70: The finish line

All through school and college, you’re asked to finish what you started and not leave tasks halfway. You’d be motivated to do thanks to the report card that’d be handed to your parents at the end of the year. There’s no such thing once you leave those institutions. You become your own examiner and it’s hard to be tough on yourself.

This series has shown me that I can be accountable to myself, I can be productive and I can own what I put out into the world. These are aspects I used to count as pitfalls earlier, but I no longer think or feel that way.

Thank you for sticking around for the series, Dreamers! It’s been a lovely activity in cultivating a writing habit, no matter what head-space I am in that day. The fact remains that writing is a reflex that you can develop over time; it’s an ability that you can keep or lose based on how much you choose to exercise it. So, I’ll continue on my journey to enable others to do the same, hoping you’ll meet me at other finish lines as well!

69: I have always wanted to do that.

Meander. I have always wanted to meander. I wanted to meander through the woods, though I didn’t have any around me, when I was reading too much Enid Blyton. I wanted to meander through the empty roads at night when I grew a little older. I wanted to meander through a jungle, hoping not to meet a T-Rex, when I was watching Jurassic Park over and over again.

I still want to do that, however now it’s only because it sounds much better than wandering around. They are synonyms, you know.

Here’s what else I have always wanted to do:

  1. I want to elucidate concepts or ideas instead of simply explaining them.
  2. I want to be able to articulate well in French instead of being fluent like everyone else.
  3. I want to dispose papers or other materials instead of throwing them away.
  4. I want someone or something to kindle a thought in me instead of just inspiring me.
  5. Once in a while, I would like someone to sway me with their arguments instead of just trying to influence me.
  6. I dare sounds to reverberate instead of simply echoing.
  7. I would like to quiver when I see a wave come crashing to the shore instead of standing there shuddering.
  8. I would like to look around to find people in a pensive state instead of finding them in deep thought.
  9. When was the last time you thought to decipher something instead of just figuring it out?
  10. I would like to savour moments that I share with people instead of carelessly enjoying them.

68: You’ve got one month left.

Our French professor greeted us and cheerily declared, “You’ve got one month left!” It’s one thing to tell us sternly that we’re running out of time for our certification exam, but it’s quite unnerving to have him be happy about it. He’s excited about it because he believes in us. We’re worried because you can never be prepared enough for the big day.

A part of me thinks I can do it for there are 1080 hours between me and exam, but that’s just a total of hours, not the total hours I’ll spend studying. Another part of me thinks it’s better to wait and appear for the exam in time. The part that’s at the forefront is the one with her head on fire, running around in circles; this one counted all the hours I didn’t spend studying and it’s a terrifying number.

I will calm down, hopefully soon enough to compose my ever-famous list of topics to study, which I shall tackle day-by-day. Until then, I’ll mull over the fact that I have one month left.

To distract myself, I’ll count off all the things I’ve achieved in 30 days. That’s a reasonable coping mechanism, right? What would you do?

67: Find your pace in anything you do.

On a daily basis, I come across people trying to be better than the person sitting next to them or a counterpart they have in any space. I understand how it is to be competitive and petty because I do dabble in that art at times. It’s very easy to point at someone else before owning up to your mistakes and it’s very easy  to yank on someone’s leg and send them tumbling down the ladder you’re trying to climb.

Sometimes have to learn to dodge those falling off the ladder while you climb at your own pace. So far, I have never said you should have a steady pace; you will have to pick up the pace if you see a few rungs empty and waiting to be occupied or slow it down if it’s too crowded on the ladder for anyone to do anything.

To clear up another assumption about ladders, I’d like to point out that they exist in spaces other than that related to your career. It could be your relationship with your family or your pet, or maneuvering lanes in traffic, or learning something new, or relearning something you thought you were an ace at. You’ll find challenges or they’ll find you.

You’ll find challenges or they’ll find you.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a ladder all the time. It could be synonymous to trying to reach something on the top shelf, looking for the best route on the map to get to some place, an obstacle course in kindergarten or simply fighting the urge to be too lazy to grab the remote on the table in front of you.

Picking my pace and having the conviction to stick to it is the biggest challenge I have to face in anything in that I do. I find myself wanting to emulate other people’s routines or habits and it never works out.

When I was a kid, I had, and I still do have, the ability to grasp information with little to no effort. I can memorise content, routes, songs, words, faces and places, at times involuntarily. I used to think everyone could do the same things I could. It’s different for everyone. The realisation hit me when I found people who had more of this ability than I did; I then noticed people who didn’t have this ability at all.

Everyone has their own pace, goals and means that they’ll use to achieve the same; it is up to you to find your own pace, play with what suits you best and be willing to change it up to go further than you planned or cut it short before you reach your goal. The challenges are always evolving and we’ll just have to catch up or fall back.

66: Do you believe in the impossible?

AIW Quote

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my all-time favourites and it’s the kind of book that grows with the reader. I have written about books that offer new elements when you read them at different ages; they change with your perspective, maturity and experience and evolve as much as you do as a person or/and as a reader, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of them.

