Pride Month

Happy Pride Month!

There has been a lot of discussion in media these days about Pansexual vs Bisexual, why one and not the other, which one are you and which one you aren’t. Well, as someone who identifies as pansexual and has a bisexual partner, I think I have a little something to say that might help.

You can find definitions for these terms anywhere, I am just here to give an insider perspective.

First off, let’s dispel two major myths. It has been said once, it has been said a hundred times but somehow they seem to continue to stick around and I keep getting the same questions. It is true some people who once identified as pansexual or bisexual did go on to come out as gay or lesbian but that is not the norm. Sexuality is definitely fluid and I am not denying it.  For many of us, it is not a way-station before we reach the final ‘gay/lesbian destination’. I am a pansexual woman with a bisexual man and I keep getting asked if I am straight now, but that doesn’t suddenly make us a hetero straight couple. Our identities do not depend on our partner, and we suddenly don’t shed our sexuality just because of who we are with.

It is unbelievable that even in 2018 people think we are ‘kidding ourselves’ by identifying as pan or bi. I am not sure if people are just scared because they are unable to hold onto society imposed rules for individuals or if they are uncomfortable because they can’t ‘figure’ us out (courtesy Carrie Bradshaw for the line). Neither of which makes sense to me. Most of these rules are antiquated and a direct result of deep rooted patriarchy. Gender roles and gender bias are the patriarchy’s way of oppressing women, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized folks. And if you just can’t ‘figure’ someone out, that is hardly their problem. People are not puzzles to be solved or jewelry to be organized. People are people (articulately said by Peter from The Room).

People are ever changing, gender is fluid and sexuality is always evolving. I am a brown, queer, immigrant woman. That is oppression and bias in four different ways. Take a moment to analyze: why there’s so much hatred out there, why all this bias, why are we trying to put people in boxes and why are we forcing others to live by standards only we believe to be true?

 

Can the Immigrant Speak?

Since I have started my reading challenges for the year, I have branched out in the books I read. I am currently reading the book We Don’t Need Another Wave and it definitely is on my top ten books for this year. It has great essays from people I wish I knew personally, and it got me thinking.

We can’t vote patriarchy out of office because patriarchy doesn’t hold office – Joshua Russell

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As immigrants, we usually don’t have a lot of rights. Depending on our status, we may not have a right to vote, to make political contributions, to work or to call this place a home. Now the big question is do we have the right to free speech? Believe it or not, this basic fundamental right is not even guaranteed. There’s a lot of debate about how much freedom we really have.

Before I go ahead, let me put out a disclaimer: this post is not a political statement. I am not endorsing anyone holding office or otherwise. This post is about social issues and problems.

Now why do I need to make a disclaimer as such? Am I not interested in sharing my views? Do I not want to be the change I want to see? If anything, We Don’t Need Another Wave has been a call to action for me. I have talked about patriarchy, I am a self-identified feminist, I have debates with my friends and spread awareness, but is that action enough to fight patriarchy and hate?

As an immigrant, I often feel I have a lot to lose and that there is no safe space to actually act. We need a safe space for immigrants and the oppressed to speak out and have opinions and to be a part of this change we all want to see.  We also need support from those already fighting the good fight. I urge you all to open up dialogues with your friends and family members, talk to those around you and make an effort to find out the troubles we as immigrants and brown people face everyday.

For those of you that are like me and want to help, but cannot because you too have too much to lose, remember, everyday of your life, in your own way, you are making a difference.

Where Have I Been?

Let me apologize for having been MIA for the last few months. It has not been an easy time. I have been dealing with depression and a major existential crisis. I had family visit me from India for a few weeks and that has left me wounded and scarred. I am still reeling and recovering.

I usually find strength within me to get me through the dark days however, in the past few months, I have had no anchor to hold me down. It has been an endless pit of despair. I know it’s a vicious cycle and the pit only gets deeper the more I give in. Fighting has not been an option, but after two months of apathy, I think I am starting to find some strength. My partner is a constant companion and has definitely helped in getting me back up. So, here I am, not completely recovered, but finally trying to fight. I am going to seek professional help as soon as my financial situation improves. I am not afraid to admit I need help this time around.

