The Insecurables : 2 – The Headquarters

“And with that, our first mission was successful! Cheers, ladies!”, announced the probably bully cum leader of the group.

“Beta testing was successful. It’s time to move to alpha mode,” she continued.

“Can someone please tell me what’s going on here? Beta testing?”, said the new girl.

“Right. I’ll take it from here, Fatso and Snarky”.

“Yes boss!”, the girls quipped.

“So, let me introduce myself. I’m the person who runs this group. I’m Nerdeshwari, but you can call me Nerdi with an i”.

“Hi… Nerdi with an i… I am..”.

“Let me cut you off there. Doesn’t matter. Your new code name is… *drumroll*… Dumpee.”

“Because I just got dumped?! How creative!”. Dumpee was not impressed.

“We prefer not to spend too much time on things like names. And these code words are convenient. They help remind us of our deepest insecurities”, Nerdi professed.

“How does that even help?” Dumpee was outraged.

“Because… I’m sad to say this but more often than not, insecurities make us who we are. They dictate how we behave with people. They define our actions!”

“That’s… true. But there are so many other things that also define us. Why don’t we use them as code names?”

“Yeah, why don’t we just become Instagram models and show the best representation of our lives to everyone around us? Be “flawless”?”, Snarky instigated Dumpee.

“What she means is, we are so used to expressing positive traits about ourselves, but we are so hard on ourselves when it comes to the negative ones, to the point that we disown them, even though they’re very much a part of us”, explained Fatso.

“So, we want to include you in our group. We’re the Insecurables. We’re a bunch of girls with different insecurities and flaws. And we want to help other people who go through insecurities, much like us, in day to day life”, Nerdi explained to Dumpee.

“You’re the last member of our superhero team, if you accept. We move to our next phase in which we help people like us, by interacting with them in person. Could be anything between a five minute conversation to a day long date. But that’s the end of it.”

“We believe that this generation lacks conversation. That people are too preoccupied with being perfect around others that they end up hiding 90% of their true selves. Only to realize at a later point, how f**ked up their life is. At that point, they find it impossible to find a shoulder to cry on, because that breaks their perfect illusion of happiness”, Nerdi continued.

“That… Almost sounds noble. But what’s in it for us?”

“Nothing monetary or materialistic. Just trying to make the world a better place.”

“Better than using that time to feel sorry about ourselves, eh?”

“Roger that!”, exclaimed Dumpee.

“So are you in?”

“Yes! So is this it? The four of us? Nerdi, Fatso, Snarky and Dumpee?”

“Oh no, there are more. There’s Sulky, but you’ll never see her in broad daylight. She’s like a vampire that way”.

“Ya we put her on night duty most of the time.”

“And then there’s Chandler”.

“A boy?”

“No, a girl, Phoebe’s neice from that some show called Friends. She’s the funny one.”

“How does she get to have a normal name? Cause I really thought the naming scheme was starting to resemble that of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, Dumpee interjected in jest.

“Yeah, Chandler is different. She picked her name out herself, once she came to know of our arrangement. Also, she’s not really Phoebe’s niece. Though she has a great sense of humor. ”

“And layers and layers of unresolved issues…. What? Not in the mood for some dark humor?”, quipped Chandler, making a comical entry.

“So that just leaves Sulky”, Dumpee counted.

“Yeah, you’re not going to see her before the crack of Dusk. But make yourself comfortable. From now on, this room, is your second house”, said Nerdi, wrapping up the introduction session.

“Third, I already have two houses”, Dumpee winked.

“Great, we have have a sponsor for our noble plans then!”

 

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The Insecurables : 1 – Beta Testing

Location: Cambridge subway station, MA, USA.

Target: Girl getting dumped by her boyfriend.

“Please, Guy, we can try and make this work! Give us another chance!”, she begged.

“Look, I’m sorry, I can’t do anything about this. My hands are tied. I need to leave town tomorrow and I can’t keep up with this any more. Just wish me luck for my new job. You know I wish for nothing more than the best for you!”

“And I’ve said it over and over again! Let me come with you! We can explore a new city together. Have new adventures. How can you throw away 2 years worth of togetherness?”

