Daymares (When day dreams go bad.)

I stumble out of the car, intertwined with my best people. We’re laughing uncontrollably about something that won’t be remotely funny to anyone who isn’t here.

It’s dusk and our shadows double over in laughter with us. I turn around, in a desperate bid to catch my breath, and my friends aren’t here anymore. Just a stranger with a dirty machete and a dirtier smile.

I wake up from the dream-turned-nightmare with a sinking feeling at the bottom of my soul, and spend the next hour trying to invoke good dreams. Trying to rewind my dream and end it at the happy part.

This would’ve been a good time for Leo to help me Inception my dream to wake up before it got scary.

And wouldn’t it be cool if we could do that with our life dreams before they turn weird?

WakeMeUp

Wake me up before I go-go crazy.

Like that course you took to fulfil your childhood dream. Except you grew up and the dream hadn’t. Shoulda got out before it started suffocating you.

Or like that true love you dreamed into life. Shoulda woken up right after the song and dance sequence, before the drama began.

Or the this-is-my-passion kind of dream that you’re just not sure about any more.

During my early years in advertising, I toiled for months on end to create what I thought was a portfolio of my most creative work. That little book is currently doing the rounds, as I crawl out of my maternity leave.

The other day, I was asked what I was most proud of in my folio. I mentally scanned through all the words and ideas I had strung together in my career.

The ones I was most proud of though, were the words and ideas I had taught my son to string together these past 2 years.

What folio does that go under?

I taught the kid to crack his first lame joke, to do a goofy victory dance every time the ball leaves his little hands, to say please, even at 2:30am.

And I’m not even particularly maternal! Yet, it feels like I’m fulfilling something. A purpose? A calling? A he’s-so-cute-I-must-be-dreaming kinda dream?

I admire the women who give up their careers to be stay-at-home mums and vice versa, or people who start new careers after 20 years in another. They’re brave humans who accept that one dream must end so another can begun.

See, I love what I do. It’s fun, it’s with fun people and it’s mostly for fun. But I’m not sure it’s my dream any more.

There are so many things I want to do with my life; I have a feeling that in a few years, my career path will look like the steps of a hopeless drunk trying to make it from the front door to the bathroom. I’m ok with that, as long as it doesn’t end up curled on the floor clutching the toilet bowl.

“Dream big,” they say. “Never give up on your dreams,” they goad.

Would it still be called giving up if you didn’t care anymore?

Most of us get stuck in our dreams – both personal and professional – because we remember how much me wanted it. We don’t owe it to faceless motivational posters to follow through on our fading dreams. But we owe it to ourselves to follow our heart – even when it changes.

I’m starting to realise that if I want to end my dream on the happy note it deserves, I should wake up sometime soon.

Because if you have a dream, by all means, you should chase it. But if your dream starts chasing you, WAKE UP BEFORE THE GODDAMN MACHETE APPEARS.

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Un-settling down.

As kids, right when we were in the thick of running wild and having the time of our lives, an adult would walk in and ask us to settle down.

Settle down, or you’ll hurt yourself.

Settle down, and stop making a mess.

Settle down, it’s getting too loud in here.

Just. Settle. Down.

Settle BB

When we left our home in Melbourne almost a year ago, we were very excited to start a new adventure. It took a record-breaking 3 days for the question to burst out of tightly clenched lips: When do you plan to settle down?

We had no plans whatsoever. We just wanted to enjoy being free. But as responsible adults, we simply must not feel free for too long. We must settle down.

For someone who doesn’t have commitment issues, I have major settling-down issues. There’s something very permanent and dreary about that word.

Yes, I’ll set up our home, get our lives into some semblance of a routine, and maybe even plan ahead for our next meal (I’m not making any promises). We all need to do that. It’s called being an adult. But settling down simply cannot be the only way to adult.

Nope. Turns out, it isn’t.

My Facebook feed is rife with stories about “This Couple Travelled The World With Their Toddler” and “Follow This Amazing Family As They Drive From Your Neighbourhood To Where You Don’t Have The Guts To Go.”

They’re farking heroes, these people. Why can’t I be part of The Couple That Visited 20 Countries In 6 Months With Their Babies?

Not gutsy enough? Perhaps.

