Ad Astra Per Aspera: Through Adversity to the Stars
It's a beautifully silent Saturday morning, and the clock shows 3 as I sit down to pour my thoughts onto the pixels in the screen. I think everybody would agree with me when I say, sleep has been a little distant lately. We're nearing two months of this lockdown, with a fuzzy at best idea of what's going to follow. What's keeping us up all these nights? Fear, perhaps? Fear of the unknown? Fear of not doing enough, being enough. Fear of being asked, "So, what did you achieve during all this free time?" and not having a substantial answer.
I have been thinking a lot about one of my favorite quotes, from the treasured poet, Pablo Neruda. It goes,
"If nothing saves us from death, may love at least save us from life."
Such a simple, poignant solution. Love. Familial love. Romantic love. But most important of them all, the love for yourself. The love of your passions, your hobbies, the things that spread that warm feeling inside of you. It could be dancing, ventriloquy, theater, just about anything that gives you joy and meaning. To see the glass as half-full, we have been blessed. Blessed with the gift of time, time to introspect. To venture forth into uncharted territories. To find your love. The Japanese call it ikigai - a reason for being. For instance, I have tried my hand at various domains in an attempt to find my passion, be it a virtual experience of software engineering, or explore the world of psychology and that of financial markets. I have burned myself in the kitchen trying to cook, and dirtied myself while trying to garden; but never did I feel more content than in those moments. I recall another Japanese saying, ichigo ichie. Its meaning is something like this - "What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. We must value each moment like a beautiful treasure. We must become moment hunters." I reference the Japanese so much because, perhaps, nobody can be a more apt example of rising from the ashes, above despair and destruction, and restructuring life.
I think it's fair to assume that all those who can read this, are more privileged than a major part of the population. You are ensconced in the safety of your own homes, with a roof above your heads and food on your plates. Every time fear begins to cripple you, try to remember all that you can be grateful for. Try to remember, you are in a position where you can take advantage of all those hours on the clock. You can finally make time to use that guitar you bought and stowed away, or start writing that novel you always wanted to. Perhaps for the first time, in a really long time, you can make time for you.
So, the next time you're feeling suffocated, try to remember, you're only caged inside your mind, not by the walls of your home. Don't fret about "being productive". Don't worry about that batch-mate completing specializations and internships while you have been painting. Acquire skill-sets, not certificates. Find your calling. It could be in a professional capacity, or it could be personal. But, find your ikigai.
Do you, first. Be you, first.