Posted in Careers, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Writing

What Makes You Happy

I’ve been writing for as long as I could remember. Growing up, I used to fill up pages and pages of random notebooks and diaries (some of them with actual locks and keys) with entries about my extraordinarily ordinary life: bad-hair days, arguments with adults who will never understand me and whose purpose in life seemed to be ruining mine, the dramas of female friendships at an age when friends can be particularly cruel, and of course, boys, boys, and more boys.

From the time I discovered that boys were fascinating creatures who did not, in fact, have cooties, I’ve been writing about them. Nick Carter, my first crush, with his glorious blond hair, and a singing voice that seemed perpetually stuck in that moment between adolescence and manhood.

The popular guy in class whom every girl had a crush on, and every one of them was jealous of little old me because I was privileged enough to be close friends with him, the first of my many forays into the friend zone.

There was the bad boy that my father disapproved of, the boyfriend of a close friend that I had a serious crush on, the nemesis who was the Arnold to my Helga all throughout high school (I even have the cheesy poems to show for it), the summer love who I still think of as the one who got away.

And of course, there’s the big one. My One Great Love. The one boy/man/whatever who will forever be my muse, because writing about my feelings for him, unrequited as they are, will give me reams of material with which to write blogs, sonnets, and books about until the end of time. Everything that he is (or was) to me, every single tear and heartbreak, the exquisite pleasure/pain of having come so close but never getting close enough…there’s so much to unpack that if I put it all in one volume it will reach War and Peace proportions.

This blog entry is not, in fact, about the many guys I have given pieces of my heart to. Actually, this is probably the most aimless blog entry I will ever make, because I woke up today full of random thoughts about life in general and growing up and being an adult in particular.

I started thinking about how we live so much of our lives as if we were running a race and we’re smack dab in the middle of the pack: always looking back at who and what we’ve left behind and forever running after the ones that have sprinted before us, hoping to either keep pace with them, or race past them on the way to some arbitrary finish line.

Its exhausting.

I’ve had several conversations these past couple of weeks about mental health and how important it is for a person to feel self-actualised – or at least to feel like a complete human being with their own goals, dreams, and aspirations. It was easier when we were younger to dream impossible things. it wasn’t ludicrous at all to dream about being presidents, or astronauts, or in my case, an Olympic figure skater. Somehow when we grow up we subsume all of that into the daily task of surviving.

It became more important to find a job that pays the rent than it is to find something that really gives you fulfilment.

I got the closest thing to the job of my dreams this year when I became education lead for a building that focuses on orthopaedics, a speciality that I love so much. I put everything I had into getting the project off the ground and I don’t know at what point I started to feel lost, or when I started to feel like I didn’t know myself anymore, like I exist only as another cog in the huge machinery that is the NHS and I have no life outside the operating theatre.

All I know is that I blinked and suddenly two whole months have gone by and I haven’t done a single thing that wasn’t related to health care, nor have I written a single thing that wasn’t an email to our procurement team, with an itemised lists of things that I felt they should be doing better. It was so depressing.

I looked at social media and only felt worse. Other people my age were out there achieving things, travelling even in the midst of a pandemic, getting married, having babies, buying houses…and I felt like I had nothing. No matter how many times I told myself that comparing my life to the heavily curated lies lives shown through the imperfect lens of social media is counterproductive, I couldn’t help scrolling through it anyway, and I’m not (nor will I ever be) strong enough to deactivate all of my accounts.

When I finally made time to have a moment to myself to just write, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt like me again. I didn’t even write anything all that important, it was probably another book review that got like 15 views and was filled with rants about the government’s handling of covid. Either that or it was about boys (lol).

But it didn’t really matter what I wrote about. I realised that the whole point was just to write. Period.

When I started this blog, I had a whole vision of what it could be and I was disappointed to realise years later that I would never be able to commit to doing it full-time, and I just didn’t have it in me to be a blogger, with all the pressure to produce marketable content every so often. So I channeled my energies into writing a book, only to be in despair at the start of this year because I felt like I would never have enough time or energy to write all the stories that live inside my head that I actually want to tell people.

I said to myself, face it Anj, you will die having never been a writer.

But then I thought about what writing means to me. it’s a way to reach people and share little bits of myself in the hopes of being seen and understood. It’s a way to make people laugh, cry, or maybe even just think. It’s a way of challenging the way other people see the world when I express opinions they might not necessarily agree with. But mostly it’s just a way of giving the gift of words to people I love.

Last week, I had a very difficult conversation with a friend who means so much to me, and I didn’t feel like what I said was adequate enough to give her comfort, or to convey that I might never be able to fully understand what she was going through but I was here for her nonetheless. So I wrote her a poem – free verse, nothing special. I don’t even think I followed the correct structure for free verse, but whatever. I just wanted her to have something of her own and hopefully let her know that she’s not alone.

When she read it and loved it, I realised that all this time I’ve been bemoaning my inability to become a writer but by my own definition of what writing is to me, wasn’t I already one? Sure, I haven’t published an international bestseller, but in my own little way, haven’t I been reaching people through the medium of words for as long as I’ve known that the letters of the alphabet were more than just random ABCs?

The long and short of it is that putting words to paper makes me happy. It doesn’t have to be a big production. I could just be writing about boys, haha, a running theme in my life until I finally find that all elusive someone. Although I’d like to think I’ve matured enough to be able to write about other things as well.

I don’t need my writing be validated by likes or follows on social media. I already spend so much of my time being different things to different people but when I write, I write just for me. And no matter how busy life gets, no matter how stressed I am, no matter how much life or other people around me might stretch me to the point of breaking, as long as I can still write, I know I’ll be okay.

I think it’s essential that we all find that one thing that still gives us a spark of joy even as the daily grind tries to dim our sparkle. There has to be something more to life than just existing. We need to be able to wake up each morning knowing we have a purpose, knowing that life has meaning and that life still has joy. Because otherwise, what’s the point really?

If you find that one thing you do just for you that makes you happy, hold on to it, find time for it, and (to borrow from Nike) just do it. Who knows? It might even be possible to make the impossible dreams you dreamt when you were younger come true. It could still happen. And with that, let me find out how much ice skating lessons in London cost. The Winter Olympics is coming soon. LOL.