I’ve been struggling for some time now, with ideas of what this last post for the year should be about. It’s been a truly eventful year after all. For me, for this blog, for my country and for the world at large.
I completed my master’s in law, travelled to 8 new countries (seems like so long ago!) and finally saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (big moment, that). This blog got off to a terrific start and saw us hitting some great numbers (go ladies!). India went through some historic events – the wave of free speech struggles at JNU and other universities, some stellar performances at the Olympics and Paralympics and suffering the aftermath of de-monetisation, to name just a few. And then the world. Well, the world went through Brexit and Trump. Not to mention everything that did and continues to happen in Syria, Turkey and Palestine, among several other conflict zones.
And it’s right about then that I started to feel just as bleak as you feel now. I’m an optimist for the most part but even I have to admit that despite efforts at putting a good spin on it, 2016 seemed to have its scales tipped in favour of awfulness. But that’s where the optimism kicked in. Everything that goes down, comes up. So logically speaking (because who can argue with logic), 2017 must definitely be a good year (no pressure). So, in order to help this come true, I came up with a list of 4 things that I would do next year. I have deliberately chosen not to call them resolutions because I think that puts too much pressure on things and strangely makes it an all-or-nothing deal. Instead, I’ve told myself that if I do even half of everything on here, it will count. So here are my few cents –
- Listening and really paying attention: When I came to Oxford last year, I felt like I had been thrown into a sea of people, all of whom wanted to talk to each other and to me. But after a while, I realised that most of them had no interest in actually having a conversation beyond the clichéd name-college-course bit. And as the social fatigue grew through the first few weeks, the small talk became more and more painful. Even then, I was naïve enough to assume that it would stop once people had a chance to know others. But of course, there were too many people and too little time. So it continued. So much so that some friends and I started calling it “flitty eyes” i.e. the phenomenon of a person talking to you, while at the same time, scanning the room with their eyes for other people that he/she wanted to talk to. And to my immense horror, I caught myself doing the same on a couple of occasions. That’s when I told myself that from now on, I would try to really listen and pay full attention to every conversation. Even if that meant politely excusing myself if it became really intolerable. But the big mistake I made was to think that this would be it. This year, when I went back and it was the start of a new academic year and a new course, it felt like history was repeating itself even though I was trying hard to resist. But I have now realised that this isn’t a one-time thing. It’s something to constantly remind myself about and I hope to continue that in the upcoming year.
- Engaging. As constructively as possible: I wrote in an earlier post about becoming aware of the need to speak out and engage with socio-political issues. And it’s something that has come up repeatedly in my conversations with friends around the world. Today, we stand in a precarious position on many fronts. Climate change, nuclear weapons, international human rights and conflicts – you name it and it’s there. None of these issues would exist if we had consensus. Which means that the only way to pull back from falling over the edge is to talk to and understand each other, in order to reach some form of agreement. Stephen Hawking, in one of the most insightful pieces on 2016, spoke along these lines. But it’s easy to dissociate from this as an individual and assume that this needs some external change. After all, what can one person do, right? This is exactly where I want to differ. So for 2017, every time I come across an opinion different from mine, I’ve promised myself that I will engage with it, as constructively as my patience will allow. I can’t change the world alone but I can try to do something. And even if I manage to get 5 people to engage with me constructively in the process, I think it would be worth something.
- Pushing my own boundaries: One of the biggest takeaways from my experience living abroad has been my experience with doing things outside of my previous comfort zone. It ranged from the small things like cooking elaborate food (see my earlier post for more) and travelling solo across countries, to much bigger things like studying harder than ever before for my master’s and learning to juggle my own finances and savings independently.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride and it would not have been possible if I hadn’t coaxed myself into constantly trying. More than anything else, I’ve felt it impact other spheres of my life and open up my mind to new ideas and horizons. In fact, I did not even hesitate before venturing into a new discipline in another area, which seems odd in retrospect since it should have caused more anxiety than it did! It may feel like a tiny thing at times, but it’s an attitude I really want to keep up.
- Travelling, travelling and more travelling: I had started this academic year by telling myself that I would do at least one trip every month. Unfortunately, visa issues and the effort needed to cope with a completely new discipline prevented that from happening. But with those hurdles now out of the way, I’m determined to make this goal a reality. Aside from the obvious benefits, travelling to different regions and learning about their history and culture makes things so much more real. And for me, this has been a crucial part of unpacking my own identity. I really hope to continue the trend in 2017, starting with a long-awaited trip to Spain.
P.S. – I hate when people preach to me, I didn’t want to inflict that on anyone. But I am secretly hoping that some of this will resonate with you and start an endless loop of resonance. 🙂
Here’s to hoping that 2017 brings luck and joy. Have a great year!