Chapter 25

“I am the rock against which the surf crashes. Nothing can break me.”

We are at the point in my life where my life forks out into multiple possibilities, and the weight of the choices to be made has never felt heavier. When I turned 25 last year, all I could see were stars: wide and vast, sprinkled over the sky, beckoning, calling, mesmerizing. I believed, truly believed, that anything was possible, and that with my grit and gut, I could face it.

Was I wrong? One hundred percent.

Fast forward to now, a year and a trillion lifetimes later, I am not so sure. I’m still here, still standing (questionably so), but at what cost? I’m not wide-eyed anymore. My heart is not full, it’s too cautious, too skeptical. This last year has been a toughie, clearly. What did I learn?

Only you decide what breaks you.

This isn’t exactly a new concept, but throughout the days that felt too heavy, too dark and just too damn much, this is what I kept repeating to myself. It worked, more than I thought it would, and well, here we are.

My hopes for the next year are clear in my mind, and despite being used and abused in many ways, my heart still harbors hope for the days to come. I read somewhere that life keeps repeating the lessons you don’t learn, and I believe I’ve learnt all the lessons that were meant for me for this time. There may be more down the line, but if I’m anything, I’m prepared.

Tomorrow will be better. The days that are yet to come will be fulfilling and happy in a way that my imagination cannot even comprehend (and my imagine can comprehend a lot). Life is going to get so spectacular, it will take my breath away.

Chapter 26.

Page 1.

Love,

Snigdha

Ending

My strongest memories are associated to certain smells. The smell of cumin sizzling in ghee while my mother cooks. The smell of my sister’s moisturizer. The smell of my car that used to hit me when I opened the driver’s side door in the morning.

25 was a hard year. This time, I do not have any silver linings to share, no bows on top that would somehow make it look better–I just do not. It was a hard year, through and through, and every single day was a battle in itself. I have had the good fortune to live a good life. Safe, with my mother always there to shoulder anything that I could not handle, and my sister to make me laugh through all of it. When I moved to the US for master’s, I was so hopeful, it is embarrassing to even admit it out loud now. I thought I was prepared, given my unique life experiences up until that point, but boy was I wrong.

The thing is, you are prepared for things to happen, but you are not ready for people to happen. And trust me, when people happen, it hurts worse than the worst of your nightmares. Now that I’ve been able to distance myself from the toughest bits of the last 365 days, I see that maybe it was necessary, but that’s only on some days. Largely, it is a rage fest, and everyone is a target. Fun, fun, fun.

The reason I brought up smells in the beginning is because when I find myself missing home and craving my mother’s reassuring touches and my sister’s hugs, I sift through the recesses of my mind, and out emerges a beautiful memory that I can recall in high definition, but especially the smell. The smell of their perfumes, their clothes, even the surroundings in general. It makes my heart ache for it.

I wish there was a lesson I could share with you that would make this past year seem like it was worth something. Maybe one day, when the pain and hurt and anger has receded enough to allow for rational thought, I might be able to. That day is not today.

Love,

Snigdha

Phoenix

“Our lives reflect our hearts.” – Shelby Mahurin, Serpent and Dove

Yep, a month and a half later, we are solidly into the second season of the year, where (other than life being generally busier because of my impending graduation in December), my birthday in October is a beacon that shines bright, no matter how cruel or spectacular the months leading up to it have been. This year is no different, friends.

I moved to a new house recently, and if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would never believe that such a radical, positive shift in energy were even possible. I also moved apartments by myself (while blasting the A Court of Silver Flames audiobook in my ears), and the two and a half hours that it took me to lug my stuff around on foot is a glittering feather in my cap of Things Accomplished and a lesson learned (don’t be stupid again or your body will never forgive you) – another story to tell.

August is always tough, making me gnash my teeth so hard I live in constant fear of grinding them into dust. September is wistful, where nostalgia floods my mind of how another year has passed me by. Then, comes October, with my birthday, and after the 5th, the clock resets and we start all over. Coincidentally, this August-September-October cycle is also the most fraught with change and so many surprises, it takes my breath away. 2021 has already been a doozie so far, so you understand why I’m a little scared, right?

Now that I look for them consciously, I can see the parts of me that have changed, some temporary, some for good. Others have evolved into more nuanced versions of themselves. 26. Wow. The biggest lesson/realization/epiphany this year has been how, when it really comes down to it, you have to be your own healer. Clean your own wounds, stitch them close, and tend to them until they heal, leaving nothing but a scab in their place. It helps to have good people around you, of course, but the toughest of battles are yours to fight, alone.

