Stories are powerful

As a kid, when anyone came into our house, I used to bug them to tell me stories. I don’t quite remember the stories that my these people told me anymore. Looking back, I don’t even understand why I wanted to listen to those stories. As it was, it was not the age of deep thinking. I guess what I craved for was a a glimpse into a world that was not mine, something different, something wonderful.

I began writing for my school magazine in my third grade. The first few years were poems, and then I graduated to writing fiction. I was never good with storytelling; even today, I am not. I derive heavily from the life that I am part of, which is why, my stories are always, in some form, about me. I know for a fact, I could never spin up a world like Harry Potter’s. I think I do not have the imaginative mind to do it.

I have not written stories in a long time, even though I want to. I have always wanted to write good stories. But somehow, I always struggle with a good ending. Or if I have the right ending, I don’t know the story that led to that ending. Sometimes, I feel I am too young, I have not seen life enough to write anything meaningful.

It impacts how my relationship with this blog has also changed over time. There was a point when I wrote anything and everything here. These days, I don’t feel like writing unless I really feel like I have something to say. Even that is filtered to an extent. A lot of my writing are now personal, diary entries in a folder in my laptop. At this stage of life, that’s what feels right.

When I was younger, stories were independent things, with a life of limited duration. They began in the time that I started reading a book or someone started telling a story and ended when the story ended. The life of the story was within the duration of when it was told. But as I grew, as I watched movies and TV series, as I read more books (currently reading The Kite Runner), I realize that the stories we watch/read become a part of our everyday life. They somehow manage to creep into the fabric of our lives, and come back to us in their own time or affect the way we deal with our lives. As I grow, I realize, we all are also living some form of stories. Why do we want to be friends with different types of people? Because we want to witness a version of life that we are not living. We want to see how different life can be, when the actors are different. We take lessons from other people’s lives, we discover ourselves in the lens of other people’s lives. That’s why we write stories. That’s why we read stories.

Even businesses, at the end of the day, are stories. When you have a bunch of data and want to find some insights from it, what do you do? You try to visualize a story that the data can help you tell. That’s what analytics is all about. That’s why modern corporates stress so much on the art of storytelling. Analysis, done in silos, findings found in disparate chunks of data, do not make any sense unless they tie to the story that depicts the current state of the business, or tells it where it wants to go.

That’s why storytelling is powerful. That’s why art will always be counterpart of science.

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The Happiness Project | Day 30

From six to thirty: it’s a bigggggggggggggg jump! Yes, I am talking about the missing 24-odd days of blogging in The Happiness Project.

I know I promised to write every single day in May, and I failed miserably at it. I have also not been uploading any videos on my YouTube channel. There is a reason behind this: generating content is difficult. Especially, when you are also trying to live your life at the same time. Not everyday you’d have stuff that you can talk about to an audience. And I am the sort of person who does not like to pour out content just for the sake of it.

Living the twenties is hard, especially if you are on your own, out of a relationship and living far away from family and suck at forming and maintaining friendships. An interesting bit I found about myself: even though I want to be around people (because being lonely sucks), I also love silence a lot. I like thinking by myself, and recording my thoughts in a diary. If I go out for two weekends straight, I find myself craving just being at home, having to do nothing other than chill out. That’s me!

As I was writing this, I revisited the first post in this series. The idea was to reconnect with the younger self of mine, who was more curious about things. I could not complete much of the things that I had listed down in that post, like growing plants and reading new books. But I definitely have started with a few things. There is no routine to anything yet, but I did make an effort to start.

For example, I got one of my previous teammates to come over at my place last weekend and help me with learning swimming. We also made cheesecake that evening, and it ended up being absolutely amazing. I also made an effort to go to a music school for guitar lessons. I did not really find the place worth joining at this point in time, but I did try doing something about learning an instrument.

I also started reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Is everything hanging out without me? I am making very slow progress, but I am at least getting somewhere.

