Long overdue update!

So it has been a year and a half since I wrote an update and so much has happened in this time. A lot of milestones/goals have been met – some that I planned for and others that were serendipitous! Let’s see, the last real update I wrote was in November 2016 and I talked about moving to Toronto. While I think about writing an annual reflection post, I hardly ever do so. So here is my random time of the year sort-of-annual recap post that is late by 5 months if it were annual!  A lot of exciting things have happened in the last year and a half and let me list them here:

  • A couple of months after moving to Toronto, I moved apartments and found a place that I love and have been calling home for a year and a half. I am yet to print photographs for the empty photo frames and put old artwork and decor stuff on walls. Is this because I’ve been extremely busy and haven’t had the time or the motivation to do that. Or because some part of me feels that this home may not be permanent and I haven’t found myself willing to invest the effort. This is a question I don’t have the answer for. I find this change in personality rather intriguing. I am the same person who decorated and put up quotes and photographs in dorm rooms that I knew I would be living in only for a year. Oh well, moving on!
  • Unexpectedly, I spent my thirtieth birthday with a meetup group of solo travelers at a ski resort and I wrote about that here. I made two close friends on that trip and I still see them every month!
  • I have made a couple of really close friends in Toronto at work. I love them to bits and they’ve made Toronto feel like home for me!
  • The main reason I had decided to move to Canada from the States about two years ago was to get Permanent Residency. I had been working on gathering the documents for over a year and applied right after I started working in Toronto. After about six months, I got PR here and this has been a huge relief and life changing experience. I’m so thankful that I no longer need to worry about work visas and have many doors open to me!
  • Another milestone from last Spring/Summer is that I had my first photography exhibit. This was one of those serendipitous things – I had been enjoying taking photographs for the last 2-3 years and I applied to the Toronto Public Library call for art exhibits on a whim and some insistence from my best friend N after I had told him about it. To my utter surprise, they selected me and a collection of about 50 of my photographs were exhibit at one of the TPL branches for a month. Learning everything about art exhibits in a couple of months and making it happen was a bit crazy but I was so happy that it worked out! My collection was titled “Reflections: Emotions Beneath the Surface” and and contained photographs captioned with quotes or personal reflections.
  • I enjoy traveling and it always brings me joy. I traveled a fair bit over the last year and a half. In the Spring of last year, I went to the Canadian Rockies with S 1 and BIL 1 and then to Montreal with my cousin who was visiting from India. In the Summer, I literally ran away from life on a camping trip to the gorgeous Bruce Peninsula National Park with a meetup group, and also made a short trip to Pittsburgh to attend close friends’ wedding and met many old friends. In the Fall, I traveled alone to the beautiful Quebec City, to Edmonton to celebrate Diwali with family, and to Vancouver and Whistler to attend a conference and met an old close friend. In the winter, I went on a short weekend getaway to Niagara Falls with S1 and BIL to celebrate my birthday. Lo and behold, I went on my first trip to Europe with S1 this Spring and we visited Southern Italy and Spain (yes, it finally happened!). I also made a quick trip to Phoenix and Sedona in the Spring! Okay, writing this made me realize that I actually got to visit a lot of cool places in this time and I should probably stop complaining about not being able to travel! I know S1 is definitely nodding her head when I say this! Here’s hoping that the coming years are also filled with more rejuvenating travel experiences! What’s interesting is that most of these trips were planned quite last minute – I’m again not sure if that’s an effect of busy schedules or my current unwillingness to commit to any future plans in life.
  • Another short or long term goal that I had been working towards was to find a non-research job. Attending many career seminars and information interviews over the last few years finally payed off and I started a new job in research administration last month. This is a short term contract position and I don’t know if this is what I want to do long-term but I’m happy to have this opportunity to learn many different aspects of grant applications, research administration, and have a significantly better work-life balance.
  • My updates can’t be complete without any mention of dating stories, right?! Over dinner with a friend, I counted having met more than 20 men over a year and seven months in Toronto. This, in my opinion, is a big number. At this point, I declare that the Toronto dating pool is particularly bad. However, I’m still trying. When I feel lonely and sad, the only solace I have is that I have been making the effort to meet people and date and there’s not much else I can do! Most of my posts here, over the last year and a half, have been about B and getting over him. I met him when I went to Pittsburgh last summer and we are friends and talk ever so often. I have accepted that it’s over and have moved on for the most part. I do think about him when I repeatedly hit dead ends in the dating world but it doesn’t hit me the same way, thankfully. I was also kind of seeing someone last summer, someone who is a great guy and helped me get over B to some extent and is a friend now, but things didn’t work out – I don’t know if it was just bad timing or other reasons!

So, life has been pretty good overall. Of course, there are some troughs too, but for a change, let’s focus on the crests this time! I will be back to write about the troughs, and hopefully soon this time! If you’re still reading this space that rarely ever gets updated, hope you’re doing well! What’s new in your life?

Song on my mind – Pehli Baar from Dil Dhadakne Do – I love the energy in this song and use it to get up and start doing things!

