Equanimity

This is a word that’s been floating around a lot in my vocabulary and the literature I read over the past few months. I haven’t actually ventured forth and written down my thoughts about the subject because I didn’t feel like they had formed entirely. I do, however, use this blog as a place to keep track of the way my thoughts progressed, and in a sense, it seemed appropriate to write about this as well.

I’m trying to be more equanimous in accepting reality as it occurs. This is difficult, for there is always a version of things in my head – the way things ought to be. For me, I build off of what I envisage taking place, and where that does not occur, I struggle to cope with that. It places a stress on me that feels inescapable when things anticipated or expected do not take place, and in the past, I have fallen prey to that stress.

It’s impeded relationships with other human beings. My relationship with my own parents, for example, very often, slips into conversation where I begin doling out information on what I believe should be the response to a particular situation – and not as a matter of opinion, but rather as a matter of fact. It feels to stray into the absurd very frequently, when I remove myself from the scene and view it as an outsider.

Learning about equanimity, the word – and the depth of interpretation that arises to the word has injected fresh perspective in my life. At present, all I feel about it is that I mistook the phrase and the attitude to mean surrendering to reality completely. My original understanding of the expression was one of nonchalance, that you stopped trying to impact reality – because you accepted this is the way things were. I can’t accept that because it feels purposeless, and observing things around me without impacting them feels like being a spectator and a participant in the game of Life simultaneously. I can’t do that.

I understand today, however, that equanimity is accepting reality as-is, to fully understand it, and internalize it – so it does not push you to extremes in any decision-making, or activity, or life at large. It doesn’t mean you stop impacting reality, but rather, you do so with heightened awareness about what that reality is.

I don’t have much else to say about it yet. If I do, there may be a part-II.

Sincerity

Yesterday, I wrote about how much I disliked playing catch up to all my writing, about how it made me feel insincere to something I loved so much, and loved so much about. That idea, and notion of sincerity, in my head, is something that’s been on my mind all day.

I try out several things and take on a lot of things at once. This comes out of the fact that I enjoy multitasking, and hold a genuine interest in a variety of subjects I know far too little about but am fascinated by. Coupled with my love of productivity, I end up consistently feeling like there’s this mass of information out there that I have accessed 1% of. That 99% I don’t know, I want to know, yet it feels like there’s so little time to do all of it. While not often, that feeling gets overwhelming and leads to procrastination.

I’ve half-assed several things before: by which I mean I’ve started out giving things my best, and being sincere about the effort I’ve put into things, and then either piggy-backed off others’ efforts, or dipped the amount of my own time I’ve spent on things. That is natural if I lose interest, but something I learned at University is that I ought not to take on work that ends up affecting other people, if I’m not going to follow-through on it to its completion. But I’ve half-assed personal projects too. That feels worse somehow, because I feel like I’ve let myself down by not being able to sincerely follow through on something I was so interested in and so passionate about.

This doesn’t happen frequently though. I’m usually okay with multitasking. However, it shouldn’t be happening at all. One of the things I want to improve is eliminating the possibility of giving up on an interest of mine. To do so, I think I’m going to try being a little smarter in making decisions about how to allocate my time. Most importantly, I think I need to revisit the number of personal projects I take on and prioritize them. Whenever I think of new projects, the question I’m going to ask myself first, from now onward, is going to be: where does this fit into existing priorities?

If it ranks below than an existing priority, I think I need to keep a tab on the number of things that pique my interest, and revisit that page as often as possible when I have free time. That way I think I’ll be able to explore all of my interests when I have the bandwidth to do so, but also at a time that my interest in the subject is high. In a sense, this method of decision-making, to me, is likely to counteract the ebbs and flows that come with my interests and hobbies.

It’s odd to me that I’m trying to be so systematic about something that, at it’s core, comes down to asking yourself three questions:

  1. Do you like it?
  2. Do you want to do it?
  3. Do you have the time to do it?

But those questions seem like they aren’t enough for me anymore, since the decisions I make seem to not account for how sincere I can be while doing things – although the third question is meant to.

