Lessons learnt in 2020

2020 has been a memorable year to, probably, every human on this earth. From hundreds of people dying each day to the economic downturn as a consequence, COVID19 has shaken the world never like before. With the news flowing about the success of COVID19 vaccines and countries purchasing them, we are hoping the “new normal” of putting the mask, maintaining the distance, cutting down the travel, and implementing many other precautionary plans will be gone over within a couple of months or at least a year. Better late than never, as they say: “This shall too pass.”

It truly wasn’t an easy year for anybody. So was it for this blogger. Beginning the year by leaving the role as a co-founder of the company started together with the school-friends and staying home for 3-4 complete months, 2020 was a year of a new start for this blogger in multiple ways. Let me share a few of the lessons that I learned and the realizations I made in 2020.

  1. The world can shut down: 

COVID19 has made all of us realize the extent to which things worsen. There is this new definition for the world of how bad things can go. We might have to crumble into our homes and apartments for months that too without a job. Countries can shut down, literally close down! Traveling or moving around in public can be a nightmare. Millions of us can lose our lives. These are the extremes that we now really know could happen.

2. There are hidden opportunities in crisis:

COVID19 did accelerate the e-commerce sector. Not only did it temporarily spike the revenues for these businesses but also did introduce many consumers into the eCommerce world. To a larger extent, this impact shall now remain forever. Even for countries like Nepal, where the use of tech was nothing more than an “extravagant” trend, the pandemic made the government realize the need for digitization. Had there been proper digital systems in place there would not be so many manual hassles such as paying the taxes, renewing the vehicles/driving license, distributing the travel passes during the lockdown, and tracking/controlling the COVID19 cases. Thanks to the initiators of Nepali digital wallets like eSewa and Khalti who broke the barriers and were well setup long before the crises. Else, neither would the banks so far would care to have a proper mobile app nor would we have any other source to facilitate cashless payments.

3. Patience is the key:

COVID really tested the level of patience in me. While I left the company as a cofounder, I thought I would start working after a good break of a month or two. But things didn’t turn out the way I thought. I had rejected quite a few offers that I received before the pandemic and had almost gotten into the job I wanted. Unfortunately, COVID took those positions away. I had to wait for over 5 months to land into a new job. Definitely, you don’t get to work at all the places you want to but I did get offers from some of the companies I wanted to get into (I rejected them. But that’s a different story). Amid the crisis, I got an opportunity to facilitate a class of undergraduate students too. The other side of the story is that I stayed home with little or no work for 3-4 months while I even hated to stay home on Saturdays. Now, that I work from home, staying at home for four days a week on average is the “new normal” for me. Nothing is forever – neither was the lockdown nor is the pandemic. Things will get better or we will get used to with this.

4. There is no destiny:

There is no destiny in life. 

Let’s put this simple. 

We do whatever we do to achieve something. We believe that this “something” will provide us happiness and keep us content in life. But happiness is not something to be achieved in the future. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. Don’t plan to get happy, and just be happy with whatever you have right now.

5. Keep your life in between reactive and proactive path:

Karna Shakya posted a status on his Facebook which really summed up the realization I made this year. Here’s the translated version of what he said:

“As you get old you don’t need a reason. My back hurt the whole night and I came to my Karma-Kunj early in the morning to get over my pain. I sat on the table hoping that if I can think of something else, I could forget my pain, and I opened my heart (thought). Slowly, I delved into my thoughts. I wrote whatever came to my mind.

Time supported me in a decent manner in my life. I played a lot as a kid, fell in love numerous times, traveled around, danced, and did many more. In reality, you don’t have to wait for the right time to work and to learn. You can gain knowledge, wealth, name, and keep up with your life at any time. However, those are not only the future of your endeavor. Now, at the age of 78, I am getting lost in the nooks-and-crannies of philosophy.

Religion, philosophy, -ism isn’t the truth. These are just shadows of verticles, views, and perspectives. There is no truth, there is only perception. Whoever can convince others, is the right. In this ostentatious life, we do need these types of perks because we need reasons to live and add romance to a boring life. However, our life is directed by truth, not philosophy.

Realistic people are of two types – Reactive and Proactive. Reactive are those who are rapturous, do not care about the future, and live in the present. They enjoy the principle of “Don’t ask me about tomorrow. Only the good will happen.” To be true, even this is one of the precise ways and a style of living a happy life.

Proactive people are aware and prefer to live for tomorrow rather than today. Sometimes they even tend to get lost in ideas while contemplating. They do climb the mountain of success but get lost in the clouds. That’s why after passing through these seven decades, the experiences of my life are now pushing me to walk through the glorious mid-way of the Reactive and the Proactive path.”

That’s exactly where I decided to stand after a year of contemplation. There are few things (not many either) to be achieved in life but not at the cost of giving up things that keep me happy at present. It’s a balance of present happiness and the zeal to achieve something in the future that keeps me going. Not too much, and not too less – Lagom.

