Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
– H. W. Longfellow
Since I last wrote, the Germans have won their 4th World Cup, I have learned how to read music, regained most moving ability of my finger, read a few more annals of Jeeves, turned 28, returned to the pool *does joyful backflips*, discovered another part of the city, planned out my September travels to New York (again!) and Texas, and put my foot beyond my circle of comfort. Good?
Birthdays, as I have repeatedly stressed over the years, have always been a big deal in my family. We’ve always a had a party, complete with cake and games. The days, or sometimes weeks, preceding this event are spent shopping for new clothes and selecting an array of gifts.
Since I’ve spent the past four years away from family, I normally take it upon myself to do all of that. This year was no different. A week’s worth of shopping and accumulating useful things for myself all in the name of celebration. What did I treat myself to? A vast selection of clothing, just because it is a necessity, a MacBook Air and Bose QuietComfort earphones. My parents added to that with a very lovely diamond pendant (I am yet to receive it!!). The day of my turning 28 demanded a chic, if I might say so myself, haircut and a visit to the spa for some well manicured nails. The colleagues indulged in delicious ‘gourmet’ do(ugh)nuts and my new found family of Chicago based friends took my out to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in the city. Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula marked the close of another fantastic birthday bash.
My return to the pool possibly topped off that week, if truth be told. I was nervous as I pulled on my swimsuit, having taken it out of its five week prison in my desk drawer. The familiar scent of chlorinated water put me at ease almost instantly. The motions came back in luxurious rhythm, almost like I’d never been away. Just the stiffness, or lack thereof, in my left hand alerted me to the difference in my swimming dynamic. I really felt like a fish in water. My version of banal commonality, the everyday routine, has near been established with this and I am a jubilant gym rat once more!
I have always been bothered by the fact that I cannot read music. I have a good ear for music and can effortlessly pick a tune, sing and play it be ear. I know the difference in pitches and quite early on identified that I was partial to minor scales and other off-beat notes than the regular ones. Certain rhythms speak to me and I can easily identify instruments and composers. But being unable to sight read music, I have always considered a great failing in me. Naturally I set forth to rectify that! Coursera has been of great assistance in this pursuit. I’m on my second music theory class and can proudly proclaim that I am now capable of actually reading music! So much so that I even designed a tattoo centered on the treble clef!
As summer comes to a height and close and I wade through the many tasks that August has ushered in with it, including the necessity of traveling back to New York and setting foot in Texas which I am utterly preened about, I try to wrap my head around the basic necessities that make waking up every day worth it. The dawn of a new day has always signified, for me, another prospect to pick up something new. A novel thought, an introduction, a tread upon unfamiliar territory, perhaps, while keeping in sight all that I’ve gathered up so far.
The past two weeks have been rather single handed (pun very much intended!) with just the regular things happening and some very regular things fallen off the daily routine owing to this large cast I am wearing on my left hand. I’m making the best of it though, looking at the bright side of it all and discovering that even a self-confessed cynic/realist is capable of enjoying this little bump in the road.
Owing to the presence of some hefty bandaging on my hand, I am consigned to using one hand and a finger and have decided to resort to plainly listing out things that have happened and what I have learned, discovered or otherwise observed in the past week.
(I ought to mention that all medication/drugs/pills were administered by medical personnel and or or prescribed for me).
- Everyone has had a ‘crazy’ accident – The gasps of sympathy and grimaces of revulsion that have
greeted me preceded wishes for my speedy recovery, minimal pain and several revelations of injuries, of lost digits of the hand, unmovable parts of claws and paws and the like. I only wondered why no one bothered getting all of it fixed.
- Non-responsive limbs are very very unnerving – The human body (and mind) are terribly complex and no matter how carefully you guard yourself and it, s&^! does happen. I, for one, would willingly do whatever is necessary to regain control of my body. It belongs to me.
- Surgeons are fantastic people – mine was, at least! Calm and brilliant with a sense of humor. He allayed my shock and rising fears with just a few words, treated me like a child and ultimately fixed me. I appreciated that he actually talked to me, explaining not just the procedure but also gathering information and then relaying the situation, treatment and risks, in a very thoughtful manner. As a friend with medical experience would to one without.
