The History of People

Looking back at the last 25 years of my life is a mandate around this time of the year, so cue in the introspection, the meditation, the mirror on the wall in the vacant empty hall.

And while history has repeated itself a million times in my case, and as I said in my last post, while it always ends with a circle, I sometimes feel this description, no matter how true in its essence, is an oversimplification of everything. Which brings me back to one of my favourite songs,

“I’m caught in the red and I’m fading to grey, a constant reminder that nothing stays the same, but nothing ever really changes.”

When I started this blog a lifetime ago, I was in my college library, as lost as ever, as lonely as ever, as broken as I could be, drenched in the drama of my being and those of the beings around me. And now that I sit again in my college library (a different one this time), it’s like I’m miles away from that life but still caught in the same web of its essence. The people and the drama. But so much more different this time.

So, the conclusion I’m forced to draw is that people are never black and white, they’re always a spectrum of grey. No matter how many times you classify and reclassify the ones moving in and out of your life, they tend to fall right outside everything. Even if it is only because of a word they say, or a simple movement of their hand.

Maybe I should accept that I will always be none the wiser when it comes to human beings, a real tragedy because I do hope to be a writer someday.

Will I ever escape this web? I think I’m on my way towards it. Which makes me analyse all my past mistakes and counter claims. And I accept I’m to be blamed for almost all of them.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

The Land of Eternal Summer: A Month

So here we are, a month into the new chapter of my life which has been a whirlwind from the start. Somehow, it is the most beautiful experience I could have asked for. It’s broken and messy and dark and light and just perfect. But sometimes I forget to breathe in the middle of it all and it gets so overwhelming that I have trouble walking straight. And then I have to do what I did today: take a step back. In fact, run away from everything as fast as I can as far as possible.

And then guilt envelopes me because I realise that I’m wasting time. It makes things even worse. Because time is something I feel I’m short on, here and in life. I’ll be turning 26 soon and that phantom has been raging over my head since a while now. It’s like I can turn my back towards it but when things fall apart, it is all that I can see: the glaring red clock just ticking away in a room with silence so deep it pierces the soul. And then comes the self doubt and the notion that I’m wasting resources and someone else in my shoes would have done so much better than I can imagine.

It’s funny that I feel this way, particularly today, because last year this time I was having the most terrible day of my life. And feeling pretty much the same way that I’m doing right now. In the end it’s always a damn circle. You come back to where you start, you reach the place you dreaded and you’re left clueless despite having been through so much as to what to do.

I don’t mean to cry. This is the best thing that could have happened to me. But it’s difficult to keep the clouds at bay when it begins to rain and pour.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

The Land of Eternal Summer

In the midst of summer, right beyond the horizon of the everyday crooked path I have walked until now, another chapter is coming to a close. A series of events have lead me to make a decision I never thought I would make so soon. And it is this very series of events that pushed me to this open door, with everything falling right into place despite all the kinks in the clockwork.

I’m moving to the Land of Eternal Summer to fulfil a conquest I’ve set for myself with one ultimate goal: to get a better life. I’ll be away from home in a foreign land where I know no one, like Cutie Pie in the Nicholas Fisk story we read in school. This is my initiation too, for I have never left home in the way that I’m about to. While google maps and quora have made life easier, I still die of anxiety thinking about it all sometimes; especially when I have to think about how I will have to live without my dog.

I think it’s metaphorically apt that I am moving to the Land of Eternal Summer, for it would signify the naive expectations in the deepest recesses of my heart that are still untouched by reality: a lad sans the sorrow of winter. A land of all I ever wished for, all the love I have ever wanted, all the success and sunshine I could ever dream of.

We all want our lives to be perfect. We all want to bask in the glory of the sun and always rise to new heights under the crystal blue sky.

But my tattered soul has learnt to understand that perfection is mythical and the sun can melt your wax wings if you fly too close to it.

