Monthly Archives: April 2020

The New Normal

The dictionary meaning of normal is ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.’

Like, as an Asian child growing up – to be ‘normal’ was to work super hard, get excellent grades and a get a good job. Continuing further, it also meant that you married a nice boy that your parents chose, had babies and lived happily ever after. So, to summarize normal meant – education, job, marriage and family.

And there were other aspects of normality that I took on even though it was never articulated – no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no partying. Yes, I know you think that my definition of normal is what weird meant for you.

And if I had probably stayed in India that would have been my definition of normal. However, as life would have it, I travelled abroad and met a few people and without realizing my definition of normal changed.

First, I had roommates in Phoenix who drank and partied hardcore, and to my surprise, I found that they were lovely human beings. Then, I had another roommate in London who blew away all my mental models of happiness. She was forty years old at that time – separated, about to get divorced, no kids and THE MOST HAPPIEST PERSON I had ever met. I was about twenty-seven at that time. An age where most of us looking for a job, looking for a partner – looking for something. It was quite fascinating to see somebody on the other side of the bridge and see what mattered. She also gave me the best career advice on how to run a meeting – which in my later years transformed into owning the room, executive presence etc. I digress.

Until I met her, my idea of a normal (and hence happy) life meant you had to be married and have kids. Divorce is an awful thing and should be avoided at all costs. And for the first time in my life, I realized that being normal wasn’t that important or even right for that instance. My forty year old divorced and now single roommate blew that normalcy for me. And since then, I have realized that I can define my own normal – which is very powerful if you think about it.

But, how many times we or society go back to revisit the normal. Slavery was normal at some time, and now it is a criminal offence. Do you ever wonder what if we sat down now as a society and decided what the new normal will look like? Especially, given all that, we are going through now with COVID-19. We have a unique chance to re-imagine at least some aspects of our lives which were not working.

What did news look like before coronavirus? What happened to all that? Do we still need that in our life? What about travel? What about all the items/events that we thought were necessary and now we do not even think about them?

How are you working towards the new normal?

Not Just Funny!

So, I have been watching a standup comedy show called – Comicstaan on Amazon Prime Video. This is an Indian show featuring Indian comedians. I stumbled upon it – watched the trailer, loved the jokes and got hooked to it.

I have watched other standup comedians too, mostly western and I enjoyed those, but there was something more endearing about Comicstaan. As I kept watching episodes, it dawned on me that it is the Indian context that I connected with at a deeper level sometimes even more so than the comedy.

Because I knew what they were talking about as I had gone through the experience myself. I believe that the punchlines are just a lot stronger in Hindi or other regional languages because that is what I heard growing up and some words aren’t translatable. You have to know them.

It was more of a nostalgic journey for me, as well. It brought back all the school memories, eve-teasing in India, local trains. The daily routine that I had and brought into sharp focus the sad/annoying parts of it in a humorous way – the beauty of stand up comedy. For example, when I was growing up, we had to do this thing called ‘March Past’. It was a squad of kids who would march around the school grounds and turn to look at the chief guest when we passed them. One of my favourite comedians – Kannan Gill did a 5-minute bit about it. To paraphrase, he said, ‘Which perverse chief guest wants to see kids sweat in the sun and look at him as they march past him?’ Authentic, made me wonder why we did that, but this is the beauty. You laugh at all the agony you went through.

It is also a source of connection for me. I shared this with my good friend and even my dad. And when I described it to them there was this moment of instant connection when we all went back to our school days – experienced the same thing – came back to the conversation feeling more connected.

It also brought me up to date with what has happened in India after I left. India now has the tallest statue in the world – called ‘Statue of unity.’ The state of ‘Allahbad’ is now called ‘Prayagraj’. And apparently, dick pics/casual sex/dating are the rage in India. It made me realize that India I knew and grew up in does not exist. I do not think I will be ‘at home’ in India the same way I was before – there will be a lot of catching up to do.

And of course, I laughed a lot. I chuckled and sometimes came close to rolling on the floor. When we can laugh at our follies – it is as close to nirvana or enlightenment that we can get to. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, and sometimes we need somebody else to point out that funny side.

How do you bring humor in your life?

Illogical

I have recently discovered Self-Compassion. I knew it was the right thing to do; it is something we should practice. But as we all know, there is a vast difference between knowing and knowing, right? When the student is ready teacher appears.