Not anymore. I hope I can be successful with this. At the very least, I hope to be able to be more sincere in all the endeavours I take on – so they’re equal in terms of how much of myself I give to the activity.

Playing Catch-Up

Over the past three years, writing has become an integral part of my life. Days feel incomplete without it, because it feels like I have failed to articulate or structure, or really do anything with my day. On days that I write, even if I’ve spent the entire day on RuneScape, or watching Netflix, I feel accomplished, instead of looking at the time that seems to have flown past with terrible graphics and a lot of nostalgia. However, like I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I procrastinate from time to time. Last week was just one of those weeks, where every day, writing seemed like a struggle.

I didn’t even realize a whole week had gone past. A combination of the lockdown and a lack of effectively implemented deadlines (or strictly implemented, rather), has meant that my only actual realization of how long it has been. It’s been close to a month since the lockdown began – and to this date, it has now been one month since my last University in-person lecture took place.

I didn’t write for close to a week. Then I decided it was time to write, that my lethargy really could not, and should not, last any longer. Today was the day I played catch-up with myself. Honestly, the way I saw it was that I could have ignored all the writing I missed. It would not have affected anybody at all – particularly because I don’t think too many people read this blog religiously anyway. For me though, taking that easy route out would have represented giving into the challenging times this lockdown has placed me in. You see, for me, working and consistently doing things – being on the move, so to speak, gives me the most joy. I can sit still and quiet down when I need to, but I thrive more, in terms of happiness, when I have the opportunity to express myself.

I’m privileged to be safe and healthy at present. I need to keep expressing myself for my own mental health at this point, because otherwise I will give into the fact that my hobbies cannot replace traditional notions of work. That is untrue, fundamentally, because my hobbies are enough to keep me going. Writing everyday serves as a reminder of that.

Writing today, I’m determined not to play catch-up ever again because it makes me feel insincere to this craft I am trying to doggedly pursue and perfect.

Plus, honestly, writing more than these posts a day is quite exhausting. There’s no need to do so much in one day when you can consistently do a little each day.

Ubermensch

Zarathustra defined this person as someone who was willing to risk it all to save humanity. Today, however, I had a pleasant encounter with someone who was literally an Ubermensch: someone working for Uber. I had gone to Ahmedabad to learn things, do errands – and the return trip was halted thanks to a few canceled rides. On getting a cab, therefore, I just felt gratitude and an immediate rush to sit in the vehicle and get going. I wasn’t in a particular hurry or anything. There were no deadlines awaiting me on campus. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The evening was marked aside for hobbies and things I had procrastinated – things I would complete in my own sweet time. I was ready to sit in the car, listen to some music, fall asleep – wake up on campus and get going again.

That was not to be. Instead, I was greeted by the biggest smile, called “Tejasbhai” right off the bat. Thus began my 45 minutes with Iqbal. He initiated conversation: asking me where I was from and what I knew of my home city – and proceeding to talk to me about Uber itself. I’ve held a longstanding fascination and admiration for the company, and when driver-partners are willing to engage in conversation, I try to understand their motivations and the company culture as much as possible. From my experience thus far, most driver-partners are disillusioned by the model at present, but stick with it because they’ve committed to it. A large portion of their discontent stems from the fact that when Uber rolled out in India, the company paid out several incentives – and made promises of continuous earning streams that would match this throughout the time that a driver-partner was registered with the application. However, as time passed by, and Uber gained enough of a driver-base to no longer have to spend as much as they were on driver-partner retention/attraction, everything faded away. Drivers’ earnings dropped. A lot of things have changed over the years internally as well, and drivers’ have complained about the way their requests and complaints get handled.

