That Intentional Act

News and social media have been inundated the last couple of weeks with news about two celebrity suicides, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Not to forget Avicii, Verne Troyer, and Robin Williams. You may have been one of the many people who might have reflected with others or yourself about these unfortunate incidents. I did too! While my reflections with others were more about why the particular celebrities might have taken that drastic final step, my own thoughts were poignantly more internal. In the deaths of all above celebrities, depression was a major cause, all having suffered from serious depression for years. What then about seemingly healthy, ordinary people who commit that one intentional act that calls curtains to life itself?

My thoughts took me back to those times when I felt so low, that the unspeakable crossed my mind. Over conversations with some of my close friends, they shared about how they also have experienced those lows when they lose hope and feel like ending it all. As you Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 5.02.50 PMread this, maybe you also in your life have those moments when you felt THAT defeated. So what kept us alive? Me to write this and you to read this?

Talking from my own experiences I would say the first and foremost factor is:
1. Family and friends: The support system you have is a huge factor that keeps hopes alive. They are the first ones to shoot you down when you do something wrong but they are also first in line to pick you up after they are done butchering you. They stand by you like guardian angels and are first to read any signs of depression.
2. A soul twin: Everyone should have that one person that you share everything with. More would be fine too! This is the person who can judge your mood by the way you say ‘hello’ and will be the quickest to ask you ‘what’s wrong?’. I am lucky to have a few of those in my life and you should get one too if you don’t have any. They can be that difference between life and death in those crucial moments. I thank them from my heart, for being with me during some rough times.
3. Purge: Yes, something as simple as that can save your life. Getting rid of unwanted stuff in the house to people in your life is very important. If your house is cluttered and unorganized, you will reflect the same. An airy, open, clean, house transmits healthy thoughts and helps in your overall mental health. Similarly, if you have people in your life that cause you constant pain, its best to keep them at a distance. These are not necessarily bad people but maybe the association is not working and it’s time to purge.
4. Hobby: Remember those silly hobbies you had as a child? I went through the stamps, coins, matchbox (this one was fun because I was actually picking trash off the roads to the shock of my poor mother!) to a more sophisticated shot glasses today. Yes, they were and still are a silly hobby but it’s these infinitesimal acts that make one happy. Keep the child in you alive and look for something extraordinary in the prosaic world around you.
5. Passion: This one is more difficult and could actually be the savior and the cause leading up to that last act. It takes years to figure out what we are passionate about and many never do. Having something to look forward to every day, can make a difference in how we look at life. Likewise, many people feel depressed with the lack of a passion and are known to be the major cause of suicides in youth. What people need to understand here is that it’s okay not to cognize what your passion is; that clarity will come when you are ready. Until then, we can always rely on our hobbies. There are still many matchboxes left to be picked off the roads!

That intentional act carries no specifications and afflicts the rich, poor, famous, infamous, intellectuals and more. It is up to you to protect yourself from feeling so hopeless that it would seem like there was only one path left to travel. Surround yourself with people you love and love you back! Never let a stumble in your life be the end of your journey. And if you ever find you reached the end of the road, call someone or call me! I may not have solutions to your problems but I will be happy to listen 🙂

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Dear Grandma

After a conversation at school, with a five-year-old yesterday, who shared with me how much he loves his grandma I ended up reminiscing about my own rich experiences with my grandmas. Both my grandmas were known to be very strong women, who endured a lot and also came out loved and respected by one and all. They seemed to have touched many lives in some way or the other and I feel lucky to have known them somewhat in my growing up years.

My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 8 years old so I don’t really remember much, except the nostalgic sense of scent that comes with that memory. I  distinctly remember how she smelled and it always brings comforting thoughts to mind. She had this little multi-colored cloth pouch with many pockets that she carried around everywhere in her waistband and I loved playing with it. The pockets hid money, betel leaves, nuts and some kind of tobacco. Those scents intrigued me and I remember asking to chew on the betel leaves and enjoying the strong flavor.  Another recollection I have is of her telling me stories as we sat basking in the sun when I was little or when I lay next to her in the night begging for one more story! I remember the stories so vividly because many of her stories involved ‘poop’ and we all know how that genre of discussions appeals to the young minds! She must’ve been a very creative person because they were all stories she made up on her own. People tell me she was very funny and quick-witted,  but she was gone too soon and I didn’t really get to know her much personally.

