2017 In Review: 10/10

Talk to your parents more

One of the biggest things I learnt in 2017 was that I shouldn’t be scared to bring up things with my parents. As a child, while my parents were (and still are) extremely open-minded, it took me some time to explain to them all the thoughts that were going on in my head. I remember understanding the value of opening up to them during the time my Board Examinations were ongoing, and when college application decisions were pending, but that was mostly me ranting, and not really explaining things out – because I was a frustrated soul.

There were numerous points this year where I fought with my parents. In fact, I don’t think I’ve fought with them as much as I have over the course of this year. Fighting is a strong word, and I’m sure as they read this (hello!), they’d prefer me to use “disagree”, or “not concur”, rather than the word fight, but there were several times we were on completely opposite ends of the spectrum on a particular topic. That was because neither of us was communicating what we were thinking.

I guess this goes for all relationships but it’s just a lot easier explaining things to my parents than doing things and trying to predict what their outcome is, because yes, I’ve grown up a lot since I’ve come to college, but I still do look to their advice for a lot of things.

Granted, I don’t think they’re always right. And yes, I do think they’re blatantly wrong with some of their accusations. The biggest thing I learnt over the course of explaining my emotions to them is that I shouldn’t be apologizing for things I feel. I used to use “Sorry” as a great cop-out strategy. Just to avoid getting irritated with them, or them getting irritated with me, I’d just apologize for whatever blunder they accused me of. But I can’t do that anymore, and I think they’ve come to realize & accept that there are some things they may feel that I’m unwilling to budge on. It just makes for a lot more respect in the conversations we have.

Plus, I legitimately only speak to them for maybe 5 minutes a day, and I really don’t want to use that time yelling at them, or listening to them yelling at me. I’d rather save all the yelling for when we meet in person: I think confrontation is a lot more fun that way.

Sometimes they react in ways I wouldn’t expect. I honestly didn’t expect them to sanction a 3rd debating trip I wanted to take this year. Nor did I expect them to be okay with me dropping an internship. Or coming back to Ahmedabad really early, and missing NYE with them. But they compromised on a lot of things this year, for me. I know I haven’t spent time with my parents, especially my dad, as much as we usually would have liked to.

The great thing is that we’re committed to working on a couple of things as a family. And Project Law School was something we collectively signed up to back in 2015. Now it’s just a matter of taking things as they come along.

Hopefully in 2018 we’ll be in the same city more often, parents. But I’m glad we talk as openly as we do. This past year especially, has been a joy. Will never forget my internship in Whitefield (where I loafed around at home before/after work/on weekends like I was a schoolkid.) Makes me wonder what working in Bengaluru would be like.

That was my year in review, I guess.

What will tomorrow bring, I wonder?

Curd rice out.

2017 In Review: 9/10

Let Off Some Steam

Work is where I find the most comfort, the most pleasure, and the most joy. It’s numbing, almost, to think that I’m typing this. But it’s truly where I am the happiest – finding a task that has a deadline, remotely connected to something I enjoy, and working away at it while putting in my best.

I figured this out late, but I was always a busy bee at school. If there PODs to do, House Meetings to organize, or something to participate in, I enrolled without a care. I’d check if my friends were participating only much later. Social prejudices rarely affected me. What also helped was that my parents were responsible for signing me up for things, so a lot of stuff was “do as directed” – including piano classes, UCMAS, and karate.

In comparison to several others, I woke up on weekends the same time that I used to wake up for school, and play “sports” for 4 hours. Then I’d go home and study. I think my parents just found it easier to deal with me when I was continuously occupied, because maybe I slept better when I was tired every single day.

That continued on to college, and I just kept grabbing at every opportunity that interested me, without a lot of care for how much time I got for myself. While it helped that I found time to do things I wanted to do, I still considered that “working on myself” for the longest time.

In March though, I slept for a week. Didn’t do anything post classes. That was blissful.

And that’s been a huge takeaway this year. That sometimes, beyond all else, it’s important to let off the steam & sleep a little. Prioritizing sleep is the greatest thing you can teach yourself.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

(I say this at 3AM, when it is work that is keeping me up.)

2017 In Review: 8/10

Try New Things

I made it a personal goal to try doing things I really wanted to, but was nervous of succeeding at. Just for the fun of it. I’m actually obsessive about doing well in projects that I choose to take up, so this was against my instinct. But it was super exciting.

I tried Global Poetry Writing Month back in March or in April (I can’t quite remember), and that was very enjoyable because it provided fresh challenges every single day. On days where I was too lazy to write poetry, I’d end up resorting to Haiku. Poetry has never been something I’ve excelled at writing – I enjoy reading poetry a lot more. But writing it was a creative challenge that my brain really took to, and I’ve signed up for Airplane Poetry Movement’s 100 Poem Challenge for 2018. Let’s see how that works out.

