Travelling with Minimal (Emotional) Luggage

I’ve learned the importance of packing lightly when travelling because carrying too much weight can quickly become exhausting. Initially, travelling can be nerve-wracking; being away from the familiar and transplanting ourselves into new locations and cultures can be stressful. This vulnerability may also bring stress from imagining crazy dangerous “worst-case” situations that are highly unlikely to happen. To overcome this, I learned to plan trips better and buy things at the destination if I absolutely needed them. The result? Lighter luggage. Stressing about my future today robbed me of my current peace, and carrying the weight of my anxieties was the cause.

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Second-Generation Identity Crisis

This week is a celebration for many Indians around the world: the celebration of the festival known as Ganesh Chaturthi (Birthday of Ganesha). While Diwali is probably one of the most well-known Indian celebrations, I didn’t realize how many additional holidays there were until I became older. Since I wasn’t raised in a Hindu household (or any traditional religion for that matter), I didn’t truly understand their respective cultural significance. This led to one of the most difficult things I struggled with growing up — being genetically Indian, but culturally American.

Having a hyphen in both my first name (Jay-Ram) and my culture (Indian-American), my identity was rejected by most orthodox Indian people and families as being uncultured – they would scoff at me for knowing very little of my heritage. On the other hand, I didn’t know enough about American culture to understand certain social norms to fit in. I was too uncultured for one group, yet too foreign for another. In school, whenever a friend or teacher would ask me a question about Indian culture, it saddened me that I couldn’t offer them any information of value; I would often know as little as they did about the culture.

Little did I know then, there was an entire generation of second-generation immigrants struggling to find their own identities. This would prove to be an impossible task because there wasn’t an identity existed for us then– we had to create and synthesize our own culture from our own experiences. Additionally, if they weren’t second-generation immigrants themselves, many of our friends and teachers were a part of this cultural shift and new paradigm. Today, we are the majority. Our culture today is big on acceptance, because we know how it feels not to belong. We have gone through the struggle of being rejected and laughed at, while trying to create an identity for ourselves – we try to accept the people around us because some of us are still trying to accept ourselves.

It’s such an interesting feeling when two separate cultures feel foreign yet familiar at the same time. I can eat rice and lentils with my hands in the morning, and animal-style fries from In & Out with a fork in the evening — and I wouldn’t miss a beat travelling between these cultural dimensions. This practice of crossing cultures has become second nature to many of us because we through the struggle of adjusting and synthesizing a new culture. Holidays like today help give me context as to the person I’ve become and why it’s important to accept our past to create the path forward. Ganesha is known as the destroyers of obstacles and bringer of prosperity, and these are both things I wish for you on your journey of self-creation.

Let Yourself Fail (Sometimes)

Here’s an interesting idea, especially for those of us who are good at many things — a jack of all trades, but master of none — mastery requires giving up things we are good at so that we can focus on becoming the best at one of those things. This is the first step in cultivating your passion.

The primary fear holding most people back is often, “How do I know I’m picking the right thing?” The truth is that this often doesn’t matter, and is actually a hidden fear of rejection. Most people cannot imagine investing so much time and energy into something, only for it to possibly be failure and rejected by society. However this fear is exactly why many people do not succeed at mastering something — they tie their self worth to their results, and let their failures define them. But failure is not final unless you stop trying; failure is not apart from success, but rather is a part of success.

Before beginning any project, consider fully (all of your choices) and then act decisively (pick one). Decide under which circumstances you’ll give up. Then, do not quit until you achieve your desired outcome. There will be times where you’ll feel like your work is meaningless and opinions insignificant, but plowing through this self-doubt is the necessary process of growth and success. Those of us willing to put their soul into the furnace, can forge their spirit into the ultimate weapon. Being good at many things is fun and safe, but mastering something is risky yet necessary for fulfillment.

Let Them Be Free

It’s important to let that person go, so that you can continue to grow.

Okay so when I said this, did someone come to mind? And if so, why haven’t you let them go yet? Let’s talk about this.

