I'm sharing my story because I know it will resonate with a fair few people. What I have experienced over the past few months seems to be happening to people I know and love dearly - souls travel together, so I guess that makes sense.
I went to law school because my career counsellor in class 10 said my power motivation and desire to help would be best served by doing law. Of course, once you get into the best law school in the country, you go. I went and fell in love, and made the most of this crazy, strangely blessed institution with its whacky inhabitants and high ideals. A lot of the time, I wanted to be studying just the liberal arts, like my sister in the States. Law school seemed worth it because of the people and the strength of the qualification. There was little dancing, and little-r introspection. There was a lot of living, exploring, pushing boundaries, forming an identity, trying to break it down, escapism in action, blind thrashing around. I love that I did what I did, no regrets. But I'm glad to have got past that stage.
Law school was followed by a short stint at Google HK, the BEST place to work for sharp, driven and fun people. HK was very good for me, I spent quality time with myself, flaneuring, thinking, being. But that being was somewhat unconscious. And then I went to my dream NGO, the Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad where Gagan boss gave me the kind of project I always wanted to work on - moving towards the rule of law in 15 villages of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It was to be an intervention that would marry legal empowerment and socio-cultural change - perfect perfect perfect. My NGO was fantastic, I was travelling a LOT, met lovely people in Ahmedabad - everything was fine and yet something wasn't right. I had that feeling for a few months before shit really started hitting the fan.
I wasn't eating or sleeping properly, my heart was sore, I felt alienated from my creative side, lonely (not alone), somewhat bored in a wonderful but somewhat limited city.. Going to the field (Lambadiya) with my wonderful colleagues was an unforgettable experience. I met the funnest, most grounded, motivated, brave and committed people - I could see the stars, we all had daal batti three times a day and laughed about our madness in working in such far flung areas.. we joked about the police and the rule of law (or its lack), how rule of law was suddenly a phrase that our colleagues had latched onto and were using in everyday life. I met a sarpanch with Bhagat Singh posters in his home; we rode long distances to conduct FGDs - engaging, among others, with tipsy and enraged villagers, garrulous old men, nubile young wives and excited children.
I should have been so happy, doing what I thought I always wanted to do.
I wasn't sad. I just wasn't happy. I wasn't feeling, when feeling was all I ever knew I had. The ability to feel, relate, get angry, empathize.
When I could no longer concentrate on anything (at all), when I had to ask my junior colleague to help me out with tasks because the smallest thing had the potential to trigger a panic attack, when my self esteem had hit the kind of low I had last experienced as a confused teenager in school, when all I could think of during a training program was about jumping off the terrace - that's when my parents stepped in and I came back to Delhi.
We went to: a shrink, a healer, met some of my closest friends. My nani came over and stayed for a long time. There were good days and bad days. Most days were just days to get through. I tried going to court, working with a judge - wonderful office but I was just in no state to work, much less on something I didn't really want to do. I avoided my friends, treated myself and people around me like shit, stayed in bed for days, rejecting myself and my family. I had three false epiphanies, thinking I was over the hill and would stay strong. They turned into disappointment.
I had all these questions (I'd always had them, but this time they were genuinely existential) about the purpose of life, social injustice, realizing your potential, your own true purpose etc. Life didn't seem worth living. I decided not to get out of bed until I was inspired to do something.
And then one day I jumped out at the thought of taking pictures. All the time. And then suddenly I had a reason to live that was just about me. Not about my family or friends, but me, Aqseer.
Slowly I started getting answers. Some from the healer, some from these incredible books that my aunt suggested (A New Earth, Journey of Souls, Many Lives Many Masters - full list below). Things started falling into place. I went to my guruji and danced after ages - and I felt so alive. And happy. And alive. I applied to Global Music Institute for vocal lessons on an impulse - just allowing my gut to guide me. The application process involved composing a song - and thus I got to fulfill an old dream - of singing and recording at least one song. I loved that process. Reading A New Earth and learning about karma helped me come to peace with my role in social justice - I accepted that wanting to work in the development sector was not a process based interest, but an ends based one - my concern with the greatest possible impact I could achieve - all ego. (Read A New Earth to understand what I mean by ego here.)
And so I decided to focus on the PROCESS that I loved engaging in for its own sake. I started paying close attention to what I genuinely enjoyed doing. And that slow process of self discovery has lead me to - dance, vocal lessons, photography and healing practices.
Love, and light to you. If you're not happy, do something about it. Create your reality, don't wait for life to happen to you.
Read all of the below. And text if you want to talk.
1) A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
2) The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
3) Let the Power be with You – Shivi Dua
4) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton
5) Autobiography of a Yogi – Padmahansa Yogananda
6) Many Lives Many Masters, Miracles Happen – Brian Weiss
7) Waiting for Autumn – Scott Blum
8) The Celestine Prophecy, The Twelfth Insight – James Redfield
9) Commentaries on Living - J.D. Krishnamurti
10) The Grand Design - Stephen Hawking