Being active on the blog is one of my steps in fighting my depression, so stay tuned for some good posts coming your way.

Top Ten Wednesday – Books I could re-read forever

After the last few serious posts, I wanted to mix things up a little and write about something fun. I found a very interesting topic while browsing some of the other blogs I follow called ‘Top Ten Tuesday – Books I could re-read forever’ but since I am a little late to the game, I figured I would do a ‘Top Ten Wednesday’. The original post is at That Artsy reader Girl .

To avoid making this a ridiculously long post, I will try to reign in my excitement and stick to a paragraph per book (except for the first one).

Every book is a new world. I have lived and died many times over, in many worlds – Me

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

My top ten – used the TurboCollage Lite app

I read a lot of books when I was younger and now I try not to re-read books because I have a long reading list I can hardly get through. I am trying to get back to the days when I went through a book a day but with busy adult life, it has been harder. In this endeavor, I joined the 18-in-2018 and the Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder challenges. I am quiet enjoying myself.

Looking back at the books I have read brought back a lot of fond memories. Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever.
SPOILER ALERT: I have tried to not give away too much about the plot. I accidentally might have and so this is a cautionary spoiler alert.

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Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

On top of this list is definitely Harry Potter. I could and have re-read the entire series many times. I even own the audio books. I listen to them when I have trouble falling asleep. Harry Potter, honestly, is my go-to series. I read it when I am sad, happy, angry, whenever. I am from the generation that grew up reading the books. My mom bought me my first one when I was twelve and I immediately fell in love.

A lot of my life revolves around Harry Potter, to be honest. It is not only my security blanket but I weirdly draw strength from Harry’s world. I know in my heart, no matter what happens, nobody can take this away from me. This series represents so much more to me than just books; it has been a ray of light in my darkest hour. I can always count on losing myself for at least a few hours with Harry, leaving all my troubles behind.

I am a nerd, I own it, I love it, it’s who I am. Sci-fi and fantasy stories are mostly what I live for. I am not usually a big fan of non-fiction. However, I am trying to expand my horizons. This is why I joined the Read Harder challenge, it forces me to step out of my comfort zone. Reading non-fiction isn’t technically ‘stepping out’ of my comfort zone. I will read pretty much anything but I tend to stick to sci-fi, fantasy, murder mysteries and thrillers. I can’t resist a good story.

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Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna

I found this book by complete fluke. I had no idea what to expect – I don’t judge a book by it’s cover. This book blew me away. I will be honest, I wasn’t stoked by her writing style as much as I was about her story-telling. The story spans a few generations and is so beautifully told that it evokes emotions you normally wouldn’t feel for fictional characters. The most interesting thing I found about this book, however, was how my perspective changed when I read the book at different phases of my life. As I grew older, it wasn’t just about an epic romance; it was also about the fate of rape victims in India, of rape itself and how no one can ever predict how what life may throw at you next.

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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Oh! How I love this book. This is one of those ‘food for thought’ books all while being one of the most intriguing stories I have read. It’s fascinating how all the different short stories come together and are connected while being seemingly disconnected. I would describe this as the Black Mirror of books. It is also kind of a cheat to add this to this list because you can always pick and choose only a select short stories to read without having to read the entire book. Of all the short stories in this book, my favorite is ‘The Exiles’. It gave me the chills.

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This was the best book I read in all of 2017. I read 17 books and this one easily takes the cake. Her writing style is so unique, I literally have no words to express how much I enjoyed it. I will try because this is a blog post about books. I visited Kerala when I was in undergrad and have a lot of malayali friends. I spent four years surrounded by their rich culture. Reading this book, somehow, brought back all my memories from that time. I will say this, I did not enjoy the end. She added a little bit of an ‘after story’ to the novel and I could have done without it. It seemed to me she added that part only for the sake of increasing her sales and it was definitely disappointing. Apart from that, this book was a delight. I will read this again except the last part.