“Look, things change. I’m sorry if I led you on, but this is the way it had to be. Stop doing this to yourself and let me be… And I really need to catch this next train, which sure enough, is about to leave…”, he had already started walking away.

“You can’t just abandon me at this station all alone!”, the girl shouted, crying vehemently. But it wasn’t enough to stop Guy. Nothing ever was, actually.

Guy was about to chase his dreams. And the Guy of the girl’s dreams was running away, just as fast..

“Heartbreaking”, said an unfamiliar female voice.

“Gut wrenching”, said another.

“I’m sorry I’m in no mood to converse with strangers”, said the girl.

“Oh we totally get you, sister. I’ve been dumped thrice in my life and only two of them said they did so because they felt I was too fat. And this one, she’s more of a dumper than a dumpee. But a highly compassionate one at that!”

“Is that supposed to be funny?”

“No, tragic is the word that you’re looking for.”

“I’m sorry for being at a loss for the right words. But I’ve just lost the love of my life!”, she sobbed.

“Listen girl, although it’s highly romantic, and pure of you to stand here and feel sorry about yourself, we have been ordered to snag you from the scene of crime.”

“What?”

“Yeah, you need to come with us. You’re under arrest for being blindingly insecure. Such a shame, you’re actually quite pretty”, said the Compassionate Dumper.

“You know, you’re far from compassionate. Also, this is so random, I’m getting out of here. Find someone else to make fun of!”, she said, exasperated.

“Look, if you run, we’ll have to run after you. But we’re being serious. You’re being summoned by our leader.”

“What leader?”

“We’re not at liberty to say unless you accept to come with us and meet her.”

“And you’re not going to leave me alone till I do?”

“Technically we can’t force you, but we will insist very hard and hope to convince you to”, said the … fat one.

“Okay… So what were your names again?”, said the girl, perplexed.

“We’re not at liberty to reveal them, until you agree to come with us,” they chanted again.

“If your previous plans are anything to go by, you were probably expecting to flee with your boyfriend dearest. But at the moment, it looks like your schedule has just cleared up wide open”, said the snarky one.

“Ugh. Okay. Fine. But the moment I start feeling uncomfortable about this, I get to flee?”, said the girl,  with uncertainty.

“Yes, ma’am, you have no obligations towards us, we’re honestly just seeking to help and for help”, the fat one reassured her.

“FOR help?”

“Should we take that as a yes?”

“Take that as a maybe.”

“So yes for now?”, said the politer one.

“Yes”, said the girl, mildly curious.

“Don’t worry, unlike you, we don’t expect long term commitments from the get go!”.

“Great, cause commitment is the last thing I want to talk about right now!”, said the dumped girl, wiping of the last of her tears. “Also, what were your names again?”

“Fatso and Snarky”, they said in unison.

“You’ve got to be kidding me! Those are your real names or names bullies call you?”, she said in disbelief.

“No, they’re code names assigned by a particular bully, but as you can see, they’re well aligned with our personalities.”

“We’re taking you with us to meet that very bully”, said Snarky.

“Yeah, we just need to catch the next train”, said Fatso.

“Oh. The last train left just 5 mins ago.”

“Yeah. We know. We witnessed it. But you and your boyfriend are going in opposite directions from here on. This platform is for Outbound trains. We’re going Inbound.”

“Wow, is that some kind of metaphor for where my life is heading?”

“No, dear precious! Our headquarters are in Downtown! Time to change tracks”.

 

New Magic

This is my third ever time doing a summer internship, and I’m all of 25. I find myself in a new city. Boston! And I begin work this Tuesday, i.e. tomorrow!

I get the feeling that as I’m getting older, I have begun craving for more and more stability… And I’m less likely to take risks. I want to be comfortable, but here I am in a new (and a very big) city, I know no one here… and I’m here to do an internship that I hadn’t exactly planned for. Quite frankly, it’s frightening.

Maybe, I shouldn’t be so stuck up. Maybe, I shouldn’t be so scared. With every new and big change, one obviously fears losing what they’ve become accustomed to. In my case, that would be a comfortable lifestyle, familiar faces that are almost… familial, a pre-established identity (and a good and probably impressive one that too!).