I watched the video by Kristen Neff on Self-Compassion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZBUSplr4&t=666s. If this topic calls out to you, then watch it. I am like in pre-kindergarten or pre-kg as Indians would say when it comes self-compassion. So, this talk was very insightful. It is in this talk she says – we all want to be above average, and if we look at the audience how is that even possible? Like, logically, practically possible. Makes sense, right? But then we all want to be above average. What is wrong with being average – when lots of people are average? As a matter of fact, what is wrong with being below average? Nothing, the only thing is you do not fit into the society’s definition of good. 

Perfection is a myth

The other item she talks about is being human is being imperfect. I love it. As a struggling perfectionist (and perfectionists are always struggling because it is difficult to achieve) I loved it that as humans, we are imperfect. We will mess up. If you haven’t messed up yet, too bad, it will be a lot to handle when it hits- one of the reasons for fear and anxiety in our society. To get the promotion, to top the class or if you are not competitive, then to be the best that you can be. What if you weren’t in the mood? Or, there are genuinely more intelligent, fast people than you. 

It’s like telling a river – you better win the race. Stupid, right. The river is happily flowing or bubbling – whatever it feels like and now all of a sudden the mother nature starts telling all its rivers – move fast, you have to be the one to reach the ocean first. Would that even work? And why would the river care – it is going to reach the ocean anyways. But, no as a society, we have to tell people to hurry up and reach their full potential.

If there is a judgement of any kind, then there is no compassion or self-love. Judgement at the end of the day is just another form of self-hatred. And it prevents you from accepting what is. Another excellent point that Kristen Neff makes is that self-compassion is loving yourself the way you are with flaws and all. All of us have parts of us that we love; usually, the ones that get external validation and other parts are neglected. Why the bias? I exist, and that is all there is to it. Imagine you tell your hand I love your pinky finger but the thumb not so much. First of all, stupid comparison – every finger has its use. And what is the point of comparison?

It is time to be kind of ourselves first – unless we learn that we will never be able to do it entirely for others. How will you be kind to yourself?

That Worked Out Well.

With the coronavirus shutdown, I am finding it easier to go inward. I had already started an introspection journey this year, so the lockdown came as a pleasant addition.

I wanted to share some experiences with you.

Engineering Days: I was not happy about the fact that I got admission into girls-only college. I wanted to have the same kind of fun my other friends were having in the co-ed (Mixed) colleges.

The first-ever interview: I did not get an offer from the first-ever company I interviewed with after engineering. I thought I was never going to get such a good job offer. (They were going to send me to Greece).

MBA: I had the impression that I was not a success because I had not got a job in consulting or finance after graduation. I harboured the belief that I was a second class citizen because I got a job in an industry.

The pain, disappointment and agony I felt in the previous situations were real, and it lasted from a few days to years. It felt like the end of the world; I will never amount to anything; nothing good is going to come out of this—a lot of missed opportunities and regret based on these situations. And of course, self-flogging was a given in all these situations.

And now, let’s look at what happened

Engineering Days: When I did get my first job offer, I realized I was more forthcoming and open in my opinions and comments at work. Since I spent four years in the engineering college with all girls, I was more comfortable in my skin and had no inhibitions that most of the friends from co-ed did. And this is something that is helping me even now.

The first-ever interview: The company never made good on their offers and my friends who had accepted the offer – could not sit for other companies and eventually had to look for a job without the campus interview process.

MBA: I learnt a lot while doing a great job of managing my work-life balance which was skewed towards life a lot more if I am honest. I got the time to immerse myself fully in the Creativity and Personal Mastery course, which taught me how to live life (a reason and inspiration behind this blog too). I understood the concept of hourly rate when I compared the hours’ other friends (in consulting/finance) and me in Consulting/finance worked.

Now, in hindsight, it makes so much more sense, and of course, it took its time sometimes years like five years, but the result is more to liking than the original plan. The reason why I am writing this is that I need to remember that 

  • What is mine will be mine – nobody can take it from me.
  • If I do not get what I want, then I have something even better in store for me.
  • It all works out; Universe has my back.

To bring it all back – Coronavirus too has a reason, there is a method behind the madness. And in the years to come, we will see the results.