Winds of Change

On my twentieth birthday, I had a realization.

Reflecting on the past two decades of my life, I’ve accomplished a lot I should be proud of. I survived a school life spread apart five different countries, received academic awards and merit for all my hard work, aced my A-levels and I’m currently conquering my way through a triple-degree that’s not as pretty as it sounds.

With one year left of university, I should happily proclaim the achievements under my belt. I’m a Distinction holder with a pretty good GPA, and an Associate of the Insurance Institute of India.I have a Diploma in Management Accounting under CIMA and I wrote a research paper in first year. I’m one of the founding members of my department magazine...yada yada yada. 

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My parents have a huge smile on their face when they speak of me and that’s possibly the one thing that makes me happy – that I’ve made them proud. But none of these achievements give me the pride I should have for myself. I know just how much blood, sweat and tears I put in and yet in the place of pride and joy, I feel a cold numbness. Because all these accomplishments have been on the academic front, for which I had to put my personal aspirations on the back-burner.

I don’t know at what point my academic achievements stopped meaning something to me. I hated being defined by a number. Studying and consuming knowledge in the field of accounting and business no longer gave me the excitement it used to. Despite the sudden monotony my life took on, I didn’t let it bring down my momentum. I worked unfeeling, like a machine, and continued to deliver as I always do. All the while, I couldn’t shake off the overwhelming sadness of not being able to feel happy about the fruits of my own labour. On the outside, it was all smiles and rainbows. My mind, however, had transformed into a hellscape.

Over the past year especially, my mental health took a turn for the worse – my anxiety acted up, insomnia got worse and all of it reflected on my physical health. I barely slept and at the wrong times, ate either too much or too little or nothing at all. Nothing interested me anymore. Each morning, I just wanted to stay in bed because there was nothing motivating me to stand on my own two feet.

I had several personal goals I had hoped to achieve by the summer of 2017. To have my next book released through a publishing house and to have completed the first draft of a new series. To have an active blog and Youtube channel, and to have learned to play the guitar so I could make more of my own compositions and possibly some music covers.

On my twentieth birthday, I realized how much I missed it all. How much I missed feeling something – the excitement and nervousness. How much I missed actually enjoying the work I put into my goals, as an artist and as a student. How much I missed seizing the opportunities I’d had to do something real. I resented how much time I had devoted to certain things, certain people – commitments that did more harm than good and devotion I could have put to better use for my own dreams.

I realized I need to stop and just breathe. I need to decide what is worth my time, who is worth sparing my overly sentimental heart on and stick to my goals. I need to stop living for others and learn to live for myself.

I need to change.

I’m only twenty years old and I still have a long path ahead of me. I will stumble and fall as I have over the past year and I do not need to justify my failures, nor should I rationalise the meaning of my hard work to anyone as long as I know what it means to me. I will  prove to myself that my dreams can come true.

In conclusion, to quote a few lines from Victor E. Frankl’s inspiring book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

I am going to punch life’s lights out.
Bring it on!

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if you could see

if you could see me bleed
you’d see the colour of broken dreams
seeping through open wounds
thick and gushing, the darkness blooms

what’s left inside me
is but a shallow stream
of muddled emotions
coming apart at the seam

and if i try to fight it
the erosion of my spirit
i fool myself into thinking
that dreaming is believing

if you could see my heart
you’d see there’s not much left to tear apart
but a single vein that thrums, it fights
splitting open to a new façade.

You Are A Celebration.

Growing up, my mom used to ask me this one question all the time. “What do you want to be in the future, darling?” “A singer! An actress!” I’d exclaim, as a child. She would ask me the same question a couple days later, when I came back home with muddy shoes and dirty clothes, and I’d answer, “I want to save the plants! Can I be an environmental scientist?” She’d smile and nod. Time and again, the infamous question popped up with a variety of answers from my side.

I want to be a writer, momma. A basketball player. A teacher to impart wisdom! A business woman to showcase my leadership. A nanny because children are adorable! An activist for change. 

My answers were never set in stone, and every day, I wished to be something different. To try new things and to live a million possibilities in one lifetime. Yet, every time I voiced a different dream, my mother never shut me down. She’d pat my head in a sign of affection and promise me that I could be anything and everything I want to be, if only I put in passion and hard work.

Growing up, I never realized just how much that question means. But now I do, and I start to wonder if my mom was ever asked the same question and shown the beauty of possibilities. If she was ever given a promise to be anything she wanted to be or have the freedom to choose it for herself.

My mother is a housewife. I say this to the people who ask, and to the people who don’t, because I am proud of her. The reception to this varies from shrugs to the passing, ignorant comment of, ‘ah…so she doesn’t work or have a job?’

Yes. Yes, she does. She creates a space where I feel like I belong. She gives me nourishment to survive, both in body and spirit. Her unconditional love is a gift beyond anything any job could ever give. She sacrificed her dreams, put them on the back-burner, to promise me my own. And in exchange? She asks for nothing, but my own happiness.

You’re right. That isn’t a job. She is a Miracle.