But it’s a new place, and I’ll have to make new friends (who will sadly also be temporary). And I’ll need to prove myself all over again. And become comfortable with the Where’s and What’s and How’s of the city. And all of that takes so much effort for a person like me!

Can anyone actually be prepared for big changes?

But before I go into complete Whine-mode, let me reflect back to the last time I was uncomfortable and made a big change in my life. When I moved to the States to pursue my PhD. It was a huge risk and… surprisingly and in a very positive way, it worked out really well for me. Granted, I was in a much more uncomfortable position prior to coming for my PhD, so there was more of a desperation to change status quo ante.

Does that mean I’ve become comfortable with the way my life has become in the last two years? Am I … for the first time in my life, satisfied?

Maybe. And maybe that’s what’s frightening to let go of. It’s frightening to let go of the person I’ve become. Not that I’m saying that I don’t have flaws. In fact, I have way too many. But in the last two years, a lot changed, in terms of the way I started facing my fears, or the new (some really fun) adventures I took on, or some rather scary decisions that I’ve had to make. It was a lot to get through, and I could with a lot of help from some really cool people around me.

But this time, there was no urgency. I just blindly followed orders from my advisor. Maybe he could sense the complacency creeping up on me. Maybe he wanted me to challenge myself more. Maybe he just wanted a peaceful summer with less students to deal with!

So now, I find myself here. I don’t quite have the burning desire to prove myself, that I had two years ago. I do have an experience in doing research and writing papers. I’m not sure if I can repeat the magic that lasted me the last two years.

If I take a step back to think about it… I haven’t exactly accomplished all that I wanted to, during my PhD. I wanted to come up with an idea for a start-up. I wanted to be a part of a monumental change in the landscape of my current research. I don’t think I’m there yet.

So maybe there’s still more magic left to do. Maybe, I just haven’t tried all the spells yet.

Fun.

Ever since I came to Iowa for my PhD, I have worked extremely hard. Went to great lengths to accomplish a few goals that I had set for myself. And I did end up accomplishing most!

So this year, on New Year’s, I resolved to have more fun this year. And what fun I had!

I’m just 3.5 months into this year and I think I’ve finished up my entire quota of fun for the year!

This year, I gave fewer fucks about most people. I partied. Drank quite bit, even smoked a cigarette for the first time in my life. Made new friends. Played racquetball, cards and pool. Got myself Netflix. Met old friends of mine from college. Visited new cities. All while trying my best to handle my growing work responsibilities. (Oh, I also impulse bought a guitar that I haven’t played for a while now.)

And I’ve been failing at the work responsibilities part (though I admit, I had a ridiculously high amount this semester), but at least I had fun! So I basically flipped my entire life from being a big introvert to a big extrovert. Which brings me to the point of some extra-intro-spection.

At this point, I realize that what I described as fun, is actually what most extroverts would describe as fun. The kind of fun that distracts you from the harsher realities of life. And sometimes, the entirety of your life’s purpose.

I realize that I have had fun before as well, just not with so many other people! And much of that fun involved getting in touch with myself, and not an external locus. So basically, I would write a lot, go on solo walks or bike rides (which has been impossible in the last 3 months, thanks to the constant snow. Why is it snowing in April?!), try some sketching, cook new recipes, decorating, gymming once in a while. And that made me happy too. I relied on and spoke to way fewer people but work kept me that busy and I never felt like I was missing out on anything.

So what triggered this massive change? Well, firstly, I myself wanted to explore what this other, somewhat crazy lifestyle was like. Because when you rely on few people, there could be times when all of those people might not be around, in which case your minimal social needs do not get fulfilled, and you’re all alone in the winter vacation. And secondly, the company I kept. The group of people I chose to hang out with.

What I’ve learned about group dynamics is that you need to contribute a constant energy to maintain your position in the group. For example, if I don’t go play pool for a few times, my friends would get comfortable without me and would henceforth stop inviting me. Also, they’d get way better at playing pool, so the disparity in skill would keep increasing. The same goes for drinking. I like these to be once-in-a-while/weekend kind of activities.

So you need to keep yourself involved to a certain extent, or else you start getting excluded.

I guess that means that it’s more important to find the right kind of people that you can vibe well with. Who have similar life goals and ambitions and similar happiness/stability levels. For example, it isn’t fun to hang out with people who are completely addicted to drinking. Then it becomes more of the thing you do out of peer pressure than because you actually want to do it.