The first time I read the book, I was eight years old. I loved the animals and odd characters, and that was all. The Cheshire Cat still holds a piece of my heart! I have read it at least 10 times since then and I am still counting.

Each time I read it, I am left wondering about the number of metaphors in the story I had never noticed before (more about that in a post, someday!). Alice’s imagination takes her places and it’s strong enough to make her and the reader believe it is real. What stops us from doing the same?

If Alice never mustered enough curiosity to follow a rabbit, a formally-dressed, talking rabbit at that, down a rabbit-hole, real or otherwise, she would have never found Wonderland. If we never strive to achieve something that seems impossible, and if we never believe enough to take any road that may lead us to our goal, we’ll never get there.

A goal doesn’t necessarily need to seem impossible, it could be simple, of course – grow a garden, write poems, paint every week, learn hairstyles, drink enough water. It’s the overwhelming ones that truly seem impossible – establish and sustain a business, be fluent in a handful of languages, scale peaks, swim across an ocean,  be kind to everyone – but people have done it.

It begins with simply wondering about what would happen if  you really did follow your dreams. Once you have seen the end result or destination in your mind, it’s motivation enough sometimes. That’s all it takes. Wonder is a powerful thing if you use it right!

I dream at my desk about a whole lot of things. I make possible plans and envision fantastically impossible outcomes and that makes me want to work myself to the bone to get to it. Along the journey, if you feel like you are losing momentum or inspiration, stop to take a rest like you would on any other journey. That stop could be for a day, an hour, a year or a minute, but it’s up to you to continue and find out if the goal is as impossible as it seemed when you began wondering about it.

What impossible things do you think of, Dreamers?

65: Let’s face it, shall we?

There are moments when you know for a fact that something has gone wrong, that you have said something wrong or something is about to go to pieces. It’s like waking up from a bad dream or losing your hearing after an accident. You see it happening, but you can’t stop it.

It happens when you know you are lying and you can feel the words unravelling as you speak them. You can’t slurp those words like noodles back into your mouth and save everyone some misery.

It happens when you wrong someone without meaning to. You’re either trying to save them from something or most of the times, you think you’re saving yourself. You know you could have used the honesty card, but you save that for later in the game. More often than not, the game ends before you use it.

It happens when you know your choices aren’t leading you anywhere, but you shake off that numb silence to fill it up with empty words to assure yourself that it’s all fine. And if that isn’t enough, you set out to show or tell people that you are fine, even when they didn’t want to know.

On some days, it happens all the time. All the facts gather to beat you up in an alley because you have been running away from them for so long.

Take facts one at a time, and you’ll really be fine. It takes courage and stamina to face truths about yourself that you don’t like. Perhaps, you’re trying to change something about yourself, or you’re trying to make up for something you have done, or you’re on your way to present a fact to someone else, and it won’t be easy, but it is gratifying.

64: My guide to thought-processing

Over the past few years, I have tried to come up with a process to help me think. I know we think all the time and that it never stops, but I am talking about the kinds of thinking when you choose a point to base the thought on – when you want to comprehend, imagine, summarise, or consider something, to say the least.

My process comprises of the following elements:

    1. Time: I set a limit on the amount of time I spend on a particular thought. This is quite difficult because the more you want to stop thinking about something, you do it anyways.
    2. Place: To solve the time riddle, I choose a place to think. I have a list of places assigned for thinking, mostly while I’m doing some other activity simultaneously. Some of them include my bike (when I am riding it, of course), the shower, the terrace, my bed (right before I fall asleep) and the gym.
    3. Thoughts: The most important element in a thought process, obviously, but I place them third on my list so that I know where to send them. Once I have the time and place in mind, I assign slots to the thoughts. I think a particular thought in a designated time and place. It’s kind of like handing out appointments. This takes practice, but it’s possible.
    4. Filter: Thoughts come at you suddenly and you may not always catch them all. So, by the time you get around to processing them, a lot of filtering has already taken place by way of your inability to retain those thoughts. The ones that you do have remaining are not all important. Filtering is personal and it can be done in many ways – sort them as the thoughts come to you, write them down, choose what to think about or you can save some for later. Thoughts can be random, creative, worrisome, epiphanies, questions or answers, so find different filters that work for each.
    5. Spend or Save: Now that you have a collection of thoughts, you can choose to utilise them, if they were ideas, solutions or answers or you can choose to save  them for later, if they are questions, plans, projections or solutions to probable problems. They are your thoughts and you get to take that call.

The order of this process changes based on the frequency or the speed at which the thoughts arise, but the components are constant. This process eliminates over-thinking or an over-flow of thoughts and allows me to take a step back, which usually isn’t my strong suit.

What’s your process, Dreamers?