The other really cool thing I decided to try out was inktober. Last year, a very close friend of mine did some amazing things with art, and I was very curious about how tough it would be to draw stuff out. As I’ve explained, I’m a terrible artist, so I decided I’d limit myself to stick figures. When I saw the prompts, I recounted lots of puns I had heard of, and came up with some too. So the other limitation I placed upon myself was to try drawing puns daily. This was probably also prompted by 3000’s recommendation of webtoons – I got hooked onto those as well. So, maybe that helped me illustrate a little. I drew out stuff with a ball point pen every single day, even during exams. I don’t think I’ll draw that consistently again, but taking up inktober next year doesn’t sound like an idea I’m scared of any longer.

These are two of the things I was really skeptical about trying, but I’m glad I did. There are new experiences everywhere, and I guess they’re just waiting to be seized.

Can’t wait for more of that in 2018.

2017 In Review: 7/10

More things I learnt in 2017.

Travel

I’ve always enjoyed travel. I dislike perfectly arranged trips, and I enjoy doing aimless exploring on my own. It takes me time to find the desire to leave the comfort of my home, and I suffer from inertia prior to getting into a cab. But I enjoy travel. I love the experiences travel gives you, the simple joy of discovering something new and unique. I like seeing new sights and carrying with me new stories. Every time I set out, I feel like Christopher Columbus – like there are places to go where people haven’t been, and things to experience in my own unique ways.

Following the debacle in January, I decided I’d give myself the opportunity to travel as much as I could – even if it meant going back to Bangalore repeatedly.  I’d use debating to take me where I want to go, but I’d go somewhere that wasn’t Ahmedabad. That was for certain.

First I went to Bombay, a city I’ve never been to, and then to Bangalore – both for debates. In Bombay, I caught up with seniors, stayed at a college friend’s house, explored South Bombay food at 1:30AM, and even sat in a bookstore for 6 hours: reading. I travelled by the train both ways, and took the local to get around. I’ve never slept so well. We didn’t break at the debate, but I met some amazing people and ate some incredible food on that trip.

Then I went back to Bangalore in April, where I debated again, and just missed breaking. But I caught up with a friend I had last spoken to aged 10, and I used the metro to get everywhere I needed to go. It was fabulous. The connectivity was a new experience for me, living in Whitefield.

I visited my grandparents up in Pune, and then landed in Bangalore with a road trip to Mysore planned out. For one day, my friends and I felt like we were back in school. We played FIFA late into the night, and then yelled at each other while inventing a new game in the swimming pool.

After returning to Ahmedabad, I made 3 trips to Bangalore in the course of one semester. And I went to Delhi. All those trips had a couple of activities in common, and people at the heart of it all – people who made those trips memorable: by serving me biryani, or giving me fresh doses of gossip. And yim yam.

One of my debating trips took me to Manipal, the experience I cherish the most in this year. You can read about that here. Basically, I learnt a lot about friendships on that trip. And about a different kind of college life. One that I’m not going to experience for another two and a half years, atleast.

I returned to Pune and consumed lots of Gulab Jamun and visited a temple with my grandmother.

Once I was back in Bangalore, I took an amazing road trip with my mother and one of her classmates across Karnataka (quite literally). We visited 7 temples in 2 days – not something I’m a massive fan of, but the company and the food more than made up for it. I got to go to Malpe beach – a sight I had missed out on when I visited Manipal, and ate paneer ghee roast (favourite new dish from this year). And I learnt a lot about my own culture, in terms of how temples practice Brahminism in the modern day. Plus, I got to learn a bit of Karnataka geography – something I haven’t been exposed to before. All in all, it was a good trip, and gave me a lot to think about.

I travelled a fair bit this year. Mostly I remember the food. But I also remember all the wandering I did alone. Especially in Bombay, where I opened Google Maps and wandered around till I reached a bookstore. And then I moved to another bookstore.

I really want to travel more next year. It’s one of those things I love that I can’t quite articulate as well – and that’s something I’m eager to work on.

Travel was a big part of my 2017, basically.

More tomorrow!

2017 In Review: 6/10

More things I learnt for myself in 2017.

It’s Okay To Be Unhappy

Seriously.

This isn’t a what, why, how organized post because it isn’t something that I set myself to do over the course of the year, but it was one of the biggest things I came to terms with this year.

When I see people who are unhappy, I’d try cheering them up. I make some terrible jokes, and that usually lifts the collective spirit, insofar as it gives people something else to focus on. Humour, and, bad humour, has been my coping mechanism. I’ve always held the notion that distraction was the best way to get over unhappiness. Moving on and about, as if nothing had happened.

A very big reason for this is because of the optimism my house radiated. Even on terrible days, my parents would come back from work and say they had an okay/good day. At most, I’ve heard them complain about work by saying they had a busy, tough day with lots of deadlines. But not once have I heard them say they’ve had a genuine, lousy day.

I’ve ruined their moods a lot: throwing fits and doing generally, childish things. But they’ve been quick with their forgiveness. That optimism passed on to me, and I guess I always tried finding the positive side to negative things. Something went terribly? I’d count it as experience. Or I’d blame it on fate. Or I’d find something else to distract me. Set a new goal, or whatnot.