And while I’m scared to death of a million possibilities, I am trying to love the storms the heat would bring.

 

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

A Stormy Day

Pure satisfaction cannot be denied when the weather is in perfect consonance with the storm in your heart. To see the wind gurgle up dust and leaves and just blast it off the heads of all things and everything. To see chaos when that is all you feel inside. To feel the anger of the sky in the thunder brewing in the air that is far too heavy with the grayness of emotions. And to be maneuvering through it all while the world seems lost in the sudden darkness.

Because, finally, you can paint a picture of your pain for the world to marvel at. Finally, your pain has meaning in the most unprecedented way. Perhaps, not that unprecedented, for paintings of storms have existed before. Maybe the most poignant way then. Because the world cries to you about the pin pricks in their feet while you have been suturing wounds they refuse to see. And if they do, they diminish it to weakness of the skin to bleed, weakness of the blood to flow, weakness of the mind to feel.

You have to be brave, so that it’s easier for them to hurt you again without guilt.

You have to let go, so that they don’t have to deal with the ugliness of your broken heart anymore.

You have to be okay with it, because you are meant to suffer as all the happiness in the world is reserved for them.

You have to accept that they will crown their selfishness while you lie in a ditch gasping for air right before you choke to death.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

Note to Me

There are no rules for what you’re going through. And it is a lot. A lot for you to bear, a lot for you to share. So it’s okay to stumble and fall. To be bad at it in the end of it all.

Perfection is a myth, as are the rules of age and what ought to be. Your tempo is your own music, as it should be. Give in to fear, give in to tears for now. Give in to the need to give in. Stumble. Lean. Reach. Fall.

And then face the fear head on.

When you’re lost, in the moments that are beyond their costs, in the moments you don’t know what to do: listen to the fear. Let it reason. Let it fill you up. And then do the exact thing it tells you not to.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

On Facing Tough Times All Alone

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while now, and within good reason. And here I am, running back into its arms the first chance I get, by that I mean the first time in a long time my brain isn’t too blocked to spell out my feelings, literally.

Last month has probably been the most difficult months of my life. I was already going  through a rough patch in December, and it reached a whole new level by the end of January. And by the beginning of February, I was weeping my heart out and trying to get through one of the worst things that life has flung upon me. Weak. Broken. Alone.

It was the time I needed someone the most and I practically had no one to turn to truly, although the words along the lines of, “Do let me know if I could do anything,” were vomited over a hundred times by a hundred different people. No one cared enough to understand what I was going through or hold my hand. People just said it to check the chore off their list, or at least that was how I felt. All I wanted was someone to hold me while I sobbed into them, someone to let me voice my fears and help me calm my mind without passing judgment, and there was no one I could turn to. I’ve never felt more alone or vulnerable in my life.

I get that people have their own lives and own wars to fight. But the thing is that I’ve always been there for them, no matter what. I have been sensitive enough to let go of my selfishness in order to help them bandage their bleeding wounds. And that I think has been one of the biggest mistakes of my life: I have put other people above my own needs in their bad times and expected them to love me the same way. Or at least appreciate what I did. But people lack the common decency to acknowledge the wounds someone has undergone sheltering them.

So what do I take away from facing this difficult time on my own?

I am strong as hell. Anyone can rise up to the challenge despite their fears and pain.

I never want to have to be this strong again. I faced hell, all alone (yet again), and I just want to rest.

I need to start respecting myself and my needs more than I do. A little selfishness is needed to save that part of your soul you give away, that will help you in your time of need. No one really gives a shit about you other than you yourself. But if someone is there to hold your hand through it all, especially without you having to ask for it, hold on to that person. Never let them go. Because that is rare and people don’t do that.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

That Girl

This post is inspired and based on the spoken word poem by Daysha Edewi (click here to watch)I Am Not That Girl, because I think it’s a conversation we need to have.

