Let’s Learn These Life Lessons Together
I’m a girl for whom words are her way back home.
And writing simplifies everything.
There’s more to know about me than that, but that is the single, most certain thing to know about me. Along with the fact that two years ago, at 24, I decided to be on a deliberate, happy sabbatical.
There is a reason for that trivia in the very first post on this blog, you’ll see why, soon.
Oh, and you need to know one other thing as well: Deepak Ramola, the Founder of Project FUEL, is a dear dear friend. To me he’s an encourager, cheerleader, listener, test-audience, homestay, truth-teller, lie-catcher, acceptor, and family. And I’m some of those things to him as well. It’s been five years of friendship. Five years of growing roots into each other’s lives; roots that are deep and nourishing.
Two years ago, almost the same time when I was to start my sabbatical, Deepak asked me a simple question, so simple that no one had ever asked me that before.
“Tapu, what’s your life lesson?”
I don’t remember if he asked me that in a text message or in person but I do remember visiting him soon after and finding my life lesson in his diary, written in neat cursive and neater spacing. The same diary had several other life lessons from friends and family he knew. I read each one of them. And for me, personally, that’s when something-potentially-big-that-didn’t-have-a-name-yet started.
That was the day I started believing in whatever those life lessons would morph into, create, start, propel; whatever those life lessons would become.
If you’d read those lessons in that diary, you’d have believed in an instant too.
My life lesson then was this: Don’t be in denial of how you feel.
Even today if someone asks me to, I could elaborate that and really drill it in their heads but Deepak, back then, found a way far better to drive my life lesson home: He designed an activity around it. The activity involves each person attending the workshop to write down something they’ve been feeling but are constantly in denial of, and sign off as Anonymous. Deepak then, one by one, writes what’s on each paper, on the board, and asks the people in the room to come up with solutions.
What this does is, it frees the person carrying the weight of that denial in a way that is comfortable yet discreet. What I know it has done for sure is, found five different solutions to one anonymous boy’s problem of drug addiction in Kalimpong, West Bengal.
I’m still confused if I find this to be too big to be true, or too simple to be natural and obvious. Maybe a bit of both. The day Deepak narrated this incident was the day I believed a whole lot more in what he was doing, and what he was on to. “There are approximately 7.125 billion people in the world, Tapu. That means there are 7.125 billion life lessons out there. Just. Imagine.” And I did. I imagined. And it felt big and simple and natural and right. There was no, not-believing this.
My deliberate, happy sabbatical started in July 2013. There was never a plan for what I’ll do during the sabbatical, nor an end date for when it’ll finish. And right there, I sound too darn cool for someone who lives by to-do lists, extensive note taking, and pre-pre-planning, but it’s also the absolute honest truth. There was no plan except one: to learn how to follow this heart thing. Turns out, like anything else, you learn this best through practice. And you practice by paying close attention to what it says and where it points. Then you go ahead and do what it tells you to do.
So, over the last two years I’ve read more books than I ever could earlier. I’ve attended destination weddings without having to take leaves. I’ve joined yoga classes and signed up for Meditation Sundays at one point. I’ve taken a beginner’s course in Salsa, let someone lead me, and realized my feet know better how to follow than I thought they did. I’ve lived with my sister for months indulging in the thick-as-fudge, simple, familiar love only she can give.
I’ve also spent over four months teaching 13 adorable, bright, and downright amusing students of grade three in a school up in the Himalayas. I’ve completed two entirely different freelance projects. I’ve taken a course in organizing poetry workshops. I’ve written poetry. I’ve started a blog and celebrated its one year anniversary.
In the last two years I’ve left a beautiful home, one with three lush lawns, a kitchen garden, and palms all around. I’ve made new friends that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t on this sabbatical. I’ve been the sweet, sweet kind of lucky in love. I’ve said goodbyes. I’ve moved cities. I’ve been brave and I’ve been extremely scared.
The sabbatical so far has been all sorts of good, some sorts of bad, but most importantly, all sorts of worth it. It has taught me a lot of things, tangible and intangible (a topic I’ll save for another post). And it succeeded in teaching me those things because I’ve been available and free to take the time to decipher and put into cohesive words what my mind, heart or simply the experiences are trying to teach me.
A few weeks ago, I finally put into a proper, understandable sentence a complex mesh of words and ideas in my head, which were trying to tell me something. And when I did, I had to call Deepak. I absolutely had to.
I’d found a new life lesson of mine. One that I learnt over the last two years. I knew that now, finding a new life lesson is not just a revelation for me, but maybe for at least one (if not more) other person who might get to learn of it through an activity someday. I had to call Deepak and tell him my life lesson because ever since that day when I read my first life lesson sitting neatly in his diary, I’ve known that my life lessons matter. Somehow, they matter in the larger scheme of things.
My recently discovered life lesson is this: It begins with fear, the path to becoming fearless.
I’ve learnt it over and over. And over. And over. And over during the sabbatical. While moving cities, while leaving people and places in those cities, while taking up the freelance projects, while months of watching my bank balance dwindle, while moving to the hills for five months to teach, on my first day in the classroom as the class teacher, on my second day in the classroom, heck all of first month in the classroom, and even while trying a new dish that looked almost repulsive.
But the fact is that I’ve always begun with fear, the journey to becoming fearless. You can’t remove the former from the latter.
Since Deepak figured that I’ve figured this great truth about life, he figured I’ll do just fine (no overwhelming-ness, no “are you sure?”, no “WHAT are you saying?!?”, no “no chance, how will I do this”) when he gives me the news that I’m about to give you.
Starting this month, I take on the role of Editor at Project Fuel.
I’ll do what I’ve done previously for Project Fuel – edit important emails, be test-audience for talks, write the website content, be a soundboard, give my brutal opinion, discuss ideas we see potential in, trash ideas that make us go “errr…”, etc – but now, I’ll also do more. (Yay!)
I’ll curate, manage, write for, and edit the Project FUEL blog, which will be your comfort space to come to, feel at home at, and indulge in all things Project FUEL. We’ll have long and short posts written by me and the team, we’ll have photo-posts, we’ll have letters that people have written to themselves after Project FUEL sessions, we’ll have FUEL videos, we’ll have guest bloggers with different perspectives, and we’ll, obviously, have life lessons by the dozens. Oh, we’ll also have cake sometimes, ummm, though not so much on the blog as in our lives, but you should know that enjoying a good cake is Project FUEL team’s collective life lesson.
I promise you lots and lots of breezy sunshine on this blog space. There will be some fears and lots of getting over those fears. There will be some failures and lots of successes. There will be joy and festivities.
There will be collaborations, co-creations, connectedness, creative courage, and communion. (Also, a bit of alliteration, I’d say)
Welcome to the Project FUEL blog.
Make yourself at home.