Salvaging Sanity

I wonder how did I get in the habit of writing letters…..to nobody.

Words following words, messages stacking across the pages in the form of letters – addressed to someone other than myself but no one in particular. I have written incessantly as if it’s epistolary pleading to a being of questionable existence. Tantalizing words kept spreading their tendrils all over my body, tightening its grip, choking, suffocating me until I learned to contain them. Ironically, it’s an internal battle which seldom surfaces on my outer appearance. Amidst the intermittent pangs of insanity, they seemed the only reasonable action to salvage my fading sanity.

Prologue

I first thought of this post 9 months ago, sometime around the beginning of this year. Of course, that didn’t happen.  I couldn’t bring myself to write it because like a perceptible change in time that is a new year, you also want the new you – one who sheds off the burden, peels off the past that engulfs him. Well, things don’t work that way. The more you keep your it bottled, the stronger this concoction gets and it becomes increasingly harder to get rid of it until you set it free – whatever your way of doing that may be. Also, things don’t automatically become alright when you shift through this concept of time like traversing blocks of a human construct. It has to be made ok through conscious reconciliation.

The past two years felt like the toughest years of my life. This was also the time when some major changes happened – the people, the environment, the game – all of it were new. There were definitely good things that kept the light of fight alive. And a major weapon I had was to write it all down. I didn’t have anyone who could have listened patiently (it’s really tough man!) and I doubt if I would have done away with no writing at all even if I had. Believe me, I tried telling it. I did try hard.

It may have been the very first post this year on the blog – either this or ‘The Culture of Extremes‘ that still lies incomplete in my ever-growing drafts. But I couldn’t bring myself to give it a definite form. It was obscure, abstract and way more personal. And then it changed. Yes. Like any perishable item kept unpreserved over a significant period of time, this post also underwent an irreversible transformation. It didn’t remain the written account of the past two years. Instead, it became about this one.

Subconsciously, I had kept recording the moments of my insanity, moment of sinking thoughts and the instances when I felt I was imploding with the churning force of matter, in the personal notes on my phone. This is what it culminated to.

I know it’s totally haphazard. As much as I would have liked to recollect those moments with considerable accuracy, I have either forgotten them or outgrown them. I don’t exactly remember as to which thought, in particular, triggered each of these separate sentences. So I went discrete, even to myself and noted just the fleeting feeling of the moment. This way, it would also seem relatable to the reader even though the context might vary. Also, it has been presented verbatim in chronological order for the most part as was noted in those instances besides few grammatical corrections. Different paragraphs have been separated by the horizontal line.

Moments of Insanity

This withers my heart into a thousand pieces – insignificant bits of innocence slain by the cruelty of circumstances. Time, renewing everything I have held so dearly, keeping me bound in Saudade, drifting into the void, tied up – not moving, just living, just being. I bear this weight that is crushing my soul, pulling me down into the abyss of despair, teary eyes and shrinking heart, silent cries and shrieking screams from the pain I’m in. I wonder what could have I done differently.


I don’t know when it changed from imaginative to impulsive writing. When did my thumb start driving my mind instead of the other way round?


All my posts have been more of pushing out facts than voicing my thoughts and opinions. And this bugs me as a writer. What makes my writing different?


Sometimes, I can feel the chemical reactions happening inside my body. I’m not kidding. I could feel my feelings being affected in a mechanized predictable way.


All the impulsive decisions I have ever taken or maybe all the decisions I have ever taken have impulsively felt wrong. It happens just after the things go out of my control. The deed is done and it is to be decided whether it was right or wrong. But in that infinitesimal moment, it has felt wrong. Not the most optimum one for sure. And then I have chased my life making that decision correct. It has taken time for me to be at a position when I can say with surety that whatever I did was right.


My troubling dreams are so deeply rooted in the reality that I don’t know if it actually happened or were mere projections in my mind. They are becoming indistinguishable from real possibilities.


Frequently, I have been getting these stress hits, especially at night when all I think about are career prospects, my family and the direction life is heading to. It happens mostly late at night. I suddenly wake up and have a hard time sleeping. During the day, I can dissuade these feelings by getting involved in something that takes my mind off the situation but at night, when all is blank like the darkness that surrounds me and I am finally at the bed, inactive, all these thoughts come rushing in.


Looking inwards to probe my fundamental flaws, I see that I take a leap on trusting people more than what they deserve and that has eventually left my heartbroken. This optimistic heart of mine doesn’t refuse to give up and it is very much hopeful that someday it will find someone who appreciates my core values.


I listen to so many life-changing stuff – I read them in books, I get them for free during intellectually stimulating conversations and by listening to people who are smarter than me, people who possess much more life experience. And in those moments, I seem to grasp the meaning of it. I question myself about the characteristics of those habits, introspect my behavior in daily life and if I see the discrepancy, I decide how am I going to change from tomorrow. But when I try to remember those stuff on a random day when I feel uninspired or my actions let me down, I hardly seem to recall any of it. There is nothing but obscurity that prevails and the thoughts are miscible fluids than chunks of consolidated solids. I wonder what was the meaning of giving all those time to those activities? Does it amount to anything? Like it’s said about knowledge, I think, inspiration also works in the hindsight.


Does it matter? I have been asking this a lot lately, not in the act of play but in the afterthoughts.


There are instances when you realize that you are not in your senses. You can very well sense it – weird, isn’t it? And although you feel like making the situation better, you unintentionally keep making it worse. You seem to have no control and what comes out of your mouth adds fuel to the fire. While the intentions might have been very much the opposite, your actions further sabotage the dynamics.


