economic Inefficiency of Gift Giving
This is another example I decided to mention in my post while reading the book. ‘Inefficiency’ here means the gap between the value to the receiver of the $120 argyle sweater an aunt gave and the value of what one would have bought had one received the cash instead.
He then talks about the stigma attached to giving cash as a gift and how it is considered rather tacky in most cases and how the stigma is a brute sociological fact of no normative significance apart from its unfortunate tendency to reduce utility.
From an economic point of view, I agree with it.
However, I don’t consider it tacky when an elder relative offers me cash. On the contrary, I let them know that I’d rather have them give me money instead of purchasing something for me, unless I can be very specific about what I’d like to receive.
To reduce this inefficiency, last year, I found the perfect arrangement just before my birthday. I gave my friends a list of potential things I wanted to have (books and some jewellery). Of course that reduced the excitement I would have otherwise felt while opening my gifts, but I still felt joy when I ultimately had a bunch of things I anyway had to buy for myself. I could be a tad different in this aspect because a handwritten note next to the gift brings me more happiness than the gift itself, so I still had those letters I received to be excited about.
Instead of gift cards (which Sandel says are sold in the secondary market later on at a discount because well, the cash was ultimately presented to you in the form of a plastic card restricted to a particular store that you might not be a fan of), I would choose giving out a wish-list any day.
“If you’re using financial incentives to motivate people, you should either pay enough or don’t pay at all”
Here, Sandel discusses how social norms like civil virtue and public-spiritedness are great bargains. They motivate socially useful behaviour that would otherwise cost a lot to buy.
Examples include people agreeing to let a nuclear waste site be established in their neighbourhood, when asked to do so without any monetary gain. When offered payment to agree to the same, support went down, not up.
The last case I want to discuss is that of janitors insurance and viaticals.
I might be ignorant because this is an industry I did not know about despite having worked in finance for almost two years now.
I would love to know your take on this, because I personally did not find anything morally objectionable with a viatical settlement. If someone were to take an insurance on my dead head, and I was assured that no harm would be caused to me unless I died of natural causes whenever my time came, not because someone attempted to forge some natural causes to have me kick the bucket, I’m okay if they make a few bucks (okay perhaps in a few hundred of thousands of dollars) through that.
And if I were to be in a situation where a life insurance policy existed for me but I couldn’t afford to pay the premium, and I was offered quick cash while they benefitted if I were to die, it’s fine by me. Now I won’t want this situation to arise and I will try, to the best of my abilities, that such a day were to never come, but God forbid it did, is it truly morally objectionable if they sit a corner of their house wishing for my death because it would give them a monetary fortune?
Well, yes, I wouldn’t wish for someone’s death. Having said that, how much power does any such wish of mine, or another person’s, even hold in the real world? These are my $0.02 on the entire chapter titled Markets in Life and Death.
Without giving you an information overload beyond what I have already provided, I highly recommend you get hold of a copy of this book and make your own judgements on what Sandel states. It was a joy spending a week with this book and I hope you’d like it too. If you’ve already heard of it, or read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Dear Broken-Hearted, Consistently Crying Reader Who Is Currently On His/ Her Fifth Ice Cream Tub For The Day,
First of all, thank you for trusting me with advice, and clicking on this post. Secondly, I know that at this point, you are probably at a stage where you would click on almost any post that would have the terms heartbreak/ ex/ broken heart/ love in the title, but still, thanks for choosing mine. Thirdly, now that you have tolerated me up till this point, let me assure you that I state things from experience and I mean business. Your trust shall not go in vain, at least not for the next four minutes or so.
I am imagining you are currently lying in your bed, with the seventh episode of some random TV Series you are watching because that’s the only thing that keeps your mind off the stuff you would ideally not think/ talk about, or you are at your place of work, but can’t focus and are sneakily looking for the cure for your problems from strangers online. Worry not, because there is no problem that the Internet has not managed to solve, or create, but let’s just discuss the former for now!
This article is independent of the stage where you are at, with respect to parting ways with your former lover, because if you are still grieving, it doesn’t matter if it happened an hour ago or a month back. Here is a step by step guide to put a bandage on and heal that broken heart of yours.
Step I: Curate A List Of All Sad Songs You Have Been Listening To On Repeat Over The Past Couple Of Hours/ Days/ Weeks. And Cry.
Pro Tip: Let’s solemnly swear to not kid each other. Heaven knows that there are at least three songs out there that you have been listening to, and humming the tunes of, until your eyes start watering and you can’t hum and sing along anymore.
It’s okay, though. I hope it comforts you to know that there have been millions before you and till the time people decide to unite, mate and bond, there will be millions more. You arenot alone. Emotional exorcisms are tough, but equally essential. So now is your time to give yourself a week or two, and cry as much as you want, rant in front of as many friends as you’d like (true test of friendship, guys) and also end up losing a person or two more from your life because of this. Though if you do end up losing them, note that it wasn’t your fault and you’ve done yourself a favour sooner than later.
