The Young Woman and the Lake

She was a young woman who had never fished before. Not a stranger to lake sides, she had dozens of people stand and wait for a catch. The art of fishing appealed to her, so she asked her father if they could give it a try sometime. It made her father happy to see that the young woman shared his interest, so he agreed.

The young woman was quick and constantly on the move. Her eyes widened as her father prepared for their trip. She watched with interest as he brought out two slender poles with lines trailing off of them.

Her father smiled as he fiddled with the hooks.

“We will go to the lake tomorrow morning when the waters are still.”

“Thank you,” she answered brightly, shifting in her chair from the excitement.

The next morning, the father had packed several lures, two fishing poles, spare hooks, and two apples.

“We’re ready,” he said with a grunt as he propped the door open with his foot.

“Alright, dad!” the young woman replied as she sped out.

Just a few miles away from the house was a wide lake. It was surrounded by large trees on all sides, and its waters gleamed in the morning light.

Pulling an aged rowboat to the mouth of the lake, the father prompted the young woman to get inside. Stretching to touch the cattails, she felt the currents tugging at the boat.

“Hop in!” she cried as the little boat threatened to leave her father on the shore.

Quick on his feet, her father stepped into the little vessel. At his weight, the boat violently rocked back and forth, making the young woman nervous.

The father smiled as he held an oar in his hands. More reassured, his daughter returned the gesture. They rowed the small boat until they were near the center of the lake.

The young woman looked at her reflection in the water, blurred from the winds that stirred its surface.

“Take this,” the father said as he handed the young woman a fishing pole.

“You sure we won’t kill any fish with the hook? It looks pretty sharp” the young woman asked him. That was the last thing she wanted, blood on her hands.

“Don’t worry. We won’t,” her father replied surely.

After several moments of silence, the young woman spoke.

“Can I stick some bait to the hook?”

“Naturally,” he replied, tossing her a green lure.

“Now, just throw the line in the water.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Surprised by the simplicity of it all, the young woman cast her line into the water. Shortly after, her father did the same.

The young woman was excited. Accustomed to books and writing, this was her first time in the real outdoors. She could just imagine her line going taught from the weight of a bulky fish. Excited by her luck, she would pull on her pole with all of her strength until that fish was forced to leave the water. Once it was done flopping about, she would admire its gleaming scales as it sputtered on the deck. And shortly after, she would toss it back into the water.

The proud picture was very clear in the young woman’s mind. Except something was amiss. After hours of patiently waiting with her father, no fish tugged on her line.

“Why aren’t any of them coming?” the young woman groaned.

“Maybe the fish are on another side of the lake. We just have to wait,” the father replied with his jaw set.

Then something miraculous happened. The young woman felt something heavy at the end of her line.

“Dad, I think I’ve got something!” she yelled gleefully.

“Well, pull!” her father replied just as enthusiastically.

The young woman tugged at the line with all of her strength, feeling the fish fighting against the currents.

“It’s a big one!” she let out through clenched teeth.

About to lose her weakening grip on the pole, she gave the line one last pull when something broke from the water’s surface.

It landed on the deck with a firm thud and a sickening squelch.

Imagining terrifying images of gore pouring from the fish’s open wounds, the young woman was surprised, slightly relieved, and enormously dismayed by what she finally saw.

A worn leather boot, blackened from decay, had tipped over, spilling thick algae and colored debris on deck.

At a loss for words, the young woman dumbly stared at the ugly thing that she had caught.

“A boot!” her father cried with a burst of surprised laughter.

“Yes,” she replied shortly, examining the shoe with disgust.

“Y…you even caught it…all by yourself,” he choked out the words as he chortled away.

Sullenly looking at her catch, the young woman realized that fishing wasn’t as glorious as it was cut out to be.

Oh well,” she thought sighing, “at least I didn’t kill anything.

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Funk

Do you ever feel like you’re moving forward but standing still at the same time? At times, you are a blur of frantic motion, doing everything, seeing everyone, being everywhere,  feeling yourself stretching thin. Yet at others you are frozen in place, watching the seconds slowly drip into minutes, hours, years. It’s hard to describe that sort of funny in-between state, where it feels like you have been doing everything and nothing all at once.