What is it? What am I doing? This just doesn’t stop. One after the other, it keeps on coming. The same thing. The same stuff. Repetition. Loop whose end is not within my sight. How long will it continue? How long would I have to keep going through the tedious process again and again? Even though I’m progressing, all the work seems futile because it’s no longer discernible. It takes a toll on me mentally, seeping into my veins, clogging up my neurons, putting a mental haze in front of my eyes.


I am tired of telling people to do something or to act in a way derived from my own experience but they go ahead and do whatever they want to anyway, with total disregard to my feelings. As if I don’t matter at all. Am I so insignificant?


I feel like the concept of love evades me. I don’t even know what is it anymore? For a better part of life, I have believed in it diligently but then the circumstances sometimes dwindle even your core beliefs. It feels like trying to hold onto a fistful of sand, slowly dripping out of the crevices. But I keep wishing that I would hold onto at least one grain. How do I restore, reinstate this belief which is the fundamental reason for my existence?

Hold me close and hold me fast,

The magic spell you cast, 

La vi en rose;

Give your heart and soul to me

And life will always be

La vi en rose.

Salvaging Sanity

As of this moment, when the situation seems stable and I look back with a clear mind on everything I wrote above, I recall some of the actions that helped me cope up with them effectively. Consider this to be the sequel of everything I had mentioned in my ‘Lessons in Failing‘ post. The difference is that this post is more concerned about external factors while it was more about personal shortcomings in ‘Lessons in Failing’.

First of all, it’s decluttering and detachment. In the moments of insanity, we get so much entangled with the problem, fog our mind with all sorts of bubbling thoughts that we hardly see the solution lying in vicinity. It’s important to know what’s the most important thing to deal with at any particular moment. We fool ourselves when we think we can handle multiple things at once. The concurrent mental processes only divide the resources, so it’s essential to eliminate things that are not part of the pressing problem at hand. Keep them in dormant mode for a while till this one is resolved.

The ability to practice rationality is the highest of virtues. To be able to communicate (and be understood just as well) and to understand things from an objective perspective makes everything a whole lot easier. This is tougher than you realize, I’m telling you.

Also, calm the heck down. Things inevitably get worse when we get restless. Hence, request (if there are people involved) to leave it up to you if you are the one to solve it. Ignore things that prevent you from exercising that calmness. Breathe. It’s weird to think about how often do we forget to take deep breaths and think things through.

Identify things that excite you. Things that give you strength when you need it. Things that show you the vision of a better tomorrow. It has to be something larger than life. Yes. For once in life, devote yourself in pursuance of a goal that feels extremely hard to reach yet it gets you stoked every single day. For example, my fascination with space has always helped me in putting things into perspective which is basically making it insignificantly small and hence solvable.

The right people will eventually come. You will have discussions you always wanted. You will laugh and scream and gasp in awe. Things will start to fall in place, maybe not all of them because it’s a never-ending battle but that’s ok. This is me saying from the other side.

Just remember, if you find yourself in the valley, keep going because there is a peak too. And after that peak, maybe you would descend into another valley so that you return to exploring the depths again. Being at the peak for long may blind you because then all ridges, plains, and valleys merge into one. The mantra of ‘everything in moderation‘ is very much applicable everywhere.

And then there would be this one person who will make it all worth it. All the pain, all the struggles, all the fights, all the mysteries & crazy coincidences would confluence to place you at this juncture you will forever be grateful for. It would be a lot easier then onwards because then you would have someone by your side you can call a companion. You would be understood for who you truly have been. You would realize that you were not insane in thinking this way or believing in things that you always have believed in because sanity is not statistical.

Things will make more sense, actions would have more meanings and all these would be possible if you just keep going. It may take years but you have to keep moving patiently. Stagnation is crippling. It’s like putting a fence around yourself. You may call it your happy place but then you have restricted the things to come to you as much as you have stopped reaching out to them. Move because you can.


Author’s Note – This is my 100th post on this blog. Yep! It’s a century. It took me 6 years to reach here. It’s been a crazy journey so far and feels like I’m just getting started. For the next venture, I would like to take more risks in terms of things I write about, put forth my bold views and take up challenges that give greater value to my writing. Let’s see how it pans out. Till the next time, godspeed! 🚀

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Counter Gauge

“I didn’t get you. What happened? I thought we had sorted this out.”

“Well, maybe I don’t really understand it myself but I just feel so constrained here. I don’t know how to say otherwise.”

And this is how it went. The review – an inescapable act of predomination of one individual over the other usually not by the virtue of skill but rather of authority. I had been softspoken since the beginning and I was accused of it as well. Now, here I was, voicing my opinion loud yet sugar-coated so as to not hurt the feelings on the receiving end.

Disclaimer – I initially started writing this post based on an incidence at my workplace but quickly realized that its implication could be very well extended to personal life and other spheres of human interaction. Given my inability to cram up all the relevant experiences, regardless of their significance, into this tiny post I chose to restrict its domain within the previously intended scope.

Ok, people.

Yeah! people. This post is about people and how their behavior has broken (and thus I have mended) my measuring dial a thousand times.

Due to my technical background, taking an analytical approach towards any matter, even social interaction, is something that comes naturally to me. Anyway, human beings are highly irrational entities and hence keeping all the biases and presumptions out of the equation really helps to see it through a rational lens. Although, the possibility of inducing my own human error cannot be entirely neglected.

Sometimes, I wish to find independent quantifiable parameters in order to represent reality even better. There ought to be a function, right? – the toughest expression, immensely complex, ever-changing, peculiarly behaving in nature and yet when you finally understand it, everything starts making sense. Welcome to the crazy side!

A few days back, I found myself in an interesting dichotomy.

Consider this – suppose, you enter into a completely new social environment, say a workplace. The length of engagement is ensured so that you are bound to be there a little longer than what we could be referred to as a short stay. You try to get accustomed to things, naturally, trying to understand the people around you while still keeping your own character in check, in order to not overdo it. You have to be “professional” (means the real you has to act within certain etiquettes) and carefully gauge what suits this setting and what does not.