Please don’t prolong this period though. I am hoping you’d reach a stage where you’re sick of this yourself but if not, please notify your best friend in advance that if this process crosses 21 days, some alarms must start ringing and they should be forcing you to go on to the next steps.
Step II: List Down Your Goals For The Year
Hmm, so let’s get down to business, I guess? You’ve had your fair share of crying, you’ve annoyed the living hell out of most, if not all your friends, you’ve exhausted the list of new stuff to watch on Netflix too I believe, and you’re still sad. You still want them. You still imagine yourself lying down in their arms, holding them, having them whisper sweet nothings to you and all that jazz. You could get a dog and have the same emotions for him but anyway, you might not be into floofs and right now there’s no one else but him/her who you’d want to be around so let’s try this another way –
How about, depending on whenever you’re reading this, you make a list of 2-5 things you’d like to achieve this year?
No, Ron, you’re not going to be the next Zuck this year. Or have an idea that will get a multi million dollar funding at the seed stage. Or break the world record at the next triathlon.
Okay, no offence, you might do all these things and more, but for now, can we speak about realistic goals for a bit?
For me, in 2018, I wanted to travel to Europe alone for 2 weeks. I wanted to run 5k in 30 minutes. I wanted to read 12 books. There’s more, but let’s cover that sometime later.
You could want to learn how to cook 5 basic things. Or have your first story published. Or hit the gym daily. It can really be ANYTHING, but let’s keep it a bit simple & achievable for now?
Additional Tip: It’s natural for people to experience an identity crisis post breakups. There’s probably a farrago of emotions and feelings inside of you – you’re neither here and definitely not there. You don’t know if you still want to move to that city you were once going to, when you made the decision cuddling with them. It’s okay. There were goals and dreams that belonged to you long before they became a part of your life and there were things you wanted to achieve independent of your relationship, despite being with them. Think about those when you make your list. Or maybe something entirely new.
Step III: Make A Daily Checklist That Resonates With Your Goals It’s natural for you to think that while you lie in bed curled up with your blanket and a box of tissues on your side table, the world and all the people who have the same goals as you are on a standstill too.
However, it’s time to burst the bubble and make you cognisant of the reality that everything and every one else is still doing their thing while you engage in self pity. It shouldn’t concern you though, not much. Your competition isn’t them. It is your lazy, uncooperative self that refuses to move. Beat that.
If your aim is to become a MasterChef, how about you start by toasting some bread at least for breakfast tomorrow? If becoming a Level II Expert in Japanese is your goal, how about you spend a couple of minutes going through the lessons on Duolingo?
Your task is to make a list of daily, actionable items that you would want to cross off, which would make you reach a step closer to your goals. It’s fine if you are sad while doing these things. You’re allowed to think about them, to cry, to complain to your friends, if you still want to. The point is – you can do all of that while still moving forward.
Step IV: Be Consistent Your list is ready. Bravo! You probably made a three course meal, or ran 10km straight, or even completed a four hour Duolingo-Lessons-Marathon – superb! This would take you ahead, but not too far, if not done daily.
Now if you are someone who has the time to do things with the same intensity as this, on a daily basis, congratulations! I wish I could borrow some of the time that you have on your hands.
However, if you are someone who’s stuck with a job that sucks 10 hours of your day and adds an additional 2 hours to your commute, don’t fret just yet. Fixing yourself breakfast daily/ reading 5 pages during your commute/ watching educational videos for 15 minutes a day/ walking around your block for 20 minutes daily, would, in my opinion, take you much further, if not too far.
The idea is to not have zero days from now on – the ones where you sulk all day long and go to bed and repeat the cycle till you die. One step forward is exactly that – one step ahead of where you were. Repeat continuously, it’s many steps away from where you once were.
Now that you have completed the tutorial and jumped on your no-zero-days bandwagon, if you still miss them, let me just assure you that it’s okay. That person was a part of your life, and a major one at that, for a considerable amount of time. There is no magic potion that will make the feelings disappear. Similarly, there is no pill you can swallow that would make you fall in love with yourself.
Your primary goal right now is to move forward from here, to make an attempt at recreating an identity for yourself and have things fall into place in due course of time.
Follow the specifically designed 4 step process (because 5 would be too much) and tell me how it goes!
If you have ever run even a mile across your block, you’d relate to a certain part of this, if not the entire book. Training-log, travelogue, marathon-memoir, for me, the person who woke up early morning on January 1 to go for a run and spent the remainder of the day reviewing long weekends to plan trips, this was the perfect book to start the year.
It’s one thing to respect someone for their literary skills, but picking up this book makes you revere him for his training and the consistency he maintains WRT his running habit, right from the Foreword section titled ‘Suffering is Optional’. My favourite part from that was when he talks about how, for a runner, the pain is an inevitable part of the journey s/he has set himself for, but letting the suffering get to themselves is a choice.
Being big on non-fiction, I do tend to pick one book after the other on subjects that pique my interest, but as it goes with this genre, there isn’t any story that can glue you to itself, so it’s rare to have that feeling where when you shut the book after your morning commute, you can’t wait for the evening one so you can pick it up again because you NEED to know what happens next. Well, that’s exactly what I felt on the three days it took me to finish this piece of art.
