Our lives consist of checklists. Every period we pass and enter, we are assigned a new set of goals or should I say requirements, in order to move to the next stage in our lives. We spend years trying to accomplish everything that is said to take us to the next step, which will lead to success: college, a job to pay off student loans, marriage and a family.
We lose sleep, forget to eat meals, and are always on the go.
These past four months has shed a new light on my life. I came to India with the anticipation that I was going to be as busy, maybe even more, than I am back home. I pictured myself joining around 3 student organizations and getting a part time job that would pay me under the table. I have always been told that in order to be productive I must be doing something at all times, even if it leads to unnecessary stress and engaging in activities that my heart is not in. Being a successful adult meant being busy, unavailable, overwhelmed, overloaded, and buried years deep in work. This is what I looked forward to everyday, not that I wanted to but because I felt that I had to. I had no choice but to engage in what I did not want to do, in order to be able to do what I wanted to do.
India does things a little bit differently and let’s just say that what I expected to come here to do is the exact opposite of what I have been doing. The Indian way of life is very laid back. It consists of big meals, afternoon naps, and hectic traffic. I have never been this unoccupied in my life. It is something even after four months I am still getting used to. I constantly find myself with nothing to do and having to come up with things that are not as important as a job or student organization obligations seem. But then I realized the dilemma that we overachievers are always in. We never do anything for ourselves and we do not know how to relax. Here I am forced to fall back into the old hobbies I let die once I began college. I was trying so hard to be better than just average that I literally put everything else that did not pertain to my future success on the back burner.
I asked myself when was the last time I got to read for leisure. When was the last time I actually finished a painting that I started? When was the last time I had a day open enough to go for an adventure? When was the last time I spent enough quality time with my parents?
There is a fine balance here: A fine balance between hope and despair, chaos and tranquility, progression and stagnation, modernity and tradition, and relaxation and unhappiness.
I found myself standing right on that line. My mind was running chaotically but calmed by the morning Prayers filling the air and the sandalwood burning round clock. I found my mind battling between what is wrong with the modern and what is good about the traditional and vice versa but settling for the fact that some progress is better than no progress. I found myself succumbing to extreme and subtle forms of racism and misogyny and finally being able to figure out what battles are worth fighting. I found myself being over taken by the anxiety that comes with crossing the streets of India or even being a part of the never ending, never halting traffic and then recognizing that as unorganized as it may seem, everything has a function here. I found myself stuck in between what I was doing and what I would be doing if I were back home and it would not be reading and painting for hours on end, for most days out of the week. I found myself thinking ahead, trying to stay two steps ahead of myself and coming up with a million and one things that needed to be taken care of in terms of my future. There I was again, trying to figure out how to be better than just average. My responsibility was not to worry about things I literally had no control over. Being on the other side of the world that was anything from my family problems to campus issues that I had programmed myself to feel obligated to do anything necessary for; my needs and wants coming secondary.
“Everything will work out in the end, if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” I overheard an Indian student say this and it smacked me right in the face.
My only responsibility here is to take care of myself: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I realized that my afternoon naps, my adventures through India, reading when I should be studying or searching post grad programs, finishing paintings was and has been much more productive for me than any obligation I would be killing myself over if I were home. Why? Because I am finally able to stop and smell the roses. In my case, it is the sweet jasmine flowers strung in garlands and laced in the long silky braids of young women, mixing with the aroma of coconut oil smoothed in their hair. It is the smile on every person that greets me, every rickshaw driver that tries and usually succeeds in ripping me off. It is the warm welcome I receive from my classmates, Daal and Chilli powder staining my finger tips from eating with my hands, the sweltering heat that makes me excited to be welcomed with snow when I land in Boston Logan airport. It is the chai and biscuits served three times a day and how my mouth waters instantly at the sight of fresh samosas. All of this that has both made me feel inadequate and pure has given my appreciation for life a whole new meaning. Life is good. We have to take the bad and the ugly with the good but life is good nonetheless. Of course, a cup of wine makes everything that much better, which is why I have one every night and currently right now. Overall my experience which is far too complicated in a very positive way to write about in one single post, has granted me the ability to see that life is more than just those check lists and as a 21 year old senior in college, I am glad that I realized this now before jeopardizing my happiness by assuming that financial, academic and material success should be regarded with more respect than just being happy that I am alive, healthy and spiritually liberated. We need to keep dreaming and stop planning every aspect of our lives and our careers. Life is unpredictable and we need to live in the present, we need to live in the NOW. We are young; we have our whole futures ahead of us. We do not want to find ourselves asking, “Where did all the time go? Where did my youth go?” Let’s keep dreaming, let’s enjoy what we have. Just when you feel yourself getting annoyed or agitated with something not working out as fast as you want it to, just remember that it will. Do not rush the process; the process is where you want to be. Everything comes in due time.
Remember and always keep in mind that your plans may change. It is good to have a plan, I actually wish I had a solid one, but do not limit yourself to just that. Always prepare for the unexpected because that is just how life goes. Of course, this should all be done in moderation, so keep your goals in mind; strive to get a little closer to them every day.
But sometimes it is good to just stop and smell the flowers.