Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Grieving lost friendships!

I sometimes wonder why we don’t accord similar level of importance to friendships as we do to romantic relationships. I like the social awareness around the space and respect given to grieving romantic relationships – lost relationships, failed relationships, complicated relationships, long distance relationships or relationships that just drifted apart. I like the lack of awkwardness in asking, ‘What are we’, ‘It feels different’, ‘What changed? We changed. Can we work on some things?’, ‘I need some more love. Can you give it to me?’. While the whole beauty of friendship might lie in the lack of concrete definitions and social norms, I often miss the definitiveness of romantic relationships in my friendships. How close are we? What are we? Are we Friday night drinking friends, are we Sunday morning deep-conversation friends? Are we friends-of-convenience filling our lonely lives with some insincere affection? Are we soulmates of some sort? Are we I’ll-always-have-your-back friends? Are we all of them? Are we some?

I believe in soul families, not soul mates. I hold a lot of people– most of them friends, dear to me. Falling apart from them is painful, often more painful than breaking up with my romantic partners. However, I’ve missed being able to grieve it, being able to talk about it. I miss taking the refuge of music, movies and poetry to grieve about friendships lost – the way I can for romance gone bad. I miss being accorded a shoulder to cry for all the friends that got left behind. I hate my pain being dismissed because drifting apart from friends is such an ‘expected’, ‘natural’ part of life. I wonder why my grief over a break-up of one-year relationship gets more validation versus my multi-year friendship gone sour. I hate my grief not being validated enough.

How to talk about the pain of not being able to hug your friend as often as you’d want to, of missing growing old with them, of not being able to call them up to tell them about your day, of not having the right to call them after a bad day. When friendships end, the reasons are rarely defined – most times they just end mysteriously or sometimes they don’t end at all but just fade away. Sometimes, you just drift away because of distance or evolved priorities. Sometimes, you just grow out and become incompatible – you grow out of the activities, values or commonalities that held you together. Sometimes, you just hurt each other but neither of you want to have the difficult conversation to address the issue, so it let it go till both the problem and the person start hurting less. Sometimes, you just get too busy to make time for all the friends you have made.

It irks me, though, to not be able to get that closure for myself – to go through old pictures, old memory lanes, old cards and wonder, “I miss them. Do they miss me too?” Sometimes, I type out a whole message and then delete it because it seems too corny. I want to reach out to an old friend and say, ‘Hey, can we work on our friendship? Can we pick it from where we left it off?’, but I fear lack of reciprocity and drop the idea.  I like how it is socially acceptable to be embarrassing with your ex-romantic partners. I miss being able to send awkwardly corny messages to my drifted friends without it sounding annoyingly cheesy.

As I am writing this, I am wondering why I care about these social constructs at all. I am not sure. Looks like I am not all that non-conformist as I believe I am, and the years of social conditioning has played its part. What is the point of this post? This is probably me validating my pain for all the lost/distanced/forgotten friendships that I am grieving, and extending a virtual hug and shoulder to everyone in similar shoes – "Your emotions are valid, and it is okay to feel deep pain for lost friendships."

Monday, 21 November 2022

A little bit of a Londoner!

I should have worn the waterproof mascara. Crying in the flight is a bad idea especially when the airhostess is giving you emergency landing instructions. I decided to write my little tribute to London on the flight because I needed to bid a fitting good bye...and words are all I have sometimes, most of the times. And apparently, raw emotions make for compelling writing.

But this is just so difficult. What do I write about you, London? What could be a meaningful tribute! You've been so wonderful on most days London, but also so painful and lonely on so many others. This feels like a breakup. But like a good breakup (if there is such thing). A breakup with a partner who is incredibly amazing but somehow could not be just right for you. And it's so painful to part with them because you wish you could make the relationship work.

I'll miss you, London. I'll miss the privilege of casually watching a Westend musical on any given evening, and always having 50 shows to choose from. I'll miss the red buses. I'll miss them a lot. I'll miss walking to Barbican Centre and writing there quietly for hours, and marveling every time at how such a spectacular location was freely accessible to everyone. I'll miss the parks – the ducks at Regent’s Park, and views from Primrose Hill. I'll miss nonchalantly walking by the London Bridge and not gasping at its beauty every single time. How I took your beauty for granted! I'll miss Tate Modern. I'll the privilege of living in a gorgeous Victorian house with a fireplace. I'll miss the tube. I'll miss the glorious display of diversity every single day on the streets of London. I'll miss the spontaneity of a whimsical weekend getaway in an exotic European city. I'll also miss the absolute unpredictability of the weather. And needlessly discussing it all the time, with everyone. Oh God, I'll miss you London.

Thank you for the beautiful people, London. They say it’s tough to build genuine friendships as you grow older. I remember coming to you being so stuck up with my best friends home that I almost did not give space for new friendships to bloom. But I am glad I gradually let people in, and how lucky am I to have found so many incredibly intelligent, funny, creative and lovable people. All of them so unique and beautiful.