Good things take patience, discipline and consistency and the perfect blend of these can be seen through Murakami’s journey as he talks about his initial days when he ran for 20-30 mins, and his first timed run which was a 5k (which he refers to as a distance that was not long) and then his marathon and triathlon experiences and the training that preceded all those. Running 6 miles a day, 6 days a week, is one hell of a feat in itself and just looking at his pictures online is a testament for how it has worked – that graceful ageing, God!
Another aspect of his personality, that quite resonated with mine, was his non-competitive nature. Of course I can’t explain in a 1000 words what he so succinctly and beautifully captured in a few – but he mentions how he doesn’t so much care about beating others, and that other runners (apart from the world-class ones who compete) would relate to how there is mostly a single goal we have – to beat our own time. That’s exactly how I have been too. My running group involves people who manage to run 5k in 25 minutes, something which is a daunting, unthinkable task for me, albeit a goal that I’d like to reach at some point in life. However, the only thing that concerns me the most is if I have become better than where I was a while back. As long as that is being achieved, I feel like my job is done.
The only thing I wish the book had a bit more of was how he went through his journey of quitting smoking. Being a practitioner of the habit, I know how gruesome it is to even attempt to quit. Trust me, I have tried and failed (and yes, I will try again). A bit on that aspect would have made reading this an even more enlightening experience for me, but nevertheless, I had quite a good time! It was a kind of solidarity I felt, perhaps akin the kind you feel when you pass by other runners in a timed event, or even in the park. Maybe, soon enough, you’d see a post titled – ‘What AB talks about when she talks about running’.
Until then, have a great weekend, folks! After much contemplation, I have decided that my reading goal for the year is to be able to finish 40 books. I have never read more than 10, which was also in 2018 for the first time, and my original goal was to read 24, which didn’t seem challenging enough so here we are. Feel free to recommend books – I’m open to broadening my interests, so recommendations of all kind are welcome, preferably non-fiction though.
It’s the 3rd day of 2019, and just like most of you, I was experiencing a certain freshness in the overall vibe about and around myself. In that spirit, I decided to take an attempt at overcoming one of the biggest fears I’ve had for a long time – of being judged.
I think what helped the most in overcoming this was the fact that I now know how almost everyone faces this fear at some point in their lives.
A bit about me – By profession, I am an Investment Banker. As an identity, I like to use the term “23 Year Old Work In Progress”. I have spent the better part of these 23 years of existence thinking that I am not passionate about anything in particular. But here’s an incident I just remembered that might help me get to an answer someday.
I was 14 when I started my first blog. Don’t waste your time looking for it, I deleted it a long time back. I think that was the point when I realised that I actually enjoyed writing. I remember coming from after a semester exam and turning my laptop on to create a post. That post was more important for the nerd in me than preparing for the next test.
The hobby continued for a while, if not in terms of blogging then through writing for other platforms, but I still remember the exact time when it faded to black. I started college and the only thing I wanted was to get into the Creative Writing Society, which I did, by the way. While it got me in the close proximity of the best writers of the best college in my country, it also managed to crush my dreams of ever posting anything with my name on it. It’s not someone else’s fault, there’s no melodrama. The only thing that lead to that was my complex that said that since everyone else was so good, how would I ever have a shot? Additionally, I felt like an imposter – like I didn’t deserve to be amongst them.
Thankfully, 2018 brought in sunshine & sunflowers in my life and I practically turned my life around, along with which I overcame this fear and started putting out content on Medium.
It was a year that started with heartbreak (the kind that makes you feel your intestines are about to fall out) and ended with more amount of self-awareness than the total that I’d have garnered in my life until the beginning of that year. The past nine months involved changing my entire lifestyle – from being a lover of oversleeping and eating whatever was in front of me (as long as it was cheesy or sugary), I became a fitness freak, from not reading a single book in 2017, I read 10 books last year. The year involved solo-traveling in places in my country and then abroad, a lot of life lessons on priorities and dealing with emotions and addition of several habits in my routine that have helped me get to this current state of self awareness, which I’d only like to grow.
Now, though, I’d like to have a digital documentary of my daily life – don’t fret just yet, you won’t see me posting pictures of me scrolling through cat videos.
2018 was a kind of training period in my life, or so I call it. 2019 will involve me trying to play the real game, and it would be wonderful to have you join this journey with me, digitally.
Just to take a short detour and revisit the topic of ‘passion’ – I don’t know if writing is actually one of those. Or if it’s running. Or travelling. Or eating. Or sleeping. But I hope to have clearer answers and a deeper understanding, as I grow this little space I am trying to build with you, the reader.
On this blog, you’d see stuff about the kind of books I am reading, the goals & sub-goals I make and try to achieve, how I train for my next upcoming run and where I am planning my next course of travels. Along with this, I’d also walk you through my journey of how I joined the productivity & self-development bandwagon, and give you simple, doable tips on how you can achieve all that and much more.
Fasten your seatbelt, fellas! Welcome to Life On A Roll. 🙂