I believe that this is what they call being in a funk. Having never really known what the term meant myself, I  like to envision Funk as a topsy-turvy town that’s a deep shade of purple. Its inhabitants are colorful, wacky creatures of all shapes and sizes. Some of them have large mouths with tongues lolling about in their mouths and teeth smashing together as they perpetually laugh themselves into a tizzy. Others are blue have woolly, matted fur that hangs low over their eyes as they cry thick, heavy tears about things of both great and little significance. The ones I shudder to think of only come out at night, seething with meaningless anger, resentment, jealousy, and fear. Their claws are perpetually clenched in fists of ire. They kick and scream, their eyes burning with demonic fire. There are those in Funk that have one large, all-seeing eye but no mouth. But do not pity them, for they wouldn’t want one. These silent creatures are more stoic in nature. They don’t really see the value in creating a scene, so they instead become part of it, blending perfectly into the background to mask the chaos of their minds.

Yes – Funk is a quaint little town full of intriguing and baffling residents. But as someone who has has passed in and out of Funk on occasion, I would suggest that you don’t stay for too long. After a while it all starts getting to your head. 🙂

Stars

Sometimes it feels like love is more difficult and demanding than it’s worth. We devote ourselves to these relationships only to leave ourselves vulnerable to the ever-changing temperaments of someone else. Interestingly, the more invested we are, the greater the potential damage. But then why do we do it? Time and time again, we choose to love, appreciate, and connect with those around us in spite of the immense pain it deals us. So what then- are we all masochists in some sense? (I’m only joking!)

And let me say that the “love” I am referring to is not only confined to the sweet, syrupy romantic love you find in your romantic comedies (though there is nothing wrong with this sort of love). I am also referring to the love that exists between friends, co-workers, family members, and for yourself.

I am in often in awe of the concept of love because of its tremendous complexity and simplicity. I am in awe of love in all its forms- From the apple left on a kindly teacher’s desk, to parents’ tear-stained goodbyes as they wish their children off to college, to the gentle warmth of a smile from a stranger on the street. I find it incredible that one can choose to love indefinitely without ever depleting their supply of love. Because love isn’t something that just runs out. It is as vast and wondrous as the stars.

Saturday mornings

There’s something special about quiet Saturday mornings. Unlike the majority of the work week, you’re free to close your eyes and idle for a while before you decide to begin your day. The constant noise of tasks you’ll have to accomplish in order to have a successful/productive day has been temporarily silenced- and it’s wonderful.

At times it feels we’re so hard pressed for results that we don’t allow ourselves to fully understand and appreciate what it is we’re doing. We forget to take a step back and consider what it means to us personally and why we’re doing it. As someone who is currently working in a research setting, there are times when my job feels like the best in the world. It’s something that can make me feel special, and important, and brilliant. It’s something that requires me to use my mind and problem-solving faculties to their greatest capacities. But it can also be tiresome, and difficult, and tedious. There are times where I’m plagued by stagnation and exhaustion- when I’ve spent countless hours on something only for it to come to another dead end. There are times when all I want to do is lie on the ground and stare at the ceiling  in quiet surrender.

I used to think that this powerful desire for rest and inactivity was something terrible, a sign of lethargy and dullness. I would throw myself into a frenzy of activity, preparing for the week ahead, learning the basics of a new language, worrying incessantly about something that I didn’t have any control over. When I did stop for a moment- to read, listen to music, meditate, or relax, I felt terribly guilty. How could I just while away the time? I needed to “Seize the day!” as all of those cheesy, motivational posters say.

But it was only later, when I felt entirely burnt out from the work week that I realized that this wasn’t the case. It was actually just the opposite. Rest is important. And by taking time for ourselves, to sit in the quiet, we often become more, not less.

The Masked Defender of the Internet- PART I

It was the year 2400 and after years of explosive bickering, security threats, and passive aggressive messaging,  all of the world’s remaining countries came to the conclusion that the Internet itself desperately needed a government to maintain order.

Solemnly gathered at a vast oval table, hundreds of balding heads hunched over and engaged in serious discussion.

“We’ve tried everything! Televised coverage! Newspaper articles! Radio broadcasts! Anything to get the word out! And yet only a small portion of the world’s population supports our decision to institute a government for the Internet. I just don’t understand.”

“How else are we to prevent freedom of expression?” a gangly man in an ill-fitting suit asked, emphatically adjusting his spectacles.

“Freedom of expression!” a woman across from him shrieked in horror, clapping her hand to her head.

