‘Empty’ Time

My Dad is currently in India on a work trip. When he calls me to check-in, he often asks “What are you doing? What are you up to?”

My go-to reply, with actually anyone who asks a similar question, is “Nothing.”

However, I’m never actually doing ‘nothing’ because doing ‘nothing’ starkly goes against the American Dream: the idea that one must keep hustling in order to achieve their goals and dreams. Doing ‘nothing’ is also terrifying because then that means all the thoughts that I’ve locked away can come back – with full force. Thinking about those thoughts is emotionally draining, so the best solution would be to just go-go-go.

Once you’ve been go-go-go-ing for quite some time, you start to notice how depleted and overloaded you feel. Many define this as ‘burnout.’ A lot of people (and information on the Internet) claim that the cure to burnout is to do things that bring joy. The thing is, though, many people actively schedule those joyful things into their day-to-day lives. The act of scheduling joy may be helpful for some, but I found that it was actually more detrimental for me.

“According to the Western perspective, filling every moment with “value added” activities is a sign of virtue and significance….The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our societal mind-set that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” – Martha Beck

When I schedule joy, I start to look at joy as a task that I need to check off. For example, let’s say I schedule “write a blog post at 2:00pm.” Writing and posting on this site is one of my creative passions that brings me lots of joy. However, it only brings me joy when it’s not a structured part of my life. Therefore, when I try to structure this passion of mine into my day-to-day To-Do list, I found that I actually begin to not like writing as much as I used to.

The key to prevent such backward healing is to schedule ’empty time.’

“Empty time is a powerful medicine that can make us more joyful and resilient, but it’s strangely hard to swallow.” – Martha Beck

Schedule ’empty time’ into your calendars. Do not title that block of time with anything – just write ’empty time.’ When you reach that period of time, then decide what you want to do. Do you want to just sit on your ass and stare at the walls? Do you want to journal all your crippling thoughts? Do you want to go out for lunch with your best friend? Do you want to go downstairs and chat with your family? Decide what to do in that moment. Lean in to the things that feel like home. For someone who likes to be in control and plans everything well in advance, this idea of being spontaneous during her ’empty time’ is an uncomfortable, but refreshing feeling.

Martha Beck does an incredible job of conveying the importance of having empty time here.

Starting Over.

This month I started something over again.

In February 2021, I started a new job as an Emergency Department medical scribe. I love medicine – specifically, surgery. Thus, I wanted to do something that would give me exposure to such a breathtaking field.

The hospital I worked at at that time was draining, to say the least. Providers were seeing nearly 30 patients every day, meaning I had to write almost 30 patient charts every time. Every one in that hospital was severely burnt out and didn’t know how to cope with the overwhelming amount of pressure. My shifts ruined my very disciplined and rigid routines as I would work 3pm-1am, 9pm-7am, 11am-11pm, etc. My sleep schedule, eating schedule, working schedule – everything – was altered. I began to internalize every comment or attituded remark made by the people working in that hospital.

This experience honestly affected my perception of medicine and I decided to leave the job once in-person classes began.

Here I am, a year later. I am now, once again, trained to be an Emergency Department medical scribe and I now work at a different hospital.

I started over.

I was terrified in the beginning when I first entered this new hospital because what if this hospital is the same as the previous one? What if it’s not the providers, it’s me? What if I am not made for the rigors of medicine?

Fortunately, this hospital was vastly different. People were still burnt out (as this is a major problem in the healthcare field), but they do not project their inner feelings onto those around them. It’s crucial to note that it was totally okay for the previous hospital’s providers to express their dissatisfaction with their job and life, in general. However, I was unable to disassociate from such statements and vibes of the hospital.

The point is, I was scared to start over. I was scared to train all over again for a job I was already experienced in. I was scared to interact and cultivate relationships with new people. I was scared of change.

Change is good. Change teaches us new things. Change gives us new perspectives. Change must be welcomed more.

ily

i struggle to say the the words that hold such deep meaning in our world. i feel the feelings associated with those three words and yet the war inside my head ultimately prevents me from verbalizing those feelings. but, i feel it all and i love it all and i want to share it all.