On a side note – her latest book Ministry of Utmost Happiness seemed dull in comparison. If you plan on reading this book, I would suggest reading Ministry of Utmost Happiness before this one because it will not live up to it’s predecessor.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Enough has been said about this classic by a lot of people. There is nothing I can say to add on to that. This is my favorite classic of all classic literature. I am a sucker for epic tragic romances, what can I say?

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

My love for Geek Love is a mysterious one. I have never been able to understand what exactly it is about this book that I love. I guess it classifies as a tragic romance but it is so much more than that. Frankly, her writing style isn’t outstanding, the story itself isn’t new and the characters aren’t special but put all that together and you have this amazing, haunting read. I have thought long and hard about why this book is so appealing to me. I really think it might just be that I picked this one up when I had been feeling like an outsider. It was a time in my life I did not think I belonged anywhere. I am definitely not comparing myself to carnival folk, I do understand their struggles are great. I think at that time in my life I was able to relate to their feeling of discrimination and abandonment.

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Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

How can I call myself a nerd and not include Lord of the Rings in this list? This series is here on it’s own merit, though, not just because I am a nerd. I don’t think I need to say anything about them. If you haven’t read it, it is the gospel of fantasy books everywhere. I have never read any other book that is so immersed in it’s world and so detailed. I also strongly believe this is the only book-to-film adaptation that does any justice to the story (extended version of course).

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A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

I enjoy a murder mystery more than the average Joe. Agatha Christie is my favorite thriller genre author. Her mysteries are so well thought out. I would say, the one problem people usually face while reading her books is that there’s a lot of detail about the setting. She can easily spend three pages describing a room. Now, that is not everybody’s cup of tea. It doesn’t bother me that much. In fact I enjoy it, it helps make my imagination that much more accurate and clear. Why this book in particular, you may ask. This was my first ever Agatha Christie book. It has sentimental value. I do prefer the plot of ‘Cards on the Table’ but in my opinion, this is the mystery you can read over and over again without ever losing interest.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Five words – it is a feminist classic. Bonus – there is also a tragic romance.

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Tell Me Your Dreams – Sidney Sheldon

Before you judge me, hear me out. This is a guilty pleasure. I picked up Sidney Sheldon during my mid-teens. I must have read over half of everything he has ever written. This is the pizza of books. Is it good for you? No. Is it entertaining? Oh, definitely. I could re-read this book a million times because who doesn’t love pizza?


I hope you have enjoyed my list of books I would re-read forever. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have read any of these books or if you think I would enjoy some books that you have read.

Check out my Goodreads for books I am currently reading.

Voices in my head

First, let me apologize for not posting anything in the last two days. My PMS has been pretty bad this time around and it was messing with my head. There is a voice in my head that won’t quit. It won’t stop telling me all of the awful things about me. Then there is me that puts up a fight, tries to rationalize, induce some logic to the poison being spewed. Good days are when the I triumph and bad days are when I am too tired to fight back.

There is a voice in my head that knows all the wrong things to say, there is another voice in my head that knows all the right things to say and then there is me. Who do I listen to? – Me

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Cabrillo National Monument

Mental illness manifests in many forms. It isn’t a right or wrong situation, it is a large spectrum of severeness. To each their own demons.

For the longest time in my life, there never was a voice in my head. Perhaps because the world around me was so busy and bustling with activity or because I was too young to have realized the existence of one. Maybe it was just dormant and bidding its time. One day, the day I moved into my apartment at grad school, it woke up. Sitting there alone (my roommate hadn’t arrived yet), everything was so quiet. No traffic, no noise, no people shouting, no TV, nothing. I heard this voice retelling my life story in my head, reliving some of the awful things I had done. Initially, it was a voice I listened to. I had vowed to be a better person, to grow and be more understanding. I listened to the voice. I used it to become a better human being.