I never contemplated unhappiness. Didn’t spend time dwelling on it, because it was not an emotion I was comfortable feeling. I despised feeling sorry for myself, tried to stay away from pity, and in general, shut myself off to the idea that people could see me being an unhappy individual.

Slowly, this sense of shutting off, or suppressing the emotion, moved on to other things. I rarely showed the emotions swarming through my head, which naturally meant I never confronted my emotions. Few saw through this (for several years, mind you) – and I’m grateful to them because they forced me to say what was on my mind. With some judgement, but still. It made me say what I was thinking. And that was a start.

This year, at the start of the year, I faced proper unhappiness. Something I worked on for 4 months, night & day, didn’t work out. I found myself wanting to talk to people about it, but denying myself the opportunity by feeling like everyone had better things to do than to hear me talk about my sadness.

But that gave me time to actually contemplate what on Earth had transpired, and why I felt so sad. It took me 2 days to snap out of it, on the outside, but 4 months before I was truly okay with everything that had gone down. Those 4 months were brutal. I couldn’t find anything positive to think, and my mindset had become extremely negative and lazy. My parents were super supportive, and I think they’re the only reason it didn’t affect other parts of my life – like my academics. But, it was a tough 4 months.

I remember sitting in my room one day in the afternoon, post-classes, and wanting to just cry. And scream a little. But cry. And no tears came out.

That was a difficult day to get through.

I couldn’t get myself to shrug it off, and I hated who I was becoming. I found it tough to drag myself to class & pay attention to 5 hours of lectures. I started finding fault in everything around me, and in general, began carrying a slightly more negative outlook to things in life. I started saying No to things I would ordinarily say Yes to.

At the end of it all, I woke up one day in late May, and that unhappiness was gone.

Only then did I realize I had confused optimism with eternal happiness.

They’re not the same thing at all.

You can be an optimist who is unhappy. And that is okay.

Feeling unhappy as a result of things is a normal human emotion. It’s alright to be sad and it’s okay to want to talk to someone about it.

I’m no therapist, and I’m not going to give any advice. But I feel like as with most things, it’s in times of sadness that you should life live by your own terms. Give yourself whatever you need. Be a little selfish, but don’t hurt anyone.

If you want to talk to someone, ask them if they can listen. If you want food, go get it. Don’t expect someone to walk into your room with a magic solution to it all.

It’s okay to be unhappy and feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Society is a little crazy if they don’t understand that. And you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t accept that.

But the unhappiness does go away at some point. Relief does set in.

It certainly did for me. I’m just better equipped to handle things the next time I feel sad because I have a bit of a “cheer me up” checklist. Make one for yourself. You may need it sometime.

That’s just a long elaborate version of me coming to terms with experiencing an emotion I didn’t originally want to associate with myself.

More tomorrow! We’re only 5 days away from the end of the year, how incredibly exciting!

2017 In Review: 5/10

We’re inching closer & closer to the end of the year, and I’ve written for 5 days in a row. Some stroke of luck this is.

Changing Relationships

The Why? 

I’ve devoted and dedicated several posts on this blog to my lack of connection with my school friends. In my memory, I’m friends with all 23/24 of my classmates who stuck by my side from Grade 8 to Grade 12 – though people left in Grade 10, the influx of individuals ensured a constancy in their number. Early in this year, I identified a strong sense of detachment from everything in their lives, and it frustrated me. It frustrated me that I could no longer go back to seeing their faces every single day and not holding a grudge. It irritated me that I couldn’t speak what was on my mind at any given instant – and expect only brutal honesty: even if that meant someone telling me I was being insensitive.

Then, I stopped writing about it.

I decided that it was time to think about how I approach relationships and friendships in this world a little more. What principles do I associate closely with good relationships? What do I seek? What do I offer other people?

Lots of introspection had to happen. And all of the introspection had to happen simply because I was frustrated. This irritation I faced began to affect the way I communicated with the people I saw on a daily basis at University, and the people I considered my closest friends. I really didn’t want that to happen.

The What?

A couple of things. I really wanted to figure out if I had messed up with my school friends. Life, in general, I think, is a lot easier when you’re willing to accept that you have a role to play in something that’s gone wrong. It also meant that I could move past and begin to apportion blame upon other parties without feeling too guilty, or even sorry about implying that someone else was messing things up.

So, to start off, I wanted to answer this: Do I carry high expectations into relationships that I forge? If so, am I right in doing that?

Then, I wanted to answer: Do I morally judge individuals who hold a different set of values close to them? Do I judge people who have goals that are vastly different from mine, or who do not live their life from goal to goal?

And lastly, I wanted to answer: Is it okay to blame someone else? Should I be feeling sorry for myself, or sorry for them?

Ultimately, I wanted to understand if any of my school friendships were resurrectable, and what I would have to do in order for that to happen. I missed those people I hung out with in class, and I didn’t really want to miss them anymore.

