Thursday, October 08, 2009

Is it Mid-Life Yet? The Story So Far...

I finally felt compelled to blog after ages because I felt I had something to say. No more blog posts about unemployment, thank you very much. Instead we’ll get back to the topic at hand: my adventures of a quarter-life crisis.

After much couch-surfing I landed on my feet and spent 6 months at a group home with my wonderful roomies who believed in everything organic: food, religion, sex. In other words, they were my first hippie friends. I acquired a taste for veggies like kale and quinoa, exercised 6 days a week, worshipped nature and all things beautiful (including myself), enjoyed listening to bluegrass while cooking, and NPR’s "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on Saturday mornings, and finally started thinking like a guy i.e. I could have fun with no strings attached (it's another story I never executed that thought although I did get asked out by a 60-year-old man and I actually thought about that for good half a second). Then I moved into my own apt. in August and started the whole business of setting up a place again. I had cable again after nearly a year - small victories.

But it truly was an exuberant time and I was on a constant high. At first I thought it was all those workouts and healthy eating or the amazing weather or something equally crazy. It was neither. I was just happy being me. I didn't give a hoot about pleasing people or trying to attract anyone. When a friend told me: "There's no excuse not to look good. Why shouldn't you look fabulous for yourself?" I had to agree. Lipstick, a nice pair of earrings and a great pair of shoes do amazing things for the soul. But no more crazy dates, please. Call it a sign of old age stubborness but I just don't need to put myself through that torture!

But this year a lot of friends around me got attached, married, became fertile or gave birth. Happiness can be terribly infectious. But not everything was a bed of roses. Shit happened to me and around me. As I approach my mid-30s, I don't want to take stock yet again of a) here's my success and compare it to b) here's my failure. My journey has been uniquely my journey. The only difference is that now there is this calm, settling notion in my head and it's not such a bad sound. I can stop running at last... but I can still keep walking, at least.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some More Fundas

I just came across this article in the NYT and I agree that when you’re laid off, it really helps to talk to folks who were in your position before. Basically, someone who really knows the meaning of the words: “I know it’s hard, and I know you’ll find something.” In my case, I had the whole visa situation to deal with and my living situation. So, several things besides the whole unemployment bit. But I was lucky I had several people who understood all the shenanigans and really walked the walk with me.
However, I also tried to listen to folks who kept saying this is the only break you’ll ever get to really try and do the things you always wanted to do – after all I didn’t have a house to refinance or a family to bring up, I really could do whatever I wanted in between jobs. Except go on some exotic holiday, which I couldn’t afford, or if I could, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so well. So here is not-so-exhaustive list of things I attempted to do in my “down time” (pun intended):
1. Patronize independent coffee shops instead of Starbucks – most of them have free wireless and fair trade coffee, a perfect combo for job search.
2. Adopt exercise as my new religion – when you don’t have health insurance for a couple months, you are your only insurance. This plays into feeling good about yourself, which plays into your confidence when you give those interviews.
3. Catch a matinee – OK, I only saw one called Nick and Norah Infinite Playlist, but I had the theater all to myself and it was one of the best treats I gave myself.
4. Try a new hobby – I walked into an art store and decided to be Monet for a week. Oil on canvas was messy, the abstracts were just that – abstracts – but I vented my emotions here more than anywhere else.
5. Volunteer – the intention was clearly there to give a new purpose to my days or one day of the week, at least, at an old age home or my pet favorite, the animal shelter. I consciously volunteered not to be bitter about my situation.
6. Introspect – since an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, why not take all that time on your hands and figure out really what the hell is it you want to do? I read some neo-age spiritualism (e.g. “The Power of Now”) which got me thinking about the right kind of questions to ask myself.
But everyone has their own personal journey and story to tell. Good or bad, or just plain traumatic, it’s a process that does make you better for it. Karma can be a bitch but I also believe “you sow what you reap” – because you never know when you may need someone’s help or the kind words and a smile of a random stranger will make your day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inauguration Day

Obama’s Big Day turned DC into the biggest party town ever! I trudged out on the morning of Jan. 20, 2009 at 6 am and walked 2 hours to be near the Smithsonian under one of the many big TV screen spread out over the National Mall. I continued to stand in the freezing cold for the next 6 hours. My feet couldn't bear it much longer so in between I warmed up inside one of the museums, which was resembling more like Nizamuddin railway station with people sprawled out on the floor and resting their weary feet in all directions… but what a beautiful morning it was! People were in such high spirits that in spite of bad organization in certain places, everyone was remarkably tolerant and civil towards each other. The best part was talking to complete strangers from all over the world (a lot of French people for some reason) and joking about the weather and the politicians on the TV.
I don’t want to sound cheesy but one of the reasons I, like so many others, found a personal attachment to Obama’s message of Hope. It may seem vague and ambiguous but it’s a great thing to put your mind towards when everything is spiraling down.

End of Couch Surfing, As I Know It!

Well I planned to formally sublet my friend’s apt. but as I have learnt time and again – things NEVER happen according to plan. So stop making them and enjoy life now. I can’t begin to emphasize that over and over but it’s hard to heed your own advice sometimes. My friend broke up with his girlfriend and moved back to his place. Naturally, I wanted to give him his space back. I looked for other sublets but everything was booked for the Inauguration weekend and there was nothing available before Feb. 1 so technically, I needed a place to crash for 3 weeks – plus I was starting my new job at the end of the month. I managed to find shelter in two of my friends’ places – a couple who generously opened up their big home – and another friend in his small one-bedroom apt. There were all good friends of mine but for different reasons, I wondered if my stay would change the dynamics of our friendship. Needless to say, I think I had an impact on both the homes, and our friendships. And unless I am mistaken, it was a positive one.
In between, I went off to Ottawa for a few days to get my new visa and visited my Aunt and Uncle. It was freezing cold but I always love spending time with my extended family – besides the home cooked food, the warmth and sense of humor that comes with common history.
Now, I have finally moved into my own place in a group house with 3 other women. Again, having my own space with my own loo and closet is something I will always appreciate.

Joining the Workforce

One of the many, many things that have transpired since the elections has been the good news that I am now gainfully employed. After nearly a decade as a journalist, I went over to the Dark Side and have become a communications consultant… ironically, as part of a special project on the financial crises! The same thing that got me unemployed got me employed again. I was pretty much ready to pack my bags and move back to India when I got the offer a little before Christmas. What a way to end the year – an Annus Horribilis, indeed.
As I go back to the routine of waking up, getting dressed, taking the bus/train/cab to work, and interacting with others in another environment, I appreciate it far more than I could imagine. Talk of stimulus packages and rising unemployment and yesterday I found myself the task of counseling a friend who was laid off. I gave her all the sage advice I accumulated during my journey – but everyone has their own story to tell.
Is fortune smiling on me finally? I don’t know. When people say I have handled myself really well, I can say perhaps I just didn’t have public breakdowns. Or perhaps I had a wonderful support structure. Or perhaps, like any situation I had never been exposed to before, I just didn’t know any better but to live and try.