It was a lot of hard work, constantly criticizing and improving myself, looking at myself under a microscope and analyzing everything I said and did. It obviously did not come naturally. Who knew that not judging people, walking in their shoes and trying to remember everyone has a story would be such a difficult task. It took me years, over four, before I was at a place where the voice in my head started to find fewer things. Of course, it is a continuous process, you never really stop bettering yourself, but I had reached a point in my life where I was happy with myself. I could look at myself in the mirror and not cringe; I started to love myself. There were flaws but I owned them, I loved them, I knew I would continue to get better.

There was a downside, however. The voice in my head started to exaggerate things, it would find ways to hit my self-esteem and to make me feel bad about unimportant things. It wasn’t too hard fighting the voice down for a while. I had achieved a lot after all, I had worked hard at becoming the person I wanted to be. I had a lot of good days before I even saw a bad day. Let me tell you, the voice was good at what it did. Because it was me, who else knows me better than I do? Who best to hit me on my weaknesses? But it wasn’t as strong, maybe it was still learning.

Something happened that I had not anticipated. I fell in love with a man. Honestly, a very toxic man. It was the most poisonous relationship I have ever been in. I did not realize how much impact it had on my life until I was out of it. He would make me feel bad about myself – about the things I ate, the clothes I wore and, worst of all, of my past. My past, is obviously, in the past. I am no longer that person, whatever I may have done or not done, I repented, fixed and moved on. No one has the right to make someone feel bad about themselves. It was a very long eleven months and the aftermath left me, to the say the least, devastated. My self-confidence had been chipped away at, parts of me were missing and hardest to deal with, was the guilt that I had allowed a man to this to me. It was one of my lowest points, a slump I did not know how to deal with. That’s when the evil voice reared it’s head in full force.

It was a time where I isolated myself from a lot of people and plunged into depression. I went days with really bad eating habits, developed insomnia or sometimes slept for hours during the day. I never thought I could get out of my head, everything seemed futile. Even my favorite hobbies held no interest for me. I put up a face at work and it drained me. One day I got lucky. I woke up and I realized I am a fighter. If I could leave my whole life behind and move to a brand new country, I could pull myself together again. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford some therapy, dig deep within myself to find the strength to get up and be my own anchor. Not all of us have the luxury of seeing the bright sun hidden behind the shadows. But if I can survive, so can you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows strength and a desire to improve your health. That is all we really have, our health. We are our constant company and the journey is so much better when we are healthy – physically and mentally.

To this day, that voice has not left me. It has been three years, I have sought help, worked harder than before and am definitely a lot better, but there are days when even the slightest things can tip me off. I have been blessed with wonderful friendships and relationship and the strength to fight. It helps to know, I am not alone in the struggle and there are people always ready to help. Every bad day I tell myself – it is okay to have a bad day, I will survive and historically, my track record is 100% perseverance.

Nation of Immigrants – Part Two

Have you read Part One?

Panic. It is all consuming, takes over your mind and body. Leaves you paralyzed. It can last for a minute that feels like an eternity. If you are lucky, you will feel a detachment, an out-of-body experience. Your soul will float above your body, looking at the scene below unfold and your brain will struggle to comprehend the situation.

It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn – Paulo Coelho

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Women’s March 2017

The meeting was done, they had said what they wanted to say. My employment was to be terminated on Wednesday, I was to mail all the equipment to them by the next day.  Their reason, at least verbally, was that the their work requires a security clearance. I had worked for them for over two and a half years without one but now it was an issue. I explained I could get a clearance if I had a green card – enough clearance to continue working on the product I had already been privy to for over two and a half years. Apparently, the big boss did not want to sponsor a green card. If you are not very familiar with the work visa process, you’re probably wondering why I was reacting so strongly to being laid off. Read on to find out.

At this time, I did not know how long I was legally allowed to remain in the country once my employment had been terminated. My visa and stay in the country entirely depends on my employment. Being laid off wasn’t the problem, it was the complete lack of notice. I was given two days notice. Two days! I had worked there for over two years, I was the eighth employee hired and they were cutting me off with two days notice while I wasn’t even in the city.