- Preparing oneself for surgery is stressful – The thought of being in a dreamless drug induced sleep while people in scrubs operate on you is extremely disturbing. They were all names floating in my head – they were the ones that prepped me, poked things into me and provided me with confidence that I was in good hands. I’d be alright.
- Drug induced euphoria is good while it lasts but horrible after – I don’t like it. The flashes of light, lethargy, hunger and, in my case, the pain. I wanted to be off pain killers – Vicodin – as soon as possible. I wouldn’t willingly do that again.
- Post-surgery cravings are strange – I hadn’t eaten for over 18 hours, not even a sip of water. However, food was farthest from my mind the morning after. I did hanker for a chunk of Hawaiian bread roll with vegetables. No idea why. I am attributing it to the medication.
- More time during the day – Everything takes twice as long, but I still seem to have more time for myself. Possibly because I am not running around as much, or biking, or swimming, or shopping 🙂
- Swimming really is my addiction – Until my finger has begun to mend to a good extent I will need to stay out of the pool. 80 laps in 40 minutes, two and a half years, some 45 pounds lost and now a month’s hiatus 😦
- Everything seems closer and hence walkable – I can’t operate any type of vehicle for now and prefer to avoid public transport when I can for fear of hurting my injured hand. Chinatown (and bubble tea!) is only a 10 minute walk away from my apartment! I can explore the city during lunch break – the chocolate factory near my office, cafes, and food trucks.
- Being able to keep your senses together in dire situations helps – I smiled from the get go. Through the pain, the nervousness, the decision to be operated upon… All around me swore they would have broken down had they been in my shoes. Internally I was freaking out, hyperventilating when left alone urging myself not to collapse. It helped me get through it. Of course, I cried when I informed my parents, and whimpered in my drugged stupor when I desperately needed an emotional release. But that was it. My reasoning was only, “If I disintegrate now nothing will be accomplished.”
Who knew opening a packet of bagels could result in a traumatic experience?
As with most sharp objects, I treat knives with a extremely heightened sense of cautiousness because the thought of being on the receiving end of a sharpened metallic bit, quite perfectly shaped to cause bodily harm, does not appeal to me one bit. Or to anyone, I should hope! Unfortunately, that judicious handling was not enough. Two days ago, exactly a month to my birthday, I ran a sharp knife right through the radial intrinsic tendon (I later found out) of my left index finger. Now, as I type with nine fingers, my forefinger stiffly moving with the rest of my hand and not really contributing to much else, I wonder what induced me to attempt to take a knife at a piece of tape holding close the bagels.
It happened in a split second – the knife in my right hand jammed right into the left, just above the joint, and the blood began to flow. I rushed to the restroom only thinking, “I can’t swim with a cut this big!” because I’d seen some white bits showing through the crimson red flow. I nearly lost consciousness, hyper-ventilating, as two of my colleagues washed up and bandaged my finger up. Half in shock and half delirious, it is a wonder that I managed to walk to the emergency center to be told that I had all but severed the tendon and needed to see a surgeon. A few hours and a lot of blood later, the hand surgeon very patiently explained the situation, showed me what I had done, gave me a rather thorough tour of my gaping wound – to the bone, muscle and tendon! – and told me, while patting me on the back, that I would require surgery to reattach the tendon else I would have to live with a deficit in motion for ever even if my body successfully adapted to a lazy finger.
Now I sit here with a bandaged hand sporting four stitches and some derma-super-glue, unable to relieve my woes in the pool, pleased that I didn’t cause any damage to my nerves, skeptical and beginning to freak out about the surgery I am scheduled to have in a few days. The worst of it all is that helpless feeling when trying to get my finger to respond to me. I know my brain is telling it to move, but I don’t see it change position. It is extremely frightful when your own body refuses to listen to you.
I go in to a weekend of a birthday picnic, TILT and a steakhouse dinner for another’s, breakfast with one more, all the while dreading the dawn of Monday when I will have a regional block – a nerve numbing of the entire arm – and be sedated for most of the day. The recovery should, I was promised, be easy, but the internet (blast the amount of information we are privy to!) confidently tells me that I ought to be in therapy for 4 weeks and should get back to full motion within 10.