And while you are doing this, it is highly probable that you are being misread because there still exists an invisible barrier in communication. If the ice has been broken, there now lies this puddle in between and we both have to meet the midway. In other words, they are equally trying to understand you and through this ordeal of understanding each other, there arises a huge misunderstanding on both sides.

What do you do now? Do you take a leap and state your opinion openly (which may fall on deaf ears)? Do you take a step back and consider if it’s actually your fault? Do you openly bash the others because you haven’t been adaptive enough or do you try to be accommodating, stay silent and give it some more time?

I don’t know the answer to this question but I can confidently say that my introversion usually takes over my inner desire to establish a clear line of communication. Also, I’m a little freaked out because workplace dynamics hadn’t panned out in my favor thus far. There are a lot of little things at play – draining mind games, favoritism, office politics, blame games, backstabbing, crazy manipulations, and uncalled speculations – all of this because we let our assumptions ride the decision than simply asking talking about it in person. Who even says exactly what goes in their mind, right?

In fact, me writing this post could very well be a consequence of those shortcomings but given that I sat on this topic for over a month in order to be absolutely sure about its content, I choose to believe it is not so.

Having worked in Engineering Management for more than a year and then in a creative field for a while now, I can consolidate my observations into following few sentences (mostly within the scope of this post) –

  • Most people are just bad managers. They lack the very basic instincts one ought to have – empathy, compassion & respect. That’s something no business school teaches you. No matter how technically sound you are or how you see things working out if you don’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you are not helping your subordinate to flourish. Your words would either be ignored or misconstrued in order to prompt contradictory behavior.
  • If you think you are a good one (so you get to tick all the boxes when exercising your authority on others), then the road is full of thorns for you. You sub-ordinates will be lauding praises but the upper management would be breathing fumes. So you have to find a middle ground for yourself.
  • People say that they want an open conversation but it is rather an opportunity to exert their dispositions onto you. They would crook, mold and twist and skew the dynamics until it suits them. No one is ready to listen, even though they would throw tons of advice on active listening here and there. Patience is a lost virtue and humility is seldom reminded.

I never really talked about my previous workplace on this blog because no amount of words, that I am capable of, can hold together my sufferings. I thought of expressing it through imagery & visual storytelling which I can do much more comfortably. But even that is stuck in the editing phase for months. Every time I sit to put together an account, the burden of those past moments almost eats away my patience.

My friend once joked – “What doesn’t cease to amaze me is life. How it pushes you to the rock bottom and then make you dig a little deeper.” We laughed but this very well summarizes my experience.

Regardless, any kind of workplace is fascinating in the sense that you see people of all kind and characters, with their skills, strengths, and quirkiness sitting under the same roof working towards a similar goal. I’m talking strictly in the sense of a startup. Corporate is altogether a different beast to tackle. Needless to say, it also doesn’t take into account how invested or detached once feels from the common goal.

It seems like just yesterday when we were seeing each other for the first time, saying those awkward hi and hellos. These faces, whom now I relate to my friends’, cluelessly scanned our new surrounding where we would be spending at least one-third of our weekdays together. Then we were gauging each other’s compatibility, forcing our disagreement aside in order to act in synchronous harmony. And now here we are, already discussing work and bouncing ideas off each other, cracking jokes and laughing aloud, hanging out on a Friday night.

Each of us has different stories of ending up here. We have different experiences and hence we hold different perspective over the same thing. There are different plans on where life goes from here. The diversity is huge even in this small subset and the complexity increases exponentially when more people are added but camaraderie is what one seeks.

What would I remember when I am not here tomorrow? The hangouts, the jokes and the good times or the banality, the conflicts and the silent groaning of dissatisfaction?

So, here’s a request – for one moment, just look at a person, not with an intention to force your authority on but rather to be in company of. Have patience & compassion and you would be amazed how wonders are created out of a genuine human connection.


Song highlight – Glad to say that I am on a quest to find some new music again. Two that stand out are Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR Music and wonderful Gia Margaret. Although, I am featuring something different here because I love the vibe of this video. Enjoy!

Celestial Happiness

I have a vivid memory of being absolutely content, the most peaceful and oddly happy I have been in recent times, even though for an ephemeral moment. And all of this because of an app.

Who would have thought?

We all have, on an average, 70-80 apps on our phone, right? For how many of them can you say that it gives you joy? Apparently not many, I assume. In fact, our experience has been contrary. Well, I have one and I’ll tell you why.

But for you to appreciate the intention, we would have to do a little time travel. Ready?

It’s sometime around December. Winter is at its full swing and the wall clock is ticking 2:35 AM. I have just finished my work for the day and put my laptop on hibernate. I got off my chair, ready to sleep. But you can see something is not right. There is just so much unease. I have had a series of painful days, had frequent dates with disappointments and it reflects on my weary face.

It’s pin-drop silence of the night. There is no sound except occasional barking of the street dogs and a spinning fan. Yeah! a fan and no, it’s not here or anywhere near my home (who would operate a fan in this chilly weather?). It’s a distant wave, carried over by the wind, attenuated to its last breath, now barely standing to make an ambient sound. Contrary to this, my mind is in complete turmoil, totally chaotic.

Remember any movie scene where everything is going calm and serene and suddenly there are noisy flashbacks and then back to the present. Yeah! that’s how it would have looked if you could see me and then inside my head back to back.

There is my younger brother, sleeping on the bed. The cutest little being. I lie down beside him and hold his tiny, warm hand in mine. I am wishing, I am praying for it to give me the strength to pass through yet another night like it always does. I can’t sleep because I don’t deserve it. And like most of us do, I open my phone and there is this notification –

Screenshot_2019-03-13-10-19-12-305_com.miui.home

So there is this football field-sized, 100 billion dollars incredible machine floating above us. For those who don’t know, it’s called the International Space Station and it is equipped with crazy high-definition cameras which beam back live view of our planet.

