Why I wish growing (up) was more like growing (down)

I’ve spent most of my teens & early 20s desperately trying to run away from my parents- away from the rules, the advice, and more importantly, their decisions. 

Now, way into (and almost on the wrong side of) my 30s, I desperately want to run to my parents for every little thing in life. The number of times I wish I could just ask them to make my decisions for me… teenage Shreya would have a huge ‘wtf’ expression on her face, reading this right now. 

But dear teenage Shreya, one day, you’ll have a never ending root canal with a thousand complications, and you’d wish your parents were the ones driving you to and from the dentist, and deciding whether you need to get an implant, or a new dentist. 

One day, you’ll need to understand taxes and investments and make decisions that will affect you when you’re retiring, which suddenly isn’t a far off age, and you’d wish someone would just tell you what to do instead.

One day, right out of college, when you go grocery shopping for the first time, you’ll realise just how expensive fruits are, and will come back to your dilapidated PG with one apple, one mango and 2 bananas, because that’s all you could afford. And you’ll have a sudden appreciation for all those times your parents tried to force feed more fruits to you.

And there will be multiple painful days when office is giving you trouble and you really wish you could ask your parents to come down and talk to your boss and somehow just sort it all out for you.

As I write this, I’m contemplating running away home for a week. 7 days of not deciding what should be made for breakfast-lunch-dinner. 7 days of cuddling between my parents the way I used to when I was a kid. 7 days of realising how different I really am from my parents, and being amused at all the similarities I can now see too (that teenage Shreya would be appalled at). 

7 days of unconditional love, which I now realise is not always the easiest thing, and find myself craving for, instead.

Of Vacations & Writing

What is it about the mountains and writing?

Maybe it’s how we’ve grown up seeing writers write. Either in cottages with a mountain view. Or by the window in a picturesque villa by the sea. Because supposedly, how else does one let their creative juices flow? Definitely not in the craziness of a city. Not with all the honking and horrible air and just generally having to deal with the realities of life. Like the bai not turning up. Or whose turn is it to do the laundry. (On a side note, ‘doing’ the laundry is the most misleading term in India. Doing it is simply putting it in the washing machine. It’s the who is going to take it out and put it up on the clothesline that’s the real work. Unless you’re one of those rich folks who can afford a dryer, or more importantly, the space to keep a dryer. I mean, who are you and why are you even reading this?)

But coming back to the mountains. They do make you want to read. And scribble. Maybe even sketch just a tiny bit. They make you think about all the beautiful paper and art supplies at home. Supplies that have been locked away in a box (a transparent box, mind you, in the hope that being able to see the supplies will make you want to use them. P.S. Doesn’t work). And you look at the beautiful view in front of you and daydream about just how you’ll use them when you go back. The beautiful things you will create. The words that will flow on paper.

Not really a news flash, but nothing’s gonna flow.

Because by the time you’re back home, you’re exhausted. You need a vacation to get over your vacation. Forget the pens and paint, you’re already worrying about that meeting you have tomorrow, preparation for which you put off because you were in too much of a holiday mood earlier. But now it’s all piled up for today, not tomorrow. And the words and the ideas take a tiny little backseat, you know, just for the time being.

Until they’re pushed just a little further back. To accommodate for the monsoons making your commute to work just a bit worse. And that new project that is amazing but also time consuming. And that other project that kinda sucks but you can’t really put off anymore. And the grocery shopping. The meal planning. The Netflix shows to catch up on. The people to meet. The hours to sleep.

Until the next hill or beach vacation. Where you’re suddenly reminded about this writing itch, and find yourself without a pen and paper, again. And you wonder, what is it, about mountains and writing?

Too Many Updates, Too Little Time

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Given how long I’ve been away from here, I frankly don’t even know where to start. For one thing, I actually didn’t do a year’s round up of everything I’ve learnt this time in December. Given how weird this year has been, and how horrible for some, it just felt like too much of harping about my own privilege. And also, there was just so much happening, there that really wasn’t any any time to sit back and reflect on it.

But here are some updates anyway, just to catch you up (just in case you haven’t seen me harping on and on about it on my Instagram).

