All these years, I have always spent special events like festivals and birthdays with my family. This is because before the Fellowship, I have never been away from them. But, 2018 was different. As I sit with my laptop on the occasion of Diwali in Indore (where I am currently working), randomly watching a movie on Amazon Prime, I got compelled to write about how the year has been. The sudden realization that the year is coming to an end, took me back to January 2018 where it all began. Accepting the offer to join the fellowship at India Fellow meant one year (at least) away from home.
Eleven months since then and I have spent all major occasions by myself or with the new ‘family’ I have found here in Indore. Be it my birthday, family member’s birthdays, major festivals like Onam, Vishu (I am from Kerala) or Diwali and now the New Year as well, were celebrated differently in my new world where I was finally becoming an adult. As I took part in Ganesh pooja with my tiffin wali didi and her family, their warmth and hospitality made me wonder if I would have ever done it without being a part of the fellowship.
Among all the reasons to be excited about the Fellowship, one was the chance to be able to live by myself. Not being placed with another co-fellow meant I had full freedom to do that. It isn’t rare for a lot of us to leave our homes and move out whether it is for further studies, a job in another city or anything else that requires us to be someplace else. Probably that’s how ‘adulting‘ starts, by getting out of our comfort zones and into the reality.
When Right to privacy was declared as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court, I am sure every typical Indian millennial would have wanted to pack their bags and bolt, because we all know how privacy as a concept mattered little while we were growing up. Truth be told, I have also been waiting for the time when I could live with no curfews, no nose-poking neighbors who would complain to our parents, no permissions to ask or being taunted constantly for the messy room. In short, having no one to answer for the way I wanted to live my life.
Life at India Fellow did promise that kind of freedom specially because I was living in a city. Had it been a rural setup, half of that independence would have been curbed. Irrespective of the location, it meant that I could get to know myself better. Here are some of the things I realized while staying alone:
- Career Paths
For me, without a doubt, this has been a major factor in relocating, and moving away from the family. If I hadn’t chosen the fellowship or the development sector, I would have still been living at home in Mumbai. The more time I get to think about my work after a tiring field or office day, the more I get to analyse my choices. I learn about my capabilities or shortcomings and try to come up with solutions for the same. There are chances of overthinking everything but alone time leads to reflections about career choices, specially if you are away mainly for your career. Have I cracked it yet? Not completely but I hope the remaining few months of my fellowship will prove to be helpful.
- Taking Care of Expenses and Budgeting
The limited stipend doesn’t really give a lot of ‘freedom’ as I might have thought, but having to pay for everything by myself has instilled in me, an understanding of the value of money. If I do not plan my finances, well in advance, I may end up with nothing before the stipend for next month arrives. The key is budgeting. You need to know where to spend, or else the next point becomes a constant reality.
- Being Broke
For real! I remember how we used to joke about it in college. Back then, my parents would cover up for all my expenses, big or small, relevant or not. But now, when the struggle is to live as modestly or lavishly, by making sure that the bank balance doesn’t hit zero by the end of the month, I get why people find it hard to part ways from their monthly pay checks.
- Finding Real Friends
Moving away can increase the distance between friends but its often the same distance that brings you closer to old friends and at the same time, helps making some new ones. If your college/school friendship survives the distance, it remains for life. It is important to take out time to know what’s going on in their lives too, because we all are going through the same story as we adult. Who else would understand us better!
- Importance of Health
Health is Wealth – The sooner one realizes this, the better. There have been times when I simply munched on junk food for breakfast or even skipped meals just because I was ‘busy’, ‘broke’ or ‘forgetful’. What good is anything if we aren’t healthy? Value yourself enough to eat right and stay fit, everyday. No excuses here. There is no need to kill yourself for a job that will find your replacement if you were dead tomorrow. Learn to take care of yourself.
It’s only by living alone, that I realized the importance of family. I won’t shy away from saying that while living together, we drive each other crazier, but it is only when we spend time away, we truly start to value and cherish each other. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Staying away from family and close friends has helped me evolve and brought me closer to them. On one hand, I’m surrounded by acquaintances and friends who are getting into serious relationships, getting engaged or married; on the other, I’m trying to match my income and expenses. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. Living alone gives time to listen to your own thoughts and develop the relationship with self. Practicing self-love becomes essential, otherwise all the overthinking can drive you anxious.
Take out time to do more things that bring you joy. It will only be these little joys that will keep you sane throughout your adult life. Keep time to enjoy a meal at your favorite restaurant or watch a movie at the theater or shop by yourself. Pamper yourself and make the best use of the situation that you are in. Life is short, live it to your best!