December has not been easy for me so far, for various reasons I’ll reserve for a future post, but I’ve been coming across this theme so often that I feel like the universe just wants me to address it already. Earlier this month, I myself was drenched in the swampy marsh of what it means to be pretty and have constant male attention, either of which has never been my forte. So when I’m looking at my whatsapp messages with at least 10 pictures of my friend with her new boyfriend that she just sent me, or listening to another friend describe how she’s in the middle of the Twilight Saga New Moon with two guys doing all sorts of things to win her over, I cannot help but ask why am I never on the other end of that conversation? What is wrong with me? Am I not womanly enough?

The answer in all truth is that I’m not. I’m really crappy being a girl, and I am by no way depreciating myself when I say that. I hate wearing high heels because I find them uncomfortable as hell given the broadness of my feet. I would choose sneakers and ugly but comfortable boots over anything. I cannot wear my nails too long or braid my hair. There’s a greater chance of me carrying a book in my bag rather than a bottle of moisturizer or hand cream. Some days I venture out into the world in my oversized hoodie because I just too tired to care how I look. I’m the only girl I know who didn’t depend on a boyfriend or prospective specimen to watch the latest episodes of her favourite tv show. If they could, they would have taken my girl card away ages ago, but that’s just who I am and I’m teaching myself to be unapologetic about it. I’m a few sizes above the norm for a pretty girl, I weigh a lot more than a pretty girl should, my face is too big, I’m clumsy as hell and I have the appetite of an elephant. And I’m learning to not be bothered by comments people make regarding all that.

More often than not I end up hating myself for all this, but it’s like the marching scene in Dead Poet’s Society: I too am a slave to the human need of acceptance. And this need has turned into an unresolved issue, I’ve realized, because I was the odd duck out for all the years of my college and I was quite alone throughout that. So it’s taking me a while to root this problem out and accept that I don’t really need anyone else to accept me. I’ve come a long was since those horrific days and I still have miles to go, but I’m hanging on.

But what I’ve learnt is that although I’m quite different from all the girls around me, I’m not alone. The poem I mentioned is full of comments from women all over the world who feel the same way, some with problems even more complex than mine. And every time I doubt myself, I look for similar posts and go straight to the comments section and it always makes me breathe a little easier and lifts a little of that tightness I feel in the pit of my stomach thinking about it.

I don’t really mean to tear down girls who are amazing at fitting in all the check boxes of womanly standards. If that’s what makes you happy, more power to you. I’ve learnt that it won’t make me happy, that my standards of beauty are too different from everyone else’s. I feel that if you stare at a superficially beautiful thing for long enough, you get used to it and soon it fades to being mundane if it’s hollow, if that superficiality is all that it has to offer. For me, it’s the intrinsic values that matter the most, that inspire me, that make me feel something. It’s strength in the face of difficulties, it’s kindness, compassion, gratitude, intelligence and pure intentions. It’s peace. It’s calmness. It’s doing the right thing, and doing it for the right reasons.

So if you’re like me, thinking about how different you are from everyone around you, thinking why is that you never seem to have guys professing their undying love for you, and you ask yourself the question, “What is wrong with me”, I’ll answer that question for you.

Nothing is wrong with you.

To quote the Dead Poet’s Society,

We all have a great need for acceptance.  But you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, “That’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

© That Girl in the Fray, 2017. All rights reserved.

What a low feels like

If you’re hoping to read a post poignant with meaning and sprinkled with metaphors and hope, look away. This is probably going to be a bare and raw write up with no artistic value or literary merit of any kind. You see, I’m at that low in a trough where you lie at the deepest point in the pit wishing you didn’t exist because you’re so tired of trying to dig your way out. But that’s the problem. You try to dig yourself out but only fall deeper and deeper. There’s no escape.

