It all started with a song. A song that I danced to, like I was possessed. From the confines of my single dorm room, looking out to the sun setting at 5pm, coerced by squally showers, the song was what held me back from the wintery notes of solitude. The first month of living alone has knocked me in the head and taught me several lessons, lessons that I wouldn’t have learnt if I was still back home. This is the confessional note of a potato, who for a quarter of a century (until a month ago) has never done laundry, or full-fledged grocery shopping, sparing the innumerable errands that have been run for family and friends.
Placed atop the world, on the third floor of this rustically modern hall of residence, one realises the value of an elevator, or at the least, thin legs. Moving to a new place teaches you gratitude, and consideration for others’ time and efforts. Not that you were not grateful or less considerate back home, but you know deep down that there are some things that you can take for granted, because you’re still in your comfort bubble. Breaking free of that zorb-like bubble is one of the hardest things to do, and that’s one of the first lessons you learn- responsibility. Managing lessons with everyday activities becomes so taxing, that sometimes my inability to coordinate with myself is deeply disheartening. This to friends back home may come across as that someone who is just a “show-off” or the stereotypically characteristic person who changes after their relocation to another country. With so much in your head, coping with homesickness and a barrage of stuff to do, it’s hard to even be concerned with triviality such as “what would they think of me?” In my personal opinion, I think that is what I would equate with ‘growth’.
When one lives alone, lists become their best friends. To-do lists, grocery lists, reading list, assignment list, the list of lists is endless. This is when Sheldon becomes your loved companion- he teaches you that Saturday night is laundry night (in my case it’s Wednesday morning), and he reminds you to clean the lint filter, which I do with the same pained ‘blech’ expression that he dons with a shudder. He teaches you how to fold your clothes (I’ve been hunting for that brilliant clothes folding apparatus on Amazon and at Ikea for quite a while), something that your parents have been trying to get you to do for years together. That’s the kind of humbling effect that living alone has on you. With amazing friends and flatmates who genuinely love and care for you, anybody is bound to pop in to your room at any point of time, and that’s not the time you stow away yesterday’s dirty socks or the undried clothes limply hanging on your heater. Thus, we’re just naturally better organised (even without the label maker. Sorry, Sheldon) and cleaner. That, I’ve heard is one of the golden rules of living by yourself.
From a time when I listened just to rock, metal and pop, disregarding the music culture from which my very roots originate, it’s been a hard-knock journey to the floor. Yes, that blow is what’s called ‘being homesick’. Most of the time I’ve been here, walking hither thither, people have spotted this crazy person happily doing the “Indian head bob,” absently whistling into the mist, that crazy person undoubtedly being, me. This ineffably brings me back to the song that I was listening to, which spurred me to write this post, after a terribly dry spell. [One must note that when writers say “dry spell” they don’t mean the lack of alcohol, but the despondent feeling of being unable to satisfy their daily word count.] The song was filled with the vivid imagery of the perfect city, my perfect city back home, where everybody feels complete, and at home- the beaches, the coffee, the warmth, the noise, the paraphernalia- all of it.
Kicking the auburn autumn leaves that had recently kissed the floor, leaving the tree naked and cold, I was galloping the stretch ahead, and the three floors in an upward swing, like a steadfast horse (the zumba classes have finally paid off), unbridled and happy to be alive. In the blink of an eye, as if rehearsed, everything that I’ve left behind in a world that I’ve loved so much comes rushing back in the form of free tear-fall. With the warmth of my room, and the faint lingering smell of pesto, it brings back an energy and enthusiasm that is akin to the freedom in one’s home. Away from the physicality of home, you learn to be tough, brave, and learn to accept mistakes. You also learn to appreciate the simple things a lot better. The unexpected happiness you encounter when a dish that you conjured in your mind’s eye is staring at you, hot and yummy on your stove, daintily on your plate, and finally invisibly in your tummy is quite inexplicably heaven. Unafraid to burp or fart in the privacy of your room, that spicy food is what keeps you afloat- like an anchor in the docks.
Sometimes the smallest of things can bring the biggest happiness, and the mightiest feelings of accomplishment. “I’ve got to go cook, so I’ll finish up fast,” is a line I never thought I’d say, and that happy uncertainty is what life is all about, don’t you think? Living the larger-than-life life takes a lot of sacrifice, hard work, patience, and quite a large sink full of dishes to do. Like Autumn, we are all preparing to let go of one life just to step into the other, and that’s what life teaches you. Letting go of insecurities and the bitter cold negativity can only give way to the effervescent sunshine. I still miss family. I still miss the bustling city I call home. I still miss my little green Ford which had once been my best companion. But, these very feelings of incompleteness give way to a sense of wholeness, of comfort, of a life well-lived. They say that the mark of good tidings is in the mind, and that all one needs to do in order to achieve something is to simply make up their mind, and that it was that simple. Feelings of despondence and fear creep up all the time, but it’s the looking ahead that keeps one going, especially to those brave-hearts like me who are trying to make a new home, away from home.
After all, Shelley said ever so eloquently, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”