The How?

There was no structure to what I did. But upon reflection, I think there’s a bit of a pattern.

First, I started talking a lot more to the school friends I was already in touch with. This was easy. It just required me to initiate a few more calls, reply promptly, and not shy away from these things because I was busy. University was a side business I ran, and I started to put a couple of people ahead of that. They realized it too, I think, and before I knew it, I was back to speaking to these people on a daily basis. I really liked that, so I knew I had gotten off to a good start. I’m assuming they enjoyed talking to me a lot more too, because they wouldn’t have replied as much otherwise. Safe to say, I ran the rest of my year on that assumption. I stopped doubting if people liked me or not. If they didn’t want to reply, they wouldn’t reply immediately. They’d reply later. Or maybe they wouldn’t reply. And that’s just something I had to be okay with.

Then, I began contacting people I was very close to in school, but hadn’t kept in touch with as much since I came to University. These were people I’d see once in 6 months, but spend maybe one lunch outing with. I texted them around mutual interests. I remember texting a few of these guys after a Manchester United match, and figured it was easy to strike up conversation again as a result. They replied too. Conversation continued and flowed the same way it did back in our classroom. There was no lull. No animosity. No mention of the fact that things weren’t the same anymore.

Lastly, I attempted to reach out to friends, who, by the 12th Grade, were on the fringes of my friends circle. For a variety of reasons. Some, whom I had judged severely on the basis of their habits. Others, who I had pissed off as a result of my actions, especially when I was School Captain. And some, who I didn’t bother messaging, because I didn’t feel like it at all. Some responded. Others didn’t.

Basically, I consciously tried touching base with all my friends at least once in 2017. After I finished one cycle of this, that’s when I had to move toward working on friendships I had at University.

I’m very close to a couple of people at University, and they know who they are. However, I live on a different side of the hostel to them all. I should explain this. Our hostel is divided, in essence, into 8 parts. 2 per floor: the left side & the right side. The side that you’re on – which is effectively determined by the washroom you share, is the fundamental determinant of your hostel experience. My friends reside on the left side of the second floor, whereas I reside on the right side. Consequently, we don’t see as much of each other in the hostel. We’re likely to run into each other everywhere else.

This is true for my other friends as well. They live in the Girls Hostel (which I cannot enter), or in some obscure parts of the hostel which I didn’t frequent.

I decided to change that in my 5th semester, actively. Started hanging out with my friends more, and began visiting their rooms just to chill. This may sound really, really stupid, but it took a little effort to do that. Not in the least because I had to walk maybe 300m to get to their rooms, but because sometimes it slips your mind because you see these people in class ALL the time.

I also started going out with my friends a little more. In first & second year, I avoided doing that, because I always had work. Which made it easy to say no to them. No was almost the default setting. Saying Yes came after a lot of deliberation about whether the trade-off was going to be worth it. That changed. I started saying Yes to heading out for meals.

(And yes, this did mean I spent a lot more money. My ambitions of living a frugal lifestyle disappeared. With a whimper, and a bang.)

All of this sounds like stuff that people do without effort. I used to be that way too. Hanging out with people was super easy for me. But I think a lot of that changed because of the work I took on in University and how goal-oriented I became. Which meant it took effort for things to feel effortless again.

The Review

This is one thing I can’t judge myself on. My friends will probably have to do the judging for me. But here are things I learnt, selfishly.

I’m happier around friends. Work gives me immense joy. Especially doing good work – by which I mean, completing a task to the best it can possibly be done. But my friends give me the same kind of happiness.

It’s easy to reply to texts immediately. It’s tougher to continue conversation when you’re replying to people 7 days after they texted you, because the context that that conversation resided in, is lost. My WhatsApp these days is occupied with fewer conversations simultaneously. But they’re all quality conversations. Including the groups with memes.

Some friendships have changed. There. I said it. It’s easy now that it’s out in the open. Can I reverse this change? Maybe not. But is it a bad thing that the friendship has changed? Definitely not. It literally just required me to be a bit more of an adult about it. Of course I don’t see my friends as often as they meet each other. I’m one of the few studying in a different city as a majority of them. Without any of them for company. That’s something I had to make my peace with.

Another thing I had to make peace with is the fact that others are busy as well. That took a while to accept. Because while I swore to reply immediately and such, it took me atleast a week to realize that others have schedules of their own and maybe I won’t hear back from them anytime soon.

There are some who permanently seenzoned me.

One of them apologizes for being a bad friend a lot. But she isn’t. That friendship is just different to others.

I also had to accept that in some relationships I am probably closer to the other person than they are to me. This all sounds very philosophical, yes, but it’s also the kind of relationship where I had to be a little selfish. I had to conclude that: I’m close to them and they’re around for me. Right now, I don’t think they need me. But if they do, I should let them know I’m around for them.

And lastly, I had to realize that some friendships will never change. I was a cynic to assume that everything in the world had gone wrong and I had no one to talk to. Some people were there through it all and it was really dumb of me to ignore that.