My maternal grandmother was the one I have an abundance of memories with. She was what one would call a typical grandma; affectionate, loving, doting, warm and huggable.  The big red bindi on her forehead, nose rings on both sides, flowers in her hair and the colorful soft saris that she always wore, is a visual and tactile memory that is etched in my mind.  We would spend most of our vacation time and many important festivals at Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 10.46.32 AMmy grandparents’ village. I have many memories of her waiting by the door, waiting to greet us with tears of happiness in her eyes, and again tears of sadness, everytime we went back to our homes. There are memories of her yelling to the helpers, to pick the best chickens to chop for lunch (Yeah! gruesome but true), go to the fields and cut some fresh chillies and vegetables, milk some fresh milk for the kids and so on. Her excitement never waned no matter how old she got or how many times we visited. We always got treated like we were special.

I always felt I was her most favorite grandchild but then she was such that probably all her grandkids felt so special. I remember her picking out the best pieces of meat from the curry and very slickly put it on my plate without the others realizing. She would also send out some guys to find some raw mangoes, tamarind, tender coconuts, raw peanuts, sugarcanes, and so on which were all my favorites (yes, I spent a lot of time eating on my vacations!). She made sure I had enough to eat and take back home at the end of the trip. I have memories of her bathing me as a child and scrubbing me with her rough hands, until my skin turned raw and red,  murmuring under her breath that we don’t take care of ourselves properly and how important it is to do that. I know I complained to my mom that she was too rough, but I miss that love with which she took care of me! I miss that special tall shiny brass glass of milk with Ovaltine that I got, topped with puffed rice, or the twenty-five-paisas that she would give me without my mom’s knowledge to go buy a candy from the village shop, or that she let me have the fluffiest pillow and bed to sleep on every night that I was with her in the village or the many times she oiled and braided my hair so tight that it didn’t need rebraiding until my vacation was over!

There were many times in the year that she would visit us and she always walked in armed with food, fruits, and vegetables that she brought for us with lots of love. She would stay with us for a few days and I would get more days of snuggle and cuddle with her. I can still picture her sitting outside in the sun, by the door, waiting for us to come back from school. I would sit with her a few minutes telling her about school before running off to play with my friends. She would often regale us with stories of her childhood, which involved a lot of her taking care of her siblings. I found it shocking that she was one of 25 siblings!

She is no more today as she passed away a few years ago when I was in the USA.  Her absence has left a gaping void that is so real whenever I visit our village on my trips back home. It is not the same anymore. There is no one waiting by the door, there is no hustle-bustle of people in the courtyard because we have arrived… it’s just eerily silent everywhere, reminding me of her absence. I am glad though that my kids got to meet her and know her for a bit. Today, I wish I had spent more time with her, I wish I had taken more pictures with her and documented all her stories. I wish I told her how much she meant to me and how I have silently watched her take care of everyone with so much love and care and absorbed it all. I wish I had listened to more stories about herself instead of just sharing mine. I wish I had listened more than talked. I wish I could just tell her that I am thinking about her and I dearly miss her!

If you are the lucky few to still have your grandparents with you, take some time to listen to them and give them the gift of your attention. Life is short, memories are lasting, so take some time to create that treasure trove of memories.

 

 

Compassionate Goals

A few years ago, I had set a simple enough goal to pursue my photography interests. The goal included taking lessons, reading books, go on shooting tours etc. It started off pretty well in the form of me dropping a few grand on the latest camera and its accessories. I enrolled in a class and even joined a local photographers club to get some tips and also gain inspiration from their interests. But, the excitement didn’t last long. The list of excuses was long. The class was on a day that clashed with a party, the weather was too cold to venture out with a camera, the camera equipment itself was too heavy to lug around, so on and so forth! I failed. The equipment is still a reminder of a goal unfulfilled.

People set goals all the time but what is the driving force behind that need. We set goals to make our lives more positive, fruitful and/or dynamic. Shedding a few pounds, quitting that stubborn smoking habit, increasing the bank balance, or learning a new language might have been a goal on your list, but how successful were you? People often find it difficult to stick to their goals and give up somewhere along the way, just like I did.