I’ve dealt with depression and dark days throughout most of my life, and honestly I thought it would get easier as I got older. It’s quite the opposite actually. And now that all I see is darkness around me because things have gone south, it just makes it all the more worse. I feel so uncomfortable in my own body, like the wind’s been knocked out of me and I’m gasping for air. My tears have found a permanent place right behind my eyes, just waiting for the slightest sign to cause a tsunami. Everything just feels so wrong and I have no idea what to do to make it right. In fact, it feel like I shouldn’t even bother trying because I’m not worth it. It’s my own fault that I am suffering the way that I am, so I probably deserve it.

There’s also an enormous sea of guilt, because my pain in the vast degree of suffering in the world is as insignificant as my existence in the universe. It makes me feel worse than I already do. I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve experienced pure happiness. It could be because I’ve stayed in the blackness for so long, and it just keeps getting worse with every passing year. How do I make it stop. How do I make it okay. Will it ever be okay? Is that even possible? I’m scared, so so scared it’s only going to get worse, that next year this time, this pit would feel like heaven.

I want to cross my arms and fall backwards into a pool. When I’m completely submerged, I want to hold my knees so that I sink right to the bottom. And then I want to scream my lungs out.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2017. All rights reserved.

I’m Caught in the Red but I’m Fading to Grey

A constant reminder that nothing stays the same,

but nothing ever really changes.

WordPress just reminded me that 4 years ago today, I started my blog in my college library, depressed, alone, fading, in need of hope and light.

This blog has been more than a friend to me. It has been a space to feel safe, to let out my fears and cries without judgment, to learn about myself and the way I write. It has helped me speak to people I may never meet from countries I may never travel to. Sometimes the echoes have brought back words, kind and tough that have helped me realize that no matter how much I feel the contrary is true, I am not alone.

So this calls for generic introspection.

What have I learnt over these last 4 years?

What has happened to me since?

Am I still the same person who started this blog?

What am I going to do?

Do birds fly to the moon?

 

(I’m not mainstream enough to be interviewed, so I’m going to go ahead and pretend this is what anyone would want to know.)

The textbook fairy-tale answer would be that my life has completely turned around, that life has magically fixed itself in these past 4 years, because 4 years is a really long time for a person to sort themselves out.

Bullshit.

Like Gemma Hayes’ beautiful lyrics quoted by me in the beginning of this post, I am both red and grey.  My life has changed but it’s still the same. I’m still as lost as I was, as alone as I was, as depressed as I was, although in different and more complex ways than before. All my old problems have sorted themselves out, but I’ve got new ones in their wake. More challenging ones, I would delude myself into saying mainly because I can’t see the solution yet.

As to what I have learnt in these past 4 years, it mostly consists of learning about myself. I have learnt to fight and lick my wounds, to bear pain and to build fire-proof shields. But I have also learnt to put my shield down and face the beauty with the pain, a decision I’m still in a debate about (with myself, if that wasn’t clear enough).

I’ve stopped praying for someone to come rescue me. Instead I’m learning (still) to equip myself to do that, to be my own hero. And I fall and stumble as I did before, even more so now that before. Which is to be expected if you walk faster than you did before, if you cover more ground than you did in the times ago.

It hurts, I’m not going to lie. It makes me wishes I was done already. It makes me sting others in my wake. But I don’t think I really have a choice anymore.

The only way I can go is forward, the only direction I can fall is down.

So that is what we are going to do for the next 4 years.

 

Thank you for being a part of this blog and a part of my world.

All my love,

That Girl in the Fray.

 

© That Girl in the Fray, 2017. All rights reserved.

Weird Awkward Things

June 9, 2015

I wear the weird blue pouch thing around my neck that has my suite entry card, my meal card and sometimes the key to my room. (I’m sorry, I cannot correctly term half the things here. Most of the time I find myself gasping for words, because my mind has decided it is time for it to be on a lockdown. Not quite a fun thing to happen during a Writer’s conference.) I re check that I haven’t forgotten the key to my room on my table that is full of take-out boxes, clothes I’ve worn during the past 5 days, printed papers and my hairbrush knit with my unruly strands because I’m too lazy to put any of them back, and I head towards the bathroom. I’ve already embarrassed myself here at least a million times and the last thing I want is to be locked out of my room and be forced to pound on my suite mate’s door and beg her to call Yale security.