To answer my questions:

Do I carry high expectations into relationships that I forge? Here, I’ll lay it out for you. My biggest expectation is probably a modicum of communication.  
If so, am I right in doing that? I don’t need to be “right” about this. I don’t think there’s a “right” answer for this. There never will be. Literally have to play things by the ear from relationship to relationship.

Do I morally judge individuals who hold a different set of values close to them? I try really hard not to. 
Do I judge people who have goals that are vastly different from mine, or who do not live their life from goal to goal? I don’t. I love people. Not goals.

Is it okay to blame someone else? Yeah man. Relationships are 50% you and 50% someone else. I think it’s peaceful to blame others. But do it fairly. Simply blaming and all is little sad.

Should I be feeling sorry for myself, or sorry for them? Why do you need to feel sorry for anyone?

What did I end up with?

A happier version of myself with this newfound knowledge. And I’m closer to my friends now than I was at the start of 2017. Maybe it’s just the fact that another year passed, but I’d like to think a bit of what I did mattered as well. Also I think a few people now know that I actually value them. I hadn’t told them that before. Ever.

I also ended up, dare I say it? Dating. *soft, classical music in the background*

And on that bombshell. More shall come your way tomorrow.

2017 In Review: 4/10

Wow, four posts in a row? What is this, a daily blog?

First off, a good Christmas Eve to you all. Enjoy the long weekend (at the minimum).

More self-introspection and learning is coming your way, so don’t read further if you’re not interested in that kind of thing.

Find Time For Things You Like

The Why?

To answer this, we’re back to what affected my life the most in the past few years. I joined Law School. I joined committees, started internships, and ended up volunteering for a bunch of projects. All because I enjoyed the opportunities they provided and loved the potential they showed. I was excited to be involved and excited to contribute.

A very wise senior once told me that being in committees, and being on a residential campus sucked the life out of you, because you’d get handed work at any point of time in the day. And reflecting upon years at the University, you’d find that every bit of work you did, every single day: whether it was classes, committees, sports – tied back to the University.

This got me thinking: who was I outside of Law School? What was I outside of the Law?

I don’t gel well with people whose only interest is their work. I love people who are passionate about their work (especially because work doesn’t feel like work, then), but I dislike it when all conversation surrounds work. As a kid, I looked at adults who spoke about sales at informal parties, and scoffed. I would never do that, I told myself.

Yet, when I hung out with my friends in Bangalore, I’d get asked, “how is college?”, and slip into an endless monologue about my moot problem, the debates I’d been to, and such.

I stopped watching TV shows or movies. I YouTubed things because life was faster that way.

That had to change.

The What?

I really wanted to watch TV again. And I wanted to watch sports again. And I wanted to write again. And play the piano again.

I wanted to go back to doing everything I did as a kid, with the limitations my work provided me.

The How?

One hour for myself. Every single day. I had to remove myself from the University atmosphere, and do something 12th Grade Tejas would’ve done: play FIFA, surf the Internet, keep up with pop culture, watch movies, watch a TV Show, download music, play the piano, play basketball.

I couldn’t repeat activities. Everything would be once a week.

The Review

I’d give myself a 6/10 for this. There were too many days that this didn’t happen. Especially because I was reading everyday, I couldn’t count my reading as the “one hour for Tejas” for that particular day. I had to do something else. Which became really tough. I also didn’t watch any shows when University was ongoing, but I did end up reading a lot of comics/manga/webtoons this year.

I did also, get back to the Piano.

And I taught myself a little Dutch.

This was the toughest challenge of them all, because I realized that I’d have to become super efficient with work that I took on, or discard the work in its entirety – a thought I couldn’t fathom. Letting go of work is tough, because I always feel like I’m letting someone down when I say no to contributing to a project they’re leading up.

But it was good. I rediscovered my form a little. And that was a pleasurable experience. On good days, I even got to watch some Test Cricket, and I could follow the Ranji Trophy again.

On the best days, I’d watch my football games, keep up with scores and chat with friends about the matches, and even get to watch the Formula One I so enjoy.

Taking time off, for yourself, is the greatest gift, I think you can give yourself.

Make time for the things you enjoy. And go on to enjoy them.

On that note, I should make time for some sleep.

More tomorrow!

2017 In Review: 3/10

Where, for the third day in a row, I talk about something I’ve learnt this year.

Debate/Question Things

The Why?

Let’s be real. I’m a Law student. Questioning things is second nature to me. Especially when things are conveyed to me by people who assume authority and/or control over me without any logical nexus. I also find it tough to believe people who rest on laurels to affirm or deny an opinion (I say this as I type out a moot memorial with 200 footnotes). I’ve constantly wondered what lies beneath the statements people made. My curiosity was always rewarded when I was younger – my parents attempted to explain things to me in a manner I would understand, but they would always explain it based on their understanding. Only upon reflection did I realize that this was my first brush with bias.