ISS

International Space Station (ISS) 

I open the notification and there it is, our gigantic blue planet, rotating, and revolving (although not apparent in this frame), going on its course like it has for past billions of years. There is no music. In fact, there is no sound at all. There are no laughs or cries or screams or calls that make it there. All there is, are the breathtaking views as it passes over the Pacific Ocean, then ice covered Antarctica, the illuminated countries in the night time and lands covered in clouds in the day. It’s wheezing past over them faster than we humans could ever go here on earth.

I keep watching this stream unfold for minutes and suddenly my frantic gaze starts searching for something, almost subconsciously. The ISS was passing overhead my region and so I thought, even if the cameras might not resolve me and other people from that distance, I should be able to spot my problems.

Yeah! my problems. Apparently, my worries felt much bigger than the physical self, so it must be here, somewhere.

No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find it. How insignificant were they that I couldn’t see them from just 400km above?

And just like that, I felt a peculiar calm within. I was neither laughing nor smiling but I was oddly happy. It was different than all the other time I have been happy and this made me question if there was any equivalence between the two.

Gradually, I transformed into an amorphous being and blended in with the airglow that wraps the earth. I was the aurora over the northern hemisphere, dancing with the charged particles trapped in earth’s magnetic field. Then I broke free and got along with that tiny Hydrogen atom floating indefinitely in space. I was infinite.


There are two ways to reach the stars –

  1. You make an elaborate scenery inside your head. You fill it with the planets, stars, asteroids, comets and tiny little ions. You can make the binary system like two friends holding hands spinning around the circle, rejoicing. You can eliminate the bad stuff like the black holes, the pulsars, and all the explosions. There is no reason for it to be vacuum so you can fill it whatever you want – air, candies or your favorite fragrance (subsequently particles). You can hop on the cloud carpet and whizz past the galactic course and interplanetary garden. You can have it all. All you have to do is dream.
5cmpersec

A still from the movie ‘5cm per second’

  1. You dream, you imagine, you study and realize that it doesn’t just have to be inside your head. The secrets of the universe are guarded by certain physical laws whose key lies with precise mathematical calculations. The tryst for exploration has propelled humanity to venture into unknown and we must continue that endeavor.

Mind you, neither of them is easier than the other. If you adopt any one of them, you might as well be true to it.

I get to do both. By night, I dream of the world beyond and by day, I work on bringing those dreams to reality. Two worlds blend together. My dreams were grounded in reality to begin with. And that way, the stars feel all the more close.

Desperately, reaching recklessly toward the sky. Launching that massive object in search of something, almost overwhelmingly far in the distance.

I have felt my celestial bliss and superlunary happiness being an earthling. I have seen the worlds, just like our own, which are not so apparent to my “human” eyes. I have caught glimpses of the distant galaxies playing with Hubble’s images. I have traversed through interstellar space and looked back to our pale blue dot and realized – there is no reason for all the emotions to be confined on this fragile planet. It is so unfair this way.


Additional Notes –

  1. I almost completed this post once which I had been writing for the past 4 days but then because of the technical glitz with WordPress editor, the entire post got deleted. I couldn’t retrieve it even after multiple attempts. So, I rewrote this version from all the things I remembered.

In a way, this post is a tribute to an app but also so much more. Also, I don’t use ‘ISS HD Live‘ often so as to not overwhelm myself.

  1. The feature image is of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II performing the first untethered spacewalk during the mission STS-41-B. I wonder if he was scared to float into oblivion or the happiest he has ever been. Did he feel his celestial happiness?

  2. While we are on the topic, something interesting happened a few weeks ago. On March 2nd, SpaceX launched its inaugural Dragon2 capsule on DM-1 Mission. This spacecraft is meant for astronauts which brings up a new era of human spaceflight. On Sunday, March 3rd, it was about to dock with the ISS. I was watching the entire live stream and the docking almost felt like a scene from the Interstellar. At that instant, I knew I had to make this and so I did –

https://twitter.com/OrangeDurito/status/1102184114600333313

I posted this tweet in reply to Elon Musk’s tweet. Soon enough, it started gaining momentum and then I went to sleep, not knowing what I would wake up to. Overnight, my tweet exploded. There were hundreds of comments, thousands of retweets and my phone notifications kept going off. Senpai Musk himself has retweeted it and for the whole next day, I was kind of trending on the nerd Twitter 🙂

It was kind of distracting but I also realized how much power does a small creation hold. People got to realize how a sci-fi movie, released just 5 years ago, has been turned into reality by genuine human effort. We are living in revolutionary times indeed.

When The Odds Are Trolling

Have you ever taken a stand on the situation and shouted – “how the heck did this happen?” or sighed – “huh! what were the odds?” or, or frowned – “this is not what I expected”? Well then, you have got a company here.

My friends from the spaceflight community would know this –

18th December 2018 (UTC timing) – With 5[1] back to back rocket launches scheduled, this day was going to be written in history. The entire December has been a party for us space nerds but this was like a double bonanza. It has actually started feeling like we have ushered into a new era of space race.

But, but, the lauchapalooza turned into scrubapalooza when 4 out of 5 launches got scrubbed for 4 different reasons.

SPACEX – Falcon 9 with USAAF GPS-III 2 satellite – Out of family reading on first stage sensors

Blue Origin New Shepard with NASA Payload – Ground infrastructure issue

Arianespace – Soyuz CS01 mission – Bad weather conditions

ULA Delta IV Heavy with NROL-71 satellite – Scrubbed due to high winds

ISRO GSLV Mk-II with GSAT-7A satellite – Launched half hour later than first scheduled time but within the launch window

 

Huh! what were the chances of that? Let’s do a little bit of maths here, should we?