  1. My first book got published (finally)! It’s out, and it’s (surprisingly) getting good reviews. Even as I write this, I know that using the word ‘surprisingly’ shows a lot about my own confidence levels about it, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time. But needless to say, I’m happy with the response, and the numerous messages I’ve gotten from people about it. This book was written a long time back, and has been through so much (including a pandemic), that it was just time for it to be out. You can grab your copy on Amazon!
  2. I am now a certified life coach! If you’d told me a year back that I would be saying that sentence, I would’ve rolled my eyes and laughed you off. But the me of a year ago hadn’t ever been at the receiving end of coaching. I didn’t know what it can do for a person, how much it can change you by helping you find yourself, how transformative it can be. Studying and becoming a practicing coach myself has been a beautiful experience, and I’m super excited to see where this goes. If you’re interested in booking a trial session with me – you can reach me at shreyashively@gmail.com
  3. The low after the high. It’s weird, but I have been on a super achieving adrenaline rush since September last year. There was just way too much happening in life – and I was hell bent to come out on top of it all. My parents were moving cities – so I spent two months traveling between cities, helping them pack & unpack, all the while attending classes for coaching, figuring out the final edits on my book and of course managing a full time job. For once 7 hours of sleep were enough, there was minimal snoozing, and I even managed a daily workout. All of this without feeling tired. And then 2021 hit. The course is over. The book is out. There’s still a lot to be done in life, mind you. But I feel like I need 10 hours of sleep. It takes all my willpower to get out of bed and go for a walk. I barely workout because my bones are creaking like an old haunted house. I don’t know what this is. I don’t know if it’s a sudden crash after the adrenaline has dissipated and you realise that exhaustion was, in fact, there all along. Of course I don’t like it. Of course I want to go back to that over achieving super human of the last few months. But if there’s one thing this year has taught me, is to be patient with myself. To listen to my body. To give my mind the time and space it needs. It isn’t ideal, but it’s important.

So, phew. That’s the quickest summary I could manage. Frankly, the longer I stayed away from this blog, the more it piled up, and the tougher it got to pen anything down at all. But here it is, word vomit. And now, we can finally move on.

Happy new year, happy hoomans, hope we manage to make something good out of it.

When You’re No Longer A Delhi-ite, And Not Yet A Mumbaikar

It’s been 12 years since I left Delhi. Sure, it’s been an on-off relationship, with me returning in between for a couple of years in between – but overall, it’s still been a decade. And each time I return to this city, I’m painfully aware of how much my emotions towards it have changed over the years.

To be clear, I was never very emotional about it to begin with. I feel like I have the talent of moving on from places and people faster than most, and this definitely applied to Delhi as well.

But in the beginning, I did find myself talking about it rather dreamily every now and then.

You know, the beautiful roads, the insanely yum food, the delicious fog in the winters.

It’s difficult to forget the beautiful nights spent romanticizing the smell and taste of Delhi winters as a student living in North Campus. The memories of t shirts sold for thirty rupees on the side walks of Sarojini Nagar market. Of the momos and fruit beer at Dilli Haat. Of ice cream at India Gate. Of the buzz of politics and power as students got together, energized after Rang De Basanti. Of believing in things, and fighting for them.

And yet, over the years, each time my plane lands and I find myself in an Uber, half my mind on the Google Map silently open on my phone because it’s difficult to keep a track of all the new roads and not trusting strangers runs in every Delhiite’s blood; I find myself more and more detached from it. Not the least of it is because Delhi, like every city, has changed. I no longer know which is the best place to eat, or what might be open past midnight. Hell, I don’t even have the guts to be out past midnight anymore. North Campus has evolved, my college is now a heritage site, and air conditioned. I cannot for the life of me bargain in Sarojini Nagar now and the momos just don’t taste as delicious anymore. As much as I’d like to deny it, I’ve changed.

And with each trip I realise, that this city no longer pulls at my heart strings. The romantic memories are fading, replaced by rising statistics of crime and pollution. The only reason to come back is family, and now half my family has decided to leave the city behind as well.

And I suddenly feel homeless.

Which is weird, because I haven’t called Delhi home for a long time.