P completely understood the predicament I was in but they didn’t care. My HR rep’s exact words “I understand you have to now leave the country. We will pay for your return ticket. According to my sources, you may have to leave by the end of the week”. I remember these words, they are etched in my brain forever. They knew what they were doing. Making me uproot my entire life, four years of life in five days with two days of notice. Of course, they are not legally required to give me any notice. It is called moral courtesy. It would cost them a mere $2000 to give me two weeks notice, which they had to end up paying anyway.

I called my lawyer, I was told I had 60 days before I would have to leave. It calmed me down greatly. Losing a job is hard but losing my status is terrifying. The talk with my lawyer had calmed me down enough to be able to think. I had accrued 10 days of paid time off that they were legally required to give me. I called my HR back, told her I wanted to take my vacation time off and I gave myself an additional 12 days. I also couldn’t burn any bridges, I had to be polite. I might need them for reference. They guaranteed I would get glowing references from any of my coworkers should I need it.

The worst day of my life. I was sure I would have to leave but I couldn’t let it get to me. I had to bunker down and get to work. I pulled all the favors, reached out to my entire network. It was a time full of fear and dread. It was hard work, October is not a hiring period. It is the beginning of holiday season. After 45 days of hard work and a giant hole in any savings I might have had, I was able to find a new job. I don’t steal jobs, I am good at what I do. I work hard to gain the skills and I work hard to prove my worth.

For the time, I could continue to stay. Here’s the thing about most immigrants – our lives are in constant flux, constant reliability on external factors, constant panic and constant fear.  We are exploited, are not entitled to any rights, ridiculed at and treated like subpar human beings and yet we are here. Has any one ever bothered to stop and think why that might be? The worlds we come from are so devoid of the things we desire in our soul that these exploitations seem like a price we can bear.

I could have just returned to India. What life would I be returning to? A life I have forgotten to live. In America, I have my freedom, independence, opportunities I would never have back home, relationships and friendships; my life is here now. I love my country and there are over a billion people living there but I have forgotten how to live there. I have set my roots here, I have established my identity and my world here.

Personally, I come from a country I could potentially return to. What about others who can never go back? Who have come here to seek asylum from the horrors of war and terrorism? Who are escaping a past so terrible, uprooting their lives was the only choice? Why should we be threatened by them? We should open our arms and help each other out as much as we can. We are all born as one, borders are manmade lines. If immigrants threaten you, then please do some research. Why do you think they threaten your way of life? Don’t let yourself be swayed by hate speech. Learn for yourself, expand your horizons on your own, talk to the immigrants about their life, don’t make assumptions. At the end of the day, if you think about it, we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants.

Nation of Immigrants – Part One

In India, every one thinks America is the land of dreams. There is an illusion of money, richness and freedom associated with the country. The plan is always to complete your Masters, find a great job, work for a couple of years, get married, buy a house and move to India in your old age as a millionaire. That is the American dream. Little does anyone understand the hurdles and hoops one has to jump to ‘find a great job’.

you broke the ocean in half to be here, only to meet nothing that wants you – Nayyirah Waheed

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Chicano Park mural

The company (let’s call it C) I interned at welcomed me back after graduation on my OPT (Optional Practical Training). They told me, I would work on my OPT until December and at that point they would sponsor my H1-b. I had no reason to doubt them. I had been treated very well during my internship, I had been given great feedback and they had reached out to me on their own after graduation. November comes around and I bring up the topic of H1-b. They have me apply for a position internally and I go through 5 rounds of interviews at the end of which they told me I was the candidate they would pick. Two days later, however, they come back and tell me they have had some problem with H1-b visas recently and they were unwilling to sponsor any more at this point in time. This was my first job, I had heard of my coworkers having trouble and I believed them. This was in 2013 when immigration wasn’t a problem and there were several other companies willing to hire immigrants.

