“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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.” – Steve Jobs
I came across the above quote back in 2014 while sitting at my work desk and trying to observe my life as an outsider. I had been questioning why certain things had panned out the way they did and what had got me to where I was at the time. This quote had inspired me to look at those events without judgment and just observe how seemingly unrelated events had propelled my life in the direction that it was going. More than anything else, it helped me find peace with events that I had been too angry with the world about – a road accident, losing my job, leaving the city I wanted to live in, doing a job I didn’t enjoy, and dealing with an injury for life.
However, once I became an observer, I had started to notice those things from a different perspective. While the accident was horrible, I was already not enjoying my life in that city despite it being the city of my dreams. I was struggling to find myself and slowly losing the motivation to continue doing the work that I was doing or even find meaningful connections. The accident forced me back to my hometown and forced me to take another job that while I didn’t enjoy, gave me the flexibility to continue working while working on my physical health. Here, I also met the guy I would eventually fall for, and, most importantly, I got another chance at life. Almost a year later, I went back to the city of my dreams but with a job that I liked and got an opportunity to meet some of the best people of my life. This comeback was more than what I could have imagined. I was doing great physically, I had a strong social circle, I was doing well professionally, I picked up sports that I had given up on, and picked up hobbies that brought my creativity to life. Life was good.
Had it not been for that unfortunate event that shook me to the core, who knows where I would be today. I am not underplaying the impact of that injury and the emotional pain that it caused me because it did and I won’t wish it on anyone. However, the same incident also showed me how emotionally strong I was. It showed me how I was a fighter and how I could get whatever I wanted as long as I believed in myself.
The start of New Year is usually the time when people make yearly resolutions, goals, promises, and set expectations for the months to come. While a few people join classes that they rarely attend, make plans that they often don’t follow through, and introduce changes in lifestyle that are soon forgotten, there are also those special few who bring those visions to life. They create a vision for themselves, make small changes at a time, and slowly but surely meet their goals.
I also made a resolution this year – a resolution to be my biggest motivator and strength. A resolution to be my best friend at every step of the way, to be my guide, and to love myself to the core. I’ve made a resolution to love my whole self in a way that there is no space for lack. I’ve made a resolution to give myself a fair chance at life and to be alive.
The first step towards this resolution starts with me making a conscious decision to once again be an observer in my life. This is me re-writing my past and connecting the dots.
In my previous posts, I had mentioned how my Spiritual Awakening had started after a series of events took place. I’ve acted like a victim to what happened with me and how I didn’t ask for this awakening and definitely didn’t ask for the way it came about. It has not been easy and it had its ups and downs, forcing me to radically change the way I went about life without even giving me chance to take a breather. However, over time, I’ve come to realize that there is no specific event that leads to a person’s awakening. Awakening starts the moment we take a pause from our everyday life and take the first step towards self-realization. The experiences that we have during a spiritual awakening don’t start to happen suddenly out of anywhere rather the spiritual awakening happens when we are still enough to observe these experiences. It happens when we take the first step towards becoming aware of ourselves and of the world around us. That’s what had happened all those years back when I had started to question everything about this world and about myself. I had started to take a pause from the chaos of life and started to observe that something had to change. What I thought was wrong with society and the world, was my inner world coming to light. Awakening happens when we become aware that our outer world is a reflection of what’s happening within us.
I made a decision four years back to travel to a land miles away from home where I didn’t know a single soul. A land I had only heard of or seen in the media. What had inspired this decision? Well, it was a series of events. I was at a point in my life where life’s struggles had started to seem unfair. I had started to question the morality of the human race and the skewed inflexible way in which society operates. I had started questioning the reason for our existence and above all, I had started questioning my purpose in life. I had always wanted to step out of my comfort zone and live in a foreign land to learn about their culture and explore more of this world. For years, I had wanted to give myself a chance to be myself without fearing judgment. I also wanted to take the next big step in my career and be at a place where I could enjoy some of the freedom that I felt I could not at the place I grew up in. So, when I felt betrayed by a close friend and my love life started to hit a rocky patch, I decided to run away from somewhere familiar to somewhere unknown.