Another interesting turn of events at work: I moved to a new project and am leading it. The last time I was really putting efforts in leading a team was around this time last year, and that time I was just pushed into the role because there was no one else to do the same thing. However, this year, I am a year older and have seen lot more stuff at work, and while I can’t say I am completely ready for the job, at least I have a few goals that I want to achieve in this role, and I trying my best to consciously work towards them.

So, as the clock strikes midnight and we step into brand new June of 2018, am I any happier? Well, definitely yes! Much more than I was when I began journaling this. Of course, not everything is perfect. I am feeling a bit weak physically this past week, and I am also waking up in the middle of the night every single day and am unable to fall asleep for an hour or two, and it scares me that the insomniac phase from the beginning of this year is returning again, but guess what? I try to not let that affect me. Yes, I would give anything to wake up earlier and get a lot more work done, but this is how it is. Maybe, something will change and my body clock with become right again. Maybe not. But I have to stay on top of my life.

So, what did I really learn in the past month?: Sometimes, breaking promises is good. Sometimes, letting yourself do what you feel like is good, even if they do not align to your goals. But in the other times, consciously trying to make 0.01% change towards your goals can lead to 10% increase in happiness. Okay, that’s a random number – but you get the point!

Thanks for being part of my journey! If you have been with me in this Happiness Project, I hope this concluding post makes up for the lack of the promised posts. Write to me in the Comments section – I love hearing from you guys!

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The Happiness Project | Day 6

Yesterday, I went with my friend Pooja to Phoenix mall. I have been to Phoenix mall multiple times, but it never fails to mesmerize me with its crowd. People there usually are so well-dressed and good-looking that in the beginning I used to get inferiority complex! No kidding!

Having stayed in Bangalore for about 2.5 years now and having reached sort of a financial security in my own life, the inferiority complex is gone. In fact, yesterday, looking at so many good-looking people actually inspired me.

Back in 2017, I used to hit the gym almost five days a week. It had become a great habit. However, 2018 took a bit of toll on me and somehow, I ended up stopping going to the gym. The thing with life is, it is not always a forward-looking journey. It is filled with loops – sometimes the loops take you forward, sometimes backward. Not always you are moving linearly towards your final goal. I feel growing up is about accepting this and not beating ourselves up on missing a set goal. There is a reason why new year resolutions do not work for the most part. Life takes a dig at you almost everyday, and to stay put to a fixed set of goals is difficult. Sometimes, the changing goals are not bad either, it means you are responding to the lemons life is throwing at you.

Nonetheless, yesterday, I was so excited that I thought I’d definitely go to the gym. I had already walked a lot yesterday, since we were at the mall for close to four hours. Besides that, I had gone to buy groceries as well, which is another half an hour of walk to and fro. Unfortunately, when I went to the gym, there was no light, none of the switches was working! I don’t know when this happened, but last time I checked, people used to hit the gym in the evenings on weekends.

Then I thought I’d go in the morning, between 8 to 9 today. I went to bed on time, around 11.45 PM, much earlier than my usual 1-2 AM. And guess what? The mosquitoes were so annoying that I was up close an hour in the morning around 5 AM. And then I finally got up from the bed at 10 AM! Another missed goal, there!

Anyway, I am not going to let this affect me. I will figure out some other form of exercise (there is a TT court at office, probably will put that to use). The idea is to get back to the usual scheme of things (by which I mean a healthy, happier lifestyle) by this weekend. I’ll keep you guys updated! 🙂

 

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The Happiness Project | Day 5

Yesterday, unfortunately, there was no post added on The Happiness Project. I did make a promise to write everyday for the rest of the month. However, I just ended up lying on my bed and watching SUITS the entire day.

This is what today’s post is about: not SUITS, but being unable to keep commitments.

I have always been someone who has been able to keep promises. I usually always finished my school homework on time. My lab reports in college were always filled. I am never behind on my bills. I repaid my education loan on time.