I woe the lack of physical exercise in this period having proved that keeping fit helped me get through the blood loss and shock with more ease than most. I can’t swim for a while now and must make do with running or some other activity which does not require the use of my hand.
From my sluggish and lost forefinger to you, until after the surgery at least, beware of knives!
Four months, a New Year, a family visit, three vacations, a promotion and a bonus, fancy restaurants and coffee shops, a few thousand dollars short, 15 pounds lesser and 2 sizes smaller, new friends, a music class, a new phone, 1000+ pictures, and 25 revisions has lead to this moment: a cup of coffee – a fancy peanut butter latte! – two cups of English Breakfast tea, a butter croissant, a Pandora One subscription and the decision to decisively break the silence and write.
It has been too long. A lot has happened in that time and if I do not say it all soon I might never get to eternalizing it on my blog, which has become the only holder of a written account of my life. Or at least those parts I wish to share with the internet.
Where do I begin? Work? Yes, that journey is nearing three years (come June) and it has proven to me what I am capable of. My job title was recently altered to be ‘Senior Engineer’ owing to two promotions in two and a half years. It’s a rather ego boosting position to be in when most people wait at least four years to get here. Receiving the highest possible rating two years in a row did not make me wonder what I was doing so spectacularly because I have no idea how to do it otherwise. I am not boasting here, that’s me being humble and very honest. When you love what you do, wherever it is, there is no possibility of you giving it less than your all, is there? You just do it because it is the only way you know how to do it. It’s not a choice. There is now the conscious blanket of the need to deliver. It isn’t pressure, just a more visible position that makes me feel that if I stumble way too may people are going to notice so I cannot afford to make any mistakes. Or if I do, I need to be able to get over it smoothly. That said, I really enjoy where I am now. Working and living life the way I’ve really wanted to.
I rang in the New Year with my parents as we traveled down the east coast. While most of our time was spent in the state of New York, we managed to have a well overdue family vacation, enjoy the frigid cold of my beloved city of Chicago, and re-bond. It gave the rest of my family cause to worry because my parents approved of and delighted in my lifestyle (see previous posts regarding marriage eligibility, family honor, blah blah) but that has been relegated (finally!) to the zone of, “Mind your own beeswax, please”. Hopefully that stays where it is and I can move on! Traveling. Yes, that bug has caught up with me. I have been to New York City twice this year, watched Placido Domingo perform live, seen the wonders of a frozen Niagara Falls, thoroughly enjoyed the Polar Vortex because moaning about it wasn’t going to make it go away and usher in the sun, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, walked an average of 10 miles a day for 7 days in San Francisco and NYC, and have resolved to continue to explore Chicago through food, tea/coffee shops and books.
The one thing I have always maintained, with arrogant resilience, is that I know my own mind better than anyone else. This ought to be true of every person. If you don’t know yourself, well… I’m not sure. I like having my own identity, weirdness and normalcy combined to form an exclusive being. As you grow up, you do pick up traits from others but you make them your own. The past 27 years of living and observing has taught me that an uncertain and unthinking mind only leads unnecessary troubles later, as has been repeatedly proven by members of my own family who have, and are still, dealing with their digressions and half-opened cans of worms with no closure in sight.
The past defines us, yes, but it only provides us with a skeleton upon which we place a bit from the moment we are currently living in. The past is prologue.
[Most of the past four months can be depicted in pictures – http://instagram.com/srutsam]
I feel rather heavily distressed for not having paid any attention to my writing/blogging in the past few months. It hasn’t been one of those phases when I have nothing to write. It has, I must admit, been the lack of time. Several things have happened and come to pass since the time I last wrote – most of them good events and some emotionally taxing ones. I’ll go backwards in time as I recount them.