“There, there, Mildred. We all know about how terrible that was. Individuals using profanity, slandering those they disliked, spewing venom over the Internet! Why before our efforts to stop such madness, they were even exchanging ideas and thoughts in a free and unrestricted manner!”

The room collectively shuddered.

“And it’s not just freedom of expression we have to worry about.” a deeper voice boomed, a short and broad-shouldered man stepped out from the shadows.

“What about them talking trash about you guys?” the man asked, pointing a questioning finger at a row of startled government officials.

“Whatever do you mean, Colonel Sanders?” a rather stuffy-looking man in the front replied, puffing out his chest in indignant rage.

Pleased that he has gotten someone’s attention, the colonel smiled a little as he fixed his icy blue eyes on the questioner.

“What about them criticizing your agenda? Checking your facts and figures to see if they were true? Undermining your image? Making absurd mews-no, that’s not it-meeples-er”

“Memes, sir,” a young guard standing in the back of the room added.

“Yes, memes!” the colonel slammed his fist on the table, making everyone jump in their chairs.

“Making fun of all of our little flaws with hilarious little sayings! Making us look like fools! Well I’ve had enough of it!”

Colonel Sanders suddenly grew quiet quiet as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

Sufficiently impressed, a mustached official rumbled, “Your spirit and condemnation of free will and government is quite impressive, Sanders. Have you thought about running for the position of prime minister?  We could use someone with your strong will.”

Will Colonel Sanders seize the position of power, ultimately becoming a global tyrant? Will freedom of expression be forever silenced under his reign? To be continued…

Change

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to find a younger Anusha, shake her vigorously by the shoulders, alert her of the numerous mistakes she is yet to make, and advise her to do otherwise. But at the same time, I wonder what I would have lost had I decided to play it safe, to follow the well-meaning advice of my elders, to refuse to make  those same missteps. Therefore, I have decided that rather than curse my past blunders that I must celebrate and accept them for the constructive experiences that they were and are (that is, until scientists build a working time machine).

Now that I’ve said all of this, you’d probably like a more concrete example of something I’ve done with far-reaching consequences. Something that has fundamentally altered my perception of the world and the people that populate it. Well, here it is:

I was a young and impressionable freshman at a prominent public institution. And as many freshmen do on the first day, I desperately clung to the people I met in fear of drowning in a new and unfamiliar undergraduate ocean. It was nearly absurd how hard I would try to relate to people that I veritably had very little in common with. My painfully awkward conversations would usually go something like this:

Person A: Hi there!

Me: Hello! Do you like coffee or tea better? I personally love coffee, I don’t know how I’d ever live without-”

Person A: I actually hate coffee.

Me: Oh! Hey, I do too! It’s so overrated. Haha what kind of losers like coffee?

Alas, it was a strange and desperate time. But eventually, after several of such painfully awkward and stilted conversations, I struck gold! I found someone who lived on my floor and was kind, intelligent, and funny! It was amazing! I had found (dare I say it) my first college best-friend. If only it would stay that way. Cue dramatic music.

Throughout my first year of college we’d do everything together- we went to our first (and last) party, we did study sessions even if we weren’t in the same classes, we’d spend hours talking about how our days went, hell, we even had tea parties.

It was a magical time. Because of this, I dreamt of the day when we too could one day become roommates the following school year like all of the other brilliant college-best-friends! For you see- I was currently living with someone else with whom I had very little in common – and let’s just say that we had very different life styles and also perceptions of what was okay to do in the room in the other’s presence. At this point, you may be curious about what I am referring to, but I don’t think I can handle reliving the experience and will leave it to your astute imagination.

But this new friend of mine. She was different. We were friends. We enjoyed spending time together and we would be amazing roommates the following year. And as it so often happens with things that are too good to be true…it was.

When we finally became roommates the next year, something had changed between us. I’m not quite sure why or how it happened, but now that we shared the same living space, she no longer wanted to hang out as much. But why? Didn’t we initially decide to become roommates because we liked hanging out with each other? I thought in uncomfortable protest. Gradually, we began to speak less and less to each other and ultimately only saw each other when we had both returned to the room. I’d like to say that I took this sudden change like a champ, brushing it off my shoulder like a few stray breadcrumbs. But I didn’t. Truthfully, it really hurt.