Not my cup of Carpe Diem? That’s more like it.

I’d love to see the world, but I’m not an impassioned traveller with a wanderlust tattoo on my ankle and a world map as my screen saver. I’m fascinated with the world, and I hope to live in different places and visit many more. In my own sweet time.

On one end, it’s been drilled into us that we need to find a comfortable spot and stay. So we work hard every day to get to that glorious finish line; some days, we question the finish line, but persevere none the less. Because for many, success equates with happiness.

On the other end, it’s is being drilled into us to drop everything we’re doing and go live our life! Because for many others, experience equates with happiness.

But who’s to say what my life should be? I’m not settling for someone else’s dream. And you shouldn’t have to either.

Stay where you are. Pack up and leave. Buy that house. Take a one-way ticket to the other end of the world. Make a baby. Throw a rooftop party.

Just. Don’t. Settle. Down.

Settle JL

So my answer is: No. Even if we find our dream jobs, perfect home and stay for 20 years, I hope we don’t settle down. I hope we’re still restless and looking forward to our next big adventure.

Melbourne: chockers full of life.

Try to read something on Melbourne, and you’ll see the recurring topics – laneways, trams, heritage buildings, culture, food, secret bars. You’ll also see that every article begins with the disclaimer that it will ooze the same gooey self-love and unabashed pride.

I don’t know the complete history behind the city, and who our founding mothers and fathers were. But I’m sure they were funny. And kind. And self-depreciating. And just plain awesome.

Because heritage and culture aside, I reckon it’s the people who make Melbourne the most liveable city in the world.

The Melbournians.

Faces.png

Source: Melbourne street art

Like the tram driver who entertained us with his commentary on everything we rode past. He spoke about people, buildings, restaurants, and even suggested skipping work for a day at the beach. Most of us put aside our books and phones, to listen to the man who was trying so hard to make us smile. This mundane morning hero turned every passenger into a happy bug that he set loose into the city.

Or the train driver I’ve had the honour of travelling with a few times. He talked to us about his day, and rhetorically asked us about ours. He then painted a glorious picture of going back home, to warmth, dinner, family and love. If there was a delay, he stood with us in impatience and cynical humour.

More than once, I’ve walked into the ladies’ room to see the janitor getting a hug and thank-you for the splendid job she was doing.

There was the time I shared my tram seat with an elderly woman and her granddaughter. It was her first tram-ride in thirty-odd years. From the moment she took her seat, until I had to tear myself away from her, I regaled in her stories of tram-rides in old Melbourne. Of friendships, loves and teenage escapades in another era.

Another time, my friend and I jumped up to offer our seats to a pair of vivacious older women. “Oh my God, we’re seniors!” one said to the other, between mock disbelief and can’t-fight-the-giggles. Goals.

Boys.png

Source: Melbourne Street Art

They’re everywhere, these good people.

People at work who genuinely want to get to know you.

People who compliment your shoes, shirt and hair without any hesitation.

Retail assistants and checkout persons, who ask you how your day is and actually listen to your answer.

Every place I’ve been, people want to be somewhere else. Look at me. I’ve always gone somewhere else. But mostly, people want to leave where they are. Melbournians always want to come back. Not in a “it’s home” way, but in a “Fuckme. How lucky am I to be here” way.

Baby Guerilla

Artist: Baby Guerilla, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Everyone has a good word for you, about the weather, weekend or book you’re reading.

A smile and a nod are the norm.

A sense of humour is appreciated.

A “how’s it going?” is all you need to break the ice.

Fintan Magee

Artist: Fintan Magee, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Ah Melbournians, love yer work.

Not that kind of friend

As kids, we had to move countries thanks to the child-friendly pastime called war. I lost a few friends while the adults who lead the world squabbled like adults who lead the world. Many other friendships were lost in translation, literally; it wasn’t easy to learn 3 new languages to keep up with the other 7 year olds in India.

While teen years are the most confusing to most people, I was at my cockiest best. I was making friends while walking from the water cooler to the library. Back then, conversation came as easily and frequently as awkward silences do these days. I could write a whole post on my school friends! Oh wait, I did.