So you want to be a part of a group but also maintain your individuality, which is the tricky part that I want to figure out.

Quite frankly, that’s too many parameters to worry about! Introversion is so much more convenient!

The best kind of deal is if I can learn to balance between these two. Place myself on the fine line between these two and be an ambivert. Extremes are too tiring. And yes, “too much fun” is a thing.

Over the past few months I’ve also started liking aspects of myself more, so I really want to start inching closer to my former self. Keep the internal monologue going. Turns out, I like my own company the best!

All over the world

Over the past few months, I jet setted all over North America! It started when I flew to Long Beach, California, to present my first ever paper, back in December ’17! It was a refreshing change from corny Iowa (there was a video trending #1 on YouTube this week, called Welcome to Iowa, that should give you a good idea of what I’m talking about). I also visited Huntington Beach, because I love beaches, and they’ve been a part of my life for around 5 years (my undergraduate degree college was in a state full of beaches, and Mumbai, where I come from, also has quite a few of those).

Next stop was in March ’18, during Spring Break, this time to New York City (Manhattan) and then to Atlantic City! I got to meet some old friends after a very long time! Saw some museums, casinos, and yes, a beach again! And pocketed some salt water taffy on my way back!

Soon after, in April ’18, I visited Washington DC to visit my boyfriend after a very long time! He was around for presenting two papers at a conference! We saw the cherry blossoms during their (almost) peak season, and also saw some monuments and museums! And the White House, of course!

I’m only halfway through my route map so far. Next few stops are Calgary, Canada for a conference; Mumbai, India to visit home; Boston, Massachusettes for a summer internship and Vail, Colorado for another conference! Possibly Cleaveland, Ohio to meet my sisters! All in the span in the next few months!

I feel so high and so fly 🤓! Let’s hope I continue getting chances to see new places!

Yes and no – Part 1

As she walked into the supermarket, Anuva had a tough choice ahead of her. It was a question that seemed to have daunted her since forever. So she gathered every shred of focus and attention that she could, and hoped her decision was for the best.

Poppables or Pringles?

150 calories in a serving size of 30 potato pops or 15 potato crisps?

What if she made the wrong choice?

Surely it deserved more than 5 minutes of contemplation!

Yes, and no.

If she contemplated long enough, she wouldn’t pick either, because that would be the healthiest choice.

If she didn’t contemplate at all, she would end up picking at random, and both would be equally unhealthy and pricey. At least she could save 5 minutes of her life. Or she could just pick both. 2$? Big deal!

The problem was and is, when the extent of contemplation was somewhere in between.

And in between was … neither yes nor no.

***

It was almost the end of his shift as a part time store manager at the local supermarket. Jay walked across the snacks aisle and found a girl keenly inspecting two different packets of snacks. He was amused. This girl had been staring at a rack of crisps for what felt like eternity. Picked one packet up. Kept the other one back. Repeat.

Seriously? So much contemplation over crisps?

Something was definitely up with this girl, and Jay had two choices; on any other day, he wouldn’t have bothered. But he had had a long day and he really needed to shut the store down for the day. This girl was the last remaining customer.

“Hi, can I help you?”

“Umm no, I’m okay”, Anuva muttered with utmost uncertainty.

“I apologise ma’am, but I need to shut store soon.”

“Oh, okay, can I just checkout with this one item?”, she held out a box of Pringles that she had picked out for the nth time just a few seconds ago.

“I’m sorry, all counters are closed, though I can make an exception if you have cash on you.”

“Oh, crap! You know, I always think I need to have cash, but forget to take a cash back while checking out.”

“I… Wasn’t really looking for an explanation but I’ll take that as a no.”

“I’m sorry, I’m having a bad day.”

“Yeah, at this point, I’m going to have to concur with you and say the same about my day.”

“Sorry”, Anuva mumbled. Being thrown out of a supermarket was a new achievement for her. So much for trainwrecking.

***

Trainwrecking was what Anuva called her life, humorously, when even the smallest of things seemed to go wrong. It would usually be a series of mishaps, that, in the long run, would seem very trivial, but in the moment, alluded to the whole world crashing down on her. And this, was one such day.