I have moved. Moved apartments, I mean. I still reside within a mile of the lovely Loop of Chicago, just a tad bit closer to one of my favorite spots along the coast of Lake Michigan. Why did I move? I wanted a larger space than my cramped (it was starting to be) convertible apartment of 540 sq.ft. Given my tendency to fill up any available nook with books and trinkets that catch my fancy, it was high time that I upgraded my living space. The search didn’t take its toll on my like the previous move and I had signed my new lease within two weeks of beginning to look. The packing, however, did take its toll on me.
I have NO IDEA how I accumulated all the things I own! I threw out at least 6 garbage bags filled with clothes, toiletries, packaged food, sheets, random objects… and gave away two bags of clothes and shoes. What fascinated me even more was that I had 4 boxes of books – I came into the country four years ago armed with 3 books – and 4-5 boxes of kitchen stuff – things that I bought in a two year period. The rest of it, clothes, electronics, shoes, bedroom fabrics, and some other random odds and ends accounted for the other 20 boxes and 5 huge suitcases. And then there was the furniture.
For someone who landed here with 4 suitcases and lived in a dorm for two years, it is a lot. I would have had more had I not realized the sanity in waiting till I moved to purchase other furniture – book shelves, stands, bar stools and the like.
So yes, I moved. I warded off falling sick till the week after I moved; surprised myself by actually unpacking 15 boxes within 4 days of moving. Now, I’m half settled in and still slightly disoriented by the fact that I need to travel 30 minutes to and from work, and I move South instead of North now. I have returned to the South Side, or as it says on the map ‘Near South Side’. It’s so much more quaint than what I was originally looking for, but then I have my lovely kitchen, a nice balcony and 800 sq.ft. all to myself!!
In other news, more intense from a personal standpoint at least, there were somethings that happened over a period of two months that made me question the very office of an arranged marriage. Not that I have been in favor of it, to begin with, but coming from an Indian family there are certain social expectations that I am expected to fulfill. I was alright with it because my family, I believed, has always been more open minded than most conventional families. There were several factors would affect any decision, I knew, and I trusted in my parents to weed those out if necessary. Well, the wheels of ‘hunting’ were set into motion, and sometime in March it was popped on me in a fairly decided manner. What followed, in the six weeks after that, I can only describe as tears, arguments, fears, and more tears (it also turned me quite completely against the whole idea of an ‘arranged marriage’).
Obviously it did not work out. The reason being – I was not ready to pretend to be a typical traditional South Indian girl. The guy concerned was painted out to be an absolutely fantastic person with a great job. Not in my books. It isn’t that I expect something more. I just want to be able to, on the simplest of terms, have an interesting conversation with someone. Anyone. It is the most basic foundation for any relationship. It took a week of very few conversations to prove that I would never have that with said person. That said, the only thing that really and completely annoyed me was the fact that the guy seemed to think that just because this was being arranged by our parents, he didn’t have any work to do. That he needn’t bother with actually trying. Apparently I should have been impressed with his multi-million dollar investing clients, while all I could think of was ‘they aren’t your millions, so why would I be impressed?’
I’ve always been more about the mind. The brain fascinates me because while we are all wired the same way, as homo sapiens, we still act and think differently when looked upon as individuals. As a species, we are the same, but by ourselves… there lies the unending curiosity and intrigue. Yes, the material world we live in demands that we place a higher importance on physical appearance but the mind is what keeps you engaged. That should be what draws you in.
Without going into the more intricate details of this particular dealing, which I am glad I got out of my way as quickly as possible (though it did set into motion a different set of consequences to battle with), I must admit that it lead me to think through my priorities and for what I’d be willing to change them. It isn’t easy because of the very many definitive details in them… the fact that these are the essence of my being make them all the more hard to ignore. I couldn’t do that and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to do it either. They aren’t set in stone, no. But they are principles and ideals. Things you believe in. So, what is worth giving all that up? Was I ready to do that? Will I ever be? The answer to the first is, I’m not sure, and a big no is the answer to the latter two.
Despite the tears and agony of those few weeks, which I will remember for the rest of my life, I came to the wonderful realization that is myself. I understood myself better and nothing can surpass that enlightenment.
One always wants and hopes for a great start to the New Year. While mine did seem to get off to a happy start, soon things seemed to grow their own neurons and think and do things that I’d rather have not had happen.