If the number of ‘Miss Friendly” sashes I had earned by the end of my school years was anything to go by, life was going to be a breeze.

And as promised by my tone, it was not a breeze.

The rules of adulting were chucked at my face in quick, migraine-inducing succession.

Once you cross 18, tomboys are called butch. There’s no such thing as just texting. There’s feminine and there’s masculine, and you need to choose – now. You’re either politely submissive or an ice queen bitch; you need to choose – now. Pick a clique. You will be judged, adored and despised for reasons beyond your control. Just don’t be a bitch about it.

Fark me, these are the rules against which all of us get measured. Lucky for me, I stopped giving a shit.

Needless to say, I haven’t been winning any “Miss Friendly” sashes in the last decade.

Grown-up-ness also marks the switch from multiple best friends to multiple friend circles. Work friends, family friends, husband’s friends, old friends, mama friends and miscellaneous.

Even within these circles, I sometimes find myself trying to find my self. My fellow former refugees and move-ers may correlate. We don’t have much in common with a large group, our interests are as flaky as our thoughts, and we intermittently drift far, far away. When the friends are great, the place isn’t. When the place is good, you miss the friends. It’s not that we’re dissatisfied, we just want everything. Is that too much to ask for? We honestly want to belong, but seem to have misplaced the ability, somewhere in transit.

Fitting in was never easy for me. Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough – or trying at all. It’s not that I didn’t want to; there were several times in my life where fitting in would’ve made life much easier. Instead I invariably, and inevitably, turn into a bumbling, awkward and confused mess with incomplete sentences dribbling out of my gaping mouth.

Luckily, I always find a fabulous bunch of misfits. Our rough edges, broken corners and missing parts make us a noisy bag of spares.

I don’t meet them regularly, don’t share my deepest darkest secrets and don’t know their families like my own. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy their company like a dehydrated person enjoys an ice-cold Slurpee on a wildly hot day. (Yes, it needed all those adjectives.)

Our complete lack of rules and structures of traditional friendships means that no one feels let down or left out. We discuss to great depths our current joys and trials. We celebrate each other’s lives without reflecting on what it means for the future or past. We laugh, cry and over-share. We drink, dance, and then return to our best friends and soul mates and childhood friends.

Every day I miss these ridiculously kind and funny people I call my friends. The very thought of them makes me feel pure happiness of having known them.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.39.15 AM

Then, there are people you can’t call friends, because as heart-warming as the word is, it isn’t big enough to carry your love for them.

No matter how distant I feel in a room full of friends, I know I’ll never be lonely because I have 2 of these people. My soul people. I’m the best version of me, when I’m with these beautiful humans.

I must confess something at this point. While this post is an xoxo to the fantastic friends I’ve made over the years, I do have an ulterior motive. This post is also an ad for new friends, of the face-to-face variety. (I have a head-start with my school friends; but we bonded as 17 year olds, and are too busy reminiscing. Leave us alone.)

So here I stand. 32 years old, and starting all over again. I’m calling all misfits and crazies. Old friends and new. I’m open to coffee, frozen yoghurt or all-you-can-eat buffets. I’ll talk, listen, laugh and cry – not necessarily at the appropriate times, but I’ll work on that. I won’t break any promises if you don’t make any. It’ll be a breeze, I promise!

I want my “Miss Friendly” sash back, goddamnit.

Old is the new New

2016, going on 1993.

 

In early 1993, I boarded the flight back to Kuwait after the Gulf War with such excitement that I thought I would be sick. My cousins, uncles and aunts came to receive us at the airport with loud squeals of joy and big jackets (we were travelling from 35 degree Indian spring to 15 degree Kuwait winter). I took in all the squeals and hugs and familiar Kuwaiti air. I shrugged off the jacket. I wanted to feel everything.

Through chattering teeth and quickly-freezing toes, I asked all the important questions. Were KDD juice boxes still available? Was Funny Face chips still the best? How soon could I get my hands on a Snickers bar? Were Hardee’s burgers still as big as my face?

Yes, yes, right away, yes.

I swear, I did not blink during the ride home. The water towers, Kuwait Towers, my school, our first home. They were all there.

We were all home, together.

q8

Photo cred: As always, m @rnanoj

When the war chased us out of our homes and lives that fateful August day, we thought we’d be back before the summer ended. That was innocence.

