A mid-year retrospective.
Being the middle of the year it felt like a good time to do a general retrospective on the year so far. The last few months have felt like I’m riding a sine wave and I’ve been trying to figure out a general direction for some things. I wanted to pause and take stock of the year so far. Sometimes it’s a good idea when you feel overwhelmed to simply take a step back to catch a breath or two.
I got a new project at work which involved me visiting Melbourne for a few weeks. The work is challenging in that there’s a lot of room for growth and learning new tools and processes and Melbourne was a really fun city to experience. Sometimes it’s easy to get disillusioned by work but I try to remember that there are people that value my work and trust me enough to want to spend all this money on me to send me places on my own to figure stuff out unsupervised! Pretty wild, to be honest. It’s good to be reminded every once in a while that your professional responsibility occasionally extends beyond just your own immediate interests. Now that I’m back in India, the work continues from here and I’m hoping to learn as much as possible while on this new project.
In the time in Melbourne when I wasn’t working (evenings and weekends) I went around eating and drinking and exploring the city. Melbourne is full of art (both street art and museums) and is considered the cultural capital of Australia. It’s also a city full of immigrants and massively serious about their coffee and their espresso martinis. The Australian work culture is interesting. For someone who has worked in the US and in India, there is a lot of serious emphasis here on work-life balance and working towards increasing the general quality of life. The US likes to talk about it, India doesn’t even talk about it, but Australia (or Melbourne, at least) really seems to follow it. I even had someone tell me the people they were managing had actively rejected promotions and pay-raises so as not to disturb their equilibrium. The biggest thing is that it’s not really frowned upon. This is really new for someone coming from the Indian and American context. Oh and everything is super expensive in general because obviously they have a really good healthcare industry and the service industry is well paid. Tipping is not really a practice there, although I did find it prevalent in the touristy parts of the city. All in all, I had some preconceived ideas about Australia that I’ve since had to correct and some that were accurate were strengthened.
This has been a half-year of somewhat surreal experiences. In January, I went down with some friends to Ranthambore National Park over a weekend to see some tigers. We booked as many safaris as we could cover in the weekend (3) while also leaving some time to experience Rajasthani food (mainly Raj Kachori) in the city. We were expecting to see some tigers, maybe laying around or deep in the jungle somewhere. We were absolutely not expecting to see tigers from up to two or three feet away. We were not expecting to see a tiger stare right at us, drinking water (those muscles!), marking her territory, and casually strolling behind us. It’s incredibly lucky to spot a tiger, even less to have it walk with you. You’re left in awe of the sheer power and grace they exude. We were too lucky and I don’t think I’ll ever experience something like this again.
In March I climbed the Nag Tibba summit with two friends. The summit is in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand and is part of the lower Himalayan range. It’s one of the best weekend treks from Delhi and climbs up to a little over 3k meters (~9,900 ft.). It’s actually known to be a winter trek but we went at the tail-end of the winter season. Nearer to the summit on the last 2 km stretch we ran into almost knee-deep snow at some places but it was mostly clear up until then. It was an amazing experience and I’m already planning my next trek to Bhrigu Lake for the end of this month.
Near the end of Feb my dog, Fluffy, was diagnosed with kidney failure. She passed peacefully on June 20th after a long and amazing fight. It’s been quite a life-changing experience where we’ve all scrambled to work through it together with our differing opinions and aching hearts. To say we’ve all grown would be putting it mildly. But it is comforting to think that even in her last days she was in good spirits and walking around the house for 2-3 hours a day almost daily. Gratitude and love have taken on new meanings and I’m grateful to some friends who helped through the process and would inquire about her regularly.
Her passing also kind of opened me up to writing again but it also got me thinking about service again. Teju Cole mentioned in a recent commencement speech the need to use our privilege in service of others. He says, “‘… expertise is not the destination,’ he cautioned. ‘The destination is freedom. What can we do to free others? Sure, we are experts, but under what ethical pressures does this function? In other words, how do we become a door for others to pass through?'” I like this idea of working towards freedom. Naval Ravikant also echoes this sentiment on the Knowledge Project podcast in a way in saying that as he’s grown older he wants freedom from things instead of freedom to do things. I hope to do more in the line of service this year – either by giving my time or my resources towards things I’m passionate about.
For now, I’m just grateful that where this year has taken, it has also given. Sometimes you lose someone you love and it feels, momentarily, like the world is a bit darker and you’ve lost a companion. But there is also gratitude for the moments you did get to spend together. I think of all the surreal experiences I’ve had this year and wonder if anything can top the feeling of climbing a mountain, or having a tiger mere feet away from you in all her grace and power, or the feeling of being given responsibility as the true validation that your work does matter and that your opinions do hold weight. It’s been a rather eventful and bittersweet half of the year. Here’s hoping for more and more depth in the second half.