In the aftermath of a rather surprising move that left almost everyone at the office in a state of shock for three whole days as news and rumors seeped through glass walled meeting rooms to our ears, I have realized the importance of always being prepared. And having a backup plan. I cannot, and will not, go into details of what happened and why, but I can talk about the effect it had on me.
Just a week prior to all these things suddenly coming to light, I had a thought that the moment I question what I am doing is the moment to get out. To move on. To find where I belong, keeping with my general theme. I have had this job for a year and nine months now and am getting into the motion of things as I still try and figure out what aspect of technology I want to be working on. I love code. That’s a given. But what part of it? The part that people actually use. I want to create and see something I’ve done being used by others. I want to know what they think of it and learn from that experience. I think that excites me more than just a career. The learning. The constant need to keep oneself updated and discovering new ways of doing old things and creating brand new ones.
While I like a bit of a plan to be laid out for me (by me, of course) I never nail it down, because s&^! happens. What happened last week was just stark reality. It’s not that I don’t like what I do now. In fact, I love it. It’s the thought of a productive day that awakens me every morning. But I know that when the time comes to move on, I just have to do to. I have to face it whether it is at my discretion or someone else’s. I would rather that no one face certain things, especially a day before Valentine’s, but there is reality. Bang smack in the middle of everything. Life, it’s called. Such a bittersweet symphony.
I’ve never felt old, even though I am the oldest child – the only child actually, but with the youngest cousin ten years my junior, I probably should’ve felt old when I hit 20. I didn’t. It’s not that I don’t care about it, because now when I pick my ‘age group’ on forms I’ve moved one more radio button lower from the top! I just don’t think that getting older is a bad thing or something one ought to fret about. It is the natural progression of things! Enjoy it!
This year, my 26th year of having tread this planet, will probably go down as one of the most expensive birthdays I’ve had. In terms of my own spending, I mean. Dresses, dinners – the fun and fine dining, parties, gifts to myself, a hair makeover, massages. 🙂 The highlight of it was the fact that I received a star award at work – an appreciation award for things I’ve done/accomplished AND that I can now wear skirts that are about 6 inches in height and feel fabulous in them 🙂 I only mention the latter as I’m quite proud that I’ve been swimming for about six months now and not only do I feel good but I’m also stronger, more healthy and lean that I was a year ago!
I digress. What was this supposed to be about? Oh, right. The other side of a quarter of a century. Since my last birthday a lot has happened, personally and professionally. They have left me the same in essence but having experienced the past three hundred and seventy days has made me a much wiser person than I was before. I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people that I admire for their minds – it’s the intellect that I’m attracted to; interesting ones have wandered in and out. I’ve done a bunch of exciting things – exciting on my terms; I’ve been to places and learned so much. I’ve found more focus in my life though I still walk along the path of life with cautious steps. To a large extent I feel that I have asserted and earned my independence, which to me, is one of the biggest achievements of my life so far. It’s not just the feminist in me talking.
I have now also added an entire year of professional experience to my career, the past six months accounting for most of what I’ve done and learned. Other than the technical aspects of the job, which includes my personal technological advances, I have had the chance to work with a multitude of people. I have discovered my work ethics and style of approaching a job. I have found that I can come up with good ideas and solve issues and problems as good as anyone with much more experience than I. I have fully understood the extent to which I will allow my professional life to encroach upon my personal. I would like to keep them at a distance and I believe I will find it easy to do so because I’ve already done it. I have definitely grown in the personal aspect of life too. Dealing with a multitude of issues within the family made me and others realize that I am grown up. I can handle a lot of unexpected things on my own.
A lot of the above might seem repetitive – it does to me. But hey, that’s my life. I find ways to keep it exciting and I’ve loved every moment of it. Every year that goes by I know I’ve done something new and I’ve become a better person because of it. I sought ways of keeping the ball rolling. That’s all you need. I don’t need to be a ‘wild-child’ to enjoy life. The finer and simpler things in life, as contradictory as that might sound.
So here’s looking into the next year – end of the world or not – for adventure and life itself! Prost!
My heart stops, just for a moment
Now, it begins to race.