 

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Forgetting

I worry, sometimes,
that I’m forgetting you.
Your unwavering gaze,
the smile that lit up your eyes,
our playful banter.
How you touched me,
how we lay next to each other,
and talked our hearts out.

Yet,
wherever I am,
whatever I’m doing,
you come to mind.
Little inconsequential things,
something you said or did.
On this train journey in Spain,
I remember your travels in Italy
or the very little I know about it.

Thinking about the time gone by,
I wonder what values drive you.
You barely knew me
when I was interviewing for jobs
and yet, the faith you conveyed
in your words of encouragement,
made me believe in myself.
More than a year later,
I asked you,
how were you so encouraging?
“That was the least I could do”,
was all you said.
Thank you,
for your kindness and positivity,
for the love you showed
but never articulated.

Time, they say,
heals losses
not by erasing grief,
but by stitching your life around the hole.
Is that how it will be?
Will you always be a part of me,
your memories coming up everyday?
Meanwhile, I still worry
about forgetting your touch
and your outlines around me,
and still hope
for another possibility with you.

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Days of Gratitude (Dec 1-3)

After last night’s reflection, I decided on a gratitude challenge for December; I’m not yet sure if I’ll post everyday or do cumulative posts. So, here we go! 🙂

Gratitude for December 1:

  • A delicious avocado toast and smoothie for breakfast after walking more than a kilometer in Vancouver.
  • Enjoyable and enriching conversations with my friend, ST, as we walked along the Vancouver SeaWall. Even though it was cold and raining, we made the best of our time in Vancouver by exploring the city a little bit, but also resting and eating well.
  • Having the entire evening to read the book ‘Em and the Big Hoom’, as recommended by a close friend S.
  • Delicious ice-cream at Daniels’ in Vancouver – their coconut ice-cream is yummy and mixing it with dark chocolate made it taste sweet enough but not too sweet.
  • I like collecting magnets as souvenirs for the places I visit. I have been to Vancouver several times but didn’t have anything from there! This time, I was able to select and buy fridge magnets very quickly (something that almost never happens for me)!

Gratitude for December 2:

  • Enriching conversations with my friend, S, about ‘Em and the Big Hoom’  that led to other interesting conversations.
  • Watching the movie Julie & Julia and writing a reflective post about it.
  • I also wrote a little bit in my journal about some career decisions I need to make.
  • Happy to be back home and sleep in my bed after a week!

Gratitude for December 3:

  • Sleeping in on a Sunday morning, partly due to jet lag, but it’s been a while since I was able to sleep in until 11 a.m.!
  • After a week of gray skies and rain in Vancouver, I am so thankful for a sunny day and the sunlight steaming into my living room and bedroom.
  • A quiet day at home where I got a chance to unpack, clean, and plan for the week!
  • Here’s a hilarious story – I attempted to take a bath with epsom salts today because I have been having a lot of back pain. I envisioned spending some time in a relaxing bath with lavender and eucalyptus scents and something to read! Since I couldn’t decide what to read, I took three options to the bathroom – a book, a research paper, and my phone. Yeah, I know I’m crazy! Lo and behold, once in the tub, I couldn’t find a comfortable position and didn’t get around to read anything! So much for preparation huh! On a serious note – how do people drink wine and read in the bath! I was hot and impatient and couldn’t find a comfortable spot, I tried to do a body scan with no luck, and eventually gave up! I think I still soaked for about 20 minutes though, so I declare it a success!

On that note, it’s late and I should sleep now! Have a good week, everyone! See you soon! 🙂

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Finding meaning in Life!

On a flight from Vancouver to Toronto today, I finally watched the inspiring movie ‘Julie & Julia’. The movie is based on two books that tell the true stories of Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julia Child moves to Paris with her husband for his work and finds herself bored after a point. As she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her time, she goes back to what she enjoys the most and decides to take French cooking lessons. She is excellent at it and eventually writes a unique cookbook about French cooking for Americans! In a different time and world, Julie Powell is unhappy with her day job, wants to write but is unable to finish her first novel, and hates the new apartment she and her husband move to in Queens, NY. In an attempt to find meaning in life, she goes back to something that she loves and that happens to be food. Being a fan of Julia Child’s French cookbook, she signs up for a challenge to cook the 524 recipes in 365 days and to write about them. Although I don’t care much about food, I really enjoyed the movie. What resonated the most with me is how both Julie and Julia find joy by following something they love and that makes their life richer. They are also both fortunate to have good friends and supportive and encouraging spouses, aspects that (in my opinion) help them on their journey.