But, neither have I ever gotten around to calling Mumbai home. Mumbai to me has been this dream. One from which I’ll suddenly wake up. One which will fade away before I can quite remember what it was. Mumbai is where I live, and yet, not where I’ve settled down. Nor do I see it happening anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot about this city. But it’s just not home, yet.

I’m not sure if any place will ever be home.

And maybe, I’m okay with that.

Maybe home is in the chaos of the in-between.

Because what’s more romantic than being able to pack your bags and move whenever you want, leaving behind the bad stuff, taking with you just the glossed over beautiful memories, that one day will fade away into sweet nothingness?

P.S. On the other hand, A took all of two months to shed his Delhi-ness and start talking like a Mumbaikar. This time, our cab driver in Delhi asked him if he was a Mumbaikar, based on the way he talked (Chalega…Karega…), which we all know is the absolute final acknowledgement of your roots. I felt a little offended, though I have no clue why, and then remembered that I don’t even talk like a Delhi-ite, my Hindi is more of Lucknow than anything else, a city where I’ve never even lived. We’re all screwed up in our own ways I guess.

Do You Feel Like An Imposter?

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It’s one of those things that bother me more than most.

The constant nagging thought that I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. That I’m in a room full of individuals who think I’m an expert at something, when in reality, I’m just pretending to know what I’m talking about. That they probably know more. And that sooner or later I’ll be found out. These thoughts can turn up at any time, but more often than not, they show up during the bad days. Days where work is slow, days where you’re struggling to close the next deal, days where you haven’t had any positive human interactions. But then, even during good days, when someone sends a compliment my way at a rather vulnerable time, I often find myself wondering if that person really meant it, or was there some other thought behind it, because it couldn’t possibly actually be true.

What a shitty way to feel about your own self worth.

It wasn’t until recently that I started reading up more about it. And to my surprise, Imposter Syndrome is real, and a little too common. Research shows that almost 70% of people have felt it at some point in their lives. Even people like Einstein, Tina Fey & Maya Angelou were known to doubt their accomplishments.

I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.

– Maya Angelou

The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.

-Tina Fey

And that got me thinking. If people with such high accomplishments still doubted the validity of where they were and the praise they received, what chances did the rest of the world really have?

So I did the only thing I could, I read more, and more. And here are some steps that are widely recommended, that have personally helped me.

  1. Talk about it. Read about it. Know that you’re not alone.
  2. Realise if you’re holding yourself to impossibly high standards and perfectionism.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Be conscious of negative self talk. Catch yourself in that moment when you start doubting whether you’re good enough. Try to change it to a positive affirmation instead.
  4. Ask for feedback. Sometimes, this just helps appease that negative voice in your head doubting everyone and everything around you.
  5. Understand what this is, so you can learn to live with it, and deal with it better. Because this isn’t going to magically disappear overnight, but it can be handled in a way that it affects you less.

I find myself working on this more and more. It ties back to why I have trouble with labels. Designations. Calling myself a writer. This shows up in the weirdest of places in the sneakiest of ways.

Recognising it is the first step.

What about you? Have you ever felt this way?

Little Things That Brighten Up My Day

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve personally been finding it tougher to bring joy into my life.

A lot had to do with the random spondylitis-type-neck stuff which laid me back for 3 weeks. A lot has to do with the fact that at least in India, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the pandemic, and things are getting worse by the day. Which also means all our plans, vacations, life etc. is on hold indefinitely. And while it’s easy to keep joking about dismissing 2020 as a year, it’s also difficult to forget that time hasn’t actually stopped, and 2021 might not be that different.

So, more and more, specially on the bad days, I’m trying to remember the tiny things that bring me joy.

