As 2019 draws to a close and we’re at the threshold of another new year, many of us would be surrounded with questions around our ‘New Year’s Resolutions’- something none of us ever follow. At a Tech Conference last month, a lot of people asked me about getting ready for the new decade. It hit me then – holy crumbles! We’re actually moving into another decade? I still remember the millennium parties happening in my hometown to bring in the year 2000 – we’re actually heading into 2020s? Along with the obvious thoughts around how old I had suddenly become & how quickly time flew by, I started thinking about what the last decade meant to me and how I could really use some of that to walk into 2020 with excitement.
2010 was a fantastic year for me – I graduated college magna cum laude, moved into my own apartment with 2 humans and a cat, started my career in child therapy with a renowned organization in California and got my very first (third hand) car. Life was just what you picture of, when you think of Southern California – beach bonfires, driving along the beautiful PCH blasting Tom Petty and lots of tacos. So, besides learning that a functional odometer in a car is highly essential and domestic cats are meant to stay indoors only, there are some valuable lessons I picked up along the way.
In my initial years post college, all I wanted to do was to move on to Grad School. I was pretty determined (read – stubborn) to only apply to the best colleges in the US. I worked my ass off at my jobs in those years, along with study for the GRE, to be able to put together a stellar resume. It worked – I got accepted to the best schools in the country (every single one I applied to) – some even with financial aid. The irony? I didn’t end up going to any & instead, moved back to India on a whim to work in the Education sector. So, what happened there?
As I went through life, I realized that deep down, I wanted to move closer to home and in the country I grew up in. I wanted to contribute in some way to India’s development and just felt that I needed to move back. I found a job, packed my bags and moved to a new city without knowing anyone. Fast forward to today, it turned out to best decision of my life. I met and married my best friend, got a few excellent career breaks and today, I’m raising a baby with people I love around me. Based on all of my myriad experiences, here are a few key lessons from the last decade –
Nothing usually goes as per plan – Steve Jobs said something in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford that hit close to home. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever”. I love this quote because it helps me realize that as much as we plan, things may not go that way. But we have to believe that everything happens for a bigger reason – something we don’t see at the time, but leads to even more contentment eventually. Trusting this, can help in working through some challenging times in life. It really helped me when I found myself at a crossroads between moving back to India or to the US for a higher education.
If you’ve lost at one thing, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost at everything – At my last day in college, I went to meet my college President to say goodbye. He is one of the calmest persons I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He sort of reminds me of Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda (for all of those who’re fans of the movie). He told me to look at life like a Baseball game. It didn’t matter if I lost a few innings initially. It only mattered if I won in the end – that would mean I won the game. Or essentially, won at life. To be honest, I’m not a Baseball fan but these words struck. If there are a few things in life that don’t work out – your current job, relationship, finances – don’t let that take you down. Even if this one doesn’t work out, let it go and move on to the next chapter. Eventually in life, if you believe & keep working on yourself knowing that everything you need is already within you, you’ll find yourself in a place where you’re happy and content. Connect the dots backwards.
Let bygones be bygones – Don’t let the negativity of the last decade find a place in your heart for the next. Even if it’s hard, forgive and try to move on. This is so hard, I know. The negativity will only bring you down. You don’t need to be positive every second of the day. Daily life can and will get challenging. Allow yourself to feel your emotions without feeling guilty, and then move on. Leaving you with a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie, that changed my life – “If you hold back on the emotions–if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them-you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely.”
Make a list of your goals & don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith – A fellow Buddhist, many years ago told me to make 10 year goals for myself and then work about achieving those. I remember writing those down circa 2011. I’m a year away from the 10 year period today, but I’m grateful to see how most of those have turned out just how I hoped for them to. The one’s that didn’t, are the ones that don’t matter anymore. So get out a book, a laptop or whatever tech device they’re about to launch in 2020 – and write down your vision for your future. Subconsciously, it will help you set goals and also direct your life automatically in the way best for you. Also, don’t be afraid to take chances. If I didn’t take a chance at moving to a completely new city for a job all those years ago, I wouldn’t have half the things I’d always wanted.
Hold on to the old, but embrace the new –What are things from the last decade that mattered to you? Dinners with family? Trips with friends? Learning music? And what are some of the things that you’re feeling unsure of? The latest tech gadgets? Social media? Take the experiences that meant the most to you in the last few years and try to continue doing those, since they give you joy. Whereas, the things that only added to your stress, try to cut those out. Let 2020 be the start of another fruitful decade by holding on to what you enjoy best, with excitement to embrace the new.
Continue to adapt – This one’s for me & maybe all the parents reading. We’re raising babies in a time where 10 year olds have access to phones and social media (that makes me palpitate a little). But we’re also living in a time in which millennials have more knowledge than ever before, access to fantastic global opportunities and a powerful voice. While excess of all of these can also lead to problems, try to focus on the good. If you’re raising a new generation, or plan to, do so in a way most authentic to you. Teach them the art of balance and while exposing them to everything that’s new to you, try to instill the values that you grew up with too. Adapt & more importantly, be flexible.
Make time for the people you love – I say this in every conversation or piece that I write. Your people are your most valuable asset – spend time with them. I don’t mean via texts but by actually meeting them. Be a part of their lives and be there for them. Keep them close. It’s worth it.
While some of these are things you already do or are a pro at, the most important one I want to share is this – Be true to yourself and love hard. Regardless of the changing tides around, by doing things that make you happiest – singing, dancing, reading – you’ll be able to remain balanced in the toughest of times. The world is becoming smaller and technology is making everything possible beyond our wildest dreams. Use it to your advantage. Spend time with your loved ones and teach the younger generation too. Show them how to make an effort for the people who will always love them and remind them to always make an effort for them too. With so much falling apart around us, find ways to keep things together for your community by volunteering, donating or supporting in any capacity. In the end, it’s the small things that matter. Let’s walk into the next decade feeling like we’re about to own it and flourish in every conceivable way.