Back in December, I took myself off to India. Some people wondered and queried why I needed ‘another’ holiday, so soon after two-and-a-bit magical weeks in Mexico with my sisters. Yes, Mexico was great in many ways, creating memories to last a lifetime (a story for another post!) but I only fleetingly had any time for myself, let alone time to have a much-needed ponderous think about my life and take some real stock from the past two years that have passed since I returned to London from the desert.
I had in fact agreed to go to India last summer, rather than on any last minute whim. I was going for a pal’s wedding, but in reality my purpose was much more to really kick back with a couple of great friends in a place we knew very well and bolt the wedding on as a perfect excuse to both remember and forge new memories.
I had mentally prepared myself for this trip for some time, making a plan in my head of what I was going to think about and what I was hoping to leave India with, both in terms of memories, and in terms of life analysis. I did not however pressure myself into believing that I could not leave India without having had a ‘Eureka!’ moment, but if one were to come along, I’d be ready and open to accept it.
Quick side note: I have been to India several times. From my first visit as a backpacking teenager in 1997 — to further visits in 2003, 2009, 2012 and 2013 — I have explored much of the country and have been enriched by its myriad cultures. Ancestors on my father’s side were born and served in India. Perhaps this is why I am always drawn back to the subcontinent — it’s in my blood.
I had a busy schedule planned. Over the course of ten days, I would stay in four separate places, each offering all the colourful experiences, flavours, sights and sounds that India has in spades. Bombay for a couple of nights, then a plane down to Goa for two nights on Morjim Beach, then three chunky nights in Anjuna, followed with a night in Panjim, for the wedding and subsequent celebrations.
Where would I find the time or the mental space to have a good think and seek the perspective that was seeking me?
Funnily enough, I seemed to find it everywhere. In the stall owners in the local food market in Colaba in Bombay — their lives dedicated to sourcing, presenting and selling their wares. In the fierce competition of Oval Maidan, amidst thousands of amateur cricketers. In the back of a taxi bombing through the narrow roads of the Goan countryside, zooming past mangroves and up the backsides of other road users. Throughout the ceremony and celebrations of marriage. Amongst the kaleidoscope of merchant stalls at the flea market in Anjuna. On the faces of other dancing patrons at Hilltop. And just sitting on the terrace at Five Five with an ice cold Kingfisher watching the waves amplify Goa’s glorious sunsets.
So, what was the perspective I was seeking?
Well, when I came back from eight years away in Dubai, I spent the first year in London comparing myself to my mates, who naturally had all ‘moved on’, getting married (I was at their weddings!), having children and very much settling down to family life. For whatever reason I felt like a failure — ‘where was my wife, children and family home?’ I would chew over and over in my head.
By taking myself away, I was able to stand back and look at my life from a helicopter view, rather than from the coalface. I realised that I had been giving myself a hard time completely unnecessarily, believing that a) by my age I should have a done ‘this, that and the other’ and in doing so, denigrated my achievements and experiences and b) because I wasn’t ‘measuring up’ I had somehow failed.
A new vision:
1.) I will not adhere to any opinions that tell me what I ‘should’ have done by my age
2.) I am exactly where I need to be on my own timeline
3.) It’s hugely rewarding and nourishing to ‘step away’ from the daily humdrum or routine of life every now and then and assess
4.) I’m taking on 2019 by the quarter, with specific goals for Q1 mapped and in process of execution.
I returned from India more confident, more composed and more ‘on my own side’ ready for whatever the rest of 2019 may throw at me.