July 28, 2006 – July 28, 2016
Yes it’s been TEN WHOLE YEARS here in this country, halfway across the world from the one I was born and raised in! It’s also almost a quarter of my life! Which means, here I am, embarking on decade no. 4 in a year or so. And I have lived close to a third in different parts of California (just riding up and down the Coast). These percentages keep rising, and quite frankly, I am quite disturbed with them. In my heart, I still feel a lot like the person who sobbed (silently) when she first saw LAX in July 2006 from the Air India window, and was scared to death. Now, in many ways, I have grown leaps and bounds (and pounds) from that time, and am still scared to death (though one might never see it).
So I thought, like a Panchvarshiya Yojana, it would be good to somehow chronicle the last 5 years in the US like I did during the 5-year mark. A way to reflect, revisit, renew and rejoice (I will give you a clue, this post ends a lot more on a positive happier note than the previous 5-year one).
YEAR SIX: The year when I thought I lived in some alternate hellish universe. When I kept trying to claw out of the dark (in vain), and just ended up being pushed further deep into the earth against all odds.
- The dark spell from the year before continues, seems to give some respite, but I realize early enough – that it’s not really a silver lining at all, it’s just another wormhole, pushing me from one dark corner of the earth to another. For a Planner who anticipates almost everything in their lives, and “plans” for it — not being able to do so and being forced to live without any idea for the future is hard. There are countless nights when I lie in bed and cry – sometimes softly, sometimes hard, and wonder if there is an alternative to the pain and suffering that I am going through. I stop pretending that I am OK.
- It is sad when you lose faith in mankind and realize that there are some truly horrible, detestable people on this earth. Sometimes you wish that Karma gets to them, and sometimes you straighten that spine of yours and do what needs to be done. Does it make everyone happy? Probably not. Are you finally able to look in the mirror and face yourself, so that you stop yourself from doing something that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place? Yes. Sometimes the means don’t justify the end, but sometimes, just sometimes — it has to be done.
- The ONE positive event of the year – My baby brother gets married (not a baby anymore)… and we have a brand new person as part of the crazy family! Thankfully she meets the requirement of being completely insane! 🙂
- Mom embarks on her worst year ever. The ground shifts beneath my feet, and I truly realize what it means to be helpless. I go through the motions of daily life like a zombie, while worrying constantly about the loved ones in India, and feel like everything is spinning out of control. So close to leaving this blasted country by now. So close. Why didn’t I do it then?
- Wait! Am I stuck in some alternate universe? What kind of a test is this? This year ends with our world turned upside down, our very being shaken to the core, adamant on taking away every little hope for possible happiness. Our little ray of light (Uj ❤ ) is extinguished – way before time, way before anyone. Why do the best ones get taken away from us? What purpose does that serve? I am left with nothing but a shell of myself, of somebody I used to know. Even today, I suddenly hear his voice calling out to me, and I am driven to an immediate racking of my soul. Where do you go when you don’t know where you are anymore?
YEAR SEVEN: I suppose when you hit rock bottom, there is only one way from here — UP! (Maybe)
- Going through a second professional setback in two years – trying hard to convince myself that it wasn’t me. The difference from last year – this time I was happy to be out of that blasted place. After all, if I really wanted to be told everyday that I was a disappointment and amounted to nothing – I would rather go back to India and have the many “concerned” people there tell me so, instead of an ego-maniacal tyrant here.
- Trying to crawl out from this hole, making sure I don’t do something I probably shouldn’t (and succeeding enough for people to think I was OK), and realize that such few know what I was (truly) going through at that time. Sometimes the mask you wear hides your true self from the world, and sometimes you just wish the world fades into oblivion, along with the pain that begets you.
- My August buddy is born, and helps keep me sane and smiling while the world is still spinning (today he professes he loves me all the way from Russia to America – bless his innocent heart!). Thank God little toddlers have no memory retention. That little babbuduuu has been more privy to the inner workings of his fifideeee then than anyone else. 🙂
- As it usually does for me, just when I make up my mind to pull out, it reels me back in. Life does sometimes come together in the nick of time. Amazing how it only takes one conversation to change your life’s path (thank you, bhai). Just when I was ready to shut shop and move back to the mothership, I get an opportunity to move out of the place that initially ‘seemed’ to be perfect. But like all mirages, the glass shatters, and you see it for what it is, and realize the best way to move ahead is to move out. And I realize, this wouldn’t be possible without my plethora of friends (champions) – one more supportive than the other. I truly couldn’t have done this all without them. Time to move, 350 miles down the Coast. Ahoy beach-side solitude! Let’s live a bit, shall we (even if living alone)!
- Shocked when things seem to be working step by step. Still scared, still taking baby steps, still not trusting how stable the ground beneath my feet is. (But… it seems to be working. Shhhhh.)
YEAR EIGHT: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone! Time to stop whining, let’s start shining instead. After all, if it isn’t going south, it’s a pretty good year so far – even if at status quo 🙂
- A new place, a new world, a new chapter, new beginnings – in a place I know no one (for the first time since coming to the US, I was so out of my comfort zone)! Slowly figuring out who I truly am. Learning to stop and smell the ocean (literally). Answering some hard questions – What is it that scares me? How can I get myself to feel differently?
- Learning to live alone and be with myself for the first time in my 35 years (and it was mighty hard!). Starting to collect happy/positive moments in a little mason jar (a jar full of happiness, a brimful of asha) – at the end, making me realize that today where I am alone, is much happier than where I was surrounded by many.
