Wednesday, February 3, 2016

10 Things I'm Grateful For

{Buddha statue from our a Tibetan monastery I visited this weekend}
Before this week, my friends and I had found ourselves in a bit of a funk. With classes cancelled, we were slipping into a routine of doing very little and feeling bored and unproductive. This past week has been a near complete shift, and I've found myself being not only more productive but also just generally happier and in a better mood. I'm big on appreciating what you've got and believe happiness comes from gratitude, from making a point to consciously appreciate and be thankful for both the big and little things in life. So here are a few things I'm grateful for this week and from my time so far:

1. New friends: This weekend, my program took us to Mysore and we had an amazing time (travel post to come soon!). Our trip was incredibly well-organzied and hassle-free, and as much as I loved sightseeing and exploring different aspects of a new placethe food, the sights, the language, the geographyI really just enjoyed spending time with my friends. In our group of sixteen, I genuinely like everyone and hadn't been able to spend real time with each student since our orientation at the beginning of our time in Hyderabad. I loved that we were all able to spend time together during our trip, and I was able to have some great conversations with friends that reminded me that beyond the food and the sights and souvenirs, traveling really is all about the people you meet.

2. And old friends: I've been able to keep in touch with several friends back home and even heard from a friend from high school who I hadn't spoken to in months. It's natural to lose touch with time and distance, but it's nice to remember that even if you don't talk for months on end it you can reconnect without the lapsed time becoming an issue. This is especially comforting when I miss birthdays and big campus events and FOMO hits me hard.

3. Family: At the same time, I'm so happy to be living with my aunt and uncle. Full disclosure, I expected at least some awkwardness beforehand. Isn't that normal when you're living with people you haven't seen in nearly seven years? But my uncle appreciates food as much as I do and has endless recommendations for places to go in the city. And when my friends and I went out to a karaoke bar recently, he came along too, which I really appreciated. Sometimes an age gap can make things awkward, but my uncle treats us like people rather than kids, and makes an effort not only to get to know me but also my friends. My aunt and I have the best conversations about anything and everything, and I finally have a workout buddy. I'm generally an open book, but it sometimes takes a while for me to fully open up to people and I'm amazed at how much I've been able to share with her so far. Living with my family has been amazing, and it's an opportunity I'm so grateful for.

4. Dance: I've mentioned before that my Kathak classes have started, and as humorously bad I am trying to get my feet to move as fast as they need to during class, I like going home and being able to practice the moves to music that I enjoy. At the same time, during our Mysore trip, we were able to dance to and with a folk group performing Dollu Kunitha, and I even got a chance to try out one of their drums. I missed dancing and it wasn't until I got back into it that I realized just how much that was.

5. Playing: On our four-hour bus ride to the airport, we spent about three hours playing a game called Psychiatrist. The day before, we'd also spent hours playing various other games and I found myself thinking about how long it had been since I'd played like a little kid. As an au pair last summer, I played UNO with my kids nearly every morning. But playing with friends your own age and playing because you don't want to stop, rather than because you want to keep your kids happy and entertained, is quite different. I found myself laughing whole-heartedly and getting frustrated at games I didn't understand. Experiencing such a wide range of emotions when the stakes were so low, and that too as the result of playing childish games, was so foreign to me and made me realize how I want to make more time actively and consciously having fun doing things that might be deemed as silly. Of course, this is easier said than done when you're in the middle of a busy semester, but maybe if I try to be conscious about it, I can implement this sort of behavior in my life in DC and over the summer at home with my brother.

6. Literature: My low-key role model Ella Cerón recently Instagrammed a pile of books with the caption, "Every writer has their bibles, the books and stories that made them pause in the middle of the page and say, 'I want to do that.' These are mine." Naturally, I began thinking about the books and poems and essays that made me feel the same. Among an incredible range of texts, Vonnegut tops my list. His books remind me that I write to make people feel something. I want my writers to feel understood, and so I try to write truthfully. I want my writers to feel overwhelming emotion; I often cry when I write pieces that really mean something to me and hope that I can pass along the sense of relief and catharsis I get from both reading and writing along in the pieces I create. Above all, I want my readers to feel reminded that they are not alone; their experiences and thoughts and feelings have value, are valid, and deserve to be heard. 

