12 lessons I learnt in 2016
The first lesson I learnt in 2016
Feeling self consciousness when it comes to being photographed has always been a bit of an unsurmountable problem for me. My youngest daughter is a fabulous photographer (you can find some of her work at nayantaraparikh.com) and although she takes fashion photographs of the young, she also likes to take other photographs. Nature, animals, romantic couples and sometimes me. Early in January 2016 she did a photo session with me and I tackled some of my shrinking violet feelings. Here is one of the photos she took.I know that in this age of selfies and self promotion it doesn’t do to be shy and retiring which is why I pushed myself and found it wasn’t that hard after all.
The second lesson
February is the month when I have my birthday and I tried to overcome another struggle I have – which is to try and keep other people happy even on my own birthday. My lovely daughters are aware of this and periodically remind me that I need to take my own needs into account. So this year I went out for a lunch with an old friend from college. As the air gets warmer and Spring is in the air around the middle of February, dining al fresco becomes a possibility and for me, a necessity. We sat on a roof top, downed Sangria and ate a lovely meal after which we went to the Rose Garden where the roses were in full bloom and I photographed them to my heart’s content. Later the daughters who are in the same town as me came over and cooked me a meal, we drank more wine and there was a most original cake to be had. It was a perfect day – because I put myself first – and that’s what my friends and children wanted for me. It’s difficult to be selfish and younger friends make fun of us believing that it’s a lack of feminism in older women – little realizing that we are a product of our experiences and having children and putting them first does program you to do so instinctively so that you have to fight to remember yourself. Feminism after all is about choice – not about fulfilling a typical idea of feminism.
The rising heat, lack of household help, the increase in traffic, distances to my place of work, water problems, pollution and politics at work made me aware that I wanted to shift out of the city – preferably somewhere near the mountains. All that remains is to find the time to do the research and put the plan into action.
I did the A to Z Challenge which involves blogging everyday, barring Sundays for the month of April. Not just blogging but visiting and commenting on other blogs as well. For a writer who works a 7-hour day teaching children, with an added two hours for commuting to and fro during which time one can neither read nor write, this was a huge challenge. But I completed it – through careful planning, preparing blog posts before-hand and weekends dedicated to my blog. Far from finding it tiring I found it hugely invigorating and had more energy than I usually have.
I had my first appraisal in a job and I SURVIVED IT. The teacher who appraised me produced a rubric from which she asked questions, and cast an eagle eye around my classroom – finding me lacking in all areas and paying no attention to any non–rubric areas of achievement. She was very stern with me and I was devastated, knowing I had been wronged because expectations had not been clear. You can’t tell someone after a year of work without any direction – ‘This is what we expected of you and how come you didn’t ask – we’re now judging you for not knowing what we were thinking.’
Ten days later she said that she had used the wrong rubric – one that was meant for someone who had worked much longer. I talked about this in my feedback of my appraisal and also mentioned that the rubric should be handed out to us at the beginning of the school year thus enabling us to target our own progress to the requirements listed. This year I’m doing just that – remembering the items that made me squirm with a felt ignorance (that turned out to be irrelevant) and working on those.
I got a raise anyway.
Lesson I learnt – The boss wants you to feel like a worm so assess what’s true in their feedback and throw out what isn’t. Crocodile skin is useful to have when those in power are careless.
I signed up for a pottery workshop and learned to throw a pot and do some coiling. I loved how meditative it is and how that lump of clay just will not centre if something is upsetting you. I revelled in squelching clay, throwing it to get rid of the air in it (and the hot air bubbling within me) as well as the joint therapy group nature of the all women’s group that was industriously potting, coiling, modelling and working on each other’s unbalanced bits.
Sadly it’s twice a week on weekday mornings – which meant I had to give it up when school started again.
Ladakh had been calling me for a long time but I hadn’t managed to go there. I booked a trek with my favourite trekking company www.southcol.com and flew into Leh at the end of July. Breathing difficulties from the altitude apart I then went on my first camping trek in the fabulous Markha Valley – and I was the only woman on that trek. I trekked to above 5000 metres with a little trepidation but forgot most of it as the views changed from hour to hour from pink mountains to green ones to purple ones in the distance – the whole presided over by one snow capped peak.
Photo from LadakhEighth lesson
My mother’s 80th birthday in Germany in the middle of the academic session meant I would have to ask for ten days leave after a six week long summer holiday. My mother was adamant that the birthday would be celebrated in August and that I would have to be there – work be damned. With my heart in my mouth I approached the dispenser of ‘leaves’ and survived that ordeal of cross questioning and disapproval. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to move from freelancing to a job with all it’s organisational requirements.
I worked on my photo editing skills – said goodbye to ready JPEGS and marveled at what I could do with my RAW images with Capture NXD.
Another trek – this time to Everest Base Camp – a very long trek involving trekking at high altitudes for many days. After reaching EBC from Gorakshep I left my trekking group and trekked back to Lukla alone over a period of five days. I had one porter with me who helped me navigate the Khumbu mountains back to Lukla with its most-dangerous-runway-in-the-world. Mental strength as well as physical and overcoming some of my fear of heights as I traversed the narrowest of paths, so high that there was no vegetation bordering the narrow trails that protects you from a direct fall thousands of feet into the river bed way below.
I edited some of my RAW images on my wonderful camera itself and found this to be an even better editing tool than Capture NXD. My tripod – presented to me by my last prince-who-turned-into-a-frog (see December to understand this reference) broke on the EBC trek – it was so karmic somehow. I couldn’t possibly carry a useless piece of equipment on a trek where you can carry only 10 Kg so I left it behind at Namche Bazaar. I don’t think I need a tripod anyway – I managed fine with rocks and by propping my camera up on books.
The trek ensured a slimmer sleeker me that made ‘watching portions’ so much easier than before because the results were already apparent. I figured out that yoga wasn’t enough to counter the effects of the sumptuous lunches at work so I signed up for an exercise class – thrice weekly with interval training and was delighted with the results of my pre class check up. I was practically the only person who could finish a three minute step exercise. My heart went back to it’s resting pace very quickly. I expressed surprise to my family saying its been a while since I went to the gym or salsa dancing – I barely manage a few walks a week. Their response? “Yes, you did nothing much – you simply climbed a mountain.” Some members of my family actually thought I had summited Everest till I put them right about that 😀
Learned over the year – I realized I must trust my instincts regarding men I date. Earlier in the year I broke up with the man I was seeing because we didn’t see eye to eye about far too many things. Since then I’ve been on a few dates – when I have the time, or when I push myself to go through the tedious routine of sifting, sorting, talking about myself, listening and getting a headache from concentrating on conversations about people’s lives and one’s own. I’ve come to the conclusion that the first instinct is the one to follow. If he gives you a headache – something’s not quite right however well all the criteria fit. If he’s pushy about meeting too soon and you don’t want to meet yet, let it be. If he loses interest because of that then he’s not going to respect your wishes. It’s ok to let that one go. There’s no shortage of guys and you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. I wonder though why all the princes I find turn into frogs so fast.
The answer is, and the lesson I learnt – trust your first instincts.