Updated: Aug 28
Written by Chitra Iyer
What would you ask for if the world itself was yours?
How much would you care for a golden penny on a mound of silver?
You who have the choice,
Tell me how much it costs
To choose care over capacity
Calm over chaos
Character over custom.
If that verse hit you out of nowhere or proved more puzzling than it should have, I offer my sincere apologies.
You see, I wanted the mysterious yet profound 'sweeping you off of your feet' beginning that writers often dream of.
To put it simply, I wanted to impress.
But then, don't we all?
I’m not sure where this need arises from, but I do know where it can take us.
Since you've travelled this far down the page, let me show you around a room in my mind that I fondly refer to as 'The Gap Gallery'.
My journey of 365 daring days began with one hasty neuron firing.
I was in my final year of college, battling the social pressure of having to decide what to do next. Most people I knew had options listed or choices made. After much internal debate and talks with the family, I decided I would pursue a Master's in Counselling Psychology.
1. Because I'd always been told I'd make a great counsellor (it's the listening skills)
2. Because a lot of students in my immediate surroundings were applying for a psychology Master's.
3. Because I was so stressed about the possibility of having nothing planned that I didn't even consider other options or evaluate my decision.
I cleared every round, aced the interview, and got in. But when I stepped into class on the first day, I knew something was wrong.
There was resistance from within and I felt as though I was somewhere I didn't belong. But, I sat through a whole week of lectures.
Fell terribly sick, cancelled admission, and came home.
Fast forward to when I had recovered sufficiently, and my 'gap year' officially began.
I was a walking, breathing monument of anxiety. Suddenly, I had nothing to do. No college, no work, nothing to keep me occupied. My mental friction was at its highest, and the tremors echoed in my life. I was frustrated and scared. I was afraid of talking to friends or relatives because I dreaded having to tell them what I'm doing.
How do you tell people that you're doing nothing?
So I avoided conversations, and when they were inevitable, my sickness would take centre stage to soften the judgement.
Fast doesn’t always mean focused. I was under the false assumption that constant, undeterred slogging was the only way to become ‘successful’. Anxiety had worn the mask of motivation and days would pass with frenzied attempts at being productive. A sharp red light was blinking on my psychological meter, but I had become so used to the pressure that I didn’t realise how common a passenger I had become on the ‘What Next’Express.
As days passed, I began to realize that I was being consumed by my fear. Instead of seeking out solutions or alternatives, I was obsessing over my loss. I believed that I was supposed to feel bad for dropping out because it had left me at an unfamiliar junction.
Non-doing or relaxing was, ironically, creating more stress.
The number of times I've whined to my mother that 'Mujhe aisa lag raha hai ki main kuch bhi nahi kar rahi (I feel I'm not doing anything) is far beyond counting.
After hours of applying for random internships and jobs, none of which I truly wanted to do, it was my passion for writing that came to my rescue. That little girl who found herself in novels and dreamed of becoming an author was back in action! I enrolled for an online course on creative writing and with every passing day, I was rediscovering my love for words. I also started interning as a content writer for an organisation that worked with kids.
Sometime around October, my mother heard about Tai Chi classes being conducted by an acquaintance, and we decided to join. The experiences that this beautiful martial art gave me helped me build pillars of acceptance and internal harmony, and taught me to let go of what I didn’t need. Not only did it make me physically stronger, it also instilled emotional and psychological balance within, and made me self-aware. I opened up, little by little, and my own unfolding surprised me.
During the course of the year, I also attended a couple of spiritual courses that were cathartic. I learnt to embrace my emotions and work on myself. My perspectives on things changed, growth was now becoming a part of every day.
I opened up to newness.
I made new connections and met some wonderful people who taught me that relationships can take birth anywhere, anytime.
I wrote, sang, cycled, and enjoyed conversations.
The funny thing is, I’m also realising how many time I’ve used ‘I’ in this entire piece of writing. Because I’ve also learnt that most times, it takes only a shift from one letter to two to create change.
Having said all that, I don't think I can ever express enough gratitude to my parents for doing what they’ve been doing since day one. I'm eternally grateful to them for being the incredibly beautiful souls they are. Their state of balance has always kept me going and given me enormous strength.
I share this slice of my journey with the hope that someone somewhere finds comfort in knowing that wanting to slow down or drive towards something that doesn't fit into approved social choices is NOT WRONG.
You see, we start with kindergarten and all the way up till 12th grade or even college, our years are standardised. This followed by this followed by that.
There's no NEED to stop and think about the further course of action because a supposedly certified blueprint has been thrust into our hands, and we’re expected to follow the dots.
What we don’t realise is that it’s a blueprint, not a final plan. You make changes as you go. Add what feels good and right, remove what doesn’t. Tweak the lines or make a paper plane out of it and fly it as far as it takes you, then make a new one. Trust yourself to take the first step because as Moana says, you never know how far you’ll go!
Today, I create and manage content for an education company where I learn more by simply being around kids and interacting with the team. From watching my first novel gradually taking shape to singing, and strumming the ukulele, there’s sufficient time for everything.
The best part is, every time I rise from a place of disturbance and settle into the calmness of my being, there’s always a celebratory banner waiting for me that reads ‘Welcome Home’.
Chitra is an aspiring writer who loves to dip a toe in anything that captures her interest. She breathes in words and music, and occasionally some oxygen. She enjoys being amidst nature, loves the beach, and believes in the power of warm hugs.