I feel the blood pump through my veins,
My breath quickens, my resolve weakens.
I hear tales,
Fantastically woven ones,
I wonder which ones are true,
Willing myself to believe only what you mean to me.
I clear my head of colliding thoughts,
Vowing to remain detached, emotionally, for now.
We all have secrets, we all face darkness,
But why can you not speak with me?
I’ve known you all my life,
How can you not see
That you are the world and more to me.
I am everything you’ve taught me to be,
I’ve learned from you the good ways and the bad.
Retracing my steps where you went wrong.
I pray for you, for your heart and soul,
Knowing, somewhere within, that you are still you.
The one I know has principles,
The one I respect has fears and doubts;
But it is nothing you can’t handle,
And so I continue to believe.
I fear disappointment, but stay strong,
I recoil from the rage.
In my eyes you are still perfect,
But the picture is marred.
It hurts that you don’t try,
To rectify the errors of your ways,
But to you I say, “I love you”
And forever more yours, I remain.
[This post was originally written in the week of the 24th of July, 2011]
Turned 25 this weekend, I did! Phew! A quarter of a century and my silver birthday! Feels like a lifetime!! LOL! 😛 With all of the things going on, especially in the past few months, I was really excited about this particular ‘milestone’. One, I am done with school (again, but just for now); two, I’m working in an industry I had not previously considered and completely enjoying the whole experience of learning and working; three, I now have my own apartment and am relishing the independence and freedom that education and employment bestows upon you; four, I truly feel that now I have an extended family that I can trust, read my closest friends.
I wanted to go home for the weekend and celebrate my birthday as I always have, family style with the cake and the siblings, and the gifts 😉 But with ticket prices almost thrice of what I normally pay, that was ruled out. And so I made my plans for a weekend of fun with my friends. It began mid-week, really. Shopping. Summer-ish clothes, because I don’t have a ‘dress-code’ to follow at work. The Maginificent Mile became and even better friend of mine as I acquainted my newly acquired credit card with it. Quite happily I bounced about from Wednesday to Friday.
Saturday night came along on wings of doves, smooth and calm. An all-you-can-eat sushi binge with one group of friends at Hiro’s Cafe, a quaint sushi bar tucked between a Subway and an art gallery in the northern ‘college-kid’ area of the city. Gulping sushi till we were more than full, sipping lemonade, talking, laughing, making jokes, socializing, lots of picture taking, then walking to the Bobtail’s Ice-Cream shop around the corner and indulging in delicious vanilla scoops, before making our way back home close to mid-night. I stayed up, knowing I would receive some important phone calls. And I did 🙂 At 000 hrs on the dot. I slept feeling blissful. Sunday brought with it the promise of some quality time with some of my closest friends in the form of my birthday brunch at Grand Lux Cafe. Very nice place, very good food, and very good company. I put on my new dress, feeling glamorous as I walked the streets of Chicago in the light drizzle. Another quick phone call from one my European peeps had us planning a birthday dinner! And impromptu, almost, I was headed to Rainforest Cafe that evening!
I was delighted. It was my first birthday by myself, i.e. without family and without cake – yeah, can’t really get over that, and I, determined not to get nostalgic, or miss what could have been, threw myself into the celebrations and came out feeling like I had the best time of my life!
I’m older now. Twenty five years on this planet makes you think of what you’ve accomplished. I think I’ve done quite alright for myself. Twenty-three years of school, and still being educated, still learning… but all the time achieving something. Big or small. Taking into stride all that has come my way. Looking back on the years gone by with a certain fondness, no regret in any of my decisions, some life altering, I know I’ve turned out okay. I promised myself that I would’ve done certain things by the time I was 18, and then 21, and then 25. I’ve done them all. I set my goals, unconsciously and unbeknownst to me I worked towards it and nailed it.
But I think what hit me harder was that I’m a woman now. I’d like to think I’m dealing with that alright, but I suppose since I’ve never really thought of myself as a ‘woman’ I don’t know. In my head, I’m just a girl living her life – no age attached to the ‘girl’. I’m me. That’s it. That’s my silver lining. Being me.