For years, I have been upset with this friend for what I referred to as a betrayal of trust. She had made a life-changing decision without involving me in the process. Here, I was opening up to her about myself and about my life journey, and there she was, hiding parts of her while calling herself my best friend. I was devasted. It was probably the worst heartbreak I have ever experienced. Some people find it difficult to understand this but somehow when a very close friend betrays our trust, it sucks more than if it’s someone else, even a romantic partner. I felt like I was taken for granted. I felt like I was not valued or trusted, and that I couldn’t trust this person anymore. It took me until recently to come to a point where I could finally see that her actions were not a reflection of our friendship or of me. I had taken her hesitation to share her vulnerable side that inspired that decision as a betrayal of trust. In my hurt, I couldn’t see the pain that she had been carrying for a long time and I couldn’t see how our friendship had provided her a space to step away from that pain. Her action and her hiding parts of her from me did not mean that she didn’t value our friendship. I remember asking her why and I remember her teary-eyed response – “I didn’t know I would get so close to someone and I didn’t want to. But, we kept getting close and I got scared. I am not this open to people I work with. I just wanted to leave but then you came out of nowhere, and I didn’t know what to do.” To me, her words had not much sense then but today they do. Just like me, she was scared of being vulnerable and scared of getting hurt. Just like me, she was going to miss her best friend and she didn’t know how to make it less painful for either of us. Just like me, she was looking for someone she could trust, and just like I would eventually do for myself, she was trying to give herself a chance at life. If she was here today, I would just tell her this – “I get it now. I am sorry I didn’t understand it back then. I finally forgive you and myself for hurting each other. I hope you found what you were looking for.”
This incident with my friend had pushed me to take a long hard look in every area of my life. I was at a place in my career where my work didn’t inspire me, I felt stuck in my daily routines, I didn’t know where my life was headed, I didn’t feel good about myself in my relationship, didn’t even know where it was headed and I felt like I had put my life on hold for way too long. Just like my friend, I had also found a place in her to overlook everything that I wanted to change about my life. This incident forced me to make some radical changes in my life and without looking back, I headed to a foreign land to seek some meaning.
Coming to the United States had been a dream for far longer than I can remember. People come here for various reasons. For me, I was looking for freedom. Freedom to find me and do what my heart desired. Since I was a kid, the freedom to be themselves enjoyed by people of this country had intrigued me. So, when I got a chance, I took it.
My introduction to the country and its culture started with a rocky start. In my frustration with my friend and my eagerness to look for an escape, I didn’t emotionally or mentally prepare myself for the move. I moved to a land 8000 miles away from home with a week’s worth of preparation. By the time I realized what I had done, it was a little late. The lack of support system, cultural shock, hectic schedule, and bittersweet weather took their toll on me. There was one more reason behind this depression though. For the first time in my life, I could see how a part of me had stayed hidden for years and how it desperately wanted to come out. How desperately I wanted to come out. Without much support or knowledge about how to go about it, I ended up getting frustrated and disheartened every step of the way. My inner unhappiness was reflected in my interactions with the world and the people around me. I started finding faults in everyone and everything around me and unintentionally started to isolate myself. It felt like I was surrounded by a dark cloud wherever I went. I felt judged in whatever I did and felt worthless about my existence. People could put me down and I would consider it my fault. I started putting some people on a pedestal and tagged some people as terrible. This went on for a while until one day I got the strength to ask for help. Even in the darkest moments, I could trust myself to find a way and I did, by asking for guidance.
My therapy sessions have helped me reveal parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. What I thought was my struggle with my environment became a mirror to my inner world. What I thought I hated in other people, became parts of me that I didn’t like. What I thought I loved about other people, became parts of me that were waiting to be discovered. With therapy, my inner world started to come to light and with that light, the dark cloud around me started to dissipate. My body became a natural part of me that embodied me, my mind became my solace and a powerful part of me, my emotions became my bridge to the world around me and myself, and slowly Tanu started to come to life. Slowly, parts of my life that I wanted to change, started to fall apart. Relationships that didn’t value me, started to fade away. Opportunities I was passionate about, started to come to light. Parts of myself that I had neglected, started to resurface to be given a chance. Life as I knew it, started to change one day at a time.
Right when I thought that I was getting a better hold of life, a series of events happened. I took it hard when I didn’t get a job that I thought I deserved. I felt undervalued in my relationship and I felt dissatisfied with myself. I have blamed my ex for a long time for not putting enough effort into that relationship. I have finally come to a point where I can say that I am grateful to my ex for forcing me to make a decision. Had his inactions not forced me to make a call, I would have remained stuck in a relationship that was sucking the life out of me. I had not been happy in that relationship for years. I constantly felt like I was not good enough, felt like I had to constantly prove my worth, felt like I couldn’t be loved for who I was, and felt like I couldn’t be my whole self while I was in that relationship. I felt like I couldn’t grow in that relationship. I felt suffocated and stuck. I felt like I didn’t belong in it anymore. I understand now why I remained in that relationship for as long I did – Yes, I loved him. But, that was not the reason I stayed. I stayed because I was scared of being with myself. I was scared that I won’t find someone else. I was scared of letting go of something stable which was supposed to turn into something long-term. I was scared of letting go of all the dreams we had built together. I was scared of the unknown. Whether he realizes this today or tomorrow, he did me a favor by forcing me to make that call. He allowed me to allow myself to be free. If he was here today, I would tell him this – “I forgive you. It was not meant to be.”
