Early morning WordPress sent me that email they send once every year underlining all the special stats about your blog from the year that is about to pass. I didn’t open the email until very late in the day. I was shocked to see that I had written and published only two posts the entire year. I thought that was a rather sad and unfortunate state of affairs. I love writing. I wrote a lot what would be safe to call once upon a time. To think, no, to know for a fact that things had gone this bad, shook me.
That in part explains why I felt compelled at the very last minutes before the year rolled over to write this. I am going to try and see this till the finish.
If I were to describe this year in two words, I would carefully choose those words to be: “change” and “adversity”. I think those two words are not only powerful, but also the kind that exude meaning. They describe the kind of experiences you read about in books or in people’s anecdotes or watch in movies, and feel a special force moving you from within. You feel compelled to take in the moment, and while you are reading or watching those experiences, you play them in your head around you, if only to know how it would feel to live those experiences.
Someone once said I’m risk-averse. It’s economic lingo. But it is also true. I don’t take risks unnecessarily, and I prefer to not take risks at all. It’s nothing wrong. A lot of people are risk-averse. A lot of people detest change. I think it is largely due to our personal inertia that we exert on life as we live through life. It takes a great amount of force to get oneself to embrace change. For most people, it is easier to just resist change.
Uncharacteristically, I embraced several changes this year. Some were huge changes for me. Some, not so. But none were any less meaningful than the rest.
After working four and a half years from home, I decided, I don’t know how, to quit. Quitting from anything is a monstrous challenge for me. It always has been for as long as I have remembered to notice it. Sure, I feel the urge to run away from things from time to time, but quitting comes hard to me.
Not only did I quit, but I also got myself a job at a place where I had to go every day to an office and work from there. I hadn’t worked in an office in under five years. I didn’t know whether I could do it — if I’d be able to do it. I didn’t know whether I could survive it long enough. Unless you have experienced both, you cannot know how entirely different working from home is from working from an office. You have to get up on time in the morning, dress up semi-properly (if you want, you could just as well work in your underpants from home, you know), and commute to work. Oh yes, there’s always the long commute in rush hour to dread every day. You have to spend eight to nine hours straight in the office where you can’t take a nap or watch TV to take a long break away from everything. All in all, you lose a great deal of freedoms that you enjoy working from home. And who wants to give up their freedoms. The majority of people who found out that I worked from home thought it was a luxury I was lucky enough to afford. And I agree. Not everyone can afford to work from home. You are really lucky if you can. Despite all that, I decided to quit. In spite of all that, I quit. I quit because over four years is a long time. I wanted change. I wanted change in my routine, the kind of change I couldn’t bring about by altering anything else in my life without giving up working from home. I felt my life had become stagnant and that I wasn’t moving ahead at all. In fact, to the contrary, I felt I was being sucked into a dark, depressing place, and it frustrated me and caused me uncontrollable anxiety. I had to change things. I had to quit. And so, just like that, I did.
It has been seven months since quitting home job. I’m still working from the same office I get up every morning to drive to.
I changed tennis clubs. If you know me personally or semi-personally, you’ll know that I am crazy about playing tennis. I would go as far as to say that tennis is the love of my life. I started playing tennis four years ago at a country club which housed two shabbily built hard courts in the open. There was a rather dejected and disgruntled squash-cum-tennis coach in the club who helped me get on my feet. As I transitioned past the amateur level, I signed up in the local tennis circuits and started playing tennis tournaments. I earned a worthwhile ranking for a player like myself. However, the only place I could practice was the country club. And that club had major issues that got in the way of my practising and improving my game. I will keep myself from going into those, but I will say that they boiled up to a point where they started to really frustrate me and hamper my ability to excel. On top of that, there were hardly any players to play against at the club, much less good players. You cannot improve until you can hit with a better player.
I had been eyeing a professional tennis club for a while, but several fears that I molded as convenient excuses kept me from making the jump. That club was far away. I didn’t think I could take a break that long to drive all the way and back. I was afraid of all the new people there. I was afraid whether I’d be able to find anyone to play with. In hindsight, it was mostly only fear of taking on a big change. It would’ve been big for me.
We always need that impetus, that push, to jump off the plank and see what’s out there. My changing jobs was that push. Incidentally, the office I was going to join was closer to that professional tennis club. I quit my previous club the very first day I joined the new office. I am glad I did.
I sold my car and bought a new one. For a lot of people, selling and buying cars is trivial. But normal people buy and sell cars once in a while. After all, my dad still owns and drives his two really old cars. I bought my very own car four years ago, brand new. I loved it. I love and treasure all of my possessions. However, three years later I felt I needed to upgrade it, and get something more comfortable. But selling a car felt so much of a nuisance. There was inertia kicking in all over again. Even if I did sell it, I thought, looking for another car to buy would be another troublesome affair I didn’t want to go through. I needed another push. And it came a year and a half later.
My changing jobs and my changing tennis clubs became that impetus. When I look closely at how things often unfold, it amuses me. I wonder whether there really is a time and place for everything. And for change. But that is a topic for philosophical musings, and I shouldn’t get sucked into that since I’ve promised myself to see this piece through to the end.
Adversity tests you and the people around you in ways you cannot consciously imagine otherwise. It shows you how weak and frail you are, and it shows you how strong and resilient you can be. It shows you who you thought didn’t love you really loves you, and it shows you who you thought didn’t care much about you actually cares for you more than others. Adversity is like that pair of glasses which when you wear them strips everybody including yourself off of their layers and facades, and lays them bare, in their true forms, for you to see.
My father fell acutely ill several times in succession later this year. He’s a diabetic of thirty long years, a heart patient with several allergies and a heart doctor himself. We had to rush him into emergency twice. He had to stay in critical care units for a total of twenty or so days, at the end of which he was diagnosed with two main blocked arteries, with his heart unable to pump blood into half of his body. He nearly kissed death, and survived. It was the toughest time of my life, and the hardest thing I had to deal with. I wrote a painful account of it but only got myself to publish it anonymously. I’m sorry but I couldn’t share it here.
I am thankful deeply to the few people who were around when I needed help and support the most. And I am thankful to God for being able to withstand and overcome adversity. It wasn’t easy.
When the year started, I set myself up for a 2013 reading challenge on Goodreads. I set myself an achievable goal of ten books. To my utter surprise, I crossed that goal in the next three months. I had to re-arrange the goal to 30 books instead. However, as I close off the year, it is only with sadness that I try to reconcile the fact that I only managed to read a total of fifteen books over the year. That is fifty percent of the goal. I finished the fifteenth book a night before new year’s eve. It was Mark Haddon’s incredibly cute and creative “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” It of course comes highly recommended. If you’d like to read about the other fourteen books I read, you could look them up here: My Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge.
One of my gripes with the passing year is that I couldn’t play much tennis, despite switching tennis clubs. I also couldn’t play any tournaments. Owing to the office job, I cannot take out time during the afternoon and day to play tournaments. And because I don’t have so much freedom now as I did when I worked from home, I can’t take a break from work and drive by the courts to play, which is the reason I couldn’t play a lot of tennis this year. It is something I dearly wish to change in the coming year. Because, after all, not being able to play tennis is a cause of much panic and frustration for me.
I have dispensed with the little things while writing this account of the year. I only focused on what I felt were big things for me that shaped my life in 2013. And, also, I had to finish this, and I couldn’t allow it to stretch any longer, because that would risk giving me an excuse to not see it through the end.
My best wishes for 2014!