So, I had to sit back and think.

Where did I go wrong?

Was it a bad goal to begin with?

My goal was not wrong but my approach was wrong.

I set a destination without creating a roadmap on how to get there. I didn’t give myself the right tools to help me get there. I was depending on my strong willpower and my ability to rationally process and stay away from temptations. That was not helping. I was fighting every day against something very innate. My mind was constantly fighting for me and it was getting so exhausting that I had to quit. Some researchers reveal that we all get Decision Fatigue – our brain gets tired after deciding all day. In the case of goals and resolutions, the decision to do or not to something constantly can be daunting. So, in the end, not only was I dejected that I quit, I also felt miserable for spending all that money on my goal.  

Why did I fail?

I realized I was being insensitive to who I was. I did not take into account some of my responsibilities, obligations, and restrictions that would keep me from fulfilling my goal. I don’t live in Utopia. I needed to be more pragmatic and compassionate towards myself. It was important to set goals within the parameters of my everyday life. My goal cannot be the overarching principle by which I will be governed for the rest of my life. I should have put some more thought into setting that goal.

So, I changed the way I went about setting goals.

Last year, my goal was simple but nevertheless I was risking failure until I reevaluated and modified the goal to be successful. My goal was simply to make more of an effort to talk to some long forgotten friends. In this digital age, it is easy to rely on canned responses and lose that personal touch. I wanted to make an effort to reconnect with people at a personal level.  The small step I took was to call people on their birthdays to wish them as opposed to wishing them via a text message. It was not so simple! The good calls were easy. Many of my aunts, cousins were happy to hear my voice and that I remembered their birthdays.  It made my heart feel good. I gained more from those conversations.

But it wasn’t all that easy. The difficulty was calling people I had ignored or forgotten over the years. It felt acerbic to call them out of the blue and I struggled to build the courage to dial some numbers. I was failing. I started to make excuses to not call certain people.

So I paused and looked at my goal again.

Ultimately what do I want to gain from this exercise? I wanted to feel good after personally conversing with long lost friends and family. So why put myself through the agony of talking to people I don’t want to?

I needed to be pragmatic and compassionate with myself. So I modified my goal, to calling long lost friends but not everyone on my contact list! I had to relieve myself of the stress of having to talk to people I didn’t want to. After all my goal was to stay connected with people I love. By not being too stringent and by modifying my goal, I was able to make it more achievable.

This year I added another goal to my basket. This is not an original thought but borrowed from a conversation with a friend, who talked about bursting closets in her house and the resolve to stop buying new clothes. It was a very novel idea. I am married to a shopaholic man and I am no less! At a time when our kids are getting closer to leaving home for college and we think about downsizing, we seem unable to stop ourselves from hoarding. Especially now that you can lounge in your PJs on a couch and order the world with just a click of a mouse. So, I tested the waters by suggesting an idea to abstain from personal shopping for this entire year with the husband and surprise, surprise – he concurred!. It’s been over a month now and we haven’t shopped for any personal item so far, no clothes, no bags, no shoes and no accessories.

It has not been easy. We do get a lot of catalogs with beautiful clothes on perfect people and then there is that special Uggs that I always wanted that just went on sale and that green colored skirt that was missing from my wardrobe and so on. I just breathe. Draw in my patience and ask if I really need it and if I have something else I could manage with instead. So far the answer has always been yes, so it wasn’t that difficult to walk away. We also help each other by making sure we don’t go weak. We do that by shaming the other for being so weak and asking for bragging rights for the rest of the year!

I am not sure if we can keep it up all year but that’s where my pragmatism and compassion will come into play. I will just reevaluate and tweak my goal. The desired outcome here is not about putting a stop to all spending but to stop being a frivolous spender and to really think before wasting all that money; but if there is something I really need, I will let myself have it!

To sum it up –

As you embark on another new year, take stock of the goals you have set. Start by looking back at your past successes and failures. Set a goal that matters to you, and will make you love yourself more. Don’t be so harsh on yourself that you get exhausted fighting for yourself. Make a roadmap that will lead you to the finish line. This could be the smallest step you take for yourself but the biggest that could change your life. So, tiptoe if you must, but go ahead and take that step.