A rocket can either launch or stay hold on a particular day. So 2 possibilities.

Summing it over 5 independent launches, the probability of that all of them would be scrubbed is –

(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2}) = \frac{1}{32}

Ok, things are little weird with binary possibilities because compliment of \frac{1}{2} is also \frac{1}{2} and in any case, the probability would be \frac{1}{32} . For accuracy sake, we should actually take Probability of Go into account for each of those launches. The result would be an even smaller fraction considering weather wasn’t much of the issue for three of them. In a sense, nature actually picked the option which was the least probable.

At the time of writing this post, SpaceX has attempted its GPS-III launch for the 4th time in 5 days and it has been scrubbed again. By the time I would be posting this, hopefully, they will have a successful launch.

But this wasn’t the inspiration behind this post (although, it certainly contributed to some content and an interesting start, in my opinion). The topic first came into my mind at one cold morning of early December when I was standing at the train station. It was an overnight journey and I had another train to catch a few hours later. So I separated myself from the crowd and got to the waiting area. While standing there, I looked around and suddenly it struck me. The scenery felt rather odd.

I have been to that place numerous times before but that day it felt like being caught in the wee hours when it was still getting ready. I do accept that it was more of an internal feeling than an external cause yet it got me thinking – what are the odds of me witnessing it like this? It wasn’t even a planned trip.

Later that day, I took the most defeated walk of my recent memory. A plethora of emotions turned, twisted, collided and merged inside my head as my feet traced the road which stretched to eternity. I felt totally helpless, for now, I held a secret I couldn’t have divulged. On the other side, the usual place of my retreat wasn’t the same because of a sudden turn of events. I wished I could be a recluse, just for that day or the day later. Yet at that moment, I knew, I was the only strong bond holding all loose ends together.

You know those voices at the back of your head which shout the least favorable but probable outcomes? The one we shut down because either we don’t wanna face it or those we think are irrelevant – chances of later being less. What’s the way of safeguarding yourself? Would you turn and run away or would it take it head on as it comes?

There have been far too many such instances recently which led me to re-evaluate the odds of mere speculations. In a sense, this entire year has been like that. Facing the least expected. Fighting the odds which knocked on my door. I was cornered into my little space, confined in seclusion until I turned, looked it straight into the eye and decided to fight. Let’s see what all I can remember for the recap –

I started this year still working in a so-called core company. It was a well-respected Govt. job and I am grateful to it for giving a start to my professional career but it sucked the soul out of me. I constantly felt like I was downplaying myself but it paid well because of which I was finally able to finish my student loan within a year of graduating – that was my biggest relief (people spend years buried in debt). I started out at one place got transferred to another place in the second quarter and finally, after months of scrutiny, I resigned. Seriously, don’t get stuck in a shitty job and get out while you can. Life is too short but weigh your liabilities carefully before you take the risk.

I got a coveted fellowship but took a conscious decision of not taking it. It was after I took a hit of the quarter-life crisis. Relaxed, enjoyed with my bio-design buddies and traveled to a new place to stay with my friend while I applied to different jobs there. It felt like a tug-of-war between my fate and destiny. Things didn’t materialize according to my expectation but settling with alternatives meant neutralizing the risk I had taken. For two months, I fought with the question of ‘what actually that I should be focusing on?‘. Somewhere in between the process, I realized, I needed to re-calibrate my strategy to be able to do things I really want to do. Specialization is for ants but one should develop a strong core-skill first. Other things can be outsourced.

Image result for loving science explosm net

Sometimes you find your answer in unexpected places. Courtesy – Explosm.net

Owning to my responsibility of an elder brother, I came back to look after my brother’s preparation for upcoming exams while I turned my focus towards building a portfolio & planning for graduate studies. I realized that the break would be a little longer because application deadlines approached faster than I could have caught up. On the bright side, I have got time to gain research experience (although it has to be at the mercy of professors I have been mailing). This break has been a bitter-sweet phase but I got to consolidate my future career plans.

Somewhere in February, my school friend called me to talk about this idea about a 360-degree travel experience platform that he has been working on. I liked it and went on-board. For the next 2 months, we worked most part of the nights. We had a working product ready and hence, triplou.com was born.

Working on a startup besides full-time hectic job was a challenge and it certainly took a toll on my physical health. But it was all worth it when we saw the hits counter rising. We entered into few startup competitions in hope that it would bring us recognition (the cheapest and least expensive method of gaining credibility). Didn’t make it to some even after hefty write-up and a concise pitch-deck. Well, that’s how these B-Plan competitions go but it doesn’t lessen our worth. We are now in the finals of one – looking forward to it.

I met my family once in January when my brother’s son was born and then again when we celebrated my parents’ 25th anniversary. I took my niece for shopping and brought her favorite dress with my own money. Held my brother’s daughter like she is a part of me while she slept in my lap – the absolute best feeling of my entire life.

It was also a time to look at relationships from a critical perspective when I understood how each of them rests on a fragile delicate balance. The string is tightened by compromises made on both sides. Also, when we start romanticizing someone, somewhere along the line, it ceases to be about the person and start to be more about the very idea of that person being in our life. It’s not worth it if it is not reciprocated and you should rather spend time on things that make you special. Some people are non-linear humans after all. This story also inspired the plot for my upcoming short film ‘That Thing About Lost Chances‘.

The test also covered the syllabus of friendship when my best friend and I took the opposite stand on an issue which led him to pivot into a totally different career field. Felt like it was for all the wrong reasons and I tried my hardest to convince him. He later came back to his senses and found a rational reason behind his decision. That was certainly a difficult period to deal with but I learned that you don’t easily give up on people you love. You simply can’t.

