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!

Baby steps

I’ve recently found myself using the phrase ‘baby steps’ more and more in conversations. It comes up mostly whenever I am talking about rough/unproductive days and is surprisingly effective at getting the message across. The phrase just feels right. Despite the adorable nature of the phrase and setting aside mental images of pudgy babies stumbling around, let me tell you why I find it to be such an effective way to express myself.

As grown ups, we find ourselves juggling multiple things at the same time all the time. Take me right now. Currently, I am trying to study for school, to actively participate in two Toastmasters clubs, to find time to read, do laundry, meet up/stay in touch with friends after making promises and mostly to keep this blog running. I bet your schedule is way busier but I have trouble getting all of mine done as it is. As a result, I usually end up dropping the ball on something. An assignment left for the last minute, missing a Toastmasters meeting because I was working on the assignment till 3am or even just having a slow day when nothing gets done.

Now wind the clock all the way back to when you were learning how to walk. You were most likely bumping into stuff, relying on things for support and losing your balance after every few steps. Probably fell on your butt more than a few times and woke the neighbours up. But the point is you dropped the ball a lot of times. But, at that age it isn’t seen as wrongful or disappointing that you do. Instead, the act of taking baby steps is translated to “slowly but surely getting to where you want to be.” Literally.

I don’t mean to compare your difficult classes or hectic work projects to a baby walking but rather to how you treat yourself when you stumble. To me personally, the phrase articulates that I’m learning to be the version of myself that can manage my workload perfectly. A version that gets his school readings done on time so he can get to other readings of a more fictional nature. A version that checks up on his friends and gets the laundry done on time.

I think we’re all trying to be that person who can get all of our work done perfectly, but we’re just not there yet. We drop the ball because we’re human. And that can make someone think badly of themselves. Rather, think of those tough days as baby steps. Small, unsteady but necessary steps leading to a future where you get to walk down whatever path you choose. Literally.

So, don’t hate the unproductive days. Don’t hate yourself on those days. And if you ever find yourself on the floor after taking a fall, just remember.

Baby steps!