Nonetheless, questioning things at home was never problematic: even to the extent of religion. However, in a social setting, questioning things was often looked down upon. Not knowing about fads was criticized, not being up-to-date was seen as a sign of weakness. And in my high school years, I found it easy to faff my way out of situations where I knew nothing at all. My vocabulary helped me, that’s for sure.

I hated that. That hate intensified at University, however, because of the fact that people called you out on your faff. I think that’s the greatest thing about being at Law school. You’re forced to be honest to yourself. That hate also intensified because my professors fed me a load of information I was forced to memorize and articulate on an answer exam just to score marks. This was not a system of learning I was used to, and is not a system of learning I will ever appreciate. Hence, the realization that I had to question things a little more. But not externally. Perhaps through introspection and self-learning. Or even talking to people who know more about things than I do.

Suppressing my ego has always been easy to do, but I don’t enjoy it when people use information they possess as an ego-booster. This made approaching people quite tricky.

The What?

I wanted to debate more this year, especially after the disappointment I faced in January, and I found a debate teammate who was okay with me questioning all of his ideas – even ones that seemed logical and easy to comprehend. He made sure, by analogy, that I understood every single word of what he was saying, which made my life really easy – not just in debates, but also outside of them.

I found that it became easy to talk to him about society and questions I had about society. This is all very abstract, but then again, questioning things is a very meta thing to do.

I also really wanted to avoid becoming a cynic at University, and found that questioning my own motivations and desires held the key to an endless source of optimism.

The How? 

I did debate more this year. Than ever before. It led to some amazing memories, and some great weekends I can rattle off every single detail from, if asked.

But, more importantly, I started asking people questions when I didn’t understand what they were saying. I began questioning logic I saw fallacies in.

The Review

I’ve never been happier. Questioning things has enabled me to pick out views that I agree with, things I absolutely disagree with, and figure out where I lie on some issues. This is likely to change with the passage of time, but I’ll question my beliefs then as I do now.

With fake news, questioning things has become really important. It’s strange that the demographic that is least likely to question things (ageing population) is the demographic that is going to be least affected by the consequences of decisions taken today. If we don’t question things collectively, I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where we understand the truth.

It’s also helped me to be a little more open-minded. I think at some point you need to accept you won’t be able to change someone’s views on a particular issue, especially when those views are ingrained in them as a result of circumstance. There’s no point discussing things with them beyond that. With views that are socially problematic, and blatantly discriminatory or unjust, I think you can try point out logical flaws in their beliefs and try to explain why the view is problematic. But that’s all you can do. There’s no point getting enraged about your inability to convince.

Try figuring out a better method of argumentation for the next time, I guess?

Regarding my success in preventing myself from becoming a cynic at Uni? I think I’ve been moderately successful. The questions I find myself asking the most are:
1. Why do we have such terrible faculty? Is there a problem with the “academic” industry in India?

2. Why is the mess food so terrible today? Should we be offering Mohani an incentive structure for better food quality (apart from GST Mess Fees?)

3. Will I get hot water to bathe in tomorrow morning?

To sum things up, 2017 has been a year where I’ve discovered what my identity is in terms of the values that are part of who I am. The only reason that’s happened is because I’ve confronted difficult situations and questioned the logic behind two sets of possible outcomes.

Granted, I’ve weakened a couple of friendships as a result. I don’t think that’s completely my fault.

But I’ve become happier as a result.

2017 In Review: 2/10

A second post in which I basically talk about what I did for a year.

Read

The Why?

I stopped reading as much as I used to as a child, and it frustrated me that University took up so much of my time that I didn’t have time to do something I enjoyed so much. I find books to be a haven of escape, away from the pressures of reality. But they also keep you connected to the world, in that they can expose you to so much: hint at important questions, offer social commentary. If only you decide to take time to look.

Books are also amazing ways to network with people. My friends have similar literary interests, and I do enjoy the odd critique of pieces of literature. I’ve never been an avid fanboy, in my memory, but I finish books and get takeaways from them.

The other thing I really wanted to do was to develop a metric for books. All things are subjective, but as I grew older, I found it tougher for me to identify my favourite genres, and found it harder to rate books or recommend books to other individuals. This was especially because I was out of touch with it all. I figured maintaining a book review list would help.

The What?

So, I challenged myself. 52 books in 52 weeks. I’d track myself on Goodreads. The idea was to read daily, to a point where I could comfortably achieve this target. It was ambitious, especially because I didn’t want to pick small books just to meet the target (I enjoy longer reads), but I also didn’t want to forget the plots of books I’ve read (something I do very often – I forget character names). Tracking the balance would be tough.

The How?

First, I opened up my goodreads account. The only other time I had used this was when I first got my Kindle booted up, but apart from that, I hadn’t ever rated books on the site. Goodreads became a really good place: I started using it for book recommendations, to join a couple of book clubs (where I’m not active, yet), to start tracking myself, and also, to comment on books my friends had read.

