Enjoying A Difficult Year
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”— Blaise Pascal
In December 2019, I started out my personal blog as one of the first in a series of experiments that I’ll subject myself to, when amidst the boredom of the winters it occurred to me that life is awfully short. This nudged to me leave my comfort zone and do all the things which make me more satisfied with my life, ’cause who knows?
I’d been missing out on my New Year’s Resolutions for several years. So I made out a list and put it in public so as to hold myself accountable.
But then, 2020 happened. I got back to my home from college and life suddenly took unprecedented turns for everyone. However, I somehow managed to slog through the year and get almost all my New Year resolutions down, pursued some amazing projects, got me a couple of internships, made new friends and reconnected with old ones, learned new skills, read a ton, and above all, trained myself to be much mentally resilient and happier than ever before. When I look back towards my year-old self, I can only cringe, but at the same time I see in past self a wrecked teen who has now turned into a slightly more sensible, confident adult.
Bear with me, but this year was an year of some really uncomfortable, accelerated growth, and I’m glad I was at least able to make something out of it.
As the year comes to an end, I would like to share some perspectives which made my life much better in these very different times. These are some ideas/frameworks of thought that have made the year much more enjoyable. For we don’t exactly know when will things get back to normal, it’s a far better decision to live it all, here and now.
I hope these ideas help you as much as they’ve helped me.
The lockdown wasn’t so difficult for me, as it was different.
The period of lockdown wasn’t very bad to me, to be honest. Agreed, it was hard. Agreed, I did feel overwhelmed and stuffed staying inside my home for awfully long periods of time. But I think there were a few things that helped me through this phase of feeling like a caged bird.
- One, was a list of resolutions that I was following, which prevented me from becoming too complacent, if I didn’t have anything to do.
- I was just too occupied with a lot of stuff! I had been working on a bucket list of items on Notion for the things I wanted to do, but wasn’t able to do carve out the time for. I convinced myself that I had all the time in this world to work on these fun projects, and there was practically no reason why I shouldn’t. So, without thinking much, I dived headlong.
- I quit social media (well, at least for some time). Over the late 2019 and early 2020, I discovered how much time did I mindlessly spend on social media apps. And it wasn’t even that I enjoyed my time online, I was just so used to it that it became a toxic habit of mine to check my phone every now and then. Removing my Instagram (not only the app, but the account too), and rethinking my internet usage habits helped me gain a little more control of my life (more on the specifics later). In a nutshell, it helped me find “free time” for real and not waste it over things I didn’t really enjoy.
In fact, I’d be bold enough to say it was a “different” time rather than a “difficult” time for me personally. I had a lot of new experiences trying out new things under new constraints (of space) and liberties (of time).
Won’t be showing the entire board, of course ¯_(ツ)_/¯
We’re in a video game with changing rules.
I grew up playing a lot of video games. Sometime back, I also came across this TED Talk by one of my favourite YouTubers, on how gamification can help us with improved lifestyles and habits. Being a product enthusiast, I researched solidly on where gamification is used and how and why is it such an effective tool.
If you’re a video game enthusiast like me, and if haven’t heard of The Walking Dead, then, well, screw you! If you haven’t, well don’t worry, I’ve got you. The game revolves in a setting where alive people distance themselves from each other and roam about in small flocks, saving their asses from the undead (zombies) and trying to survive in scarcity.
Like many other things I imitate, I imagined myself in such a game, where the objective is to survive from an invisible virus and trying to set up a record of sorts by staying in as much as possible. Also, using this creative constraint to have a lot of fun while barely going out. This really eased out the tension from me, a lot of which was created all of sudden in the period around March/April with the surge of negative news all around the world. As they say: desperate times, desperate measures!
If the simulation hypothesis is true, then “The Developer” must have turned the dials to an overdrive mode for this year and deliberately changed the rules to see how well we adapt to a changed environment. Even if the hypothesis is bullshit, who cares? Can’t we simply live by some assumptions that make our lives fun?