- Feeling a lot more grounded professionally and emotionally – go slow and steady, tortoise!
- Recognizing how humbling and exhilarating it is, when I can take my first true vacation in over 3 years – a vacation just for myself, not forced by extraneous forces (immigration issues, personal reasons, etc). Oh, so liberating!
- Going through yet another major senseless loss of life (my happy little K), further strengthening my resolve to live for today, and be happy while doing it, and not letting anyone take me down. Carpe diem, definitely!
YEAR NINE: It’s still a year of uncertainty (but I am used to it by now), so how about we make it a year of travel? I can feel life turning around super slowly, but too scared to celebrate! When life gives you lemons, let’s add some tequila and salt, shall we? 🙂
- When one doesn’t know if they can plan a future or know where they will be in the next year, there are two choices — either you lament about it, or you take it in stride. Guess what I did? Definitely not wanting to live a life by regrets, I decided to make the most of my 9/80 flex Fridays and imposed solitude; made an annual list of 5 places I would like to travel to, and worked towards it. At the end of 2014, I realized that out of my 26-28 three-day weekends that year; I was not at home for 21 of those! Some short distances (OC, SD, LA), some mid ranged (Zion, Bryce, Antelope, Miami, Death Valley), and some longer (Nicaragua, Greece, Turkey). Not bad, eh?
- Ah – my international trips this year – this wanderlust makes my feet itch! I’ve stopped blogging and posting my escapades online long back, but the memories of these trips will remain ingrained in my mind forever (Of course, it helps that I don’t forget anything).The trip to Nicaragua was off the beaten path and felt so much like India – 10 days of bliss! Later, surprising everyone I love in India for 3 weeks, followed by a glorious girls trip to Istanbul (which has my heart <3) and a week in Greece! This 5-week break to India and Europe was the best punishment that the federal laws could have imposed on me. 🙂
- Getting into a fitness routine. Never an athletic person, never one to have worked out 3 days a week, I built myself up to 6-day workout weeks, and lost some weight I had been holding onto since my 30th birthday. Good to know it’s not impossible.
- A whole new circle of friends – and experiences. Since my first step into the US, I had maintained a social balance. I studied and worked with American colleagues and friends, lived and had daily social interactions with Indians. Since moving to the Central Coast, this has been more than slightly skewed, and it takes a little while before you realize – we are all the same people dammit! And it’s all a balancing act – just in a different manner this time 🙂
- Slowww and steadyyy progress on the immigration front – still scared that something could go wrong (as it does). So shhh (let’s not rock the boat).
YEAR TEN: Finally at some point, it all starts settling down, and life remains status quo — and however boring it feels, I remind myself that it is perfectly okay to be boring , after 5 years of craziness, turmoil and sadness! Finally a year when I can make plans for a “future”, which is further away than a weekend. Yipee!
- Wait, what? I don’t have to deal with immigration lawyers every single week anymore? I don’t have to set aside hard earned funds for this crazy process? I don’t have to strategize and appeal to my professional colleagues as to why I should be able to live here? I can plan for a future? Wait what – Is this true, or am I dreaming? Do you want to build a snowman? 🙂
- Do you know how that feels? To be able to make a plan for something other than tomorrow? Have you ever been in that place, when you couldn’t? Because you had no clue what the day would bring, and how any small thing can shatter any best laid plans? I know how it does — I did that for 5 whole years. Was forced to live in the moment – yes in that very moment ONLY! Happy to be able to look ahead now – even if just a little bit.
- Traveling happy! Joshua Tree, East Coast, India (and within India), all over California with my loved ones – I am happy that I can actually do this!
- While committing to 30 days of happiness prior to my birthday last year, I realized that I do most of this list anyway! Maybe that’s why I stopped doing it after Day 18! If my regular happiness quotient is higher than most people, I must be doing something right, eh?
- Deeply deeply grateful for those who have been by my side through the last five years (you know who you are!). I know you only need a handful to keep you sane, and I am lucky I have a basket full of you! Some of you give me far more credit than I deserve; some of you are self-proclaimed Chairperson and members of my “Fan Club” (ha!); and some of you tell me I have been so strong through the trials and hurdles. Sorry to burst your bubble – I am just a really, really stubborn mule – and that’s NOT a good thing! 🙂
Leaving with a question that I pondered about for a while when I heard it on Being Mary Jane…
If you knew 10 years ago what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
My response today: Don’t be scared of anything that stumps you. Life happens, and you learn. As Neil Gaiman said: “Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly!”
To soaring through life, and more…
P.S. This was a much longer summary than the first one. But as everyone knows, after one reaches double digits, no numbers seem that large anyway, so maybe the next summary will be at the 20-year mark (I sincerely hope I am not as despondent even then).
My entire life can be described in one sentence – “It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OKAY!
~ Rachel Wolchin
Edit: It mostly feels strange that it’s been 10 years. For the most part, I still don’t feel like I belong in this country; and for some strange, inexplicable reason, I don’t feel like I belong in India anymore too. Kinda sad. When I mentioned it to a friend of work today, he said:
“You are like that forest tree that was transplanted into the city. The change in the environment baffled you at first, you wilted, missed the forest — then slowly, you started getting used to it, and after 10 years, you started to flourish again. Slowly, you became a city tree. It’s 10 years now — you will flourish soon!”
Best thing anyone has said to me in a long long time….