I pray to the universe that no one is walking out of the their dorm rooms or entering the building or whatever, so that they aren’t put in my way and have to see me with drool over half my face and a horrendous bed head after I’ve just woken up. To be fair, I might possibly look that way even after I’ve showered and brushed my hair. I don’t have a mirror in my room, and the bathroom has to be unlocked with my room key every time I want to see my face in the mirror there, so I usually give up on the notion of stroking the mane of my hollow pride. I’m too lazy.

So I’m in a country that is shit expensive, where half the people cannot pronounce my name right (the irony), where more than half the people make me repeat what I’ve said because they couldn’t get my accent and where I have no clue how things work.

It’s not too bad usually. Sometimes I’m regarded with sarcasm and a chuckle or two. Their amazement crowns my apparent daftness and it does eventually work out. But on days like today, after I feel like I’ve exhausted my capacity to be ridiculed over things I do not understand in the least, I just want to lock myself up in my utterly big dorm room and pretend to be a caterpillar in my unmade bed.

So I guess I should probably make a list of the weird awkward things that have happened to me here until now and etch them in my mind as life lessons. Or maybe by some weird time travel fifth dimension thing, I’d be able to read them and brace myself. So dear younger self, kindly pay heed to the following guidelines:

1) During lunch in the Dining Hall, do not keep your glass in your plate while emptying the food remnants in the bin that they have for you to empty your food remnants. (I had no clue something like that even existed.) You will try talking to a hot guy while waiting in the line, and inevitably be distracted, forget where you are or what your name is. You will end up throwing the glass in the bin along with the half eaten salad you put in your plate as an excuse to steal ranch dressing without coming off as weird. Then a woman who noticed the really embarrassing rendition would walk up to you and say that it wasn’t that bad, you could always write a book titled ‘Dumb Things Smart People Do Sometimes’. Sarcasm for the win.

2) Every single time you want to refill your lunch plate, you need to discard the old one and get a fresh plate. (Something that if you were to do at a wedding buffet back home, the people paying for the food would be charged twice, in addition to other people giving you the stink eyes.) One fine afternoon when you’ve just sat down for lunch at the table, you’ll have an epiphany. You’ll realize that you don’t really care about calories and that you deserve an extra slice of pizza. You’ll carry your untouched plate brimming with food and sprint towards the dining area, because pizza is life and everything else is a cold lie. Then a seemingly scary and utterly loud lunch lady is going tell you that you aren’t allowed to bring in your used plate to put in more food. People will notice and stare at you like you’re a Van Gogh painting. Not in a good way though.

3) Keep your eyes and ears open while waiting in line at a bookstore to pay for your shit. There will probably be a counter tucked in the farthest corner from where you’re standing; beyond your vision and human frequency of hearing, the billing lady is going whisper ‘Next’ and you’d be oblivious to that. So the person next in line will employ the magical use of sarcasm (oh, joy) and ask if you’re enjoying yourself too much standing in line to move further. Cue the Van Gogh stare.

4) You will not understand the American currency of nickels and dimes and would ultimately be carrying too much change in your bag while paying in dollar notes because you do not want to hold up the line and have people give you the stink eye. Your brooding dark soul will not be the only thing weighing you down.

5) You’re going to splurge all your money on Starbucks and extremely mini sized 2$ water bottles, because you keep forgetting that tap water is drinkable. Remember American tap water is drinkable.

So that’s it for my first 5 days in New Haven. I’m pretty sure this list is going to be longer than Homer’s Iliad by the time I get home.

Yours Truly

The girl who sat in the restricted area at Yale and made them put up barricades the next day, with huge red signs of ‘Do Not Enter’.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2017. All rights reserved.