Today, however, Iqbal acknowledged that this may be the case for several individuals, but had never been the case for him personally. He told me his story: that there were bad customers, bad ratings, and weird interactions with the company, but that these were in the minority, and were a rarity. More than 90% of his interactions with Uber were fine – on all sides. When I pressed him about his motivations, he told me two things: first, the freedom & independence that Uber gave him, and second, the kind of job he did earlier, and how this was way better. I agreed on both fronts, but I was curious about earnings, so I asked him about them directly – since we had built a rapport. Iqbal explained something that has stuck with me throughout the day.

He explained, quite simply, that Uber was the kind of application where you got as much out of it as you put into it. You spend more hours driving, accept trips regularly, don’t cancel on them – and treat customers well – and you’ll get paid high amounts, be treated well by the company. The minute you start mucking around and acting picky about taking short trips, or rejected destinations – the company knows something’s most definitely up. That affects how they look at your profile, and by extension – you.

To me, the reason this stuck with me is because it’s translatable to so much of life. We all get what we put into life. Every day. Like Iqbal said: sometimes it’ll suck. But 90% of it turns out alright eventually. It motivated me enough for the evening & I didn’t procrastinate any of the work I had any further.

In fact, I’m still doing some right now.

I tipped Iqbal – and I hope that Uber will ensure the tip reaches him. I learned a lot from this Ubermensch.

Weekend Mastery

Mastering a weekend, to me, is the art of telling yourself that you’ve got two days to catch up on everything you need to catch up on – and not beginning till Sunday evening, before it’s too late and it’s the Monday. At least, that’s been the story of my weekend thus far. It may improve a little over the next couple of hours, but even if it doesn’t, and this is all my weekend is – I have loved every minute of it. I’ve slept a lot, managed to read a fair number of books. Life is swell.

De-cluttering the Internet

The title is a little unclear. There were better options, but I’m not doing you or me any favours unless I confuse you sufficiently to make you intrigued enough to read the rest of what I have to say for the day. If you’re here now, welcome: I’m happy to have you. Please read through till the end for a delightful surprise. Where, you know what you’ll find? Thanks to infinity scroll, another post of mine. Delightful, I know.

I spent the better part of late evening yesterday and today morning decluttering my life on the internet. I’m not entirely sure what prompted this decision. I feel like I got to this deep desire to clean up my internet footprint because of a desire to procrastinate some work I had – and yes, unlike previous occasions, where I’ve slipped into calling everything I do “work”, I’m talking about actual work this time – with deadlines and a deliverable. Imagine. I had completed all my usual procrastination techniques, ended up on a weird place on YouTube, which is when I decided to take this step. It took my about 5 hours, and I’ve ended up in a place where I now have a clear idea of how better I can declutter. So of course, you get to read all about it.

I have 3 active user profiles that enable me to login to web services. 2 of these are hosted on Gmail – and I’ve been using Gmail since 2006-ish, when you had this amazing counter that showed you how much storage Google would offer you if you signed up – every time you moved to the login page. At the end of my YouTube binge, I felt the need to organize my e-mail inbox better: put labels on everything, make things easier to navigate. So I started doing that, and about half an hour into it, I realized it served no purpose for me. I pretty much knew most e-mail IDs I regularly e-mailed. I usually mark things that need a response from me as “unread”, and I keep a journal to remember whom to respond to – it’s very rare that I miss e-mails as a result. So after 30 minutes of painstakingly figuring out how to label things, and what sort of labels I envisioned in my ideal inbox, I ditched that idea altogether – deleting every single label I had created, including some automated ones.

Then, I realized I used a few services on the internet where I had duplicate profiles. This disturbed me. I don’t like having two profiles. I’m a straightforward person on the internet, and I’d rather have everything that’s public about me attributable directly to me – rather than through some web of discovery and trail searching people have to push themselves to go through. Most of these duplicate profiles were created through legitimate accident. How, you ask? Simple.