This weekend I started reading The Namesake, a book I had long put off for a wide host of reasons. I'm not far along at all, and here's why: over and over, I found myself overwhelmed. First, by the sheer prose. Lahiri's prose is clean and effective without compromising aesthetic appeal. She doesn't use a lot of dialogue, something that characterizes my own fiction writing, and that reminded me that lack of dialogue isn't necessarily something to be corrected. But beyond that, her story is so relatable. I myself have experienced nearly nothing that the characters have in the first 39 pages of the text. But there is no doubt that I see myself and my parents in Lahiri's descriptions of Ashoke and Ashima. I had to stop myself from continuing the book several times, one because I was emotionally overwhelmed, two because I didn't have my laptop with me and writing in my notebook on a bumpy bus ride is basically impossible. I was so inspired by her work and in her writing style, I found solutions for fiction pieces I'd been working on. There's nothing like the first read of a text you love, a text that impacts you heavily both in the time you read it and beyond, and so I decided to save the rest for a time in which I could leisurely and privately write my own work.

7. Travel: Needless to say, I love travel. Although I haven't quite overcome my mild aversion to traveling often after last summer's trip to Italy, this weekend's trip to Mysore really made me happy. It might've been the rut I'd been stuck in after two weeks of cancelled classes, but having something to do and constantly being around my friends was a lot more fun than my routine of sleeping in until noon and visiting the same spots in my side of the city. I also have a trip to Bangalore this weekend and the weekend after a trip to Mumbai with two of my friends, and I am excited out of my mind to show them parts of my home city, introduce them to my grandparents, and just be back in what I consider part of my complicated definition of home.

8. Working out: My relationship with my body hasn't always been great, but I'm at a place where I'm loving what it can do and have started to see some results. I've started running again and have some goals to work on in terms of kilometers I run per month and the time it takes for me to finish 5k. I've also started going to the gym a bit more regularly than my annual visit back in DC, and bi-weekly Kathak classes and yoga four times a week don't hurt either. Endorphins keep me sane. After all, exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people don't shoot their husbandsthey just don't! I also don't have a weight scale here, and I kind of prefer it; I'm not working out to lose weight. In fact, I'm happy with my weight and it's taken a lot for me to be able to say that. I'm working out to stay healthy and for the endorphins. And I'm not one to complain about abs and biceps either.

9. Writing: It's hard for me to post regularly on OMS when I'm back at school. I could tell you that I don't have the time, but that simply isn't true. As I'm writing this, it's 12:30 AM, I have readings that need to get done, a 9:00 AM class tomorrow, and a few other pieces to write for other writing commitments I have. I write on here because I love it and because I need it; time doesn't matter because when something is this important to you, you make time. I think the real reason I don't post as often when I'm back at GW is that I'm not as inspired. My life revolves around my classes and internships and fitting in time with my friends whenever I can. I make time for myself, too, but that takes the form of cooking great meals or going on a run by myself or reading a book. My mind is generally focused on school in DC, but when I was in Spain and now that I'm in India, I have the ability to think about other things. I have more mental space and energy to focus on things that matter to me that aren't about Austen or my writing workshops or Disability Studies. I loved my classes this past semester at GW, but having the means to make writing here possible is almost better. I write because I'm able to be inspired and able to learn nearly constantly. 

And writing here is so rewarding. For one, I love being able to put my thoughts into words. It's very cathartic and it's nice thinking that you're being constructive and creative with the experiences you've had. At the same time, the messages I get from friends and family letting me know that they've read and liked my posts and the times people stop me in person to let me know that they're reading and have thoughts on what they've read just mean so, so much to me. Writing for me is beautiful and I strive to create something that holds value in my own eyes. Learning that other people care too just makes it that much better.

10. Food: I'm a big foodie, and the options here are amazing. I haven't gotten tired of eating Indian food every day, although there's such a wide range of foods throughout India that doing so would be quite an accomplishment. I miss pizza and the kind of cheese I get in the US, but that's more of a constant state of being for me. I usually have three types of cheese in the fridge at my place in DC and tend to avoid pizza that doesn't come from Jersey or New York. I'm loving how cheap the food is here, how often I get to eat really good Punjabi food, and of course, my chikoos and fresh coconut water.

~ V

No comments:

Post a Comment