Rest In Peace, Decade 2010–2019

Ather holding a microphone on a stage with a big screen and a skeleton behind him.
Ather holding a microphone on a stage with a big screen and a skeleton behind him.

I usually write a goodbye post each year to recall all the so-grateful-for-it, the not-so-ideal, and the shoot-me-dead moments for that year. But this year it’s a bit extra special — it’s the end of a decade. What an absolute crazy decade it was.

A lot happened in these 5256000 minutes (you can double-check my maths but I copied from the Internet so it’s obviously correct). I attended four universities, graduated twice, had four major surgeries, traveled to 28 different states in US and seven different countries in three different continents, lived in six different cities, started a volunteer organization, adopted a cat, sponsored a child, fell in love, fell out of love, and then fell in love again, found a passion in life, worked for a big tech firm, won 19 awards including the Philadelphia Geek of the Year, got accepted, started, and survived the first year of being in a Ph.D. student, watched 4,559 episodes of various TV shows, surfed, paddle-boarded, flew a glider plane — all without any fully functional limb, spent 500+ hours playing board games, saw Eagles win the Super Bowl, tried really hard being funny the entire decade, and ate infinity number of donuts.

But that’s mostly all materialistic. What really happened in this decade is that I grew — intellectually, emotionally, and most importantly, morally. It’s hard to rewire your mind to other possibilities when the societal norms that you grow up in involve religious doctrines, dichotomy of gender, patriarchy, and ableism. It’s hard to have a politically correct vocabulary when your native language isn’t English. It’s hard. But these are explanations and not justifications. As educated adults, it’s not our past but what we choose to be in the future that defines us. And in that respect, I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people who didn’t just shake their heads and walked away but helped me learn the different perspectives of the East and the West, and guided me to be a better version of myself every day.

I became political! I started caring about politics and what are democrats and why are republicans and what is liberalism and socialism and what is left, right, and center, and why is Trump. If before this decade someone had asked me of the things I didn’t want to be — that’d have been the number one item on that list. Why I became political is not because my partner studies political science (to this day, I don’t exactly know what she studies). But it’s because the situation warranted for it. We need to be aware of who we choose as our leader and why, and what that means for our future. If you don’t vote, I dare say, you’re the reason why horseshit like climate change is a hoax is now a thing.

I made friends (and not by Tyler Oakley’s definition)! Friends that are not just acquaintances or people who you keep around because they are fun or people who are just around because there’s an unspoken implicit resource exchange agreement. On the contrary, my friends are bizarrely weird (like, really). But they are caring and lovely — some of them are even humans! And somehow, I managed to have a friend, best friend, and partner — all in one person, which, to be honest, is quite an accomplishment.

A collage picture of Ather in the hospital bed and during physical therapy session wearing a neck brace.
A collage picture of Ather in the hospital bed and during physical therapy session wearing a neck brace.

But summarizing this decade can’t possibly conclude without acknowledging how it started and how it finished. It started with four fully functional limbs. Then there was a meniscus tear. Then there was an ACL tear. And then there was a spinal cord injury; at which point there were serious doubts if there’d even be a new decade for me. But there was. And it is here now. It hasn’t been easy and it wasn’t meant to be either. But in retrospect, if you hang in there just a little bit longer, it all works out — it always does, because it has to. And how it finished? Idk, eating donuts? Not everything needs to be dramatic.

Here’s to 2020 and the new decade. To being kind, caring, empathetic, and respectful. To standing up for what’s right. To making this world a better place. And to making your websites accessible (it’s not 1990 anymore, jeez).

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