Like I said earlier, I have two Gmail accounts, right? Well, one was my first Gmail account – and my daily usage e-mail ID till I finished up Grade 12, at which point the alternate e-mail ID was my spam box (I signed up for subscriptions & things with it), and post Grade 12, because I needed to look more professional (my old e-mail ID, as you may be able to tell, was not), I switched them around. The old alternate ID became my primary ID, and the default moved over to my secondary. That ended up in a couple of changes and at that time, I reconfigured mails to move around accordingly. Everything was peaceful.

Except, then this thing called Gmail integration came along and erupted around 2013-14. The problem with Gmail integration is that it is super convenient and easy. You don’t have to keep creating multiple accounts & remember multiple passwords. All you need to do is remember your Gmail password, and you can pretty much sign-in to every service imaginable on the internet today. So why is this a problem? Well, for people like me – who are signed in to two e-mail IDs, sometimes we make the mistake of accessing the service with the wrong Gmail ID. That leads to the creation of a duplicate profile. This happened on multiple applications.

So what I did yesterday was I reversed that process. First, I figured out all the applications to which I had given access to my Gmail. Then I logged in to each of those services and deleted my user profile. And finally, I revoked Gmail’s access to these applications. Several of them are applications I don’t use anymore, or will never use in the near future, so it’s a good thing they don’t have my data. 

Similar things had to be done with WordPress as well. Massive kudos to them though, their Happiness Engineers basically helped me migrate an entire website, content, and a domain to my alt (but default) profile in a jiffy.

Then, the closure of the entire Gmail process was to delete an e-mail account I had created exclusively for the purpose of backups, given that my 15GB storage on my primary account had expired. Given that I purchased Google One this year, I no longer needed it. So I migrated all the data and shut that off too.

The result: a decluttered internet footprint. Something still in progress. I’m sure I have accounts I don’t remember creating and data I don’t remember sharing (but have consented to), but it’s time to live a leaner life here. Keep fewer passwords to remember, not give random applications access to my e-mails. Just be a little more aware of what I’m giving up & for how much convenience I’m trading off my information for.

One day I’ll figure it out.

Great Electricity

Last night when we were about to turn the lights off, my roommate spoke to me from his bed. He told me that when he entered the room, the electricity meter was at 512 units. Now we’re at 2300 units or so. He looked at me and said, ‘Tejas, look how much we’ve consumed’. I wasn’t sure what the appropriate response was. It was true. We had consumed all those 1800 odd units of electricity. With 50 units allocated to us for each month, that comes up to 36 months – because we’ve never strayed beyond the allotted electricity limits. Not even when we had a standing fan, which stopped standing – and then collapsed by our fifth semester.

I haven’t noticed these things before. Usually someone comes around once a month to take our meter readings – and I look to ensure that he’s jotting down the right numbers, but apart from that, I haven’t cared too much. I check my emails when they send out the dues list to ensure I don’t have payments to make, but then it’s business as usual.

My roommate’s pretty much in charge of most of the electricity stuff in our room. He switches off the meter before heading to class – unless something is charging. It’s rare that it’s on the entire time. When it is, it’s usually because it’s summer and we’re out of the room for a few minutes, and switching off the fan would mean disaster, with hot wind all over the room. Most of my responsible electricity consumption is something I’ve picked up directly from him. That includes shutting down my laptop before I sleep, which is something I never did before: under some assumption that I would lose important files.

When he told me about the amount of electricity we had consumed, I realized that this was possibly the last time I would have to care so little about it. I’ve learned a lot of things on this campus – and being less wasteful with electricity is one of them. But I’ve not cared about the payment of electricity bills, or the source of my power generation. I’ll be out in the world in a couple of months – which is when I’ll definitely have to care. I’ll be responsible for electricity bill payments and keeping track of consumption to ensure I’m not going overboard.