London, you have been so transformational for me and taught me so much. These three years have pushed me to grow immensely in aspects both big and small. I have so much to be grateful for, but my biggest accomplishment is easily my dramatically improved map reading abilities. Heck, I even lead the navigation on some walking excursions now. I can set better boundaries than I could three years ago (this is massive work in progress but it's something). For the first time in a long time, I have actually enjoyed and felt fulfilled at work. You opened myriad of opportunities for me. Also, you introduced me to painting, and I think I am half decent at it.

You taught me to be perseverant, London. I would be lying if I say you weren't painful on a lot of days, London. Despite so much to do and so many lovely people, it was lonely and difficult many times. You pushed me to learn to love myself and my solitude a bit more. You also pushed me explore what else could be out there for me, and I am thankful for that.

Thank you for everything, London. So many beautiful memories, so many tears, so much hope. I think I will always be a little bit of a Londoner. On to, next! I hope you'll match the bar, Seattle❤.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Look Mom, we graduated!

So much about graduating is about Mom. So much about life is about Mom. So much about my existence is about Mom.

I graduated. An MBA from London Business School. It feels surreal. This was the dream. To be honest, it wasn’t even the dream because I often dream cautiously and carefully, scared that unfulfilled dreams would hurt so much more than dreaming smaller. When you’re at a low point in your life, it feels tough to dream big, almost ludicrous. Something within you almost tells you, “Have you looked at yourself now, how dare you dream this big?”. It was my ex-boyfriend who pushed me to dream, to apply regardless. I would forever be grateful to him. And to my best friends, my mentor, my brother, my sister, and those 30 people who reviewed my 400 essays 535 times and responded to my ‘What do you think about this edit?’ messages at 11:55 PM, 5 minutes before the submission deadline. They kept their patience and still told me that they loved me, and meant it. Ah, what would have I done without you all?

However, this post isn’t about them. This is about you, Mom. And how it meant everything to have you support me all along in life. This is about when I was 12 and wanted to take swimming lessons. I remember how you accompanied me every day, and sat by the pool for hours in the sweltering 45°C Indian summer heat to cheer for me as I perfected my butterfly-stroke. This is about the times, multiple times, you woke up at 4 AM, so you could wake me up to study for my examinations. And when I blamed you for waking me up 30 minutes late because you couldn’t wake up in time, you apologized. Oh God, why are teenagers so awful! 

This is also about the time I wanted to move across the country to study for my undergrad. Dad was unwell and you needed support, but you told me that you’ve got it and let me go to study that far. You taught me, over and over again, how to love independent people. That love means letting people go after the things that matter to them, and not guilting them into staying back.

This is about the time I told you that I did not want to not pursue engineering anymore, and felt that writing is where my true passion lies. Instead of blatantly dismissing my idea and lecturing me on the frivolity of passion for most people in India, you urged me to think more deeply. “Do you want to talk to more people about it?”, “Can I connect you with someone?”, “Do you think you want to take up writing as a profession or do you want to continue it as an avocation?”. You urged me to think, ask questions and carve my path without feeling intimidated about failing.

I did not, however, end up pursuing writing because my soul searching helped me realize that I might not enjoy writing as much if it became a full-time job. At my non-writing job at work, on many days that seemed to never end, I remember feeling too exhausted to call you and check in on you. It meant everything to me that you gave me the space to be busy, and understood when I was not there for you as much as you would have liked. I felt like a heavy burden was lifted off my chest when you didn’t say, ”You never have time for me”, and instead said, “Call me when you can.” You made me feel safe knowing that I can come back to you when I am ready – that you would wait. You never made me feel that I have failed you…even though I sure have, many times.

Thank you for London, Mom. I remember getting insanely excited when I got the admit for LBS. The MBA was super rewarding but it came with a price tag that was tough for us to bear – thank you for sharing the burden, Mom. Recruitment was stressful, and Covid just made things worse with the job market crashing down. With every rejection, I remember mentally calculating how long I could manage London expenses without a job – it wasn’t too long. I know the period was as debilitating for you as it was for me. Thank you though, for not showing it, and for remarking, “It’s okay, it’s just a job” to every rejection email I received(we both knew fully well that at that point it was not ‘just’ a job – it was a hope to create a new life in a new country, and start paying off my hefty student debt).

You taught me about identity, freedom and choices; and stressed the importance of each of them in life. Identities of brown women often get camouflaged with their partners – you encouraged me to carve my own. You taught me that marriage is important but not pivotal for my happiness or personhood, and I can take my time to choose the right partner. You enabled me to make the right choices, generously sharing your share of wrong choices to prevent me from making the same mistakes. You taught me the importance of financial freedom; and why I must not never value anything over it. I remember our tough discussions, Mom. Thank you for listening to me and letting me have my own opinions, even when they were starkly opposite to yours. Thank you for shaping me Mom, beyond what any education could.

Look Mom– I graduated. We graduated. Thank you for the graduation, Mom!