Remember to be compassionate, forgiving and considerate!
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Unlearning The Ways Of Our Mind

Recently I had the privilege of attending a professional education program at Harvard. I was there to engage in discussions about ‘Mindfulness For Educators’ but somewhere through the many conversations it transformed into ‘Mindfulness for myself’.  It is a stressful world out there and we tend to get lost in the blitz. Moments turn to days, then weeks, months and so on, and one fine day you catch yourself saying, ‘Life is going by too fast’.  Being mindful and bringing in a few variances to our art of living will go a long way in slowing down to relish life. The biggest weapon we can fight stress with is our own ability to choose one thought over the other. How we choose, dictates the next moment of our life. Always think before you speak, stop talking about problems and instead talk about the joys. Make that a habit you keep. So how do we unlearn the habits of the mind that we have been living with for so long? Here are the five habits of the mind we can doctor to start living a much fuller life.

How we allow the world to impact us: Many of us are very tough on ourselves. We don’t need anyone else to bring us down. We can successfully do that to ourselves very well! We allow negative experiences to have exponential impact on us, whereas we brush away any positive impact and deem it as ‘no big deal’.  We can be very unforgiving and hold ourselves to high expectations. What we need to unlearn is how to stop being so unforgiving and relish the good things that come our way. Let the negativity fall off like water off a duck and absorb the positivity like a sponge.

How we react to the stimuli around us: We live our lives mostly reacting to everything and everyone around us. These reactions, mostly knee-jerk, or emotional,  are not well thought out, educated decisions. They may not be the best course of action and we often end up regretting them. We need to unlearn reacting to situations and instead learn to respond. Pay attention to the stimuli which is forcing us to react. Take a moment to listen, be receptive and think about what your internal reactions are telling you to do. Know that we don’t have to act on every internal reaction we have. Instead, think about how you address the situation calmly. Now respond. Depending on the situation and how often you are mindful of your internal reactions, you can train yourself to respond quickly but thoughtfully.

How we interpret life: Everyone interprets life in the way that is most suitable to them. One might think honesty is the best policy and another might think it is okay to lie sometimes if it is to help someone. We become very defensive and attached to our interpretations of life. We can’t let go and we try very hard to convince everyone around, including ourself, how we are on the right path of life. We need to unlearn making our perfectly formed opinions, our facts of life. We need to be open to seeing life through different lenses to get a clearer, wholesome view of the world around us.

How we poison ourselves:  All the negativity that we hold on to is nothing but poison. Resentment towards others is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. The only person suffering here is you. Anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, frustration, disappointment are all poisons that destroy us. Let’s be realistic here. We cannot have a life devoid of negative emotions but we can train ourselves to not allow it to linger for more than a few minutes. We should be able to reason with our mind and replace the negative emotions with something positive like hope, excitement, gratitude, joy and so on.

How we breathe: Yes! Many of us have been breathing wrong all through our life. Me included! I always thought we inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. But the nose is for breathing and mouth is for talking. Here are the top three reasons why nose breathing is good for you: 1) The nose hair acts as a natural air filter, keeping the pollutants and chemicals out. 2) The mucous lining your nose warms or cools the air to the right temperature so you don’t get sick. 3) The nostrils are designed to inhale and exhale the right amount of oxygen needed by your body.

A simple act of fixing how we breathe ensures the air contacts the olfactory nerves to stimulate your brain and put it into its natural rhythm. If you don’t breathe through your nose, in a sense you’re only half alive.

Allow yourself to live in the moment. Even if you are surrounded by problems, just lean in… and relax. Sometimes you just have to ‘let it be’; it’s not always the best choice to ‘let it go’. Focus on the moment you are in and savor it. Once you are in the moment, hold on to it. Make a connection with your spiritual side and commit to the values that you deem important. 

Credits & Thank you:
Metta McGarvey – Educational Co-Chair, Harvard
Joseph Zolner – Senior Director of Programs – Harvard                                                     Andres, Ali & Atman – Holistic Life Foundation                                                                       Lama Rod Owens  – IBme

 

 

 

 

 

Learning To Say NO!