On the other side, our WhatsApp group ‘Kerala Expedition‘ felt silent for the most part. It was occasional buzz ground but went on frequent hiatuses. It has started dawning on me how our lives have taken different turns after college. We still haven’t made our trip to Kerala, hence the name continues. All four of us are now living in four different cities preparing to pursue four different careers (the odds man!). We didn’t get together at one place even once but I met two of them when I went on the Bangalore trip.

On the creative front, the first half was rather slow and I don’t recall any significant even worth mentioning. By March, I was finally able to churn out my first video of the year -‘The New Kind‘. I made it as a channel trailer promising more frequent videos with more unique stories. It peaked up the momentum afterward and I was all geared but it has come to an absolute halt by the end of the year. Tons of footage has still not made it to the editing room.

I had planned to make a video series titled ‘The Job Experience‘ for which I have been shooting for the past one and half years. I wrote the script, organized the footage and I had nearly finished editing the first episode but then I had to give it a rest. My focus was shifted for the above-stated reasons so I can say that the place and time haven’t been favorable. It’s still in post-production and now scheduled for next year.

For the first time, I got to collaborate with my friend who is an excellent cinematographer to edit his travel video. It felt absolutely amazing editing those beautiful shots and the entire video came out really good. Finally, I was done editing my sister’s wedding video after she continued pestering me for a year and I gifted it to her on Raksha Bandhan. I also shot sort of a documentary on a person in whom I saw a reflection of my own story but I couldn’t edit that too. We went to some exotic places in the land obscura to shoot. Face that These are secluded places which not many people know about, made the experience even more exciting

some

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This lake right here is in a bear-prone forest in the middle of nowhere.

Blog posts which were highly unpolished in the first three quarters finally started taking shape in the fourth, There are still some incomplete ones which I need to finish. My writing grew more and more personal and started piling up in my personal notes rather than ending on this blog. Twitter became my micro-diary but some things are still better left unsaid. I also posted more on my tech blog than the previous year but not to my satisfaction. My reading this year, which was only confined to articles on random sites, finally returned toward novels as I got to complete a few books. I missed my yearly goal by a large margin though and honestly, it sucks!

On the consumption side, I only remember finishing my long-awaited fourth and fifth season of ‘Silicon Valley‘ and now think it is the best tech-comedy ever written. I got hang of Reddit way too much in the first half but got in my senses in second. Later, I got obsessed with videos about ‘Exploration‘ – from Antarctic sea to Amazon forests, hidden civilizations and the world beyond our blue marble. It was a manifestation of the phase I was going through. I looked up for things which would help me become far-sighted and not get bothered by immediate circumstances. It rekindled my tryst with space.

I also watched a lot of SNL sketches (I mean a lot). Some excellent channels were added to my subscription list which taught me a completely new way of looking things. Peter Mckinnon continued to be my push to get things done while discovering Everyday Astronaut & BPS.space is certainly one of the best things that came out of my otherwise random YouTube surfing. I think I teared up watching Rory’s Lake Life 5.

Music continued to be a big part of my existence. It is the voice of my conscience. I ventured to explore even more genres and worldly music this year- not just confining myself to songs I can understand. Music transcends comprehension. I looked into the heart of techno through Charlotte de Witte & trance music through Armin Van Buuren, fell in love with lofi hip-hop – all thanks to Cubic Radiation!

It is mostly people who make up for off-screen experiences and this year, I got to meet some really great ones who accompanied me on this journey – from the toughest guy I knew who broke down when the time came for us to depart to the apprentices who came forward with all their heart to make my stay less miserable at an unknown place. I particularly remember one guy I met through my colleague who wanted me to make a dance audition video for him. He worked as a janitor in the day but slogged his night hours for dance practice because it was his passion. It was my absolute privilege to oblige and a great experience to count for before I left that place. I met several other inspirational persons who showed how talent nurtures among adversity and constraints.

In conclusion, a major part of this year was spent on daydreaming, finding means of escape. I started detaching from things that were near and longed for those which were so distant. Lessons were learned the hard way as I wandered through another year of adulthood without a guide. Let me tell you the crux of it all[2].

Getting what you want, how you want it, whenever you want it, is about three very simple things –

  1. Find something you want
  2. Find out how to get it
  3. Get it.

Only you can get the trolling odds to turn into your favor.


Note – I know this post went quite long but eh! Hope I could pack some lessons in those words. Wish you all a very happy new year in advance. May your wishes come true and you achieve greater heights. Have a great one! 🙂

Footnotes –

1. If we count ISRO’s GSLV Mk-II launch early morning next day.

2. These are not my words but absolutely nails the lesson. I took it from one of Mio’s vlogs.

The feature image is that of Starman on a Tesla Roadster on his way to Mars. It was launched on Falcon Heavy, courtesy of SpaceX. Couldn’t have chosen a better image for my year in review.


Song highlight

This song is attached to a very personal memory of mine. Last year, while I was listening to this song, I actually lived it lyrics (see the odds here?). At that moment I had decided that I have to make a video on it. I had the entire storyboard in mind and I gave myself till this year’s Christmas. Well, that didn’t happen.

It was relatively easier to make videos in college because someone or the other would volunteer for the role. It has been so tough afterwards since I’m not doing it professionally. Anyway, this song is still on my list, so if you or anyone you know would be interested in this project, hit me up. Peace✌

Lessons In Failing

At times, I’m gripped by this crippling fear of failure.

I have always refrained myself from talking about failures. There hasn’t been any ‘what if‘ or ‘plan B‘ in my conversations ever. It’s about winning all the times because that’s what you are supposed to show, right? No one will talk to a failure. No one will ask and there won’t be anyone to seek advice, not even your close ones. You are basically a social outcast. But deep down I’ve known how I have always been running away from this fear. It’s by spending this energy on masquerading my failure instead of working on my preparedness that I basically prepared for its inevitability. Who was I kidding with this happy facade around myself? I’m vulnerable.