I began a new job search, went through several rounds of interviews at several companies and was finally hired at another company (let’s call it P). It was a start up with 3 programmers, one HR rep, one project manager, operations liaison and the big boss. I was the eighth employee to be hired. I began work in April of 2014 and understandably the deadline to apply for H1-b for the year had passed. I worked my ass off, I showed initiative, creativity, leadership; I was very enthusiastic. Why wouldn’t I be? It was my first adult job. I loved the work they did, I loved being an integral part of small and close knit team. Everyone was very supportive and friendly. 2015 April, time for my annual appraisal, they were so impressed they promoted me and promised me a $10,000 raise! They even applied for my H1-b. Everything seems great, doesn’t it? Here’s the first red flag I was too blind to see. They did not actually give me the raise. They changed my title, I had more work to do but I wasn’t seeing the money in my paycheck. At one of our team lunches, our operations liaison let slip that they were waiting on my H1-b to be approved before giving me my raise. At the time, I was naive and I trusted them. They were my first company, I had no reason to doubt them. October rolls around and my visa is approved, I get the raise and I am a happy camper.

I continue to work with diligence, I was rewarded with a project that I completed from start to finish, they included me in business decision meetings, I was involved in hiring and training new hires. Here’s a little vague background on P. They have two products – one is a direct contract with the government and the other is an off-the-shelf software product. Obviously, the government contract required security clearance but the software product did not. Besides, it was my baby. I was involved in that product since it’s inception. So, I am staring at April 2016 – two years of being an exemplary employee. I am very happy with my salary and not looking for another raise. I did have another request, though. It was time for them to start looking into sponsoring me for a green card. It’s the natural next step. I have another wonderful annual review and I broach the subject of a green card. Being a startup, they did not have much information about the process. I did my research and provided them with great references and even found them a lawyer. P seemed optimistic about the process.

Another October rolls around, I haven’t heard anything about my green card yet and I believe they are gathering information. Now at this time, I had to visit a friend in a different city. He had been through some tough times, I was going out for moral support for a few days. P has a great work-from-home option and I explained the situation to them. They were quite understanding as I was only going to be gone for about 4 days. I land on Saturday, I have a great weekend. I log into my computer Monday morning and I have a meeting invite from my HR rep titled ‘Projects and Resource Requirements Meeting’ for that afternoon. Suddenly, there’s an alarm bell going off in my brain. I have no idea why, call it sixth sense or intuition but I knew something wasn’t right. I immediately texted one of my best friends and she told me I was being paranoid for no reason. I do have a tendency of overthinking and jumping to the worst conclusions. I am an anxious person and am constantly forming awful scenarios in my head. I calmed down slightly, I reasoned with myself. There was no reason to believe I was going to lose my job, it could just be about starting a new project or launch of a new product or hiring on more employees.

I completed a few tasks for the day, prepared myself for the meeting. It wasn’t a video conference, just a phone meeting. The invitees were my HR rep, my project manager and me. I definitely had prepared myself but there was no way to know I was facing literally the worst day of my life.

Are you starting Grad school?

When you decide to move from India to the US for grad school, you naturally try to gather as much information as you can. Here’s the kicker – no one tells you what it is actually going to be like. Either they themselves are in denial, they don’t want you to know how hard it is, the struggle is worth it or maybe (the rare case) it truly is as chill as it all seems.

So in my uncertainty, I went to graduate school and there it all happened. – Ted Nelson

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Assignments (Used the app Prisma to edit the photo)

The picture depicts how I spent my two years at school and how I felt. All my emotions were just a big medley of hormones. I felt blurred most of the time. Maintaining a long distance relationship while trying to figure out who you are, socializing and finishing up assignments will drain you out. A brand new country, with no one to be your anchor, no one to fall back on, no one to confide in and everyone competing with each other. For me, trusting and letting someone else get close is very hard. When you realize you are an island, it can be empowering but it is also an all consuming loneliness. The loneliness doesn’t ever really go away. It becomes a layer all around you lurking just below your skin, threatening to take over at the slightest provocation.

I will let you in on a secret. It wasn’t my idea to attend grad school. It was my mom’s idea. I wasn’t very stoked on it until my then boyfriend convinced me that it was the right thing to do for our relationship. Living in different countries was supposed to be good for us, there’s a red flag if there ever was. I am not complaining, things turned out great for me… eventually.

