I wish all my beloved family and friends across the world, a very happy new year. May this year bring the best of health, happiness, success and love in your lives.
Before 2018 ends, I want to share something with everyone.
2017-18 seem like one long year to me. And these two years have been the most testing times of my life so far. I hit some all-time lows professionally, physically and as a result, emotionally. Of course the tough times teach you the most valuable lessons of life. These two years did that too.
However, that’s not the point of why I started this trail of thought. For the longest I debated if this needs to go public at all.
I decided it totally should.
In 2017, I shot a project that was supposed to give us a lot of visibility, credit and money but instead it was shut abruptly and everyone on board took a major hit. I gave over one year to that project obviously saying no to a lot of things. And because of a weird legal loophole, I ended up not getting paid for the whole year. At the year end, I took up a travel show which lead to an accident and I had to go through a knee surgery which lead to six-eight months of recovery/rest and no work. So the money I did end up getting for the earlier project was consumed in lying in bed for months.
For a person who has always been a workaholic, a year of sabbatical can be very challenging to cope with. By the time I recovered to begin working again, it felt like I reached a station when the last train left hours ago. No leads, no projects, not even conversations. Just a long stretch of uncertainty. It felt like I was back to 2013 when I had come back from New York.
I spent weeks just locked in my room, in my bed unsure of what should I even do. I would just let the phone ring and not answer it. I wouldn’t know what to say or talk about. If at all I answered the call, the first question would be what have you been doing. If somehow I would dodge it by some vague generic answer, I would end up hearing what all the other person has been doing and it would make feel so useless and stupid.
Most of my time went by doing financial calculations to make sure it all adds up and I make it through the month. Every expense as little as few hundred bucks would lead to me doing and redoing the maths in my head to make sure I am not messing up my budget.
I would feel lonely and would desperately want to meet friends. But as soon as I would meet them, it would hit me how well they are doing in their life and how I have ended up to be a loser. So I would rush through the meeting and then head home, back to my room, back to my bed. I would get panic attacks, anxiety and restlessness leading to sleeplessness and thus worse mental health.
The whole bedrest thing resulted in me gaining a lot of weight. Half of my brain would want to go and do something about it. The other stronger half would say, just eat what you feel like. Staying happy right now is most important. You can lose the weight anytime you want once you’re out of this mess.
A lot of you would think why didn’t I seek professional help. I couldn’t afford it. It was just beyond my reach to afford a good psychologist to have regular sessions.
When you upgrade your lifestyle based on the money you think you are going to earn but you don’t end up actually earning it because everything went south, you end in the most weird situation of being “Urban Poor”.
You have a car, you live in a 2BHK house, a fancy phone and what not, people find it funny when you mention you are in a financial crisis. If you take a financial hit, you wouldn’t just throw the things you already have. I did definitely consider moving to a cheaper house but the whole transaction of moving seemed so much more expensive that paying a higher rent seemed to make more sense.
And of course, you’re hopeful that this situation is temporary. You’ll soon get a big project or those projects you’ve been talked to so much about would materialize. So you tend to push through.
But it doesn’t get any better. The burden keeps mounting.
And that’s when you start to question every life decision you took, every choice you made including the career you chose. You wonder if you’d have had a job today, you’d be so happy and relaxed.
You start to feel how people around you, your friends, peers moved so much faster and figured out their lives while you’re still living the life of a struggler. You see your friends take vacations, buy a house or just shop for things they want, eat wherever they want to and it does some serious damage to your self-confidence. The smallest things can do the maximum damage actually.
For the longest, the assurance that you’re chasing your dream and doing what you always wanted keeps you sane and going. But there comes a time where this also stops to make sense to you. You wonder if creating beautiful imagery and telling good stories is even worth all this stress and struggle. You start to think that you could have done this after earning hell lot of money.
You start to convince yourself that quitting (and not just professionally) is the best possible idea. Your brain starts to play games and you end up falling in this dark pit that’s impossible to find out. You don’t even know how to seek help. The worst idea for person with no guarantee of work or financial improvement is to take more loans. You end up in a catch 22 situation. You want to take a time machine and go back and say yes to every project you said no to in order to say yes to something else that either never happened or didn’t end up paying you.
When you hit your lowest and it is impossible to go any further down, you realize you only have one choice – to get the fuck up again. And I don’t think doing that alone is possible. I have always been surrounded by people and luckily nice kind people. But in this unusual turn of events, I discovered very few of these people were good listeners.
Which is why I want to thank some extraordinary people in my life who made sure they pull me out of the black hole. My biggest support, my hope and source of energy have been my parents. They supported me like nothing ever happened. They made me feel how proud they were of me and how this would all pass. I think I didn’t end up doing something stupid or didn’t give up only because of them.
My friend Stephen went out of his way to help me in every possible way even when he wasn’t in the country. He made sure he was there in any and every way possible even if not physically around. And I don’t think I would ever be able to thank him enough.
Shruti has always been my kid. I have protected her from everything. However, this time she put a shell around me so strong that I felt secure in it. She understood every little nuance of my thought process and made sure she said the right things, made me do the right things and turned out to be my biggest support in despair.
Orso, Sameer, Chaitra, Sai, Priyanka, Supriya and my little sis Priyanshi, all turned out to be the therapists that I otherwise couldn’t afford (ok Sai was not so much of a therapist but he still was just there no matter what haha). Listening to me for hours without a sign of tardiness or judgement was something that probably helped me the most.
I also want to apologize to all the people that I probably couldn’t be there for because I didn’t have anything to offer. I was empty, broken and of no use to anyone. Now you know why I was so out of reach.
To all those who are now upset that I should have told you, I have no excuse. Sometimes it is not easy to reach out for help out of context. I probably could see how much was on your plate already and didn’t want to trouble you for it. To certain others, well, I did ask for help but you clearly didn’t see it. Though that’s ok now.
But like 2018, that phase is over for me. I am feeling myself again and ready to put up another round of fight. I am not sure how 2019 is going to be but I am sure I am now ready to deal with it. Once again, a very happy new year to everyone. Thank you for putting up with me and I promise I will be a better person in the year to come.
I also promise that I am going to work very hard to help people around me who might be in a fix like I was in and may need help. In the long run, I definitely want to make the lives of upcoming freelancers easier.
I will make sure I spend time trying to listen to people, understand and do my best to help the ones around me. If there’s something you just want to talk about, please feel free to call or message.
Also, I do want to request you all to do all of these more often :
Listen –It might be few minutes for you but it could be life saving for someone else. You’ll probably save a person from quitting. Nobody should ever have to quit. Also, listening is not always about finding solutions. A lot of times just sharing one’s thoughts leads to the obvious solution.
Be kind –It is just a matter of choosing your words carefully. What you say without much thought can trigger an ocean of emotions in someone else. Everyone is fighting a war you don’t know about. Least you can do is be kind.
Reach out –If a close friend or loved one seems to be keeping low, reach out. If you sense unusual change in someone’s behaviour, make sure you do your bit to understand what could be causing it and see if you can do anything about it. Just make sure you spend enough time with the people you love.
Open up –Nobody wants to be vulnerable to a really strong defensive person. If you expect a certain person to share what they are going through, put your guard down. Show them that you’re also not really perfect. Trust is a two way street.
Express –It is never inappropriate to tell the people you love how much you love them. I find it sad to see how many people around me have trouble just saying that they love the person. You might be saying the most obvious thing but it would make another person’s day bright. It could be the brightest thing of a person’s day.
And finally I would say don’t quit. Take a break. Cool down. But never quit. Not after what you’ve already been through. It will all be worth it. You’re not alone. Keep fighting.