Reflecting on 2017
My 2017 was a roller coaster. It is unrealistic for me to distill all of the revelations I had into one post. But I do believe in the power of reflecting, writing, and sharing so I made a point to carve out some time this week to do just that.
In January, I moved to Delhi to start a new job. I did not expect my transition to be too difficult — it was my third time moving jobs and cities/countries after graduating from college in 2015. The past year turned out to be surprising, frustrating, enriching, and filled with tons of personal growth. The lessons I write about are the ones most salient to me. I hope they help me understand myself better and guide me through my 2018 endeavors.
1. Nothing is permanent.
I had a rough first half of 2017. All I wanted was to confidently call Delhi home for the near future. I was already feeling burnt out from having moved jobs and countries three times since graduating from college in 2015. Settling into a new job and new city where I knew no one was difficult. I felt drained and alienated. I could barely recognize my usual upbeat, positive, active self.
To top it all off: in June, my roommate’s air conditioner caught fire in the middle of one summer night. When I went home to the US after that incident, I had anxiety about going to back to Delhi and moving to a new apartment — it felt like I was starting all over again. I desperately wanted my “bad” times to end.
And, of course, they did. When I went back to Delhi in July, I moved to a much better apartment, I pursued hobbies I’m passionate about, I made new friends. Times have been good and I can finally say Delhi feels like home. But I have to remind myself to not get too attached.
While bad times don’t last, neither do good times. Nothing is permanent.
All I can control is showing up, doing my best, and continually working on myself. I am grateful for my meditation practice, which gives me the tools to practice this equanimity and level-headedness.
2. Every moment, I get to choose.
Last year, I chose to leave a city and job that weren’t vibing with where I wanted to be in life. I chose to move to Asia and pursue a career in the social sector. This year, while I haven’t made any as-big-as-last-year life decisions, I have continued to observe the power of choice.
As I have strengthened my meditation practice, I have gained greater control over my mind and recognized that many of my “problems” are self-created.
I am a prisoner in a cell without a guard or a lock; I can escape this prison by choosing to consciously think and respond to external situations.
Though it is a work in progress, I try to choose my beliefs, the people I surround myself with, and the things I direct my energy towards. I choose to react to adverse situations with an attitude of gratitude and learning.
I choose to consciously discern reality from the stories I tell myself.
I also consciously choose what I eat. I adapted a plant-based, vegan diet nearly two years ago. To me, my daily food choices empower me and reflect the non-violent, compassionate life I aspire to lead. I initially turned vegan for health reasons; over time, the ethical and environmental reasons have become as important, if not more important, to me. I’m blessed to have the power of choice. I know that every choice I make can either harm animals and our planet or can be driven by love and sustainability.
3. “Being” is so much more fun than “showing.”
I can get obsessive about social media. As an Enneagram Type 3, I often struggle with wanting to paint a specific online image project to the world.
Over the past year, however, I’ve dealt with several personal situations that have required me to reflect on my own. My transition to Delhi was difficult and humbling; put simply, I hit rock bottom in the middle of 2017. I now know that my most significant personal growth happens when I shut off the outside noise and desire to image-project.
It has become so important to me to walk my walk and talk my talk, as opposed to mindlessly scrolling, posting, and chatting. My saving grace has been my spiritual community and practice, mostly in the form of Vipassana meditation, a non-sectarian, experiential daily practice. It is deeply important to me because in our age of instant gratification and outward-looking sensationalization, it is one of the only things that feels raw and real. There’s no fluff, no BS. You either put in the work or you don’t. The work is my own and no one “sees” it other than me.
I tap into the power of being still and silent; it impacts every part of my life. It is enriching, life-affirming, and soul-nourishing.
4. Envy is a telling emotion.
When going through social media, I also often find myself feeling envious of others. I know this is unhealthy so I’ve been thinking really critically about how to rectify my relationship with social media without having to pursue the other extreme and delete my accounts.
Other than decreasing time spent scrolling through social media, I also spent some time earlier this year thinking about what was making me feel upset, angry, and/or envious. Though I know social media never tells the full story about someone (in fact, it’s usually a very skewed story), I was mainly feeling provoked by posts about people pursuing certain careers, people pursuing their passion projects, and people in seemingly happy, healthy relationships with their significant others.
I decided to get out of my own misery and turn my envy into inspiration. This sea change has made a huge difference for me.
By simply telling myself a new story and taking my input as inspiration, rather than competition, I am much more productive and happy.
I believe my envies are my unanswered yearnings and that checking my negative emotions is critical.
5. Gratitude is my attitude.
For the past two years, before bed, I have been saying three things I am grateful for out loud. These can refer to anything, big or small, that may have come up that day. Sometimes, it’s “I’m grateful for the yummy lunch I cooked for myself today” or “I’m grateful to have running water” or “I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to practice patience during the negative interaction with the auto rickshaw driver today.”
This practice has changed my worldview and connects me to something higher than myself. I also am unapologetically vulnerable and open to all that comes my way; I regularly tell people I appreciate them and recognize their unique potential and talent, without the expectation that they will reciprocate my feelings.
I don’t take much of anything for granted anymore. I know I am privileged in many realms and I used to feel guilty about these privileges. I now find this guilt to be unproductive. Instead, I take time to verbally express my gratitude.
I acknowledge the goodness in my life and I recognize that the source of this goodness is outside myself.
6. I am not my identities.
In the past year, as an Indian-American living in India, I’ve struggled a lot with my identity and how I’m perceived by both myself and others. Though I consider myself to be fully American (I was born and brought up in the US), I have often felt otherized as a person of color in the US. When I’m in the US, I am sometimes perceived as the token Indian or person of color. I think other hyphenated Americans can relate to both the overt and micro aggressions that cause me to not feel fully “American.”
When I moved to Delhi in January, I was prepared for my identity experience in India to be complex. On the surface, I blend in. I am not overtly a minority as I am in the US. However, when people find out I’m from the US, their preconceived notions kick in. They no longer see me as Indian; some have even said to my face that I’m “ABCD,” “rich,” “here just for fun.”
I’ve come to realize that my fellow first-generation South Asian Americans understand the context of my upbringing in a way others don’t. I don’t mean to lump all South Asian Americans’ experiences of growing up in the US into one category but there is something special about the common vocabulary and culture we share.
Simultaneously, I am not bound by my worldly identities (Indian-American, college graduate, woman, daughter, sister, professional, etc).
I am boundless, universal energy expressed through a human body. My power lives within my infinite existence.
Looking forward to 2018…
I am thankful for the lessons of the past year and for everyone that’s come into my life. I feel ready to enter 2018 with a better grasp on life in Delhi, my own desires and goals, and a heightened sense of consciousness. I can’t wait to create my reality.
Happy New Year to you and yours! I wish you all the best in 2018.