I used to think – “I don’t want to change.”

I liked myself as a kid. I liked being a kid. No responsibilities, care-free days and mostly, home-cooked meals. But then I grew up and went off to school in Canada. The world around me changed – the place, the people and the food. And I had to change with it. But, I told myself that I hadn’t really changed. That when I went back home, everyone would still recognize me as the same old brother or son or friend. It was scary to think that something would change me and someone close to me wouldn’t recognize me anymore.

Over the past year, I have been working on myself. On my behaviours, my routine, my inner thoughts and how they manifest in my conversations and interactions with people. I am also being mindful of my healing processes. There is much that has happened against what seemed like the flow of the world. We are changing what’s normal and in doing so, we’re trying to figure out what our new flow is and how it all works, But I am not writing about COVID today. I am writing about change.

As I aim to transform myself into a more mindful individual, more questions about change come up.

Am I changing too much? Will I become too different? Do I want to change?

After some thought, here is what I’ve come up with. The idea behind taking up healthier practises and trying to be more mindful is to improve your way of life as a person. Since I’ve started meditating, I find myself going into the rest of my day with a clear(er) head. Reflections allow me to evaluate my conversations with people. And of course, introspecting about difficult days and hurtful conversations helps me understand how and why I approach things.

Often times, we think of healing as a process that takes us back to our original state. But consider this. If you have ever worked through a difficult period in your life and consider yourself healed, are you back to your original unhurt state? Can you ever go back to the point where that hurt or trauma had never entered in your life? No. You carry the hurt and the recovery forward with you and it shapes you.

Some say change is a constant. It will occur whether you want it to or not. COVID was a big change but if it hadn’t occurred smaller changes would still happen everyday. As I invoke certain practises in my daily routines, I bring about change. This is not inflicted change, rather it is controlled change. Change of my own making, so to say. I choose to bring about positive changes by taking baby steps towards meditation and mindfulness.

I also think of the worldly changes that happen in our lives. The ones we can’t control. Like friends who choose to stop reaching back or family members who make selfish decisions. When your school shifts online and you suddenly have to change everything about your mode of learning. When you find yourself feeling silly for having put so much into a one-sided relationship. All these are changes we don’t control. And I have found that when I experience these un-controllable situations, my personal changes come to the rescue.

Meditation, mindfulness and reflections help me find the way forward by looking inward. These changes that I choose to bring to my life, work to balance the uncontrolled ones that are flung at me. And that answers my questions. I change a little bit every day but I control the real change in my life. I give it direction and allow it to take me where I would like to go.

So, no, I am not changing too much. And, yes, I will become different but from the changes of my own making. And most importantly, yes I do wish to change. I wish to grow and find new ways to live a more mindful life. I’ve answered my own questions, and I’d like to ask you one as I conclude this post,

If change is a constant, wouldn’t you rather it fundamentally came from within you?

P.S. I hope you all stay safe. Wear masks in public areas. Check up on friends and family. Take care of yourselves folks!

What I give

Our lives are full of giving and taking, but today I have an urge to write about the former.

What is it that you give? To others but more importantly, to yourself.

The past month has been trying, to say the least. I am balancing school, my passions and am trying to stay stable during the isolation. It’s also been a year since I’ve been home and I have no idea when I’m heading back. When will I even feel safe enough to do so? School is all different. It’s just sitting at my desk all day clicking one Zoom meeting link after the other. Then I video call home and its another screen. And when I attend my weekly Toastmasters (public speaking) clubs, its just more screen time.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been consistently below -10 outside and it’s made me not want to go for walks. Midterm season is here and there’s lesser and lesser time to read and introspect. I feel that, slowly, these months are taking away all the good/comfortable things that help me cope.

I am still trying my best to give to others. To give them my attention when they call or text, or to help when I can. Be it listening to what’s going on with them or to offer whatever support I am capable of in that moment. I am trying but it feels like I can’t give like I used to. Or it just takes more and more strength to stay the way I was.

That’s where I turn to what I give myself. And it’s what’s keeping me afloat. Maybe the only thing keeping me going.