“i love you” is beautiful. it’s a phrase that eloquently puts into words the feelings that twist and flutter our hearts. it’s a phrase that can break someone out of their trance and make them believe that they are enough. it’s a phrase that makes one feel protected.

it’s a phrase used for all kinds of relationships.

the “i love you” friendship: it’s meant for the friends who make us feel seen. the ones who will run to you when you’re in agonizing pain. the ones who will slap your face to bring you back to the world of the living. the ones who will force themselves to lie down next to you and not feel the need to fill the silence. the friends who are by no means ‘clingy’ – they are the ones who care. it is when you encounter friends like this that you have to compile all your emotions for that person in the most meaningful way possible and say “i love you” for who they are, for how they are, and for who they make you become.

the “i love you” romantic relationship: it’s meant for the partner(s) who makes our hearts a bit fluttery. it might take a minute to notice our hearts skipping some beats, feeling warm & fuzzy, and causing our bodies and souls to feel whole. it’s meant for the one who accepts you – completely and utterly. the partner who never ever judges you for your ever changing appearance and the one who stays no matter how much your appearance does and will change. it’s meant for the partner that makes you feel like your ambitions and hard work matter. it’s that partner who deserves the “i love you” because it is impossible to say anything else that can perfectly encapsulate everything that you’re feeling.

the “i love you” family: it’s meant for the familial members who are on a life-long learning path. the members who never judge you for who you are and how you have evolved. it’s meant for the members who are there when you’re rich and there when you’re poor. it’s for the members who make you feel rich with emotions and generosity. it’s meant for the members who let you live the way you need to live. these members will be by your side until your very last breath. say it to them. tell them “i love you.”

“i love you” is powerful, bold, and authentic.

“i love you” is not discriminatory, prejudiced, or racist.

“i love you” is gentle, wholesome, and sweet.

i love you.

Fifty Coffees: Why Black & White?

The other day, coffee date #25 asked me “Why do you only use black and white pictures for your coffee dates?” I actually put a lot of thought into this before beginning my Fifty Coffees project. Lindsay Ratowksy, the woman who inspired this project, uses black and white pictures for only a few of her dates. But I decided to use black and white for all of my dates. Here’s why:

  • The black and white filter is mysterious.

My main goal of going on these coffee dates with people is to understand the depth and dimensionality of human beings. My coffee dates are with varying people, from those I’ve grown up with to people I’ve connected with randomly on social media. The common theme, though, of every date is learning that every single one of them has so many different layers. Black and white pictures convey this message of dimensionality and depth.

  • People are less self-conscious with black and white pictures.

I found this ^^^ on Instagram and it perfectly encapsulates my desire to go fully black and white with pictures.

When I whip out my phone and ask my coffee dates to post with their drinks, almost every one of them suddenly feels the need to fix their hair, straighten their backs, plump their lips, and ask for validation. This is natural; there’s nothing wrong with cleaning yourself up to look good for the pictures.

However, those same coffee dates also request me to take another picture because they look at their picture and all they see are their acne scars, bad posture, frizzy hair, tired eyes. They don’t see what I see: their rawness, warmth, kindness, wisdom, and gentle smiles. After they tear themselves apart looking at their picture, I tell them “Relax. The picture will be in black & white.” That’s when they calm down and return to their normal and raw selves.

Black & white images tend to hide whatever one believes are their imperfections because it adds that extra layer of mysteriousness (as mentioned above). Additionally, I believe black and white images also evoke some type of warmth that I don’t really know how to describe. With color photos, I feel like pictures of people are not uniform. For instance, say I have a coffee date in a super cute cafe. The color photo of my coffee date will have cute lighting, the unique background of the cafe, and anything else that can make the picture more appealing. On the other hand, if I have another coffee date in the dirty living room of my house, the color photo will have messy paperwork in the background, terrible lighting on the person, and won’t have the same aesthetic appeal.

With black and white pictures, though, every image is equal and uniform. It doesn’t matter what the lighting is or what the background looks like or what the aesthetic appeal is because every image is the same, placing every person on the same pedestal. This removes the chances of people thinking that one’s picture is better or worse than another’s. It forces them to focus on the content more than the picture itself.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies

In all honesty, I was terrified to draft and publish this blog post because it’s forcing me to write down and reflect on my CURRENT thoughts. All my other posts are generally things that I’ve dealt with and thought about in the past, so it’s easier to reflect because I moved past that stage already. This topic, on the other hand, seems to always be a part of me no matter how hard I try to move past it. Thus, I was prompted to draft this post because I’ve been feeling this way since the beginning of this year. I hope it resonates with those of you who feel a similar way.

TW: body image issues, eating disorders

To begin, my first exposure to the Eurocentric ideas of a woman’s body began in eighth grade (which is, unfortunately, extremely late compared to children today). Up until eighth grade, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted to. I balanced nutritious food with possibly less nutritious food. I didn’t spend so much time thinking about food, my body, or anything related to my appearance.

Once in eighth grade, my athletic friends began to speak about how they have to go for a run to burn the calories from their unhealthy lunch or my aunts would comment on my supposedly ‘large love handles’ or I’d only see certain types of bodies being represented on TV shows I’d watch. Being around such stimuli began my so-called ‘fitness journey.’