Second, I decided I’d review every book I read over the course of the year. Write even one word about what it made me feel. Was it something I’d recommend? Why would I recommend it? Who would I send the book to? Ask myself the tough questions.

Third, I wanted to pair books with music. This isn’t something I ended up accomplishing (though one of my friends did, and I thought it was delightful).

Lastly, I shared this specific goal with a few select people – individuals who read voraciously, who I thought could keep pace with me, and/or even motivate me if I was falling behind. More importantly, they’d encourage and not judge me if I was ahead of my goal. I was going to become a serious bookworm, and I needed all the help I could get.

Later in the year, I also joined Reddit, which I found to be a great source of recommendations, but also a fun place to talk about books I read, especially down at r/books and r/sciencefiction

The Review

I read 81 books in the year. This is likely to become 82, or even 83. Here’s the entire list, with some comments: https://tejasrao.net/2017-reading-list/

This was the toughest thing I embarked on all year, I think. It required a lot of devotion, and I could, at most be off books for 3/4 days. I was even reading during exams – something my parents had disallowed in my house when I was growing up. I didn’t buy as many books – a lot of them were sent to me, or even borrowed, or downloaded, so this was super economical.

I did succeed, I think. Not just in terms of meeting a challenge I had set for myself, numerically, but, on a macro look at things, in terms of becoming a reader again. Over the course of the year, I re-identified my favourite genres (around April, pretty early), and then found books along those lines. Toward the end of the year, I even began exploring, and still am in the process of learning about books and media across cultures – I think there’s a lot more work I want to do in this area, but it’s been very enjoyable reading things like manga and Chinese science-fiction so far.

I also began to read fanfiction. Strange for me, yes, but someone convinced me it was worth a shot.

The impact reading had on my writing was incredible. I even tried writing something humorous in June, when I was reading Dork (a terrible experiment I thoroughly failed at), but it was worth the shot. It also gave me a lot of confidence to express my emotions. If Chetan Bhagat can do it, so can I, I thought. Turns out it’s tougher than I did think it was, but it’s fun trying to articulate everything in my head. Even if it seems abrupt and uninteresting.

The luckiest thing I experienced was actually a terrible week on personal fronts, where I sat in my room after classes everyday and read. I used to get up for meals, but I didn’t do anything apart from reading on those days. That week? I read 7 books. 1 book a day. It was the most fulfilling thing and managed to pull my mind out of some very numbing realities I didn’t have the courage to face at that time.

What I’m very grateful for is the literary support system I have. Starting from my parents, but even friends I’ve opened up to more recently. Prememe, 3000, Loafer: These 3 were instrumental (to say the least) and recommended/forced me to read a LOT of books I wouldn’t have ever dared to try. Massive thanks to you 3. I don’t know what this 52 challenge would have been without you.

What’s next? I can only wonder. But I’d like to review books better and I’m targetting 104 books next year. 2 books a week, with the added challenge of trying new genres I’ve never read before.

There’s a lot to read and a lot to know. I’m just excited by the amount of information and creativity I haven’t been able to consume or appreciate.

 

2017 in Review: 1/10

Haven’t written for a while, but the year is coming to a close, so I thought I should write a series of posts chronicling what the year has taught me.

Granted, some of this is unstructured (like the rest of my writing), and a lot of it may sound extremely preachy, but this has become one of the places where I can express myself without judgment. The blog’s become a safe space of sorts, to articulate emotions and thoughts in my brain, without having to worry what someone will think about it.

What I’m going to do over the next 10 days is talk about 10 things I picked up through this year. My biggest New Year Resolution was to work on being the version of myself I was most comfortable, and most happy being – from past recollection. At the start of 2017, I found that Law school, being the consuming being that it is, had taken up all of my headspace. Slowly, in the course of one and a half years, I had been sucked into the grey walls I reside: spending 24 hours, 7 days a week in a singular, boundaried space, carrying out tasks that, while enabled personal growth, always had some amount of connection back to the University, and spending time around the same people.

The last bit didn’t bother me as much, but while reflecting about the first two, what I realized, was that it took barely 3 semesters for University to change who I was as a person before I came to Law school. I had stopped doing things I loved, changed the way I socialized with people, and became very committed to goals – hopping from one to another without much rest in between. I vowed to myself that I’d use the year to change that.

In that sense, it’s been an enlightening year. Here’s the first of my learnings.

Develop New Habits 

This is extremely cliche, I think, to be a New Year’s Resolution. People aim to change things about themselves – to, stop biting nails, for example, or to quit smoking. To control alcohol intake is another. But it’s also the biggest challenge.

The Why?

Habits are developed extremely slowly as a result of continual performance. Brushing teeth twice a day, bathing daily, even something as mundane as setting an alarm before going to bed. These are things that require repetition to become clockwork. They’re a part of your fabric and your fibre. Yet, as a result of the frequency of their performance, they begin to become involuntary tasks that you fail to recognize.

Habits are often enforced at home at early stages. I lost several good habits after I came to University, especially those that revolved around the time I slept. It took 3 semesters to change things so intrinsic to my behaviour, that I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take to regain them.