But there are other things in which I am consistently falling behind: things which are personal, which do not require external commitments. I am not able to keep the promises I make to myself.

In December, last year, I started my YouTube channel. I had been posting videos on them consistently. Recently I crossed the 100 subscribers milestone as well. My channel is growing. On the one hand, it makes me happy. On the other, I am losing motivation to keep making the videos. It does not feel like a lot of work, really. But I am struggling to come up with new ideas to execute videos every week. Besides, with every video I put out, the pressure is to get a little better every time. I do not want to put up something just for the sake of putting it.

Over the course of last two years, I have realized one thing about myself: I function best when there are set goals that I have to reach. I did well in school and college because we had set grades to get and I managed my schedule around that. Now that everything is fuzzy, I am struggling to take decisions. How much money is enough money? How much should I save every month? What should by my next five year plan?

I have made plans before, plans which were sort of people-dependent. The people moved on, and I had to forget those plans and make new ones. The solution seems simple: to remove people-dependency. Logically, I know this is the right thing. But deep inside my heart, there is this craving to do something together, to share my life with people who care, to be around people who make me smile and share the same appreciation of life as I do. Such people are hard to come by, as I am not in a situation in life where I meet a lot of people in my everyday life. Plus, I am living far from my immediate family.

Somehow, coping with all this is hard. I find it hard these days to drag myself out of bed and be the boss of my own life. But that said, at least I am making efforts to live each day, without giving up on living life. Somewhere, I have this hope that things will start getting better, somewhere down in the timeline. Somewhere, I will start meeting the people that I will need in my life. And for now, perhaps that is enough.

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The Happiness Project | Day 3

A Matter of Chance

For the most part, I believe that what our hearts desire is often rewarded by the Universe. Oftentimes, I would want something badly and would not be able to figure out how on Earth would it be possible to achieve it. And then, voila! Out of nowhere, the Universe would present my heart’s desire to me.

However, as I said, this is true only for the most part. I can definitely remember countless other things that I have wanted and they have not been fulfilled so far. I have made my peace with that and moved on. In fact, in retrospect, I realize that I do not really need those things in my life.

Which is what brings me the question, in the grand scheme of design, how does the Universe decide which wants to fulfill? Especially, when there are more than one person involved in the process of fulfilling that desire? How does Universe know how far to go? Does it automatically know what is best for us and it is best to make our peace with that? Should we really leave things to chance?

How far do we have the capacity to change, what they call, the course of our lives? Am I simply destined to travel the world or can I make it happen by my sheer grit even if I was not destined to?

In my mind, I can imagine the Universe sitting at this table, with a constant flow of requests flowing in queues. It takes but a moment to decide which want to grant and which to reject. The rejected piles, with the face of dejected humans, stand by in a corner. Some of them probably accept their fate, while others decide to challenge the ruling of the Universe.

Who is the cleverer of the two? Is it always better to challenge the Universe? What if your plea was a wrong one in the first place? And your appeal is rewarded with a burnt out future? Wouldn’t giving up in the first place have been a cleverer choice?

What if you do succeed in your appeal and you really get your heart’s desire? Maybe, the appeal was all that you needed for the Universe to change its mind.

How do we decide? Growing up is perhaps this balancing act: to weigh our options of possibles and impossibles and deciding what is worth fighting for. That said, the results are never guaranteed.

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The Happiness Project | Day 2

As human beings, it is definitely important to be civil. We should be polite to people when we speak to them. But how often are we able to do it?

Over the years, toxic wastes that are not handled accumulate in relationships. We do not see their effects right then and there, but the cracks are already forming. And when they show, they are too ugly and we just can’t see how the people we knew could be that way.

I feel the best way to stay sane in life is to expand our horizons, to do a variety of things, to keep our brains involved in different things. When that does not happen, our minds think about the same things day in and day out, and we end up not only ruining our days, but for others as well.

