Friday, 12 September 2014

Being Your Own Best Friend

After finishing twelfth grade, I left the comforts of home and began a new chapter of my life. It has been more than seven years since I've been living alone. The experience has been exciting, empowering and also quite daunting at the same time.

Moving away from home is not easy. Forcing oneself out of one's comfort zone and barging into the world of the unknown is difficult. Despite some lows, I would say that my experience has been pretty good and I do not have much to complain about. However, there are times when stress and anxieties creep in and try breaking me down. "It's alright," I say to myself. "This too shall pass. It is only a minor setback in the grand scheme of things. In the end, all this just won't matter," I continue to rationalize. There are days, however, when such reassurances do not work. In those moments, I find myself tossing and turning, thinking and re-thinking things over and over again. Sometimes, I feel that my head will explode because of the never-ending eruptions of my thoughts. In those moments, I wish I could just hit my mind's 'pause' button and decide to run the world later but, unfortunately, not all wishes come true.

It is in such moments of insecurity that I actually feel the pinch of being alone. Not having a support system is hard because it means I have no one to lift my spirits when I am down. It means that I have no one to remind me that I am capable of handling whatever craziness is tossed my way.

Being independent has its perks but it also has its fair share of disadvantages. Nowadays, I feel that I am so used to doing things on my own that I find it almost impossible to admit before another person that I need help. It is becoming progressively more difficult for me to even talk to people about what is going on in my life. Still, there are days when I brave an attempt and actually ask a friend to meet. But meeting impromptu in a city where everyone has so many priorities isn't a piece of cake. Most of the time, these sudden plans never work out and I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into the marsh of insecurities. These days, I feel I am stuck so deep inside that I don't think I can be pulled out. I am not sure if I even want to pull myself out. The marsh of insecurities, which earlier felt so uncomfortable, gradually ceases to bother me. It now feels so familiar that I embrace these insecurities as if they had always been a part of me. Sometimes, I realize that I am being unreasonable but I feel it is alright - sometimes, one can be allowed to be unreasonable.

At one point of time, I needed encouragement. I needed someone to tell me that I am a wonderful person. I needed to be believed in - to be told that I am brave, smart and capable of accomplishing all the dreams that I dare to dream and much more. I no longer need these reminders because I am no more the person I used to be.

Things that earlier meant the world to me, today, don't really mean much. People who I was, once, very close to now feel as good as strangers. I still have a perpetual smile on my face but it does not reach the eyes. Today, I am in better control of my emotions and, unlike before, I do not allow feelings of anger, exasperation or despair to show on my face. 

Perhaps, this is what it means to be truly on one's own - when you have no one to fall back on but yourself. You can be your harshest critic but you can also be your best friend. After all, no one can really know you better than you know yourself. We always find it easy to notice our shortcomings, but how many of us actually pat ourselves on the back when we feel we have done a good job? People can't be around all the time but you can always be there for yourself. It is tough but I believe it is possible. I have now embarked on the journey of becoming my own best friend.  When are you taking the step towards becoming friends with your own self?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

What The Little Prince Taught Me...

I have always believed that learning knows no age. Every person who crosses our path has the power to teach us a valuable lesson or two if only we remain receptive and open to the learning process. A lot of adults around give me a quizzical expression when I tell them that grownups can learn so many things from children. Their sense of disbelief transports me to the pages of a book titled The Little Prince which charmingly illuminates the gap between children and grownups. It was quite by chance that I happened to stumble upon this particular book but it is one that I would recommend everyone to read.

Written by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (originally in French), the deceptively simple story of a pilot's encounter with a small boy from another planet actually offers a wealth of insight to an adult who chooses to pay attention to the hidden meanings behind the written text.

 The narrator mentions how, with age, we seem to lose interest in what is really important in life. We are only interested in how things appear at the surface-level without bothering to dig beneath.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing how, as we grow old, we lose our sense of wonder. A friend of mine keeps getting exasperated at my childlike exclamations of "Wow!" each time I find something that fascinates me. I do not blame her. As we start ageing, the way in which we see the world changes. According to me, as we grow up, we stop engaging with the world. It's not that we cannot do it. We just choose not to.Not every individual is able to uphold the sense of amazement or of the sheer enjoyment of life. As we grow up, we lose sight of the endless possibilities that life has to offer which was so apparent to our younger selves. Wisdom may involve being more in command of our thoughts, faculties and desires but I believe that the very experience which helps us become successful threatens to limit our imagination and our sense of the possible.

As a child, it is acceptable to believe that anything and everything is possible. Setbacks in life make us more aware of our limitations. But what is wrong in being a dreamer? In The Little Prince, the author mentions how grownups are only interested in figures when, in fact, for those "who understand life, figures are a matter of indifference". He goes on to explain how grownups are never interested in asking "questions about essential matters" - for example, when their child makes a new friend, instead of wanting to know about his hobbies and interests, they are more interested in knowing his age and his father's income. I couldn't help but chuckle while reading that part - it reminded me of the time when I had been given the responsibility of selecting candidates for an interview based on the resumes they had mailed. I had found myself wondering, "How in the world can I possibly select five from this lot which appears to have the same amount of qualifications and experience?"

I love the way in which Saint-Exupery turns the tables in his book and actually makes the adults appear as the absurd ones instead of the children. Some may argue that my appreciation for this book stems from the self-satisfaction gained from the reasoning that I am not one of the unimaginative grownups scorned in the story but I firmly believe that The Little Prince will inspire people to shift their attention from pointless or self-centered ambitions to things that make our life more meaningful and worthwhile.

Below are some lines from the book that struck a chord. I hope they inspire you enough to read the book, The Little Prince:
  • Only with the heart can one see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
  • "What makes the desert beautiful," says the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well."
  • "Then you shall judge yourself," the king answered. "That is the most difficult thing of all. It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom."
  • Language is the source of misunderstandings.
  • I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over again, "I am busy with matters of consequence!
  • One only understands the things that one tames. Men have no more time to understanding anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship.
  • It is such a secret place, the land of tears.