So I picked a couple of things out. Things I thought would be things I would like to do as a person repetitively, and I drilled them into my daily schedule. The idea was to see whether my body would respond differently to a day where I didn’t carry out a “habitual” activity (I’ll come to how I tested this at a later stage).

The What?

Here’s a “daily” list along with my personal motivations for each:

  1. Eat Breakfast: I do not sleep much at Uni. This is a direct result of the things I take on. Therefore, I woke up late every day (“late” is defined as impairing my ability to complete a morning routine + bathe + change into clothes +  eat breakfast + not run to class.) As a consequence, for much of my first year, I’d skip breakfast and go hungry till lunch. It seemed like the most logical thing to skip, because I couldn’t skip the rest (as a result of biological functioning + hygiene worries.) I wanted to eat breakfast again, because it’s a meal I enjoyed.
  2. Run/Exercise: I’ve been exposed to a range of physical activities, but I haven’t excelled at any of them (I can play some sports moderately well), nor have I been physically fit, by average standards. I really, really wanted that. And I wanted to try running, mostly because I have very, very painful memories associated with running/sprinting.
  3. Find 10 new songs: I’m an audiophile. New music excites me. But University prevented me from surfing the Internet and finding music because I always had other things on my mind. I stopped listening to albums in full, stopped forming opinions on songs the way I used to when I was in school. I wanted that back.
  4. Read for about 30 minutes to 1 hour (outside of the Law, and away from the Internet): Law consumed me so much I stopped reading. To be honest, reading is something I stopped far earlier (maybe in Grade 10 – when I stopped being a “voracious” reader). I wanted to reclaim being bookish.
  5. Pray: This one’s tough to explain, actually. Safe to say, Hinduism requires you to devote time to God. The common argument I’ve heard my grandmother make is “you can give time for everything, you should be able to make time for God also”. But that seemed far-fetched a lot of the time, and I found my faith being challenged a lot by several events that took place in my life. I legitimately just wanted to see if I could reclaim my faith and what the impact would be on the amount I believed in something.
  6. Write: I’ve outlined this before. It’s why I started blogging so regularly. Read the first post from this year, here.
  7. Read the newspaper: To help with debating. And also because I lost touch with the world.

The How?

I literally drilled these things into my schedule this year. Here’s how:

  1. Eat Breakfast: I woke up earlier every single day.
  2. Run/Exercise: Moved this to the morning and woke up early to accommodate for the activity.
  3. Find 10 new songs: Reactivated my old Soundcloud account, started a Saavn account, and started scamming off Ahaan’s Spotify. I put new playlists on play when I’m working/reading.
  4. Read: Every. Single. Night. Before I went to sleep.
  5. Pray: This was iffy. I slided it into the mornings usually between when I walked out of my cold water bath and when I changed into warm clothes. I found that was the best time to really concentrate on a higher being. When you need warmth, desperately. But on a more serious note, this was one of the habits I haven’t fully formed yet – only because it’s a little far out of my system.
  6. Write: Some words was the idea. Every day. I wrote haiku a lot. I also downloaded Q10, a minimalist application. Super helpful.
  7. Read the newspaper: Several apps on my mobile with Push notifications on for everything. Drained my battery, but hey.

How successful was I? On a scale of 1-7? 4. You can figure out which ones I missed.

The Review

Halfway through the year I began to test the effects of skipping habits I had effectively begun to create. I’d skip exercising often, or even my reading. The one I skipped most frequently was actually the writing.

What I realized was that our bodies are extremely responsive to minute changes. We’re extremely sensitive, as human beings. It’s why people get into comfort zones with routines, and feel very off when their routines aren’t followed. Or, people like me, are extremely particular about time and punctuality (even though in Bangalore, traffic destroys all my ambitions).

On days where I skipped habits, I accomplished things I didn’t think I was capable of accomplishing on that day. I’d skip these things to make time to write a project in one night, or study for a test, or prepare for a competition. Sometimes I’d skip these things just to talk to my friends on the phone, or to have a more relaxed dinner. The additional time I gained allowed me to complete things in a day that were impossible to do.

But, I was always unsatisfied. And with these, on days I skipped the habit I was trying to create, it became far easier to skip it repeatedly. I went days on end without writing, for example, because my brain forgot what it was like to formulate sentences on a keyboard. It also forgot how to express itself (because I’m slightly closed off as a person, even though I enjoy socializing with people). So it became easier to shut a draft, or save a draft, and not write anything at all.

If I didn’t run on one day, I’d sleep in the next day. The knock-on effect was ridiculous.

And it just made me unhappy. I think that was because cultivating these habits was something I started looking at as goals, perhaps? But it was also because I kept delaying things that would make me the happiest version of myself (from past experience). Ultimately, I figured that I enjoy a mixture of routine with a bit of spontainety, because that allowed me to achieve things I was skeptical about, but also, get a little happiness about being a creature of habit.

More tomorrow.