Letting someone go is less about feeling bad about abandoning them, and more about having faith in their ability to thrive. They might feel pain initially, but this is necessary for growth — if you truly care about them, set them free. I’ve been really fortunate to meet many good people in my life, but I’ve learned that many of them were not meant to stay in it. It takes time to get to know someone, but once we spend the time to know them, does that mean we are obligated to continue being available to them?

I failed to realize that many people, like myself, are also in the process of growing; they might not be growing at the same pace, or to the same size of our ambitions — but that is alright. Eventually, we have to come to the realization that we are just different people. But what’s not okay is if you deny your own identity and do the disservice to yourself by keeping those around that hold you back. Stop cutting your branches just because someone else feels insecure in your shadows, and instead leave to a different garden so that you both of you can find your own sunlight and continue to grow.

Grief Awareness Day

Most people have a unique gift of being able to feel if someone is emotionally unwell. Sometimes, we’ll have a conversation with a friend or colleague and something will seem off. We’ll ask if everything is okay, but even if they say that they’re fine, their non-verbal cues seem to say otherwise; maybe the very opposite of “fine.” The polite thing to do is respect their words and believe them, since there is not much we can do at this point. But perhaps they have a personal reason for doing this; maybe they’re just trying to hold it together and get through the day. Maybe unpacking emotional troubles would destabilize or paralyze their emotional state. In that moment, we can give them a gift that they can choose to accept — a gift that they can take home to help unpack the emotional luggage they’ve been carrying around for so long: the gift of kindness. I’ve learned that I cannot show someone how to fix their problems, but I can give them space and positivity — they themselves are the ones best equipped to handle their problems; all they need is a clear head, love and time to change the story they’ve been telling themselves.

Tragedies of Recent History

I was recently going through my archive of articles, and I came across a piece I wrote the day after a bakery was bombed by a government sanctioned attacked in Syria. When I wrote it, I had trouble expressing my sadness. I imagined a small boy with his dad, waiting in line to get their rations — then: BOOM! Disoriented people scrambling from the dust of the aftermath, charred body parts scattered everywhere and people crying to their creator; everything had changed.

I wondered how long it would take for people to forget about this incident, and it seemed like maybe a few days at best. The answer may not surprise you if you watch the news. Terrible things are presented on the news daily, but good things also happen just as frequently. If we impulsively move from tragedy to tragedy at the behest of our reptilian brain, we become similar to branch-swinging monkeys trying avoiding a predator.

Decisions are made every day when it comes to humans lives. This attack was government sanctioned against the “terrorists,” but the civilians became the collateral damage. Some of my friends fear becoming jaded to the horrible news we see each day, and that this brutality will become normalized. I think the greater thing to fear is ignorance; mistakenly considering the world to be a hostile place, just because the small group of extremist assholes get the most exposure.

As Gandhi once said, “If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. If we take a moment and look back on a few tragedies today: Joseph Kony is no longer deemed an important criminal, Walter Palmer is still practicing dentistry after killing Cecil the Lion and the Ebola virus seemed to suddenly reset itself. These tragedies have time and time again emerged, which illustrates that we don’t need awareness anymore. People are aware, but now we need well thought out actions.

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The Story of Buddha and the Finely Tuned Instrument

Many years ago, Sifu (Teacher/Instructor) Patrick taught me about the Buddhist concept of moderation. In my teenage years, and up until my mid-twenties, I’d frequently swing between emotional extremes of happiness and sadness; my accompanying actions were just as impulsive. I would often isolate myself from friends when going through these extremes to avoid my consequences from affecting them– but this thinking was naive. I was always doing it for me.