Noticing how our once vivacious and nonsensical conversations had suddenly become indifferent and clipped exchanges, I felt my stomach turn on itself. While I tried talking to her about it, the words came out uncertain and unconvincing. How exactly do you address the fact that your once college-best-friend has become a distant acquaintance in a matter of a few months? Ultimately, our discussions led to no satisfying resolution, and feeling as if I had been punched in the stomach, I resolved to distance myself from this person and move on. I realized that I needed to expand my social circle so that the loss of our friendship would hurt less. I purposefully texted my roommate less frequently, further destroying the vestiges of our previous relationship.

Although it was difficult, I found myself reaching out more to the people in my clubs and classes. I was making new friends, trying new things, and feeling better about myself than I did before.

In retrospect, I’d like to say the end of our friendship was not exclusively either of our faults – I definitely played a role in extending the distance between us once I felt that things had changed. I think it was just a strange and unfortunate situation, and that possibly if I had invested more time and effort in bettering the circumstances, it could have ended differently. And although this was a difficult experience for me, I feel that I’ve learned a lot from it- specifically to never ever have roommates! I’m only (partially) kidding about that, but I guess I learned that not everyone is as they seem when you first meet and befriend them and that your friends will not necessarily make exceptional roommates. I’ve also learned how to forgive myself and others and ultimately come out for the better.

With regards to my roommate situation, while it can be frightening to make mistakes and lose a comrade, I believe that we have to keep trying to make connections outside of ourselves in spite of the risk of failure and rejection. We have to become more comfortable with taking risks and change.

 

 

 

 

Conflict

I spend a lot of time thinking. What am I thinking about – you may ask. And well, I could be thinking about a number of things – love, anger, disappointment, life and its mystery, death and its certainty – but most of the time I’m thinking about what I’m going to be having for lunch or dinner or how I’m planning to tackle my next pressing assignment.

I find it funny when I think of people as bumbling, sentient blobs, each struggling with their own insecurities and fears. But strangely it is these feelings of desolation that draw us towards each other in hopes of forming a collective whole. But enough of my rambling – what really perplexes me is how we communicate (or more often fail to communicate) with one another.

One minute everything is wonderful – you’re laughing with your friends, having a great time, reveling in your companionship and sense of belonging – and the next – something is off. You’ve received a passive aggressive text message. Your friend’s words are short and blunt, and their face is flushed an angry pinkish color, and you’re not sure why. And of course – 90% of the time we have some vague idea of what we have done to trigger such an unfortunate turn of events. But I sincerely wish that people would be more forthright with how they’re feeling.

As someone who cares about the affected party’s well-being, I’d like to know what I’ve done that’s caused you so much distress. Did I misspell your name at some point? Step on your toes by accident? Wage a bloodthirsty battle on your village and loved ones for my own selfish purposes (if I did this to you, you would have a very good reason to be upset with me)? And I have done anything to transgress the bounds of our friendship and violate your trust, please tell me.

Although I would absolutely love to have superpowers (specifically, teleportation), I can’t read minds.  And as someone who occasionally has trouble reading people and their motives, it is incredibly helpful when someone out rightly tells me what they are feeling. There is nearly nothing as infuriating as getting the cold shoulder or a passive aggressive sticky-note/text message when you’re not sure what specially you have done to irk the other party. What’s even worse is when this passive aggressive behavior does not align with your actions in person. If you’re cold and terse with me via text and then warm and benevolent in person, I will be left flabbergasted. Utterly flummoxed. (Are you enjoying my whimsical vocabulary?) Did I do something wrong? Is everything fine? Was I imagining our conflict?  Am I being overly sensitive? 

Thus rather than causing hours of  confused anguish and unrest, I implore everyone and their mothers to desist this sort of petty behavior. If you’re upset with me, so be it. Let’s resolve this sticky situation like champions, with our boxing gloves held high and at the ready (we don’t necessarily have to settle things with boxing, but if you want to-that’s fine with me). All I’m saying is that I think we need to use more open and honest communication in our relationships. Who knows? We might both come out for the better!

 

Friends

Friends are somewhat fickle things. I’m not saying that they’re unnecessary or malicious, but sometimes I find the concept of friendship confounding, and at times frustrating. At this, one might think that I’m an angry, dissatisfied loner or perhaps that I need better friends. You might also think- What provoked this? Has this moody writer been wronged by one of her fickle pals? And I would like to think that the answer to both questions is a solid no. However, I do find some of the dynamics and realities of friendship to be interesting and somewhat baffling: Firstly,  friendship generally consists of an easy companionship between individuals with a mutual (platonic) affection for each other. As such, there are certain rituals and protocols that ensue: spending time with each other at almost anywhere anytime, laughing about something together until the point of tears and a stomachache, playfully teasing each other about your personal lives, relentlessly texting each other about the good, the bad, and the ugly that has transpired in your day, until one day…it happens.

