A memoir of the Insipid Life

Because I honestly believe in my heart that it’s all about how you think, like your thoughts are what either have you excel in life or have you fail in life. I just feel like it’ll really help somebody, and if not, it’ll give people something to talk about.

These profound words are not mine. I don’t have the earnestness or the insight to utter them. These are from the book I recently finished, called The Last Black Unicorn by the comedian and actress, Tiffany Haddish. It was a long weekend and while I did not achieve anything significant on the work or research front (like I had planned to), I did manage to finish off three wonderfully inspiring, amusing and sharp-witted books. The aforementioned one, A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (re-reading). I have been listening uninterruptedly to their stories thanks to my Visa card, Audible.com, and a massive spell of severe procrastination. Come holiday time, a leviathan takes home in my head (Freud might have called it an overpowering Id). I have a visceral antipathy towards getting on with my work and this will lead to my inevitable and untimely doom. But I am glad that I spent the weekend on books rather than binging on Netflix (I only saw 12.5 hours’ worth of media content in 96 hours). All these wonderful books had an underlining theme of hope and belief in yourself and your place in the universe.

Reading them got me thinking. I have never been out on my own struggling to find my place in the world. I have never been poor. Never hustled to get something. Never slept hungry. Never took off on a 2 year self financed trip across the country with my sibling. Never lived in a constant threat of survival. Never even had a bad relationship. Do I have what it takes to thrive in life? Can I ever make it? I have always found it to be true that someone who has struggled in life is always more motivated to get as far away from their original circumstances as possible. Never having wanted to get away from mine, these are natural questions for me. People like me run the risk of existing in a limbo and getting by not unhappily but not particularly excitedly either.

Sure I struggled a bit through life when I started working and even faced some trying times during my studies (mostly because I was a bad student). But my living conditions were never even remotely close to being dramatic enough to declare myself impoverished in any way. I have a stable, loving and stereotypical Indian family, and have had a wonderful childhood full of opportunities and enjoyment. I grew up fairly normally and have been through the mill of life without memoir-worthy incidents. This is not bad. No, no. It is sheltered, boring and borderline pathetic, I agree. Hence the best name I could come up for my memoir is the title of the blog-post. If safe is the biggest ignominy I have to live with, I guess I will sustain. The most invigorating things happened during my last few years of school and my undergraduate. I had a healthy amount of fights with my teachers, I played for my school basketball team (as an extra though), I lived in the busiest city of the country and lost my naiveté pretty fast, I moved again for Masters and then again for work and then again for grad school. I have had some fair share of heartbreaks and fair share of embarrassment but nothing inspiring for my fellow human.

The biggest lessons I have learnt from my 27 years on earth are that when you live a happy and normal life, you forget to appreciate it. If I wanted something I got it. If I don’t get it at first, I’d get it in the second or definitely in the third attempt because life gives you more than one opportunity when you are born in the right chambers. There’s a minor negotiation with the universe involved in all the things that I want but more or less nothing gut wrenching has ever happened.

At the end of the day, no matter how sorry or “insipid” I may call my life, the only thing I know the reader would infer about me is my cognitive dissonance. Oh poor me, I didn’t have to live in my car or the bank did not cease my property or I had no running water in my small house in the reserved area for colored housing in apartheid-era South Africa. Believe me, I am aware of the load of baloney my text might convey. If I wanted to struggle so badly, I could decide to leave my home or job or college any time in the past….but I didn’t; not because I am not brave or anything (I am not, I know.) but this is perfectly where I wanted to be and I got here without much trouble.

Now, I have read autobiographies, biographies and memoirs of Hawking, Gandhi, Nehru, Mandela, among others. They are pretty inspiring, obviously. But they are great people and nation builders, and their lives are cornerstones of our society. TOO heavy in short! But these three books struck a chord with me because these people are more relatable. They gave me certain philosophies that I would like to imbibe into my personal doctrine. Trevor Noah wrote in his book “Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.” Bryon Cranston said about pursuing acting over joining the police force, “I will pursue something that I love– and hopefully become good at it, instead of pursuing something that I’m good at — but don’t love.” They make the most important points for a good life and it’s put forward so directly. You have to be hungry for more. You can be happy with what you have but you have to aim for a higher or more enamored or ornamental or massive roof over your head else you’ll be stuck in the same place you are, forever! What they want to emphasize, so does Haddish throughout her book, is that you have to find something bigger than your present circumstance that you want to achieve. It has to be more than what you have. It is not about wealth, it is about the depth of your life. Thus, an insipid life may still have hope because it’s only about aiming higher objectively not relatively. That is my strife. To avoid complacency and try to move upward and onward.

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