It’s beyond anything that can be restricted to three little letters. My mother is a blessing. All mothers are. All women are. My mother is my best friend, my sister and my role model but mothers aren’t the only women worth celebrating today.

Women who balance their lives working 12-hour shifts and coming back home to their children and husband, to work again and to share their love deserve to be appreciated too.

Women, who brave the scorn of society and go out to fulfill their own dreams by deciding not to get married are not to be judged for not ‘playing their role’ by sticking to motherhood. They’re fulfilling the purpose they set out to do.

Women who defend their countries in war-ridden nations and female activists that fight for a cause with their words and actions…they fight with their every breath to secure the future of the children in the generations to come.

Sacrifice in the form of being a housewife is a gift, yes. But so is every other dream. Because today isn’t just about the mothers in the world but the fighters, the business women, the leaders, the activists, the teachers, the women

We are all warriors in our own right.
We are all cause for celebration.

So, go!

Celebrate yourself!

Celebrate who you are, and what you do because no one, no where can achieve your dreams better than you do.

 

The Truth in Social Media

~ a personal essay I submitted for my English class I thought would be nice to share ~

Social media has evolved into an all-pervasive part of the 21st century, imposing a powerful impact on the current generation and the ones to come. 2001 marked the start of the ‘Golden Era’, with the rise of prominent social networks such as Facebook and Twitter leading to a subtle yet significant shift in the public’s perceptions. By the year 2020, worldwide users are predicted to rise to a third of the world’s population, a startling amount of 2.95 billion people.

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Social media is both a means for a global society and a gateway for corporate giants, political leaders and governments to influence public perception. The US presidential elections, for instance, have shown the extent to which social media can shape public opinion and put up a false front to the masses. The introduction of this form of technology has led to a change of dynamics in politics, with Donald Trump being a glaring example.

Western governments, namely the US and UK, use social media proactively, in comparison to other world governments, to engage and connect with the public. Most politicians put on the stereotypical facade of being loyal public servants and appeasing to their hundreds of thousands of followers. Trump, however, was blunt and unfiltered in his communications which led to his flame burning brighter than any other.

The world of social media favors controversy to reason. Although social media has led to timely information, transparency and accessibility, the authenticity of these sources is highly questionable. The distinction between real and fake has become increasingly difficult to make. Most of what we see on social media is a mixture of truth and lies, falsities and speculation. This application in a political framework is all the more concerning.

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The public perception of hegemonic structures is not as independent from the subject as most would wish to believe. As Louis Althusser proposed, with governments and political leaders exerting their dominance on the masses, everything we consume is a product of selective filtering and control by their very hands. The rise of social media poses a sparkling opportunity for exploitation of the truth that is perceived by the public whose votes and support they rely on.

Perception counts for everything in social media. When, as individuals, we try to project our ideal selves on Facebook and Instagram, it is understandable that politicians too would do the same for personal gain. Their intentions involve increasing their power and avoiding controversy, while simultaneously keeping the public in the dark.

Donald Trump, however, did the opposite and still managed to come out as the victor. By engaging in post-truth politics both online and offline, and portraying himself as an advocate against the media (which largely favored Hillary Clinton and the State), he not only made a spectacle of himself to his 25.7 million Twitter followers but secured public votes too. Objective facts were disregarded in the face of emotionalism. Trump used this to his benefit by feeding off the public’s distrust in government institutions and the media through his campaigns and social media presence. Although most of Trump’s unsubstantiated arguments were far off the spectrum of ‘rational’, his followers perceived it on an emotional level and voted him into presidency.

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We live in an information age centered around social media that is a combination of both truth and ‘alternative facts’, Trump popularizing the latter. Social media is a double-edged sword, posing massive benefits to its users while also diluting their perceptions of reality. In the hands of the wrong people, it is a manipulative weapon of the very truth the public wishes to know.

Weigh My Heart.

Kiss your own fingertips
and hug your own curves.
You are made of waves and honey
and spicy peppers when it is necessary.
You are a goddess,
I hope you haven’t forgotten.

I am a mute receiver of fat jokes.

People sometimes look at the top of my head and crack a laugh that I’m a 19 year old grandma due to my premature greying.

Bad skin. Brace-face. Lumbering giant. 

I hear these tiny jabs and I laugh but if people were ever to see the words I carry with me, they would know of the weight their careless whispers are capable of bearing on my soul.

As someone who’s been on both ends of the ‘beauty-scale’ that society so deems, it never fails to disgust me the double-standards that are placed upon us. When I used to look thin, people scrutinized me for ‘never eating’, for having less curves. On the other hand, now when I look a little chubby, people point out my ‘rolls of fat’, suggest I should join the gym and stop ‘pigging out’. All these subtle hints at pretending to look out for me do the opposite effect and destroy my confidence, because they aren’t just hints…they are judgments.

There’s no ‘in between’. Nothing is ever good enough. You’ll never be good enough. 

It’s a struggle I face everyday. My confidence has grown leaps and bounds compared to a couple years ago when the chase for perfection led to a dark time ridden with anxiety and the thought that I’m not worthy as a human being. Because that’s how deep those words can run, and that’s why it’s important to realize that you and I don’t need to be tied down by society’s flawed perception of perfection.

