It was the 31st of December. I was in a bar. My friends sat all around me on what was a table overflowing with pints of beer. It was a good evening, and I was a little tense because of something at the bank. I had just received the Indian Blogger Award though so life wasn’t as bad. It was a classic case of general experience, and the new year was right around the corner. This was last year.
I poured some warm water into the french press, and I let it warm up a little. Thirty seconds later, I put some grounds in it and gave it a little stir. I put the lid on, and let it brew for a minute. Then, I took the cover off again, added some more water, and let it brew for another three minutes. I pushed the handle down and poured myself a cup of coffee. This was in the morning, today.
It’s been a long year, like every year before it. Perhaps, it’s the age. Honestly, if I got a dollar every time I wrote or said that, I’d have my coffee expenses done and dusted in a week or so. That’s how often I put everything on the age.
If you read this journal, you know. If you’ve met me, you’re already tired of the phrase. That is what always comes to mind though, so I can’t help it.
For me though, this year began in May. Everything before that is an intentional blur, and for good reason. Life was mundane. There was a general college routine, there were concerts or gigs that broke that routine, there were visits to the mall, and to coffee shops, and to bars.
All of that was because I was waiting for May. I was waiting for May diligently. That was when “the gap year” would officially start, and I shall be free.
May came, and with it came the longest weeks I have ever had. On the ninth day of May, I experienced the first real loss of my entire life. I lost my dog. It was the saddest I had been and I’d be all year, but college was ending and so I couldn’t take two minutes aside.
We sat in the cafeteria in the evening. Everyone was talking, but I don’t remember anything that anyone said that day. I spoke little; I remember that much. It was the fifteenth of May, college was over, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted the gap anymore.
Then, came June, and with it came Hyderabad. I had to volunteer for Kaarmic, which I had signed up when the gap year fervour was all over me.
I found myself around some of the best people I had ever met though. After about four days in Hyderabad, and meeting new people, and eventually becoming friends with them, we were divided into smaller groups and sent to newer places.
Slowly, life started getting great again. Life in Nallavagu was simple. The six of us would wake up, get ready, go to the school and have food as we cribbed over it, we’d teach our curriculums where the students were noisy and very annoying at times.
In the evenings, we’d sit by the lake, and take long walks and talk about things, we’d work on the curriculum, and play a little, and listen to music, and talk some more until we slept. It was the same thing for fifteen days, and I craved routine.
In those five people, I found an escape for a while, and after about six days or so, I just found genuine friendship and nothing else. In the students, I found memories worth keeping forever. I still remember most of their names and faces, and I often think what they are up to these days. There were a few of my favourite ones, and so they get a little more thought than the others.
The camp ended, and it was time go back. So, I came back to Dehradun with a plethora of memories, some great friends, a crush, and the ability to eat food including rice and curry with my bare hands and still managing to wipe the plate clean.
June ended. My brother got engaged, and life was a little normal again. I wanted to be on the gap again.
With July, came a sense of responsibility, and so I built a life around habits. I did not want to waste a single day. I realised that days are all we have. It was a new understanding but I really started to believe in it. I realised that all you had to do was have good days, and life shall be good.
So, I spent the entire month of July crafting a template for the rest of the year. July passed, and with it came some learning in the fields I wanted to pursue, some writing, some reading, some general fitness, and some memories.
July was the buffer, and it was a good one.
With August, came love. Like every time love enters your life, it shook things up and changed everything I knew about the gap year. Within a month, I had smiled for the first time a thousand times over, and each time was brighter than the last. I was happy. I was doing whatever I wanted, and love was around. What else do I need, I’d often think to myself.
The fourteenth of September was the best day of the year so far probably because we celebrated my parent’s anniversary, and they were happy. I was the happiest I’d been this year.
It was a rather freeing feeling to see everything come together. I was doing what I wanted, learning on my own time, reading, writing a little, having great days. I was in a somewhat healthy relationship. It was all going to work out.
The fifteenth of September was the longest day of the year so far probably because it didn’t end until the morning of the sixteenth.
The relationship was over, and with it gone the freeing feeling didn’t stay for a lot of time either. Living in Dehradun became difficult temporarily. Heartbreak sucks, and when it happens when you’re at your mental peak, it sucks a little bit more.
It’s a long fall down.
I had a way out though. A conference in Bangalore was around, and while I had to go for it anyway, I decided to go further and not come back until I really wanted to. So, that’s what I did.
I travelled for a month. The first week was, like in Nallavagu, an escape. By the second week, I was travelling because I wanted to do it.
Amidst all the travelling, there was studying, and courses, and exams, and reading. I met people from around the world, and the only lesson I found there was that human beings are not as different as one might think. It’s all the same, everywhere.
In the month when I was on the road, I travelled all around Rajasthan. Every major city that I had heard of, I set foot in, but to say it changed my life would be overly clichéd. It was an experience. It made me realise what I knew about myself. I understood what makes me tick; I realised what I enjoy.
October was almost over now, and my birthday was around. The twenty-fourth of October was spent in Mumbai. I spent the day by myself, spending time on my own, and just learning a simple truth. Places hold as much significance as we put into them.
It was never about the place.
I sat by Marine Drive and kept staring into the sea as the sun set on my left, and the skyline on my right seemed to steal all the light toward itself. Mumbai is always beautiful. The twenty-fourth of October was the day when I had the most clarity I’ve had this year.
I came back to Dehradun on the twenty-fifth. Immediately, I got back into the routine I had left behind. That was over a month ago. It’s been the same since then. November was like July; November was the buffer. I did receive my degree. However, I wanted to stay put until the end of the year now.
Throughout November, I wanted nothing to happen. It had been a long year. I just wanted to let it be that, and not longer. So, I kept doing whatever I did.
There was a little phase, a week or so when I’d start contemplating yet again if I wanted to take my life further creatively or in what I was learning. In the end, I decided it was an absurd choice. You don’t choose between complementary things.
I write about my life; I need a life to write about.
Hopium’s Dreamers plays in the earphones again this year. A song about how December is here, and you still didn’t do anything. Only this time, I did everything I wanted to, and then some more.
Six months ago, I had no clue about Data. Today, I know what I don’t know about Data. I also know some things about philosophy, psychology, history and everything in between. I’m currently working on learning some economics. Not to mention, the reading list is getting shorter these days.
I’d say I’ve learned well this year.
Six months ago, I was spiralling sporadically. Now, I know things happen, and maybe I will still spiral every other week, and get overwhelmed by life, but I’ll get better at handling it.
In the end, this is what I’ve learned in 2018
I don’t believe in stories anymore – the great romance, the underdog champion, the great sacrifice – all of these are clichés put into our heads by those who came before and all of these tell the same story. They tell the story of happiness.
Find true love, they say, and you shall be happy. Find a dream, they say, and you shall be happy. Go ahead, find something to lose yourself for, they say, and you shall be happy.
However, I know now that happiness isn’t an end goal. It was never intended to be. It’s just a feeling, out of many.
It’s this, all of it, all around me, all inside me. It’s the first sip of coffee. It’s the people I laugh with in the evening, even if only on Sundays because we’re all busy now. It’s realising I didn’t waste the year, and still loving the song that says I did. It’s all of that and more.
It’s my hands on the keyboard irrespective of whether they’re writing code or words. It’s in that last sip of coffee when I’m done writing.