6. One step at a time:

My reasonings worked in a deductive manner defining the consequence without thinking much about other ways to get things done. I realized that this has really pulled me back from achieving or doing a lot of things. Someone to me said “We don’t do more of planning. We do and then plan.” This is where I have started to focus. I do know I need to climb Mt.Everest. Had I been the previous me, everyday I would plan and think of reaching the top spending significant time in thinking if what/how I planned is the right way to get to the top. Further, every time I would think of summiting Everest, I would be unsure about my ability to get to the top. However, now, I plan the path once but plan on reaching a certain milestone every day. I deal with smaller chunks of larger problems each day. This not only keeps me going but also helps me focus and deal with a piece of the problem. While the ultimate goal of clinching the peak is in the back of my mind, much of my thoughts, energy, and ideas are preparing to take one more step to move ahead.

I believe these six lessons are enough to move ahead for a couple of years. After a couple of years, I shall once again revisit the past and redefine the philosophy of life as things change within and around me. Until then, amen! 

What’s so real?

Over the past few months, I have been investing some of my time trying to dissect the philosophy of my life. The sole aim of this investment has been to figure out the good and the bad, the fake and the real, and the fair and the unfair, and rejuvenate my views towards life to some extent. The complexity lies in the fact that all of these terms are relative to one another. The answers aren’t easy, and I’ll probably never get answers to all of these but this journey of exploration has led me to some interesting realizations.

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Talking about fairness, I liked the view that one of my friend’s husband had presented in his blog a while ago:

“So is the world a fair place? Of course not. Not even that, sometimes we cannot determine whether a situation is fair or not for the people subject to that situation. But more often than not, we can see through the blatant violations of fairness that are taking place.
So what can we take away from this?
We should not presume that we know the plight of the people facing a bad situation, for one. We hardly have the right to judge them for we do seldom see the complete picture. Also, do not let the little fairness we enjoy in this world fade away. If you would let it, you would come to regret it, much sooner than you could even dream.”

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I happened to watch some of the videos about “Romanticism” in one of my favorite youtube channels – School of Life. This pushed me further into my journey to distinguish between the real and the nominal, or say what’s natural and what’s man-made.

So what’s natural? What’s man-made? Well, you may go back to the basics of grade one and say everything that humans did not create is natural. No doubt, this meaning is very true. Trees, soil, sun, mountains, water, air – all of these are natural. And, the ones that humans created, beginning from the tiny staple pins to the large Egyptian pyramids, are artificial/man-made. But let’s dive into the humans and look for what came naturally (real) to us and what came through our learnings and experiences? This question fairly sounds easy but is not. Give it a thought – did we learn to eat or were we taught? Well, hunger is an emotion that comes naturally, but eating is taught. We are taught to cook, and our taste buds crave for stuffs based on what we eat or have eaten. Some of us learn to eat with hands, some with fork and knives, and some with spoon. This example probably made the answer easy- the only natural thing that is within us is “emotion”.

Let’s get back to the video about “Romanticism”, where Alain De Botton, the presenter, talks about how the concept of romanticism has defined love and relationship. He talks about the fact that romanticism is fairly a new concept to this world that originated towards the end of the eightieth century in Europe. So what does romanticism say? Romanticism has defined over almost everything and every context of the human mind. It defines the good, the bad, the humble, and the cruel.

Amongst a few of which I have explored through, the most interesting thing that Alain talks about is how romanticism has defined love and relationship that is in practice in today’s world. It has defined the way one feels when falling in love or the way couples behave with each other in their relationship. All the feelings, including the “butterflies in the stomach” or the “blush blush” moments you had in high-school when the person on the other side of the “one-sided love” complimented you, are all that romanticism has defined for us. We all learned to love people the way we have been taught to, or the way we’ve seen or experienced it at some point of our life.

kuch toh hua hai

Moreover, we have been fueled with the romantic ideas of love through movies, their stories, and their songs. Remember the song “Kuch to hua hai” from the movie Kal Ho Na Ho? Well, that “Kuch to hua hai” feeling we get while falling in love is all romanticism which did not exist before the 17th or 18th century. Did you ever think that love, its feelings and its expressions were learned and not natural? I didn’t! Love as an emotion at its base might be real but at its feeling, as well as everything we do for love and in love has just been made up over the past couple of centuries.

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So what is natural within us?  Our feelings are not natural because feelings are emotions that have been interpreted by our mind, and our mind makes those interpretations based on our learnings and experiences. Thus, probably only our generic emotions are real. I could only think of two generic emotions- happiness and sadness. No matter how neutral we might feel about something, it is tilted to either of the sides – the happy or the sad side. You are either happy or sad at every point of time. It seems to me that even when one calls himself or herself to be “unsure” about how he or she is feeling, it is sadness that the emotion is leaned towards.

In terms of expressions, the only real expressions a person can have is “laughter” and “cry”. That’s because a baby who is born begins his expression with a cry, no one has to teach a person to do that. Also, the same baby is never taught to laugh or smile, he or she just does it on his or her own. We might fake a laugh or cry but when we truly laugh or cry, it is a true expression that we present without any added toppings to it.