Growing up there was a story that was read to me in school called; ‘The giving tree’. The book follows the lives of a female apple tree and a boy, who develop a relationship with one another. The tree is very “giving” and the boy evolves into a “taking” teenager, man, then elderly man. In the final pages, both the tree and the boy feel the sting of their respective “giving” and “taking” nature. When only a stump remains for the tree, she is not happy, at least at that moment. The boy does return as a tired elderly man to meet the tree once more and states that all he wants is “a quiet place to sit and rest,” which the tree could provide. With this final stage of giving, “the Tree was happy”. It was shared in various other Indian folklore forms, even by my grandmother and the moral was the same. The moral of the story glorified helping someone in need. It perpetuates the myth of sacrificing, selfless life as the only way to true happiness. The values were instilled in every listener that being selfless and to always ‘give’ is a good character trait to inculcate and we should all strive to be like that.

Well, THAT was the most insane advice I have ever received and unfortunate that I believed it and followed it for a long time.

Today, I sit back and think about the big question, “How much help is too much help?” and “Is it ok to say no?”. I struggled with both for a long time because I had a problem with saying ‘NO’ to people. On the rare circumstances that I did manage to say no, I would be ridden with guilt. I would think, rethink and work myself into a frenzy that I was this selfish person, who didn’t help a friend in need.

With time came self-awareness and with it came self-realization. Yes, giving is good but one should only give without hurting their own self. If you end up hurting yourself in the process, then you are not doing any good to either yourself or the other. You end up disrespecting your own individuality by saying no to your body, mind and soul, by saying yes consistently. Sometimes helping others is more of your own need than the need of others. People feel a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement by helping others. They feel valued.

Analyze the guilt that comes with saying ‘NO’. If you have done enough, or you are tired, or incapable of doing more, then there is nothing wrong in saying NO. There is no point in exhausting your body, mind or finances by going beyond your capacity to help. If your conscience is clear, you should not feel guilty. You are just taking care of yourself before you take care of another. Understanding one’s own capacity and limitations is very important. Let your conscience be your guide. This is not easy because sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish between ego and conscience. It takes time to differentiate between the two and if you are unable to do it, there is nothing wrong in seeking help from someone who can guide you well. Raise your self-awareness so you can discriminate between the two. This is the most valuable skill you can learn.

Today, I still find myself helping anyone in need but when I do say no, I don’t feel guilty. My conscience is clear and I have no reason to believe that I have somehow failed or abandoned the person in need. There are a million other people in the world that could help them and someone who is more capable than me will step up and take my place.

Life will go on for all even after I say NO.

Epilogue: I was googling a picture about ‘The giving tree’ to add to my blog and I came upon an article about the actual book. It went on to say that it is a very divisive book. TheScreen Shot 2017-11-07 at 9.51.22 AM controversy concerns whether the relationship between the ‘giver’ and the ‘taker’ is positive or not. It goes on to argue that the ‘giving tree’ is not really selfless and that the boy is actually ‘abusing’ the good nature of the tree.  Now they tell me!

 

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Italy – You may have the universe if I can have Italy

I had heard of the quote “Italy is a dream, that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” Only after visiting the country did I actually realize the true meaning. I know I will dream about Italy for the rest of my life because it’s so hard not to fall in love with the lifestyle and the place that makes it who it is.  Italy is all about the Italians, food, wine and history. It is the one place that will make you feel very very young, because everything else is so old in comparison. We covered Rome, Vatican, The Amalfi coast (Capri, Ravello, Positano, Serrano), Florence (Pisa), Naples (Pompeii), Tuscany, Siena, Cesenatico and Venice. Every place was as different as the other in character and spirit. Rome and Vatican was all about history, Amalfi was about the coastline and blue waters, Florence was a world of museums and art, Tuscany was the lush green valleys, Cesenatico was the most happening place and Venice screamed romance!

I will talk about each of these places in detail in my subsequent blogs but here I am just giving readers a preview of Italy in general, a birds eye-view to call it so.