A few months into our refugee life, we accepted that was going to be our future. That was adaptation.

Two years later, in the middle of all the excitement that glorious cold, winter evening back in Kuwait, I knew that wherever my past or my future took me, I would never let go of the heart-aching happiness in that moment right there. That feeling of being exactly where I should be.

That was conviction.

Since then, I’ve loved Kuwait and hated her, I’ve left her and scrambled back to her, I’ve missed her and avoided her. I’ve moved, married and made a baby. But I never let go of that memory.

I went looking for new, and came right back to old.

We landed in Kuwait on a cold, wintery morning few days ago (M got a job! Yay! We’re working members of society again). All of the cousins and uncles and aunts were at work, but the phone calls were loud with squeals of joy. I took the jacket this time. Adult.

I got home to my KDD mango juice. Funny Face only comes in a multipack now, the only way to eat it (them). Snickers are not a rarity anymore, but I scoff one down, all the same. Hardee’s burgers are now as small as my palm. Budgets.

We’re all home together, again.

We left Melbourne in search of a new adventure, and I cannot think of an adventure greater than a second chance. Here we are, where I was born and raised. I know the people, the roads and the life. Now, I get to put aside everything I know and do it better and do it with my own little clan.

And if there’s ever a sign of weakness, I’ll always have that moment in ’93 when I sat on my uncle’s couch, shivering with excitement and from the cold.

Just like back then, I’m unsure about the future, but can barely conceal the blind faith that it is going to be the best days of my life.

My rainy day

I reach out into the open, spreading my fingers wide to catch a few drops of the light drizzle. Some long-forgotten force pushes me out from under my protective cover into the drizzle. 

The soft rain drops fall on my cheeks and finger tips, and after a very long time I’m not worried about running for cover. To protect my hair, my bag or my precious shoes. This time, I’d like to give in to my free spirit and keep my superficiality locked away, instead. 

Not many things compare to the blind joy of running into rain. Rainwater falling over your hair and trickling onto your face before seeping in and leaving your hair in the happiest bunch of clumps. Cold, squishy toes. Little stubborn droplets that refuse to flow off your shoulders. 
 

Photo cred: m @rnanoj

 

During our summer holidays in India, on the first sign of rain we’d be outside. It was a privilege beyond permission or fear of pneumonia. We danced under the open sky and jumped in puddles and found corners of the house where the water collected and poured down in a rush. We made paper boats with wet fingers and watched them awkwardly catch the wind and dodge raindrops, in the shallow puddles. We fell over each other laughing, we shook water off the plants, we drank in every drop of the fun. 

Oh the freedom! 

I think I just had an “Aha!” moment. 

Correction: a “Doh!” moment.

I reminisce about the glories of my younger days as if someone took them away from me. Obviously, and embarrassingly, I’m the idiot who permitted limits and fears into my head. In my pitiful effort to hold on to aforementioned glories, I temporarily forgot how to have real fun.

We say it’s the little moments, yet we waste these precious moments waiting for that big one. 

We know it’s the thought that counts, but we make-do with a brand-spanking-new phone.

We want to laugh till our sides ache, but cynicism. 

We love talking to the people who make us happy, but we can’t find time to talk to them.

Geez.

I suddenly wish the drizzle would turn into rain. And maybe if I step into it, it could wash away some of the faux grown-up-ness and the carry-on bullshit excuses. 

Live a lot, ya’ll! 

Happy New Year!

The numbers are in! 

 

(Do not check above calculations. They’re pretty accurate.)

 
This year, we’ve taken 14 flights between 9 airports. Slept on 11 different beds in 5 time zones. We’ve been through 2 summers, 2 winters, 1 autumn and a very Indian monsoon. We’ve had more fights than I care to remember and even more love that I’ll never forget. We’ve had several massive Indian celebrations; I lost count after the 27th dance routine and 13th shot. We’ve been robbed and we’ve been blessed. We’ve made new friends and reconnected with old. We’ve fallen in love with our families all over again, and we’re falling in love with ourselves, too. 

That’ll do, 2015. That’ll do. 

You’re up now, 2016. We’re coming for you!