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.

What we become

There’s always a rough patch around the corner waiting for you. As much as I want to be a person with a positive and sunny disposition, I cannot argue against this. Small or big, these patches await us all and they come and go as they please.

It could be a bitter argument, a time when money is tight or even losing a loved one. Each one chips away at us in its own way even if we don’t see it. You might find that things are just not the same after. I’ve had conversations which made me rethink entire relationships with someone. This summer I had went through the gruelling experience of fixing a big mistake I made.

When I think back to the days when I was working to correct things, I remember the kind of person I became. I created feelings of self-hate and loathed myself for a long time. Every day felt like I was paying for making a mistake and that I deserved it. I stopped doing things that made me happy. I stopped reading. I stopped listening to music. I was the only one punishing myself for making a mistake even after others forgave me. It seems almost silly now, but I was not then who I am now.

It took me a long time to start considering thoughts of acceptance and self-forgiveness and that didn’t come easy. Every day became replacing negative ideas with different ones. Every day became starting to forgive myself a tiny bit. And eventually, I put that horrid experience behind me and looked forward to better things.

To this day I think about the person I became after that rough patch. Someone filled with self-loathing. It wasn’t the person I’ve wanted to be. Perhaps the complete opposite. I’ve always wanted to help others and I’ve learned that I can’t do that unless I help myself first. You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself. That is who I chose to become. Someone who understands that simple fact. And I chose to start taking care of myself so that I could give back.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” 

– Carl Jung

I’ll end with this thought: The day I realized that my hardships turned me into someone I didn’t recognize, I started looking for a way to correct myself. What happens to me cannot deter me from being the person I intend to become. It’s not strong enough to achieve that.

I hope you all stay safe, wear masks, check up on friends and family and let’s get through this responsibly!