The people: Whatever you have heard about italians, is true! They are very good looking, fit, hot and happy people. I don’t think I saw many obese or bald people, and if I did see, they were probably tourists! The people were also extremely friendly and helpful. They seemed very relaxed and full of life. Most Italians are very well dressed and conscious of how they look. On the flip side, if you anger an Italian; just run for the covers!

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There was this one incident that happened during our trip that gave us a brief intro to that side of an Italian. It was late at night and we were in a taxi, driving back towards our hotel with a very friendly driver, who was giving us a verbal tour of Florence as we drove past the city. Suddenly, another car just cut him off and sped ahead. We were lucky that our driver acted quickly and averted scraping the other car. Nevertheless, our driver was no longer Mr. Congeniality! For the next 5-7 minutes we became part of a high speed car chase, which included an audio litany of the choicest Italian expletives and a visual of other screeching, honking cars as he tried to catch up with the driver who cut him off. Meanwhile, the kids were having a ball watching all this unfold in front of their eyes. Finally he was able to speed up in front of him, parks the car,  engages the brakes, and flies out of the car and walks up to the other drivers’  car. He asks him to roll his window down, gives him a good screaming and bangs on the hood and walks back to our car. He then profusely apologizes to us and asks us to give him less money for the inconvenience he caused us but that no one does that to him or his car! It was the most hilarious experience we had 🙂

Food & Drink: I understood food after going to Italy. I understood freshness. I understood the debate about small portions. I understood the importance of just enjoying what you work for; a good meal! In Italy they add work and life to food and wine, not the other way around. People seem to live to eat and they eat in a very relaxed manner. Drive thru eating must be an alien concept there. Every meal in Italy is a 2 to 3 hour affair. It’s slow and relaxing. It was very hard at first getting used to the slow pace of life in Italy. We would get very impatient when our food didn’t arrive in 15 minutes, but slowly we got the hang of it. We would just sit there sipping wine, eating bread and making conversations. The meals in Italy are recommended to be divided in 4 parts, the appetizers, first course, second course and desserts. The first course is some kind of pasta or pizza and the second part is some kind of meat or seafood.  The hot delicious, freshly made food would then arrive and you savor every bit of the mouth watering dish, as you wash it down with some delicious wine. The sauces they use are freshly made and cooked to perfection; just enough that you can taste every ingredient in it. Most importantly, we learned that an Italian kitchen carries very few spices and they rely mostly on fresh herbs and vegetables to get the flavor into the food. Finally the last part of the meal is the ‘dolci’; the desserts. We ate a lot of tiramisu and gelato, and we have to say that every one of them was delicious and different.

Coming to drinks, Italy is all about wine, wine and more wine. People drink from mid day to the end of the day. Food is paired with wine and wine is paired with food. Don’t be afraid to ask your waitress to suggest a good wine to go with your food. Do ask the price too before she uncorks because a good bottle of wine could cost anywhere from 40 dollars and up. The house wines are good and cheap, so take a chance and ask for a taste.

People don’t drink water in Italy. They just drink wine. So if you want water, you have to buy and you have to specify if you want still or sparkling. Asking for tap water at a restaurant will be frowned upon.

If you are outside, make sure you carry a bottle with you as there are drinking water fountains all over and the water is clean and tastes much better than the pricey bottled water.

Some tips:

  1. Once your food arrives and you try to enhance it with added salt, spice or cheese and it was not offered to you; just know that your chef will be offended.
  2. If it’s a restaurant that makes freshly made pasta, then know that your only options are spaghetti, ravioli, pappardelle, taglierini and rigatoni. If you ask for any other kind like penne, rotini, farfalle, etc then they will either say they don’t understand what you are saying or they will tell you they don’t serve packaged pasta.
  3. Scallops and scalops do not mean the same thing!
  4. Try the mussels in every restaurant. Each has a different flavor and they are all good.
  5. If you don’t understand a dish, google it before you order, so you atleast have an idea what you will be digging into.
  6. Try the Limoncello! It’s a must. Try to get your hands on some limoncello from Capri or Sorrento as they are considered to be the best. Better still, try to get some home-made limoncello for the true, crisp taste of Italy.
  7. If you want something spicy, ask for ‘Arrabiata sauce’. It’s the closest to spice that you will get in italy.