  1. Getting out of hole-y pajamas. Be it an after-effect of an entire weekend bingeing Queer Eye, but I spent two days cleaning out my wardrobe – which had become reduced to pajamas and shorts and old worn out t-shirts. Everything else was dying somewhere in the dark corners, hoping for a pandemic free day to be worn. Well, that brighter day is nowhere to be seen in the near-future. Might as well feel good about yourself in prettier clothes, even if at home. In fact, specially when stuck at home. Believe me, it helps. Pssttt. I even put on a bra.
  2. Saying hi to my plants. Yes, you read that right. Not only am I talking in plural now, I’m even talking to them. Yes, it feels silly. But it also leaves me with a huge smile on my face. And hopefully they like it enough to actually survive this time.
  3. A fresh bedsheet. A & I aren’t the biggest on keeping stuff super clean. I mean, there is always so much laundry to do. And clothes > bedsheets. Which means the same bedsheet gets used for a certain period of time that I’d rather not specify on a public forum. But that one day when it’s changed, and is neatly tucked into every corner, crisp with a lingering hint of the fragrance of a fabric conditioner – that’s the best sleep ever.
  4. Coffee, served extra hot. This one’s a no-brainer. Like I haven’t bored each and every one of you with a pic of coffee every day. In my defence, I actually only have that one cup a day, and it’s something that I really really look forward to. But that first sip of piping hot coffee to start the day….sigh.
  5. Unexpected messages. From old friends, from people who were never friends but you’re drawn to, from family, from ex-colleagues. This has been one of the most beautiful things this year, and I absolutely love it.
  6. Hope. I can’t believe I just wrote that word. It’s the one word I have an extreme love-hate relationship with. But in times like these, how do you possibly get through the day without it. Without hope that we’ll meet our families super soon. That we’ll be able to take vacations soon. That we’ll meet a friend and hug them without thinking twice. That tomorrow is going to be better, soonish.
Yes, they have names!

Of Pigeon Tales and Reclaiming Balconies

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Firstly, let me just say, I never actually minded pigeons. I mean sure, they don’t always seem to possess the highest IQ, and sure, it’s slightly creepy how they look at you sideways, and it can be downright annoying the way their head moves when they make a sound that has been best described in our language as gutar-goo. But for the record, I never really minded pigeons.

But for some weird reason, pigeons started loving our tiny excuse of a balcony. To hide behind the AC unit in. To build nests in. And to downright poop all over in. I mean, who poops where they sleep and are about to push out their babies? Answer, pigeons do. And poop they do a lot.

And A & I dealt with it in the way we knew best – by ignoring it.

This had always been a great solution when there was a maid around who also for the most part chose to ignore it, but could be nudged every few days to begrudgingly scrub and clean it out.

But now, given that it was just us, this misfired a tiny wee bit.

Just enough that our balcony soon seemed to have an altogether new multi-coloured flooring.

So we came up with the next best solution. We stopped stepping out onto the balcony.

But then it started raining and for the first time in our lives we actually enjoyed this season given that we could sit inside comfortably sipping coffee and feeling all insta-poetic without worrying about wading through muck with dead rats floating around you and… wait, wrong post. This is not the place to crib about Monsoons Shreya…

So I finally opened the balcony door, ignored the sight & smell of the floor, and sat on the sofa next to it, enjoying the breeze. The pigeons looked at me skeptically and flew away with a sinister look, giving me an ultimatum to not be there when they got back. But nature had other plans. It suddenly started to pour, which clearly took one Mr. Pigeon by surprise, enough to drench him and send him flying right back, all the way inside our house, onto my sofa to snuggle comfortably next to me. I have to admit at this point, surprisingly, I screamed much more than the pigeon did. It seemed to be in shock and just looked at me with a sideways wtf lady expression. But in my defence, this isn’t the first time that a pigeon has fallen on me while indoors (another story for another time), and the last time it ended up scratching me pretty badly.

So we finally decided enough was enough.

We had the balcony deep cleaned (took the guy hours, just to give you a perspective of the multi-layered pooping). And decided to have a pigeon net installed. Though the netting didn’t happen for another two days, which meant A & I effectively turned into human scare crows for the next 48 hours, running out mid surya-namaskar to chase away pigeons before they pooped. We *may* have inadvertently caused some pigeons to poop out of the sheer surprise of having a human jump out at you screaming for no good reason.

But now the net is secure.

And so is our balcony.

And Mr. & Mrs. Pigeon can go make out somewhere else (seriously, the amount of pigeon sex I’ve noticed this season isn’t even funny).

The End.

Was your weekend more happening than mine?