63: The joy of invisibility

Genies are often the best characters in a story because they urge the other characters to do things they wouldn’t normally do and thus lead to disasters that we remember well. The temptation that the classic combination of three wishes offers doesn’t seem to die even a little; it’s been thousands of years since it started out and here we are today wishing for wishes.

When I watched cartoons wishing, I certainly did, too. No matter how many times I would wish on three imaginary wishes, one of them used to be the power to be invisible at will. There was something about it that I thought to be fascinating and I would use this power in so many ways in my imaginary dimension.

Thanks to the power of invisibility (and of imagination), I was able to spend a couple of nights in the school library, I was able to go for a walk in the middle of the night, I was able to sit by lions, elephants and giraffes and observe them for as long as I wished to and best of all, I was able to do this all by myself, without human interruption. My imaginary dimension still exists, though I don’t visit it all that often.

Now, as an adult (I hope I can call myself that), I wish to be invisible for other purposes. I now have a dimension of possibilities that I visit on a daily basis. It’s a place where I play out situations and conversations and observe from a distance. I wish to be invisible now to be able to observe the people I love, the people who inspire me and at times, the people who no longer exist. I wish I could observe people in their element and learn from what I can see.

Invisibility is a luxury in today’s age, but it could be affordable. You need to be creative, though. I have my ways of being invisible from time to time, and it’s refreshing. Here are some of my tried and tested methods:

  1. Shut Up: The less stimuli you offer to the world to react to, the more time and space you have to yourself. You can use this time to observe anything or anyone you wish to. This doesn’t work when you are the listener in a conversation; you better be paying attention then!
  2. Find A Hole: Have you ever seen rodents rolling in the grass? NO. They find holes to live in and no one bothers them, unless they are the Pest Control agents. So, find your haven of a hole, maybe in a coffee shop, or a mall, or a garden or a shed. You find it and tuck yourself away. Take time out for yourself and sort your mental shelves out.
  3. Zone Out: Pick a hobby, take up a sport, sing in the rain, go for a run, take care of your pet rock, read like there is no tomorrow – whatever it is, find your zone and mute everything else for a while. It’s worth it. And it’s delicious.

If you have your own ways of doing so, leave them in the comments below!

62: Kindness doesn’t have a face.

Ellen DeGeneres always says, “Be kind to one another.” at the end of her shows.

I believe that’s an important message. Though ‘kind’ seems like the keyword there, what’s more important are the words ‘one another’. Kindness is a circle, and it’s faceless. It’s a form of energy, in my opinion.

I am not going to list out how kindness can be extended to someone, but I would like to say that it’s not something you take credit for. It’s not up to you to decide for people to acknowledge and appreciate your kind gestures; it turns into a favour when you hang around for appreciation.

Furthermore, kindness is a habit. That goes to say that everyone can practice it and get better at it. Being kind to another one is a simple equation; if enough people act on it, what goes around will come around. It’s only a matter of time, but that doesn’t mean that you should wait around for it.

So, I’d like to add to what Ellen said: Be kind to one another and be on your way.

61: Here’s to Librarians!

Librarians are under-rated. Apart from all the books and reading material they have to organise and keep track of, they have as many humans to deal with.

I was nine years old when I met a real librarian and she taught me a few things about rules. One, rules are important. Two, you can break rules, and definitely bear the consequences. Three, rules are made by people who care. For now, let’s just limit these truths to the library she ruled over and do keep in mind that there were many more.

I used to follow her instructions about where to sit and what to read. She would choose a few books and leave them in the middle of the table for everyone to select. Then she would walk around making a note about which book each student was reading. A little before library hour would end, she would take another round to make sure that each student had actually made progress with what they were reading.

That last round is when she started taking notice of me. It took her about three library hours to figure out that I was doing something against her rules. She was the definition of uncompromising. The day she asked me to come to her table was terrifying.

She opened the illustrated Cinderella book I was reading and asked me if I knew how to read. I said I did and she squinted at me. She flipped to a page towards the end of the book and asked me a question about Cinderella’s godmother, and I answered. She flipped back and forth through the pages, asking me question after question. I answered them all and I answered them right. She asked me questions because she thought I was sitting and looking at the illustrations instead of reading.

This librarian, who never let a child off easy, probably wasn’t planning on doing that then either. She let me go and continued the interrogation with two other books on other days we visited the library. Eventually, she understood and she bent a rule for me; the rule she bent was the very one I broke.  I had puzzled her by reading an entire book in one hour as a nine-year-old child. She made that rule for us: read a book till you finish it. I’d finish one in an hour and be on to another book in the next one. So, she let me.

I stopped fearing librarians after that and they have always been people I look forward to. I have met librarians who support you when you need the book for a few extra days; I have had a librarian who let me borrow books on her card because the three books on my card just weren’t enough and the same one let me hide books that I wanted to read over and over again.

They may be rigid, strict, painfully organised and measured when they speak, but they do so because it requires discipline on their part. From them, I have learnt how to make allowances and relax the rules that I make, especially when you find someone the rules weren’t made for.