There is something to be said about the feeling of triumph that succeeds any and all such battles, though – there’s nothing quite like it. You have made it this far; there’s no reason why anything could and should stop you now.

One step at a time, friend.

Love,

Snigdha

Halfway Point

Halfway through every year, it suddenly hits me that six out of the twelve months of the year have passed me by, and I am overcome with the undeniable urge to make the rest of the year as amazing as I can, given my current circumstances. You would think that I would remember this feeling of lost time come January; but I don’t. Every year, January to June and July to December are two different phases of my life, quite like the lunar cycle. The first half is generally fraught with some big change, emotional/physical/environmental – and being the typical Air sign that I am, I get caught up in the flurry and madness of it all, often forgetting to plant my feet on the ground.

Come July, I usually find myself bruised and bristling, muttering to myself ‘that’s the last time I do that’ (spoiler alert: it’s not), and resolve to make better life choices, to not let people close, and just resume the one-woman show that is (generally) my life. This is the 26th year of my existence, and it’s been exactly the same as the 25 years before it.

January was awash with change and excitement, and unbridled hope that was not yet weighed down by reality. You know what the crazy thing is? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I can feel that this is not going to last. The voice inside of me (that I may or may not choose to ignore, depending upon the how deep I’m swimming in the ocean of denial) keeps whispering warnings, cautioning me to be careful. I am never careful. Or rather, never careful enough. The cycle of disappointment and bad faith repeats itself, and a heartbeat later, the date on the calendar says June 30. I find myself standing in the same spot as the year before, looking around at What Was, the mess that remains in its wake, and how tricky and/or exhausting the road to What Will Be is going to be. There is a lot of crying, feeling helpless and hopeless – a new addition to that routine is video calling my mother to vent and rant as she shakes her head and tells me it’s all going to be okay – until I wipe away my tears, wash my face and do the thing I do best: reclaim control.

So yes friends, it’s the time of the year again, where I’ve been alternating between I Got This and Why Did This Happen To Me mindsets – and let me tell you, it’s never fun. My usual tendency to feel better after burying my nose in a phenomenal book also lessens, leaving me to my own devices, and getting out of this funk the hard way. Plans have been made, routines mapped out, a lot of coffee consumed. I know I will be okay, and I shall soon have another story to tell about how mean 2021 was, and how it made me stronger.

It is what it is, friends. The circle of life, the wheel in the sky – call it what you want.

I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Snigdha

Totis Viribus

“Yesterday is not ours to recover. But tomorrow is ours to win or to lose.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Sometimes, it does not take much for the other shoe to drop, and the your hold on your sanity, akin to a thin, thin thread, snaps in two. Sometimes, nothing can shake you, or break you, or even cause you to so much as miss a step. It’s such a strange time to be alive, where things like routine are being broken and reformed every day, and there’s always a touch of uncertainty to it all, because let’s be real: nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.

But at the same time, there’s hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be a brighter day; not perfect, just a little happier. Hope that this too, shall pass. Hope that one day, we can sit around a fire with nothing on our faces except bright smiles, and reminisce about The Time That Was.

Totis viribus means ‘with all one’s might’. Of course I read it in a book (that’s where I get all my wise thoughts from), and it got me thinking how fear and hope are two sides of the same coin, star-crossed lovers like the sun and the moon. You fear something because it’s new and unknown, and you feel that nothing good can come of it. You hope for something because you wish that something good will come of it. They both stem from unknown, unfamiliar places.

Of late, I have begun to understand that being afraid is not a bad thing, or anything to be ashamed of – everyone does it, and some of us are just better at hiding it than others. Being afraid is okay, but continuing to live with it and not do anything about it is not okay. I’m scared of the stupidest of things – ordering food in a restaurant, getting an answer wrong in class, tripping and faceplanting on the sidewalk – all of it terrifies me. Seven years ago, when I had just started driving, I was horrified of making a U-turn. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt and imbibed in every single cell of my body, such that it’s now muscle memory, it’s that be afraid, and do this shit anyway. If I had my way, and the world was not run by currency, I would spend my days with my books and my loved ones (#hermit) and never would have thought of travelling halfway across the globe where everyone – and everything – is a veritable stranger. But I did.

Why? Because hope won out over fear. There’s a reason why the optimists are still thriving, you know.

Every day is another opportunity for me to be scared of something. I’m sure I will find a new terrifying thing when I wake up tomorrow. But if facing that fear is worth something – even if ‘something’ is feeling accomplished for a grand total of three seconds – then I will do it gladly. No matter how old you get, nothing beats the feeling of being scared out of your mind of something and doing it anyway. You feel invincible.

Which you are.

Love,

Snigdha