Hardships which turn you stronger.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I tried to think of this whenever I started slacking out on my assignment or project deadlines, and this further motivated me to work as much as possible. I really had no reason why should I stop. I was having a reasonable amount of fun, in a time when so much of the world was so badly screwed up. I did feel terrible on many days (and I keep continue feeling so at times), but I was able to come to terms with that feeling soon after. The results? I became a lot more mentally resilient than I’ve ever been in years. Not to mention that I did break down on some places towards the last quarter of the year, because of some unfortunate events happening around me, but I forgave myself for it and self-righted my strategy on the fly without being too hard to myself.
I was fortunate to stumble across Lex Fridman (sometime in mid-2019, but started following him even more closely during the lockdown period) and get inspired by his passion for the things he did, and his idea of “beautiful suffering,” a concept which was easy to try out this year, given the drastic change in our natural habitats, so to speak.
Gratitude for all that remains.
We lost out on a lot of things during this year; no doubt about that. But when I put into perspective all that the world around me was going through, I was nothing but grateful of that remained with me. I was getting great home-cooked food, good internet speeds and the companionship of my family with those dandy video calls with my best friends. What else could I really ask for, given that everything else was so down? Anyway, I had nothing to do with the way the world had broken down just like that, so worrying about what had happened brought me no good. I tried remaining as stoic as possible, not giving much heed to whatever was happening to the world or me which was out of my control, and being thankful for all the little I had. At the same time, trying to keep all the factors under control that kept my well-being in check. This included having a good sleep hygiene & some workouts in between.
In fact, this went on to reverse the gloominess which could have clouded me otherwise. All of a sudden I was mindful of every little detail that was right around me and I was less pissed about whatever I didn’t have. Which brings me to the next point, and that is…
The theory of infinite resolution.
A little idea that I came up with during one of my meditation sessions (try it and thank me later; I’m all science and no hoodoo). The idea is that we can entertain ourselves even with the smallest details about things which would otherwise seem small and pointless to discuss about. For instance, imagine the countless pointless conspiracy theories that you might have heard on TV this year, or you gossiping about someone in your group of friends.
This effect is more than prominent with the internet at our disposal. We didn’t need to go anywhere to complete a semester at college (won’t dive into the details about how it went; let’s keep it for sometime later). Our lives were functioning well with the bare minimum that we had.
I tried to keep myself as occupied with the fancy world of internet as much as possible. Discovering new blogs, trying out new courses, reading up new forums and books, making art — all of this kept me so busy in my little world that I didn’t even see the year coming to an end. All of a sudden, I had hundreds and thousands of movies/TV shows to watch, subjects to study, books to read, people to talk, photos to capture (like the one above), songs/podcasts to play and listen, ideas to write down, games to play!
An year to forget?
We can all agree that this was a strange year. Not only for me, for you, but for a major chunk of this world. If you think that it was the year of coronavirus, then I’d disagree with you. It was just a major highlight out of all dozens of happenings, good or bad, that happened this year — many things coming to a boiling point after decades of being ignored (talk about the BLM movement, all those climate-related mishaps). For me, personally, this was a year of reflection. For everyone out there, it was an year of some unprecedented, uncomfortable, accelerated growth. Yes, growth. Growth through knowledge of new, unforeseen things and a hard reset to our old habits.
While some people would like to forget this year and wipe it away from their memory as quickly as possible, I would like to keep it for sometime. This year has given me hard, yet some indispensable lessons. It will always remind me of the irrationality we often surround ourselves with, the unbelievable tragedies we could face, yet a hope that things do get better, even if you are myopic about them getting any better anytime soon. That life is inherently unfair, but we can collectively make it better.
This year taught me to persevere, to make the best out of constraints, and be happy about what I have instead of crying over what I don’t. This year will always be reminiscent of the quiet times I spent alone, of the times I got together back with my friends, my family. The times we laughed together, cried together, danced together and got the chance to know each other better. The times when we adapted to adverse situations in unique ways, and got acquainted with our unique limitations and capabilities.
Yo, I’m serious xD
Looking back, maybe this year wasn’t so bad, after all; but let’s hope for an easier one, shall we?
Wish you all a cheerful 2021! :)