I can recall specific moments from my life when I have felt this. It’s always those liminal spaces, the valley between two peaks, the pit before the leap, when efforts failed to materialize and I was running out of options (remember? there weren’t many, to begin with). Confidence dwindled, self-reliance took a massive hit. Under uncertainty, every prospect seemed blurry. Things have certainly gone better afterward but this fear somehow finds its way again. I call it ‘crippling’ because it forces to ooze out every drop of my pride.

So, why am I writing this? Well, now that I have this big pile of rejections sitting by my side, I can finally come out and talk about my perfect imperfection in open. I have failed so many times that I have lost the count by now. I once started maintaining a folder in my laptop for rejections of the tangible kind (sadly, your personal goals & ‘game of hearts‘ doesn’t end up with such notice). It had screenshots, each containing a polite apology on the lines –

We appreciate your interest in this position but we found a more suitable candidate for the job. We will consider your application if any new opening comes up.

Ummm…Thank you?!

This is a system generated mail. Please do not reply to this message. 

Few failures in life are necessary. They teach us invaluable lessons which we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They show us a weakness in our methodology/preparation/approach, giving us opportunities to self-reflect, mend and improve. But failing too many times shatters you to the core. It’s even worse when you don’t get feedback on your mistakes. I feel there is actually a threshold age after which you are supposed to figure out everything on your own.

I have been at both the extremes. There have been days when I was at the zenith of confidence while some days I found myself doubting my capabilities. Was there any meaning to my endeavor? I questioned. I have come to realize that the line in between is much thinner than I used to think. All it takes is one core component to go wrong which you were betting too much on. It’s a delicate balance driven by circumstances. My ingenuity suddenly starts to feel like a grand play of ‘imposter syndrome‘.

Anxiety never really leaves us, even more so nowadays when we are surrounded by continuous waves of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) inducing information. We grow restless. Restless makes its way for stress, anxiety, and depression. Often, while scrolling my twitter feed (or internet surfing in general), I come across memes like this –

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As much I would chuckle over its silliness, I would marvel at its astuteness as well. I don’t support making fun of mental health like this but I certainly had those days when I just didn’t want to wake up and face the day. Lying on my bed with my face buried in the pillow, shielding myself from the outside world through my quilt, I could feel the time passing by. Day turned its phases but each inch of my body would shriek ‘not today‘. Does deliberate sleeping solve the problem? I don’t know.

I don’t mean to give any pessimistic vibe. Optimism is my biggest tool. Hope has been my most effective weapon to fight adversity. I have sorely passed through difficult times having faith even though luck hasn’t been a laudable companion so far. Also, it’s by failing and rising up numerous times that I have managed to reach subsequent pedestals in life. But hope isn’t a tangible thing, is it? Can hope be attributed to certain things? How do we realize hope? What gives us strength at nonchalant times?

It’s quite subjective to each individual. Though I’m no expert (as you must have come to know), there are certain things which have given me solace in difficult times and I wish to write them here. Maybe it would help someone else or maybe one day in my happy times, I would come back to this post and know what state was I once in and how I made it through.

Less screen time – If there is one indicating factor which can quantify our modern lifestyle, it would be the ubiquitous presence of screen around us. As much as I embrace tech, I always had this love-hate relationship with screens. The Internet can be an overwhelming place and when the situation is to contemplate over big questions concerning myself, I better maintain a distance. I have had intermittent periods of complete boycott, quite too frequently in recent time. Here’s my friend’s excellent post on the same topic – One Week of Algo-free Lifestyle.

Stop Overthinking – Have you ever noticed how voices in your head get stronger when you let it to? “Would you please stop thinking for a second?” –  I say to myself. Often this thinking majorly constitutes of comparison than actual strategizing. The more we grow, the more expectations we hold on our back. The cut-throat competition apparently put us in the league of geniuses where failing is never seen as an option. But are we really running the race for the sake of it or the end goal is the one we should focus on?

Reading – This is the umpteenth mention of ‘reading’ on this blog but I still feel it hasn’t been stressed enough for the profound impact it had on me. Somehow, in the obscure literature of my recent finding, I have discovered solutions to my lingering questions as if it were my deliberated search for an answer in the very same piece. Read because you can. Read because you never know. Brainpickings & Zen Pencils are two of my favorite go-to destinations.

Crafts & Novelty –  You need not always look at everything you do from the prospect of a profession, no matter how good you are at it. Pursue it because you love it, not because you want something from it. Remember those childhood doodling habits you have cherished over the years? Maybe you like to sing, swim, make music, craft stories, solve puzzles, cook delicacies, take photographs, stitching/knitting – it could be anything, as long as you enjoy it. Cultivate a hobby & find novelty in it. They have tremendous potential, far beyond our realization. These are the things that enliven us. Remember, when things get dim, those little lights illuminate our way. Find something which when you see or listen to, you can say – ‘this gives me joy‘.

Music – I think most of the people either understand very little and don’t understand the realm of art at all. They try to contain the uncontainable because they haven’t experienced it the way you have. Making them understand is futile because you can’t put wording to it. It’s abstract. This has been the case with me. Also, ‘Music’ here is really a placeholder for anything that has a mysterious power of healing for you. For me, it has been music, especially that of Illenium. For my friend and brother, it’s gaming where they find their mental piece in. My fascination with music is not inconspicuous on this blog but again, the amount & variety of music that exists in this world simply blows my mind.