That breakup gave me a chance to step out of my comfort zone and live life a little. The free time allowed me to pick up hobbies, meet new people and focus entirely on myself. Therapy introduced me to breathwork and body scanning which helped me get in touch with my body. I started making connections that brought a smile to my face. I started doing things that made me happy. I started to let go a little and started to find a piece of me every step of the way.
When Covid stuck, I was at a point of my journey where I still didn’t know where I was headed or what made me happy. While I had started to observe the behavior and thought patterns that were bringing me down, I still attributed my state of mind to the world around me. I was still allowing my internal world to be dominated by my outside world. When I lost my job due to Covid, I broke down as I had never before. My best friend witnessed me cry like never before. To this date, I don’t know how I got the courage to continue but I did. I remember feeling like my choice to move to the US was my biggest mistake because it had resulted in me going into the worst depression of my life, losing my identity, breaking up, and, now even losing my career. I was a mess but I kept going. And that strength to continue came from myself and the support of another friend.
When I had accepted that I would never seek out emotional support from another person because of my past experiences, I met a friend who’d defy my expectations. This friend gave me the support that I didn’t even realize I needed at the time. She supported me at a time when I had lost trust in everyone and everything around me. Her presence helped me find the strength to keep going. In a few weeks, I had 3 offers at a time when job loss during the pandemic was at its peak. In a few months, I will find a manager who’d lift me like no other, a job with the kind of exposure I could only have imagined, build a life in the city of my dreams, and live a kind of life I had always dreamt of. I would spend the next few months, further working on myself, identifying parts of myself that I had labeled as weak or undesirable, and introducing small changes that will set the basis of what was to come. Spending time with this friend made me feel alive again and gave me that sense of belonging that I had lost years ago. Opening up to this friend and learning from her and about her gave me a look into a life that I had given up on. A life filled with inner joy, innocence, happiness, and friendship. To this friend, “We were not perfect in the traditional sense but we were quite fun to be around. Thank you for pushing me to stop being at a place where I was constantly hurting. Thank you for showing me that there is always a choice. I was not happy in that situation. Thank you for recognizing that and for doing what I couldn’t do for myself. Took me a while but I understand you today. Thank you for introducing me to a world where I could get in touch with myself. I forgive you and wish you a world of happiness. You are a star among the stones and I’ll continue to cherish you.”
I became aware of my spiritual experiences and started to acknowledge them as more than just coincidences or imaginations at the beginning of last year. The answer to my purpose in life all those years back came to me in a way where I couldn’t overlook it anymore. The version of me that I wanted to become, came to look at me in the face showing me that it was just waiting for me to take a step. These experiences were an answer to my lifelong quest to find myself and find a place to call home. I found a place called home but it was not a physical place. It was within me all this time just waiting for me to recognize it. My desire to find myself didn’t require something extraordinary. It required a simple step for me to uncover the layers of what made me and find myself behind and within all those layers. I was not lost in a world of chaos, I was the one introducing chaos to my world. I was not abandoned by others, I had abandoned myself a long time back. I was not scared of being vulnerable, I was scared of being myself. I was not scared of getting hurt, I was scared of recognizing my strength. I was not scared of losing my identity, I was scared of embracing myself and stepping into my power. I was not looking for someone to validate me, I was denying my individuality. I was not scared of dying, I was scared of living. I was not scared of losing control, I was scared of letting go. I was not scared of losing, I was scared of recognizing my true potential. I was not scared of being judged, I was scared of being me. I was not waiting to be rescued, I was waiting to surrender to my whole self. I was waiting to be born and to be alive.
So when did my spiritual awakening start? It started the day I decided to take a pause and decided to live. I was right. Coming to the US helped me find myself in more ways than one. My spiritual awakening started the day I started to see myself for who I was. It started the day I decided to take a hard look at my life, it started when I dared to look beyond the surface, the day I decided to give myself a chance, the day I owned up to myself, the day I took accountability for my actions, the day I felt my emotions, the day I decided to be less scared, the day I felt brave enough to confront my emotions, the day I saw myself in others, the day I dared to live and the day I dared to look within. It was not a series of events that brought it out of nowhere. It was me all along, slowly peeling the onion and taking every opportunity to push myself to be myself. And it was this realization that brought me back home – brought me back to myself.