The two years spent at grad school should have been the hardest of my life. Everyone talks about how school work is going to consume you. Honestly, looking back now, grad school was not nearly as hard as the rest of my journey here has been. There are two ways to approach grad school – you can learn all the practical skills you need to be good at a job or learn all the theoretical information and never worry about if this will actually help you with a job. Unfortunately, I chose the latter. I wasn’t aware that’s what I was doing. I had so many other things to deal with. It was my first time living alone, I had to manage my finances, cook for myself, clean up after myself, all while being an adult and finishing up the coursework; not to mention meeting new people, handling relationships and the heartbreak and pain that brings. If you want to attend grad school, remember, the two years are not the most stressful. What comes after is what will turn your hair grey – job hunt, interview preparation, excelling at your job and finally keeping that job.

Sometimes, I feel I might have squandered my time at grad school. If only I had known, if I had had some job experience or if I had an idea of what it meant to uproot my life. Although I never felt I belonged in India, living in a new country did also feel isolating. I was surrounded by Indians most of the time during grad school and it didn’t really feel like something different. The isolation and feeling foreign came once I graduated and moved to a different city.

On my first day of school, I was unpacking and found my notebook from college that I used to write part of a book. Just like many college students, I thought I should write a book about my life. As I sat there reading it, it hit me how juvenile it all was. All I wrote about was pain caused by petty things. I had written that only about a year ago and it felt trivial. I also started to reflect on my personality in high school and in college. I was very stubborn and egoistic in high school and college, I was dependent and spoilt. I decided I was going to use my time at grad school to also grow as a person.

In spite of the stress of coursework, pain of betrayal and heartbreak, confusion of an early 20-something new adult and the loneliness of a new country, I grew as a person. I became independent and learnt to be more understanding of people. I learnt to not judge (how could I after some of the things I had done), to put myself in other people’s shoes and let go of my ego. I am glad I had the opportunity and I am blessed to have come out of there with two wonderful friendships that are still pretty strong to this day.

 

Let us start at the beginning

It has been over five years since the day the picture was taken. Yet, it feels only like yesterday. I can remember almost everything from my time at Grad school; not in an everything-is-crystal-clear sort of way but more in a flashes-of-moments-in-a-surrealistic-tone kind of way.

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it — Paulo Coelho

IMG_9930Graduation

My departure from India was extremely stressful to say the least. My mom had yelled at me, it was my first time alone at an airport, I was terrified I was going to lose my documents and yet somewhere in the corner of my soul I had this tiny exhilarating feeling. As I type this, almost seven years later, I can transport myself to that day, sitting on an airport bench with my purse in hand and my carryon beside me. I had no idea what lay ahead of me, I had no expectations for the life I wanted to build. My heart, brain and soul were saturated with emotions with what was happening at that moment to even comprehend what was to come.

As I sat on the bench waiting for my flight, I realized how everything in my life had been leading up to that point. I always thought it was a cliched expression used by literary authors for affect but sitting there, I could see how every decision I had made since I was a tween had led to that moment. It was one of the most important days of my life, a turning point I had not anticipated. Years later, today, I can tell with confidence that was the moment I grew up. It was the moment I realized, I was finally free to be who I wanted be, to be who I already was.

Living in India had never been easy for me. I hated competing for the best grades, was never interested in academics unless it was English literature, preferred Harry Potter over going to temples and visiting unknown relatives, never bothered with weird Brahmin cultures my grandparents wanted me to follow. I think the hardest was demanding to be treated as an equal to my brother. I wasn’t allowed to walk home alone even from a few blocks way, I wasn’t allowed on a road trip until all my friends’ parents had met my parents. These were just a few small things that made my life so much harder. And there I was, alone in a big airport, just me and my bags on my way to a new country. No one to tell me what to do and how to live.

This sort of freedom is a double edged sword. I have sustained a few nicks (an understatement) since that day at the airport. In spite of all the pain and struggle, I wouldn’t change a single thing.