I’d stop eating an actual meal during lunch and would rely on a pack of spicy Doritos or an ice cream bar to sustain me throughout the day. Once I came home at 4:00pm, instead of feeding my starving body, I’d force myself to run 2 miles on the treadmill nearly every day. On the days I skipped the running, I’d brutally criticize myself and would even sometimes punish myself by not eating dinner. When my mother would ask or try to force me to eat, I’d brilliantly win our arguments and claim that I was full and could not eat anything.

This same mindset trickled into my freshman year of high school. I’d eat an ice cream bar for lunch and proceed to go home and run a couple miles on the treadmill. Starting sophomore year, I started sharing my lunches with my friends, which worked out better for me because I was actually eating proper meals (chicken tenders, french toast, wraps, etc.). However, I kept trying to run every day.

Moving onto junior year of high school, the first few months I’d wake up at 4:45am to go to the gym with my dad. I’d do some cardio and abs while my dad did his own routine. We’d make it back home by 6:00, and then I’d stuff my face with some breakfast and hop on the bus to go to school. Though this time of my life taught me how to set a disciplined routine, I wasn’t able to stick with it for a long time because I was getting so drained while at school. I still remained pretty inconsistent with my ‘workouts’ during this phase.

Starting senior year, I was sick of my inconsistent running and bored of doing the same thing all the time and still seeing no results. That’s when I began getting more involved with fitness. I added some resistance training, Youtube workouts, and attempted to eat ‘healthier.’ I believe this is when I started to become more strict with labeling food as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Therefore, my body image was still nowhere near perfect because I’d continue to get tempted and eat the ‘bad’ food. I’d binge on food and would proceed to absolutely hate myself and my decision making after.

Finally in August 2020, during the pandemic, I begged and convinced my mom to get me a personal trainer. My trainer’s name was Harrison James and he singlehandedly changed my life. He changed my perception of food, fitness, and bodies. I spent a year training with him for about 3-4 times a week and that will forever be one the most important and life-changing parts of my life.

He taught me that food is fuel. Food is essential to ensure our bodies function the way they’re supposed to. Most importantly, he taught me to eat until I was actually full. Before, I used to eat for the sake of eating or not eat anything at all. With Harrison, I began eating 3-4 eggs every day for breakfast, added more brown rice for lunch, drank a smoothie every day, AND also continued eating the ‘bad food’ when I wanted to. My labeling of food began to dissipate. I ate until I was full and that was such a unique and satisfying feeling.

Harrison also taught me that fitness is not about becoming skinny. It’s about feeling strong. Before, my goal was to look like a stick. With Harrison, my goal became to tone up my body to be able to survive my days for a longer period of time, lift things with more ease, and overall, appear to have a bigger personality so that I could radiate my confidence better.

Unfortunately, once in-person college began, I could no longer continue training with him. Therefore, I transitioned to working out in my college dorm room throughout the fall semester. I would say that I was consistent enough and also maintained a pretty balanced diet.

It’s when spring semester began that I started to revert back to pre-personal trainer days. I became so much busier with extra-curriculars, academics, and social events that I no longer had the time or energy to workout or eat with as much balance as I used to. I was eating random food at random times, sleeping at wack times, barely working out. Even when I did workout, I’d get tired so much more easily and lacked the normal amount of motivation that I used to have. I noticed how my body changed (and in my eyes, it was not in a good way). I’d spend so much time thinking about my food consumption and waste so much more time hating myself for the way I looked.

At the time of me writing this post, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin because I’ve spent years trying to undo the damage that I and society have caused to it. However, I’m in this constant seesaw battle where I hate the way I look, BUT I also hate that I’m reverting back to defining myself based on my appearance. I want to go back to the times when I would be able to consistently work out because my goal, at the time, was to feel strong and release those endorphins. I was not focused on getting chiseled and looking a certain way. I want to go back to the time I could eat whatever I want and still respect my skin, my body, and myself. I want to go back, but in order to do so, I need to move forward and understand that bodies change. Bodies change so much throughout a single day, so imagine how much they’ll change throughout the years.

Camila Cabello does a much better job of putting my exact feelings into words here:

I want to end this reflection with a note to myself and all of you:

Let’s work tirelessly to replace all of the teachings of our patriarchal world. Let’s just be kind to our strong, beautiful, curvy bodies. Let’s not let anyone (including our parents, best friends, significant others, and anyone else) make us feel as though we are only defined by the way we look. Let’s give ourselves as much permission as needed to eat – whatever we need to fuel our bodies. Let’s make a vow to ourselves to seek for resources to help us heal because we are worthy of healing. Let’s love and allow ourselves to be loved. ❤️

Dear FutureMe…

It was my birthday on April 8th. I just turned 20 and I’m still feeling a bit lost and unworthy of a lot of things. New insecurities have manifested, some of the old ones are still present. It’s a work in progress.

I opened my email today and found this note I wrote to myself on my 19th birthday to give to my future 20 year old self. It warmed my soul <3.