“You don’t need to keep apologizing, you know!”, said the guy from the store. Jay his name tag read.

“Okay. So what rhymes with Jay and comes right after it?”, Anuva said, humorously.

“K?”, Jay rolled his eyes.

“Yup. K! JK!”

“This was definitely funnier than your Deal or No deal episode from a few minutes ago”.

“Are store managers allowed to be this sarcastic?”

“Only when customers like you are indecisive in the dead of the night at closing time, and the manager hasn’t slept for 20 hours.”

“Wow, what’s going on with you?”

“Life”, Jay shrugged.

“Well, that explains it all!”, Anuva stared at Jay, animated.

“Yeah, so let’s close this shop down for now so we can get on with … life.”

“Fair enough… So where do you stay?”

“What’s up with you, ma’am? Breakup? School trouble? Can’t find the right shoe to match your top?”

“Don’t do breakups, I’m a straight As student and I just have one pair of shoes that goes with everything I wear”.

“So what was with Sophie’s Choice back there?”

“OCD.”

“Of course!”, Jay sighed.

“You won’t get it.”

“No, actually I do. I’m just hoping you get it too, soon enough, before you manage to keep someone else from getting a night of peaceful sleep”.

“What’s your problem again?”

“Life.”

***

Being stuck at his place of work was the last thing Jay wanted to do. He had been up all of the previous night, studying for an interview that was to happen that day. It had got cancelled and pushed back on the last minute because (something that makes no difference to this narrative) came up.

“So, I think we’re done here. Have a good night!”

“No wait, you didn’t even ask me my name?”

“I guess that slipped my mind somehow.”

“Anuva”.

“Okay Anuva. Good night!

“I’ll see you again tomorrow! I’m coming back for the Poppables.”

Of course she would.

Dear 12 year old self

I remember you, and the weird tinglings,
That you felt for your school crush,
Love was literally around the corner,
He’d sit right beside you,
And little else did you wonder.

He was great at science,
You were, at best, average.
He was friendly, very social,
You were stuck up, introverted.

You admired him from a distance,
Promised yourself you’d tell him some day,
But you just let it be,
School crushes didn’t mean anything!
And love, wasn’t so easy.

You didn’t have many friends,
You felt isolated, shy, never confident,
Confined yourself to the solace of your own company,
Lived in a bubble, that no one could burst.

You were told to live up,
To incredible expectations.
“Being smart, was of utmost importance,”
“Mediocrity, was as good as failure”,
“Hard work, made the world of a difference.”

Somewhere, you bought into the whole story,
You tried to stick to that story line,
Believed you were meant for something bigger,

Appreciation, was never handed over to you,
Every time you achieved something,
You were asked to try harder,
“Not good enough”.

You were told your head would swell with pride,
You were told, you’d stop working harder.
Love was either authoritarian and dismissive,
Or submissive and overly accommodating,
The later, often being overshadowed by the former.

But appreciation, you got from outside,
Validation from your teachers,
Companionship and support from your friends,
For everything else, you had yourself.

When you felt scared, you had your own back,
You never felt lonely, just desperate,
To escape the reigns of an overbearing patriarch.

You were told we were royal, centuries ago.
Self-righteousness in our blood,
Violence, a liberally used weapon,
Intimidation, a way to get what you wanted,
Sensitivity, a weakness, respect, a default.

Your mother, like mother nature,
Was all too accommodating,
Compassionate beyond any humane capacity,
Helpful, sweet, mediating,
Taught you, to adjust, to comply.

All wrong. Brainwashing.

Respect needed to be earned,
Love needed to be shown, not held back,
Violence, was plain wrong,
Sensitivity, a requirement,
Compassion shown, only where it would be appreciated.

It won’t be all in vain though,
You can still use all the virtues you’ve learnt,
You just need to apply them in the right places.

As for love, the right kind will make its way to you,
And when it does, recognize it, accept it,
Don’t be scared of it because it’s not familiar,
Cherish it, because you truly deserve it.

So, dear 12 year old self,
I’m sorry for the mistakes you’re going to make.
It might take a lifetime to undo,
What you’ve experienced so far.
But you’re going to make your way out of it.

Love,
25 year old self.