I’ve been thinking about happiness and living a meaningful life for a while. This Oatmeal comic perfectly describes how I feel – life is not about being happy or feeling good all the time, but about engaging in things that stimulate, interest, and fulfill you. Even when you don’t enjoy the temporary frustration that comes with these activities. Watching this movie brought me back to this question again – what it is that I want to do with my time and energy? What brings me joy? Reflecting on my behavior and interests, I think what I derive satisfaction the most from are conversations about gender and race issues, systemic inequities, and mental and emotional well-being. No matter how tired I am, I usually find time to read about these things and am almost always willing to talk about them with like-minded people and I find myself content when these conversations lead to mutual learning and growth. The other things I enjoy are reading, writing, and photography. For about a year, I would post pictures on Instagram, once or twice a week. I either wrote a reflective caption or read and found quotes that resonated with the picture I was sharing. In the recent months, I haven’t found much time to do that and miss it.

Since December is my birthday month and the last month of the year, I want to sign-up for a challenge. However, my work doesn’t end according to a regular workday and I have many deadlines in the next three months, so I don’t want to set lofty goals. I want to set a small goal for an everyday activity, see how it affects my energy and mood, and maybe it can become a part of my self-care routine (that is almost non-existent at the moment). In October, I wrote about writing everyday. While I haven’t been able to do that regularly, I have been writing a little bit more than I was writing and that makes me happy! Anyway, going back to the challenge, I have narrowed it down to either of these two ideas and will decide on one soon, hopefully!

  1. A gratitude challenge for December either on the blog or on Instagram.
  2. Posting a picture everyday on Instagram, and actually spending time to find a quote or writing something about it, the way I used to in the past.

What about you? What brings you joy and satisfaction? Do you like small challenges? Want to join me on one this month? 🙂

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Butter

“The sweet French accent
that turns your heart into butter
before melting it”, you wrote.

It’s the second time
you called me ‘dear’,
albeit on text
this time!
I’ve lost count
of the months we’ve been apart,
yet here we are.

My heart still melts
into butter
when I see your text
or hear your voice.
Even though we recently met
as friends
and I claim to have moved on.
Even though I’ve loved
and lost, again,
since then.

I still look for you
when I meet someone new.
Last Friday,
over drinks on a first date,
all I found interesting
was how he pronounced a few words
exactly the way you did!
I wish it was enough
to melt my heart
into butter
like you did.

P.S. It’s an Adele kind of night here!

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On anxiety and writing!

It has been too long since I’ve written here and I have many half written drafts sitting in my wordpress account. I think of writing almost every day yet something gets in the way. More often that not, it’s work that’s supposed to take priority over other things. Of course, I’m not always working, but I feel like I should be working. And so, when I am not working, I often spend time browsing the internet as I procrastinate and attempt to work. It’s 2 am on a Friday night and I’m at my sister’s place for Diwali. Everyone is already asleep, so I decided to turn my computer on to write because I have been itching to do that for a few weeks now. As soon as I saw the screen, the million open tabs on my browser and over a hundred unread emails, I felt the pressure to read and respond to urgent work emails and other things. Sometimes, even when I’m not working on the million things on my list, I feel the pressure to be working on those things and that makes me anxious. I have been noticing my anxiety getting a little out of control over the past few months, I think I need to cultivate habits to deal with it.

Another thing that I’ve been struggling with is perfectionism or setting a criterion for what is ‘good enough’ for me. When I start writing a post, I feel the pressure to write a good post and that partly explains the many unfinished drafts. Often, especially recently, I have started to write a post and abandoned it halfway because it did not seem to be good enough to be publicly shared. I feel that if I’m writing and posting something on the blog, it needs to be a deep reflective piece. Not just stupid random thoughts in my head. Just the thought of publishing this post is making me anxious. But I need to stop pushing myself and I am going to publish this.

I read this post a few days ago and it hit a raw nerve. This is an important reminder for me to stop thinking about the changes I want to make in life and actually start doing something towards it. Two immediate steps that I intend to take in this direction are to practice mindfulness meditation for at least 10 minutes and start writing in a journal or on the blog, everyday. Interestingly, I have actually never written in a journal. I have written letters to people but nothing solely for myself. In one of my recent therapy sessions, we were discussing my struggles with anxiety and perfectionism and how it’s inhibiting my writing, something that used to bring me joy. My therapist suggested writing in a journal since that takes the external pressure of judgement away from expressing myself and might help build in self-reflection and mindfulness. I think it’s time to take baby steps, meander into new directions, and find a path that feels right to me.

How have you been? Hope life has been kind and you are doing well!

Song on my mind – Ilahi from Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani

P.S. I completed a year in Toronto on September 30 and there are many exciting updates I need to share with you! So, on that note, I will see you soon!

 

 

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Drowning

It feels like
the water is up to your nose
and you’re trying really hard
to just keep breathing
and treading water
to reach the shore…
However
you don’t know
where the shore is,
or how far…
All you know is
you need to
keep treading water
and hope that the level recedes..

You meet friends
old and new
that warm your heart…
But when they are close,
you feel the water level
rise a little more…
You miss loved ones
when they are not around
but don’t know how
to breathe in their presence..

You can’t understand
why you’re struggling
when this water is your favorite color…
Why the plankton and rocks
and the beautiful fishes
that add meaning to your journey
also suffocate you…

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