Most of my life, I’ve been around people who are unable to practice self-control and emotional stability. Because of this, I believed that controlling my emotions meant to suppress my identity. However, I didn’t realize that living at the extremes removed me from living in the present moment: thinking about the past and the future would use time from today. The story that Sifu shared with me was about Buddha during the ascetic phase of his life:

One day, Buddha fell over next to a river while trying to mediate in his malnourished and emaciated state. Laying weakly by the river bank, he overheard a conversation between a teacher and student passing by on a boat. The teacher was advising the student on the importance of properly tuning an instrument. “If you tighten the string too much, it will snap. And if you give it too much slack, it won’t play.” It was then, that Buddha realized the path of moderation, or “The Middle Way.” Buddha had lived life as both a slack string (one of a lavish prince Siddhartha), and one of a string almost about to break (ascetic monk). But only a finely tuned instrument can bring out the true music from within it.

I share this story with you, because it offered great value for me in my personal growth. May you find the middle path in your own life, and walk it towards success.

A Very Drunk Wedding

A few years ago, my friend invited me as her date to a friend’s wedding. It’s exciting to be invited to wedding. Especially if there’s an open bar and lots of people you don’t know.

We made our way to our table and met with a very drunk audience. It was barely an hour into the reception and one of the girls was already plastered against the wall, struggling to stay awake.  Her long black hair and pale white skin made her look like a vengeful spirit out of a horror movie. Had she not leaned over when I sat down, anyone could’ve mistook her for dead: a thin, bony, pale body wearing a short, metallic blue dress.

“Oh man I’m tooo drunk.” she mumbled.

“Hey, shut the fuck up!” Her friend didn’t seem sympathetic at all. She herself had an empty bottle of Hennessy sitting in front of her and two full shot glasses of liquor. She asked me if I wanted to take a shot.

“No thanks.”

“Ok, your loss!!” She cheered herself and took both shots. She passed the empty bottle over to a guy sitting next to me. This guy was already suffering from a red glow and hiccups. He busted out an entirely new bottle of Hennessy.

“Why was everyone getting so drunk?” I thought.

I found out later that we sat with the older siblings of the bride:  one divorced and two unmarried. I could only begin to imagine what they were feeling. Perhaps a mixture of happiness, loneliness, sadness, and pressure (from the family)? I could only speculate. But if I had to pick between sorting through my emotions while surrounded by family, or taking shots… shots would seem less painful.

One of The Best Compliments Ever

“Are you a Christian, Jay teacher?”

“What?” She caught me off guard, “What makes you say that?”

“Well my mom said that Christians are good people who care about others and help people, so you have to be Christian.”

I didn’t know how to respond. This was clearly meant to be a sweet compliment. But right now, I couldn’t have an in-depth conversation about how people of different religious backgrounds can also help and care about others. At least not here.

I got this tutoring job by a friend’s recommendation, so I had to make a good impression; becoming the Camp’s controversial math tutor wouldn’t be the way to do it. That summer, my friend’s Christian Leadership Camp was short on math teachers. I needed the money and I was great at what I did: teaching math to middle-schoolers. I couldn’t imagine many scenarios where Jesus would come up when teaching algebraic foil methods. All things considered, I accepted the job.

But here we were. Did this student see me as a Christian for staying late to help with homework? Did she see me as Christian for empathizing when she told me her friends thought she was “dumb” and stopped being friends?  Did encouraging her to continue art classes (after seeing her amazing sketches on the margins of their math homework) make me a Christian?

I’m not sure about many of those things. But I do know that this was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my life. Being a decent human has no religious boundaries.

The Ascent

I decided to start documenting my journey of becoming a respected author, while things are still new, and I’m figuring out things. I want to be able to remember the beginning of the process, before the “likes” and popularity, so that I can remember the most important part of the journey, and share this with others.

It’s been roughly three months since I began writing every single day, with the purpose of becoming a better writer on my Instagram. I also started to read and write more so that I can have a better understanding of both the topic I wish to speak about (increasing the belief in oneself to do great things by recognizing negative patterns through self-awareness) and writing structure in general. I’m also still trying to figure out my demographic, but I think I’ll be able to narrow it down with more writing. I’ll have to give up podcasting daily so that I’ll have more time to write, and ramp up my audiobook intake.

It was also my first day at my new job today. It felt nice, and I met lots of good people. But at the end of the day, this job is just a tool for my writing and podcast. It’s important to always remember why we do what we do.