Travel – Things that we imagine may seem alien at times but they are not pulled out of thin air. All our crazy ideas must draw inspiration from realization – subtle or profound. Curiosity is built on the foundation of experience and grows through our inherent nature of exploration. Travel brings both these elements together. Being in the same place for a prolonged period can gradually fill up the contours of our open mind.

This has really taken a toll on me. Though I have been to a few places in the past year, it has either been for work or similar purposes. I desperately miss those trips with my friends where we lived in the moment soaking the scenery that lied in front. There were no exams, no assignments, no internships, no jobs, no question of ‘what’s next?‘ – none of the worrying elements and we just existed for the sake of it. In desolate moments, it’s important to take a step back and ponder over the bigger picture.

Communicate – Better part of my life has been spent in isolation. I don’t usually admit it (because no one asked) but I’m not afraid to write about it here. Different phases can be attributed to different reasons but this continuous period of being alone instilled a fear of loneliness in me which somehow I’m still forced to dwell in.

Image result for before assuming try this crazy method called asking

Credit – Pinterest

Sharing subsides the pain. It will all go away if I could just talk. It always has. Feedbacks are critical. Getting a fresh look over your approach may give you a chance of analyzing it from an unexpected perspective. Or even just narrating your problem to someone can make you realize a different aspect of it. Keeping it within us only let the feeling grow. It starts feeding on our conscience. It erodes us of the positive energy like a dark ball of discontentment growing bigger, it’s weight bogging us down. If I wish of anything outside my personal domain, it’s meaningful companionship.

Writing is communicating too.

Working Harder – This tops all the other points written above. While they certainly help to rejuvenate, nothing but our own effort would propel us further. Accept that you screwed up but not all is gone. Put that feeling aside and get back at work. Here’s what I have realized – It’s easy to be mediocre at something if you overcome the inertia of just pursuing it, but it takes an incredible amount of effort in order to be really good at something. Every profession is noble. They all have their elements of risk and complexity and there is no one-day wonder.

first man

We need to fail. We need to fail down here, so we don’t fail up there” – First Man

While my previous achievements may seem like I landed on the moon, only I know that I actually shot for the star and failed. No problem. I’ll come back, work on it and try once again. I’ll Keep trying until I reach there. Only I can realize my goal and no one else. For now, it must remain in me to stay afloat and not succumb to this hostility. I must fight for my dreams. These are just minor setbacks I ought to overcome so when I finally reach there, it wouldn’t be called a fluke. I will be a deserving winner.

Edit – It’s amazing how just a click can land you somewhere so relevant. So my usual Internet surfing brought me to my Pocket feed where I found this really personal article  – Earning My Smile.

I think everyone should have the privilege to read it. This article (actually a memoir) perfectly embodies the essence I wrote this post with. To be honest, it actually made me tear up. There are a lot of other things that bring dust to my eyes (ah! another secret I had upheld) but more on it later.


Note – It has been really hard for me to come forward and write about something I never talked about. I’m a private person who keeps things to myself. My introvertism would rather let it haunt me inside than to proclaim it in open, especially when it’s an insecurity I hide.

Also, I write ‘failing’ not ‘failure’ because failing is a process while failure is a consequence and I wanted to talk about it as the former. It’s been quite a while that I wrote a post this long, so hopefully, it would be of some use like few other blogs have been for me in difficult times. I’m forever grateful to them. Peace ✌

 

 

Flat & Realism : On Quarter-Life Crisis

I visit the bookmarks in my browser one day, as I normally do, scrolling through the numerous gateways to my explored treasures of the Internet. Scrolling down and scrolling back up and there at the top, something catches my attention. It’s one of my first bookmarks, a link to a website titled – ‘Flat design vs. realism‘. By mere glance, all these snapshots flashes before me.

It was a battle. Back in 2013, when the Internet junta fought over the fate of it. Will flat design finally overshadow realistic 3-D rendition or will the later continue to dominate? It was the time when the websites finally bow down to the king of interfaces.

Don’t worry! I’m not going to give a lecture on ‘Effective UI building – the history & the future’. Nope.

Anyway, I must tell that the website was fun to scroll through. I couldn’t find the live site URL, so here is something from the archive.

There was an actual fight – you pick the side, you want to fight for.

Flat VS Realism screenshot 3

But here’s the thing that I want to emphasize through this whole build up – both of these sides were equally powerful on their own to dominate the Internet UI space. Both of them had their own pros & cons (one having more than other) and each of them had their following (once again, one having more than other). But at the end, only one has to stay.

Few days ago, I was confronted with a similar choice. But unlike previous time, it was my personal career at stake. Before graduating from college, I was working in this newly inaugurated incubator space called ‘Center for Healthcare Entrepreneurship’ as a technical assistant to the fellows. I started out as an intern (pioneer batch technically) and stuck to it throughout my final year.

The Turn It Takes

To move is to be alive. Motion in itself, is a characteristic of liveliness. As much it is true in the literal sense, its figurative implications dominate without exception. Contrary to those who dread change, I for one, welcome them. Not that I’m not skeptical what it brings with it but I get bored with the mere concept of settling in.

How can someone be contempt when there is so much to explore out there? You haven’t even tried all these sorts of thing. How could you be adamant on this being your style.

Reading, writing, watching, talking, reacting, experimenting – all these are aspects of exploration – an exposure to the vastness of the world outside and the world within. It irks me when I feel myself slipping into comfort zone. I get uncomfortable instead.

jumps back to being vulnerable again

I despise mundanity and to counter the mold that I was kind of settling into, regarding my video making process, I decided to bring some change this time. It took me a while to finally upload it because the footage used were gathered over a vast spectrum of events. Finding a coherent story that ran through these random footage was a fun part to explore. I wanted to showcase more intimate part of my personality which was somewhat disguised in my earlier videos.

With that being said, dear readers, here I present you – The New Kind.