I have not had a full day of work since 2018 started. Yesterday was the first day of my new project, a fellowship where we’ll be placed in NGOs around the city and have to contribute to social work and employ the skill set that we have. It’s the perfect opportunity for me to put my knowledge to the test. But my first challenge yesterday was waking up. The last time I woke up at 6:30 am was in school and I am not lying. In college, I woke up five minutes before class, and even if I did wake up early I didn’t have to go anywhere too soon. During my Master’s things were especially laid back, I would at most have three classes in a day all after 9:00 am.
In this age of “working from home” especially in jobs where writing and freelancing are involved means, your work ethic is practically procrastination. Yesterday was an eye-opener. My days will now start at 6:30 for this week at least. I’m excited but I am also realising that I need to break old habits. I usually snack between meals, now that I have to sit in one place for hours without a break snacking is not an option. I can’t sit with my feet up as I would do at home.
The most intimidating part was the interaction. As an introvert and as somebody who has been distant from crowds and groups for a while now, it was strange. I was nervous, ever since I was diagnosed with depression I almost feel like even if I make eye contact with a new person they’ll immediately know what’s wrong with me. Of course, these two days have proved to be different. I am still Sahitya who is silent, polite and punctual. I speak when I have to, I contribute and I am in a team. Strange but true. I have changed and only I know that. I know that I have anti-depressants at the bottom of my bag, what my doctor calls, ‘SOS’ tablets. I know that’s for emergencies.
I am still nervous, what if I just break into a panic attack just like that? It would be terrible. What if I just break down like I did in London? After all, it’s a new environment, new people, new things. But I think this is my first sign of how much I’ve improved that I didn’t even remember I have SOS tablets in my bag in these two days, I didn’t feel choked and scared. My chest didn’t hurt, my breath didn’t quicken, my limbs didn’t start violently trembling, and there were no tears, no outbursts of anger, no retreating into an unbreakable shell. No symptoms that are indicative of depression. Of course, my mind reminds me that I do still have it. But that’s when I get home and feel tired because it takes a toll on me. I only feel slightly better once I have my evening meds.
This year there was something new, I would break down in the car if we were stuck in traffic because I felt claustrophobic, I couldn’t handle it. Now I don’t notice it. It’s a huge improvement. My mother told me that how I handle this fellowship will actually tell me in real terms how much progress I have genuinely made. I am starting to believe her. The next step I guess is sustenance. I cannot burn out. It’s not just about being positive it’s about letting myself feel what I feel. I am learning now to look into people’s eyes again. I am feeling more human.
In every introduction I made, I learnt a little more about myself. In every introduction, I was reminded of other aspects of my personality. My identity isn’t my depression there’s so much more to it. I think developing a work ethic again is going to do me wonders. I don’t know how this is going to go. I don’t know if I’ll be alright in one week or even tomorrow for that matter. But I don’t care anymore I like where I am now. I feel like I have a purpose again. Even if I have only sat in one place in the auditorium I still feel productive as compared to watching TV at home. I am listening, learning, absorbing. I realised I am still a student.
Gap years can be risky because you become comfortable being yourself, no rules and constraints but then in a fellowship like this you realise what your undergrad and your grad school were trying to teach you. It’s simply about a good work ethic. A timetable serves no other purpose other than to make you disciplined, to give some structure to your abstract mind. To keep you going in some ways. That’s why none of us are completely comfortable in uncertainty.
I’m learning about myself for sure but also about the world outside my home. The ‘real world’ that we all love talking about. I am not looking at the world through a lens, of books, movies, memories, and perceptions. I am experiencing which is such an important aspect of life. The best part is all of this is relevant, all of this is going to lead me somewhere. My life just got slightly more interesting.