I’m not too concerned about keeping track of consumption. Climate change has scared me sufficiently. What I am keen to learn though is the art of managing bills: one of those things almost every adult complains about at some point or the other.

I turned off the lights last evening and went to bed, only to be reminded of a modified version of Uncle Ben’s quote, which my roommate has crafted:

“With great power comes a great electricity bill.”

Hobby Immersion

Offlate I’ve had more time on my hands – in terms of fully being in my control of how I spend my time each day, than I have in recent memory. It’s probably been about 4-odd years since I felt this way. That has seen a return to some hobbies, and a return to a lot of things I wanted to be doing. I can’t say that this is what I’d like to be doing a couple of years from now, but what I can say is that it’s bringing me a lot of joy at the moment. A couple of things I’m doing way more than I’ve done in the past few years are: reading, playing the piano, and exercising. The only one of these I’ve actually done to a reasonable level at University has been reading, so the other two take a lot of effort to actually get around to and do. Each day I search for something new to inspire me to pick it up and actually do; instead of ideating it.

One of the consistent things I’ve found inspirational is knowledge. I really enjoy hearing people talk about the stuff they know about both classical music and exercising. I love reading about it too. This has also become something that’s true of my reading. I love reading more because there’s so much to read, but because I’m continuously motivated by the people who’ve read more – who write and share the stuff they’ve read. I’m inspired, to say the least. All of this has led to this realization that there’s an endless, boundless amount of any activity you could be doing.

That has me a little worried.

Specifically because one of the things I’ve observed about these individuals who talk/share their experience with any activity is that they’re all “qualified”, so to speak. People who write academically about books; or who review books professionally – they all seem to come from a position of authority/specialization because they’ve devoted their time to that craft. This is true of exercising and of music too – all those commentators who commentate on what music represents, and coach on how to run better, none of them are amateurs or hobbyists. What I found a little more worrying is the kind of nuanced specialisms there are. Let’s take books as an example: there are these people who write only about Science Fiction. But then it goes one level deeper: they write exclusively about African Science Fiction, or Chinese Science Fiction. That’s all they seem to read & comment on.

Last evening I was wondering whether hobbyists are demotivated from picking things up because of how endless hobbies seem; or owing to the kind of specialists there are in a field. Then I got around to thinking about whether I want to reach that kind of specialization: given that I enjoy listening/consuming media commentaries thrown to me by these specialists (irrespective of whether I agree/disagree with their outcomes).

For a while I lingered on my answer being yes: I’d like to exhibit some sort of preference, or niche, in every hobby I take up. I look at my consumption of the piano at the moment: I’m loving every moment of it, but I’m playing for an hour, reading music theory for a couple of hours, and listening/reading about classical music for a while each day. It’s extremely immersive – but it’s also super general; there’s no specialism there at all. For me to develop a preference for an era in classical music, for example – I’d have to first find an era I like, and then begin to consume that era’s music with a particular obsession. Being a specialist requires some form of obsession or the other. I could be wrong, but you need to be dedicated, you need to truly love the art form you’re calling yourself a specialist in.

For me: in a lot of ways, that felt, well, counterintuitive to what the idea of a hobby is. I don’t want to be too serious about it; I just want to enjoy it. I want to enjoy the generality, the gaining of knowledge and experience in the hobby. I’d like to remain at ease, without pressure of any kind in any of my hobbies. I’d like to be a generalist, I guess. Even in my reading, I don’t feel like I’d like to be walled within having preferences for genres. In exercising, I don’t want to restrict myself to a particular kind of activity.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to take my hobbies seriously. I still want to immerse myself in them as much as I can.

At the end of this very, very elaborate thinkpost, I have but one conclusion. This thinking was pointless. Like most things, figuring out how I want to enjoy something or what it brings me, or how I’d like to interact with it means I need to do – not think.

Analysis is sometimes useless.

I did, however, get a blog post out of it. It’s a brainfart of a blog post, but it is a blog post all the same.