There is a sudden shift in circumstances or behavior and your friendship has fundamentally changed. Many times this change could describe moving onto another phase of life (going to college or graduate school, graduating and getting a job or getting married). The people whom you’ve seen and talked to on nearly a daily basis no longer share the same environment. Everyone is so fiercely pursuing their dreams and ambitions that it seems that they have entirely forgotten about your friendship. *cue sad music*. And I’m not saying it’s unjustified to chase after your dreams or to charge ahead fearlessly, it’s just disorienting to see everything change so fast.

To this, one could could say that rekindling and maintaining friendships requires effort,  diligence, and communication, and I agree; there are many people who successfully do this. I believe that it is possible for people to maintain strong relationships by purposefully making contact over the years – meeting up with each other once every week or so, texting each other regularly, keeping each other posted on major and minor events. But I think I’m bad at this. While we promise to keep in touch when we part ways, I have a tendency to let things slip. Days become weeks. Weeks become months, and suddenly it’s been four years and I have no idea what you’re doing. But to these people I’ve let slip away –  I appreciate you and what we shared even if it’s something I don’t often say.

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I’ve last written on this blog- approximately 1.5 years to be more precise. With my third year of undergrad and first year as a resident assistant (successfully?) completed, I’ve found myself in a strange and unfamiliar situation – rest. Having been finishing finals and hosting frantic study sessions that lasted  for more than 10 hours, it’s strange to think that it’s finally over. In fact, when I woke up this morning, this intense feeling of anxiety swept over me. Do I have finals? Did I forget about them? Or wait- do I have classes? What’s it today? And then I stopped for a moment. Only to remember that it was Sunday – or rather two days since I had taken my last final. Incredulous and still a bit shaken, I laughed to myself, thinking that it would be an interesting next few days.

It’s interesting to think about how I tend to go on auto-pilot when things get hectic. During the school year, it feels like I’m putting out multiple fires and just need to assess which one has the greatest potential for causing the most damage. For instance: Oh, I have a final tomorrow for an elective in less than 8 hours…BUT I also have an exam for mammalian physiology in three days that could potentially destroy me…Mam phys it is then! And now the moment that I never thought would come is upon me – I have met all of my academic and professional responsibilities. In essence, I am free.

Like in Plato’s cave where the prisoner has finally stepped into the light, squinting his eyes in the burning sunlight, I feel I must do the same. There is more than just studying endlessly for the next exam. It’s time that I desist from hunching over my laptop, furiously recopying my notes, and take a look around.

I’m thinking it’s been far too long since I’ve last written and would like to try make more of a habit of it. So be prepared to see a lot more of me in the next few weeks! Thank you for reading!

Rest

As a student, I sometimes feel as if my life is in a flux. Rushing to meet several pressing deadlines. Pressuring my group members to begin the project that is due within the next six hours. Studying for what feels like every waking minute of the day. Couple this with a part time job, friends, and family and you have a recipe for what looks like a complete disaster.

Amidst the chaos and flurry of frantic activity, there comes a time when I am forced to shift to autopilot.  Start one assignment, struggle, finish, move on to the next, and repeat. The part of me that usually resists, saying “Come on- give it a rest why don’t you?” suddenly disappears and I am left only with an overwhelming desire to complete my assignments. I believe this is what they call “tunnel vision”.

And while tunnel vision is powerful and intense, it is also exhausting. In the ferocious intensity with which I attack my impending deadlines, I often forget to take care of myself. I forget to understand the limits of my own time and resources. I forget my friends and family. I forget myself.

But I’ve found that when a tidal wave crashes into your shore, overwhelming you with its sheer force and power, it also just as surely recedes. I am at a point where I have found some respite after an intense academic semester- the calm after the storm.

While I initially chafed at the idea of resting, I’ve found that my resistance has been quick to disappear. There is something comforting, something humbling, something reassuring about letting your guard down. Within all of the frustration, anger, exasperation, and exhaustion I was experiencing during the semester, I had forgotten one critical piece- Rest.