Shopping: Italy is fashion central and we all know that. It is known for its leather goods, glass factories and intricate lace work. Don’t be afraid to bargain, start from the half-way point and work your way up until you both agree on a price. If buying clothes, try them on before you buy them. Italian sizes are much smaller than regular USA sizes, so make sure they fit you right. I loved shopping in Rome. If you walk around the streets and get yourself into those little boutique shops, you might just get lucky and get some good deals. We bought some clothes (mostly good chiffon) in Rome and some leather goods in Florence. Most stores take credit cards and all street vendors take cash, so be prepared. I found some really good clothes at great prices at Balloon (Rome) and Zara (Florence).

The only things that could have made our trip better was the weather. Unfortunately, this was Europe’s worst summer and the heat during the day was unbearable. Some places were very crowded and there are long lines to visit the attractions, so book ahead of time as it will help you skip the lines and the crowd. There are many people trying to take advantage of your tourist status, so be careful and decide where you exactly want to go. Google maps is very helpful. Download the ‘Rick Stevens Europe’ app, his tours are very helpful and easy to listen to. Download it ahead of time and listen to them as you walk around the monuments or museums, it makes it all so much more interesting when you know the story behind what you are looking at.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I hope to revisit a few places leisurely and redo them at a slow pace. The quote below, sums it all up!

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Regrets, Mistakes and More

Another school year has ended and as part of my yearly ritual, I sat down to reflect upon the year gone by in general, the mistakes, the lessons and regrets. But before I could answer that question to myself, I was stumped at the question itself. How does one define a mistake or a regret? I did what any hardworking researcher would do. I asked around! I got various replies and here is a summary of the responses.

Mistakes are actions done in haste, or  an error made in judgement, poor reasoning, calculations or plain carelessness. It is something you would not repeat if you had the maturity and growth you do today.

Regrets make you sad. They could be something you did or didn’t do because of a decision you made. It’s a disappointment, a sorrow, a yearning or remorse.

Lessons are what contribute to growth and maturity. It’s the learning that happens over time and what you carry as you move on.

All three can stand independently or coexist with each other. It depends on the situation and the issue.

Over the last few days, I have had many exciting conversations with family and friends about their thoughts on regrets and mistakes and surprisingly, most found it very difficult to answer the question. It is one of those things that just sits at the back of your head, you never think about but important enough to revisit every decade or so. A self-assessment if you can call it so. Talking to people about this topic, gave me a deeper understanding of most of them, and in some cases helped people understand their own selves better.

When I look back at my own life, there are many mistakes I have made and I have learned from every single one of them but I don’t think I truly regret all of them. They have all contributed to making me who I am today. Yes, I am blessed that none of the mistakes were scarring but they definitely changed me for the better. Regrets are few and I have always tried not to have regrets in life. It is just my personal motto. Even if it is as simple as regretting walking away from that beautiful dress on the mannequin which was priced too high… or as complicated as wanting to choose a different education path, it is something I have tried to minimize in life.

In my own assessment I would say, it was a mistake to get into engineering when my interests were more creative. It did nothing to me other than give me a college experience and be a springboard for my future masters and career. It was a mistake getting married at a young age and I wish I had a few more years behind me before I took that big plunge. I would have definitely had a much smoother landing into wifehood and motherhood if I had some more maturity.

I do regret not working for a couple of years before I got married. That experience would have done wonders to my confidence and I would have been more responsible for my own actions and decisions (now I just blame my mom for everything!). I regret not learning how to play a musical instrument, I feel I would have been good at it and it’s sad that I never attempted to do that. And then there are those smaller regrets that come from being immature, at how you handle people and life. These are regrets that have turned into lessons and now I know what not to do. Regrets of leaving people hurt or being insensitive to their stories. These are the sorrows you carry in your heart, hope for time to heal and a lesson to never do it again.

Regrets, mistakes, lessons and more are a part of growing up. The more you age, the more regrets and mistakes you have to talk about and you have just as many lessons learned from all of them. They are all just a bitter-sweet part of life!

So take some time to introspect and understand yourself. What do you consider as mistakes in your life? What regrets do you carry forward? And what are some million-dollar lessons you learned from life that has made you who you are today?

 

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