Dear Diary

It’s currently 9:06am. I just finished a sweaty workout and am sitting on my Yoga mat with my gross hair in a bun, listening to Too Young to Burn and simply just vibing.

It’s been a hell of a couple weeks ya’ll. I feel like I’ve been getting whipped by a belt for the past month with the amount of stuff that I had to do academically, socially, even emotionally.

Today was different though.

My alarm went off at 6:00am. I physically just was not in a position to wake up, so my alarm went off again at 6:15am. Could not get up again. Alarm went off at 6:30am. I was awake. At least I thought I was. But then I check my phone again and it’s 7:11am.

I had a moment of panic, but then I smiled. I smiled at the fact that I gave myself enough grace to just sleep. I haven’t done that in a while. It felt good to just give myself unconditional love and permission to rest. I gradually got up at 7:30am, did my morning routine, got my cup of coffee, and submitted an assignment.

And then I finally got a workout in. I forced myself to stop working and just sweat it out. I am immensely grateful that I listened to myself because I just feel so freaking rejuvenated right now. It may also have to do with the fact that I was listening to Dr. Santos’s podcast while working out. The episode on Guilt made me feel incredibly validated. Listening to something that brought joy to my soul while simultaneously sweating my ass off with Kayla Itsines’s workout ultimately made my morning so freaking amazing.

I’m happy. I’m glad I got some endorphins out. I’m elated that I was kind to myself this morning. Just a reminder for all of you to also do the same. It’s a nice feeling 🙂

The Desire to be a Good Person

After venting about something I did yesterday, my roommate said to me “Esha, you don’t have to be THAT good of a person. No one is that good or perfect.” Though she said it jokingly, it stuck with me.

The “Self-Help” area of content has been on the rise – especially since the pandemic began in 2020. More and more people are becoming popular on YouTube, many more are creating amazing podcasts, others are writing killer novels. Every one of them has a different way of conveying, essentially, the same message about life: how to be better human beings.

One of the most notable people known for helping people find inner peace and develop better lifestyles is Jay Shetty. I watched so many of Jay’s YouTube videos and listened to several of his podcast episodes throughout 2020. He speaks about our natural human tendencies and offers solutions to become “better” people.

One of the things that stayed with me after reading his book, Think Like a Monk, was the chapter on gossiping. He claims that “negative feelings come out in the form of complaints, comparisons, and criticism. All three are dangerous traps to fall into because they cause us to forget the blessings we have in our own lives.”

I remember after reading that chapter, I started questioning everything about my existence LMAO 😂 . I felt like a terrible human for complaining to my mom that day about something someone did and venting to my friend about this other person for doing something terrible.

However, here I am, in college, surrounded by amazingly amazing people. At the same time, I’m also surrounded by people who breed negativity and toxicity. I learned that I do not need to feel guilty for talking about people who truly hurt my soul. It does, on the other hand, scare the crap out of me when I speak about the amazingly amazing people (I’m not sure if this made sense, but I’m just trying to get my feelings out here ya’ll 🙈).

That’s when Shivani told me that it’s okay. It’s okay to go back to our natural human tendencies. Us human beings are natural gossipers, and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, that inner sapien self comes out. This is when we have to be gentle with ourselves. This is also when we must realize that it is impossible to be a “perfect” person. We’re all flawed. And yes, it’s an amazing thing to be able to recognize our flaws and work on them. But it’s also okay if we mess up. We’re messy people living in a messy world.

Dear Diary….

You are okay. You are overwhelmed, but you are okay.

Your monotonous routine was suddenly bombarded by other factors and that has been the biggest source of anxiety for you. You have been unable to wake up at the dusk of dawn like you usually do. Your ability to work for hours on end has significantly decreased. You’re reverting back to the mindset of thinking that you are “falling behind.” It’s all of this and more that is scaring the living daylights out of you. You are okay.

Let me be your guiding light 💡

Rigid routines are just as anxiety provoking as not having a routine at all. Striking that balance is essential. You don’t regret any of your decisions when you prioritized your health and happiness. And if you do, you shouldn’t. Health and happiness should be strived for. They should never be second priority. It’s uncomfortable for you because you’re not used to it. But here you are, letting yourself try new things and feeling new feelings in 2022. Though you are now silently cursing yourself out for allowing so much work to pile up, remind yourself that this – “this” meaning the present moment – is a tiny tiny tiny drop in the vast ocean that is your life. Everything is so temporary. You are okay.

Let me also remind you that there is no such thing as “falling behind.” There are no ‘start’ and ‘finish’ lines in life. It’s just a wiggly and curvy path that only comes to an end when our biological selves decide to shut down. Up until that point, your only job is to navigate through that path at your own time and pace – free of comparison and full of an extreme amount of self-compassion.

Rooting for you always.