It’s the smallest things, to be honest. Listening to podcasts for 3 hours straight. Adding an hour or two of sleep during the day between classes. Sometimes leaving an 80 minute lecture when there’s 10 minutes left but I feel done with it. Reading the Mockingjay when I should be studying. Listening to the same three songs over and over again.

Beyond these physical changes, I’m constantly reminding myself that this is a rough time for a lot of people, so it’s alright to feel this way. It’s alright to not conquer every moment. That the goal is to get through all this and come out on the other side still standing.

As of right now, things that make me feel better in the moment, are important.

The question is “What do I need to give myself right now?”

And whatever the answer is – rest, silence, a conversation with someone, a trip to the grocery to just pick up snacks – I move towards it. While this may sound like it, it isn’t a lifestyle of avoiding hard or unpleasant things like studying. Rather, they help me find the strength I need to deal with the difficult and challenging aspects of everyday.

I’m trying to show up for myself. To listen inwards.

When it bothers you

Imagine this scenario: A close friend or someone in the family does something that bothers you. It could be a recurring habit they have. It could be the attitude they foster or perhaps, the things they say. I don’t mean if they simply have a different viewpoint than yours but rather if they are being disrespectful, rude or hurtful in their words and actions.

What do you do?

Most people, I would think, do not prefer confrontations. I know I don’t. Most people would either overlook it or change the topic of conversation to something that isn’t so bothersome. And that makes sense. The flight response is often easier than the fight response. But there are some that choose the latter. There are people that call others out on their wrong actions on the spot. They don’t mind creating a scene because they wish to do something about what happened right then and there. It happens more so in movies than it does in real life, but it does happen.

Now I don’t really advocate for one or the other. I believe our childhood experiences, the company we keep and our environments influence us to be one or the other. We often relinquish control and do what feels right because past events have moulded us that way. But I’d like to talk about what comes after.

Are you someone who forgets and forgives? Are you someone who holds grudges and brings those moments up every now and then? Maybe you’d like to think you’re the first option but you have some of the second in you. That’s alright. It’s not a black and white world. There’s some grey in there too. So what comes after?

I’d say the first step is considering distance. I’ve recently distanced myself from people who are not good for me. It’s not all that easy and you may find yourself alone. But the important thing is establishing whether their presence in your life does you more harm than good? Distance can be tricky and has many levels. You need to find the one that works in your case. Some people you can’t avoid forever. You have to see them at some point and unless you wish to be one of those “watch me ignore you” people, you will need to find a better way to co-exist. If you choose to stay close and talk about issues and work on them, then I wish you luck and strong and positive relationships.

If you do decide to add some distance, the second step would be establishing boundaries. What topics are off the table if you do have to communicate? How often do you wish to see them? How long until you try and patch things up? These do not have to be set in stone but they will help steer you as you try to limit the negative presence in your life. Boundaries work because they give you space to think and re-evaluate. They do not have to be the equivalent of building a wall between two people. If there is mutual understanding, they could be lines in the sand that could be swept away as your relationship heals.

The last step in my opinion, is giving people a second chance. I have always put my faith in people, but that may not be the same for you. I find this step to be important because it’s about reconnecting. This step is difficult. It requires a leap of faith with the possibility of a painful landing. You may choose not to and you would be in your rights to do so. Ponder on this when you distance yourself.

I’ve gone out on a limb here and tried something new. I’m not one for doling out specific advice but this is a process that has worked for me in the past. The goal is to surround yourself with the right people. This past year has shown us that extended periods of hardships can come out of nowhere. When so much is out of our control, we must turn to what is.

Taking care of yourself is not a process that will leave everyone happy. You cannot get along with everyone. If something bothers you, you need distance or some positive change. Don’t let things stay the way they are and pretend it doesn’t bother you. That’s just adding more to a full plate.

I wish you all strength, patience and whatever you need to navigate difficult relationships!

Happy holidays! Make sure you wear masks in public places, take precautions and let’s get through this responsibly!