Weigh my heart, not my body. 

Look me in the eye when I speak and see the fire in them, the passion, instead of joking about how many calories I need to burn. Watch me live my dreams and meet every single goal I set for myself, rather than joke about how going to the gym would be a better use of my time. Try and see how much your words can kill my sense of self-worth, and think again before you speak out of ‘good intentions’.

I am a warrior because I’ve learned to pick myself up when you put me down and remember that I am beautiful in any and every form. I’ve learned to love myself, accept my flaws and continuously strive to make myself a better person in the ways that actually matter. You should too. Because if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect others to? As my good ol’ friend Charlie said, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Prove to yourselves that you are your own hero. The one person that’ll stay by your side forever is yourself. Love that person. Look yourself in the mirror and appreciate every little thing there is to you – beyond what there is to see. Because as the saying goes, beauty is skin deep.

But your heart and soul weigh so much more.

 

Don’t.

I’m sick.

I’m sick of people thinking they know me when they don’t.
I’m sick of caring about what these ignorant fools say when that’s all their words really are: ignorant.

Don’t think you know all of me when you see the coals of my eyes glitter like falsified gems. Don’t think you can define me by the numbers that attach themselves to my self-worth. Don’t think you can pass the final verdict on my disposition as the Big Bad Bitch.

And if you do, don’t think I care.

Because I’ve learnt not to waste my time on people like you who think what they see is what they get.

I’ve learnt to be free.

Inspired by DailyPost
(although funnily enough, I wrote this exactly an hour before the prompt was out – ’twas meant to be!)

The 2017 Reading Challenge

As someone who loves reading but hasn’t had enough time to dedicate to the beauty of it, I feel like this would be the right time to commit myself to a personalized 2017 Reading Challenge. Granted, 2015’s challenge was a failure but 2016’s went pretty well, I’d like to give it another shot! After all, one can have no regrets in giving books a chance, right?

For this year’s challenge, I’m doing a combination of various challenges I’ve found online as well as my own. Links to the various challenges I’ve borrowed from are provided at the end of this post. I’ll be updating this list and ticking off the challenges I finish as the year progresses. Recommendations would be very much appreciated!

If you, too, are doing the reading challenge, why not join me this year? Drop a comment below and let me know how 2017’s book-journey has been going so far! If you’d like me to review any book in particular, I’d be up for that too.

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bold: complete
(parenthesis: book assigned to a challenge)

*a book with a color in the title  (The Color Purple)

*a book of letters (Love Letters to the Dead)

*a book by a person of color (Persepolis)

*a book with multiple authors (Let It Snow)

*a bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read (Gone Girl)

*a book by or about a person who has a disability (El Deafo)

*a book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile (Flipped)

*a book that’s more than a hundred years old (Anna Karenina)

*a book set in a place you want to visit (The Saffron Gate)

*a book inspired by a a fairy tale (Stardust)

*a book under 200 pages (Man’s Search for Meaning)

*a book of poetry (Rumi)

*a book with a child narrator (The Diary of a Young Girl)

*an autobiography (Night)

*a novel set during wartime (A Cup of Tea)

*a book with an unreliable narrator

*a book set in two different time periods (The Next Together)

*the first book in a series you haven’t read before (Artemis Fowl)

*an adult novel (Big Little Lies)

*a Newbery Medal winning book (The Girl Who Drank the Moon)

*a gifted book (Looking for Alaska)

*a play (Nagamandala)

*a diverse folktale/mythological book (Who Fears Death)

*a book with religious themes (The Red Tent)

*a book on my back list (Can You Keep A Secret?)

*a book by a debut writer (The Hate U Give)

*a book recommendation from a Goodreads pal (How to Be Good)

*a book recommendation from your sibling (The Sword of Shannara)

*a handbook (How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life)

*a book by an Indian writer (The God of Small Things)

*a book recommendation from a professor (Waiting for Godot)

*a love story (Eleanor & Park)

*a tragedy (If I Stay)

*a book from your childhood (A Wrinkle in Time)

*your best friend’s favorite (Jane Eyre)

*a French book (Le Petit Prince)

*a controversial book (Lolita)

*a classical romance (Persuasion)

*a book you’ve avoided (The Rape of Nanking)

*a satire (The Importance of Being Earnest)

*a book set in the Victorian Era (Secrets of Midnight)

*a book featuring an animal as the main character (Watership Down)

*a visual novel (Saya no Uta/The Song of Saya)

*a manga (Sakamichi no Apollon/Kids on a Slope)

*a novella (Animal Farm)

*a horror book (In the Miso Soup)

*a book with terrible reviews (Leaves of Grass)

*a book in translation (1Q84)

*a book published the same year you were born (Tuesdays with Morrie)

*a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able (A Monster Calls)

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Inspiration from:

http://blog.betterworldbooks.com/2016/12/29/2017-reading-challenge-recommendations/

http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2017-42561300

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NC334TlViCh578-VEl9aUJ3WGAOEYY6R0YuC-MxVRj8/edit

http://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2017/