Of Hope And Disappointment

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Dealing with disappointments is clearly not my forte. And over the years I’ve realised, it isn’t the actual bad news that kills you, what’s really brutal is all the hope that’s built up right before it.

It’s perhaps one of the reasons I’ve turned into such a cynical person.

If there is no hope, there can’t really be any disappointment, now can there?

But what kind of a life is that to live, really? One where there’s no wonder or hope or joy. One where you aren’t looking forward to things just because you might not be able to handle it if they don’t happen the way you had expected them to?

And yet, I’ve realised, that joy-less, hope-less, cynical life is an act of self preservation, one where my world doesn’t come crashing down, one where I don’t find myself struggling to hold back tears or to pretend to continue with my day like all my hopes and dreams haven’t just been shattered.

Yeah, I don’t really like that feeling, do you?

Brene Brown and her books on vulnerability don’t really tell you how to deal with this now, do they, before they encourage you to step out into the arena and get your ass kicked?

So make sure you have an iron-armoured ass. Because there’s definitely a lot of kicking.

And it hurts.

Self Care vs. Selfishness

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Yup, this is a serious one, you guys.

I was at a bit of a loss in terms of what to make of my #AWordAWeek this time – care. And the more I think about it, the more of this keeps coming up. A realisation I had in a session recently.

For starters, I was completely sure that self care is one of those terms I didn’t relate to at all. Every time I’m asked to think about ‘self care’ I conjure up all these images of people advising others to love yourself, to discover your own joys, or just overall massive lectures on how to live and think. In fact, I’ve done this too to a lot of friends, but somehow I just couldn’t relate to it in a positive way. And even worse are all those self care practitioners who seem to think it’s all about treating yourself to a facial and pedicure in the name of self care. Self care is a beautiful and simple concept, and yet somewhere down the Instagram route, it’s become preachy and, dare I say it, almost fake.

So no, I declared, the term ‘self care’ is something I can’t relate to at all.

But then we talked more. And more. And came up with multiple instances in life where I had taken decisions for self preservation. Quitting a high paying corporate job that went against my core principles to save myself from a complete mental burnout. Refusing to fall to society’s expectations of having a child. Doing what I knew was right for me in multiple circumstances, even if it wasn’t right for others. And guess what came up as the term for it in my head – selfishness.

That’s when I realised that the world has a funny way of making you feel bad about taking care of yourself. So what if something is good for you. YOU are never their highest priority. And if YOU are your own highest priority, then how dare you be so selfish.

This might seem obvious as you read this, but when this hit me, it hit me hard. Because the amount of guilt and trauma latching onto each supposed ‘selfish’ act is enough to drown you at any point of time. I felt a sudden release inside me, of yet another label I was letting go.

So the next time someone calls you selfish, before you take it to your heart and register in your head, take a deep breath, sit back and think. Is it, really?

The Murderous Household of A & I

A & I are notoriously bad at taking care of plants. Give us a cat, and that thing will get pampered more than first born babies. But give us a plant, and we both forget about its existence for multiple days at a time.

Needless to say, plants do not thrive well in our household.

Last year on my birthday, my aunt sent me a plant, and I vowed I’ll take good care of it. In fact it grew exponentially those first few months, encouraging me to think, we can totally do this, this one won’t be tortured and sent to plant heaven. That reduction in photosynthesis will not be on my hands.

But life happened. The usual, always running to try and make it to office type life. Where you remember some days, get angry at A for never remembering at all, and simply move on. I’m not proud of this.

We almost killed Planty, again.

Yes, I named it. And not a very innovative name. But it’s a start, okay?

And for the last one week, as I try to exercise more mindfulness in my day, getting up a little earlier so I have more time to do things I want to do (and not just exercising and rushing to make breakfast and then make it to my work desk), I’m adding this step into my routine.

Watering Planty. You’d think it shouldn’t be that difficult. I even spritz it with some water and talk soothingly.

Guilt can make you do so much.

So here’s saying a little prayer, that Planty makes it. He almost hasn’t. Some parts of him collapsed and a lot of him is still browning. But I’m convinced that this time I can do it.

Who knows, maybe I’ll soon be adding more to Planty’s family.

So many more to kill.

Okay, where did that voice come from? Wtf brain?