People in suburbs and small towns face this lot more often than in big cities. Their lives are limited to their neighborhoods, their workplaces and the thoughts of making ends meet. For example, for my parents, their focus through the years that my brother and I were born and grew up, was to somehow hold the family together, manage the finances and ensure there was food on the table and education for the children. In the process, they forgot to explore their own likes and dislikes, forgot to explore who they were as people, what they liked to do for themselves, etc.

Now that both the children are away from home, they do have time on their hands, but not a variety of things to do. Eventually, they end up worrying about us, all the time. The phone conversations reflect that. The news reports they read have almost always to do with how people get killed in traffic or food adultery, and they parrot it to us so that we can be careful while walking on the road or while ordering food from outside.

None of this is bad. It is good to make your children aware of things that are important. But if the only news you feed them is of the negative things that are happening around the world, it does not really help much.

For the most part, I am myself quite negative about the states of affair of the human world. If I am being given some information, I would rather want it to be something positive that is happening around us. Our childhoods were amazing because when we read newspapers we would see amazing news of innovations in the worlds of science and technology. Those inspired us to become better than who were were, because they inspired us to be part of a world that we did not know.

Today, I am inspired very little. By myself or the world around me. That’s perhaps the most significant thing that is different from the world now and the world then.

 

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The Happiness Project | Day 1

There are times in our lives when we are at a certain juncture. In these moments, you need to take a hard, long look at your life and make certain changes.

For a large part of 2017, I was depressed. For me, depression manifests in two forms:

  1. Self-loathing, crying at the sad state of life and starting to believe that nothing better will happen again
  2. Being unable to sustain happiness for a long time, frequent mood swings through the day

2018 is an important year in my life. I have been out of college for the last three years. I have been working in my first job for close to 2.5 years. There has been a lot of learning. To be honest, I am a much confident woman today than I was 2.5 years back. But this confidence has come at the cost of desensitization. I am a lot more confident today because I care a lot less. I also understand that most things in life come in phases, so the bad times are not going to be permanent. But that the same time, I have seen good things end and I have been finding it very difficult to adjust to it. Nothing feels permanent anymore, and to an extent, it is true. Nothing really is permanent.

This is something that has been bugging me for a while now. If you know nothing is permanent, how do you still find sources of happiness in everyday living? How do you stop yourself from feeling negative?

I don’t have a direct answer to that. But to answer the question, I decided to take a look at my childhood self. When I was younger, I could just laugh at silly things. I was so full of curiosity. When we got internet connection at home for the first time, for limited number of hours in a day, I used to literally make a list of things I wanted to search. There was a hunger to learn new things. Today, I have internet access 24*7, but I rarely search things. I don’t download movies by the GB from Torrent anymore. Desensitized to everything, like I said.

I feel that in order to be happy again, I need to find that childhood version of myself and find out what her priorities were:

  1. Learn new things
    1. Read more books
    2. Watch more movies
    3. Learn a language
    4. Learn to play an instrument
    5. Learn about world history
    6. Learn about world politics
  2. Travel the world
  3. Meet new people
  4. Converse in English
    1. Improve vocabulary
    2. Improve pronunciation
  5. Build her own home
  6. Grow plants
  7. Achieve goals
  8. Grow hair long
  9. Be a boss
  10. Write everyday, be a published author

When you are a kid, there are set goals in life. After you get a job, the goals are not that clearly defined. When do you switch your job? How much money should be you saving every month? When do you start planning for your marriage? Will you ever find true love?

None of these questions have textbook answers. Everybody’s situation is different, everyone is trying to find the answers in their own ways.

Anyways, the goal for me, for the remaining part of 2018 is to reconnect with that childhood version of myself, be the person who I always wanted to be as I was growing up.

Which is why, I am going to write a post every day for the remainder of May, no matter how difficult my schedule is. This is one of my first steps towards getting back on track. A lot of this writing is probably going to be very personal. But maybe, some of that experience might help some of you in some part of your life – that’s the only reason behind putting this online. Glad to have you all as part of my recovery journey.

Until tomorrow!

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