Sleep-in’

The weekend is usually when my roommate and I both catch up on any sleep we’ve lost over the course of the week. Or, in the case of fifth year, overcompensate for the sleep deficit we’re battling from the last four years.

I was speaking to some classmates from school yesterday about how it’s been 5 years since we gave our board examinations to get out of school, and how it’s been 7 years since our 10th Grade boards. The one thing that cracked us up was how these board exams seemed like the scariest endeavour at the time, but we’re looking back at it like it was some joke. I wouldn’t trade-off the effort I put in for my boards for anything; I loved studying for all of them, and I really enjoyed the month of giving exams. I would, however, take away the kind of stress I put myself under at the time. Wholly unnecessary. Maybe without it, I could’ve enjoyed the process a lot more.

In any case, the reason I mentioned boards is because what we also realized is that there’s a ton of information from our education that we don’t use everyday that’s still trapped in our brains. An example is the concept of an “oxygen deficit”. When I see sleep deficit, or actually, wherever I see the word “deficit”, that’s the only concept I associate it with. Even though it’s wholly incorrect. The Board I studied taught us the concept as an “oxygen debt”, but I remember it as an oxygen deficit instead. Why? I don’t know. But I can still tell you exactly what the syllabus needed us to remember. It was this: Oxygen debt is removed after exercise and during recovery thanks to aerobic respiration of lactic acid in the liver, the continuation, after exercise, of fast heart rate to transport lactic acid in blood from muscles to the liver, and the continuation, after exercise, of deeper breathing supplying oxygen for aerobic respiration of lactic acid.

How this information is something I need to remember verbatim in my life on the daily is not something I understand. Yet, I do. What I was wondering about this morning, when I thought about the sleep deficit I’ve accrued, is if there’s a similar process of recovery outlined somewhere.

All I know is that my process of recovery involves a ton of sleep. I woke up this morning, ate breakfast, and came back and slept till lunch. After going for a run in the evening, I slept another two hours.

It was awesome.

Catchy Tunes

Our brain is ridiculously wondrous in its sheer complexity. One of the things that I’ve been trying to figure out is how my brain classifies different kinds of music as being catchy – and how each of us has such uniquely different tastes in music, or the kind of music that we end up humming along to/that we find catchy. More specifically, how despite all of these variations in our tastes, pop radio ends up ensuring that we end up humming along to the same tunes. It’d be extremely difficult, for example, to find someone who didn’t find the song “Happy” peppy and upbeat – whose rhythm was lodged in their brain immediately upon a first listening. This is similar of other songs too – “Moves Like Jagger” is another one that comes to mind immediately.

Okay, I’m not thinking about this remotely as academically as I make it sound in the above paragraph – I just re-read what I had written. Honestly, what I’m trying to understand is why this song – “Sing It With Me“, which has an incredibly humorous/cute music video is absolutely stuck in my head. I first heard it yesterday, and it’s been playing on loop throughout the day. Quite literally, every minute of my run today was spent listening to this song, which is not something I’m used to.

The science community owes me an explanation. I don’t particularly take issue with the fact that the song is stuck in my head – because I quite like it, honestly, but I feel like this is going to be on loop for a while now, or at least till I find another song to replace it.

I’m probably going to spend the rest of the day reading about this. Leads, as always are welcome.

Update:

I took a break in posting this because I wanted to see if I could at least contribute an amalgam of some observations from what I’ve read. Apparently most catchy songs do a couple of things:

  1. Start off lower than the highest pitch they will eventually reach;
  2. Have a lot of repetitions in patten;
  3. Have a consistent rhythm/bassline; and, shockingly
  4. Apparently resemble earlier, well-known pieces of music, like nursery rhymes.

This means two things:

  1. I’m now trying to figure out how many songs I’ve heard fit the bill (the answer is, several)
  2. I now feel like I have the tools to clearly make a pop song that gets stuck in everyone’s brains.