Placing Bookmarks

12:10 am

Three years ago, I started the practice of creating ‘year logs’ and ‘year plans’, a calendar of events that was crafted out of a need for documenting life without resorting to mundane daily diary entries about what I had eaten and how sleepy I was. These were essentially spread sheets with key goals and life events, all recorded with limited details. The idea was to have one line describing what I recalled as being the most memorable in a week or a month. If I couldn’t describe it in one line, it wasn’t ‘essential’ enough.

A few years ago, I was thinking a lot about an all-encompassing passion’ and about ‘truth’ in people and in experiences. This year, as a way of investigating if I was any closer to those objectives, I deemed it fit to survey those documents and pin down emerging, common themes.

The highlights of my life from 2012-2014 mostly fell under the following themes, in no particular order of priority:

Travel(where I had been, what I had done, the people I had met, with ideas for where I want to go next)

Walking(many walks in Britain and elsewhere, all of which seem to have been summarised down to distances, people, places)

Creative Projects (Short stories, longer fiction attempts, photography projects, song recordings)

Learning (Japanese challenges and successes, hardly reading any fiction at all except children’s literature and reading more nonfiction than ever before especially in the fields of history and nature.)

Work (all small and big successes were celebrated, some volunteering was done, skills and learnings were logged for future career paths. At some point, (thankfully) I also seem to have stopped comparing my LinkedIn Profile with others)

Relationships (Time spent with friends and family and the relationships I have with them has always been important to me. In the last three years I seem to have come closer to being peaceful about the various paths people take and when those paths cross or ‘un’cross my life. I was fortunate to spend some time with my grandfather in September, just a few weeks before he passed away. I got to participate in the weddings of two of my dearest cousins back in India and shared many traveling experiences with my parents and my brother. I met some fascinating new people in my travels and also made some trips with some old friends)

Cooking(making bread, experimenting with different cuisines, duplicating food experiences on my return from travel, cooking for others were all ‘life events’ (past Sneha deserves a pat on her head for this charming self-congratulation)

Sport(the first time I ran a 10K and persistence with weekly tennis sessions were marked)

These were the themes that spanned the last three years and they came as no surprise to me. They are things and experiences that I consciously hold dear to me, that give me joy and that challenge my body, mind and soul and I hope that they will stay in my logs for many years to come.

Among these themes, some of them were slightly more special and I decided to document why.

Learning Japanese –

A lot of people ask me why I learn Japanese. I started learning this language in October 2011 out of curiosity for putting meaning to the words I heard all the time in my weekly doses of anime-viewing. This is the honest reason; there is no grandeur to it. I didn’t know much about the culture/history/politics of the country or its people.

I think learning a language opens up a new perspective and way of experiencing the world.  I have always loved languages and I think I will learn them my whole life. It was the same with Japanese and by 2013 summer, I knew I wanted to be fluent one day.

In April this year, I went to Japan for the first time.  I explored the country like a total rail-pass-bad-ass, loved every minute of  my time there, vowed to return one day and tested my ‘overconfident’ basic Japanese skills  in real-time, by chatting with a grandpa in Miyajima.

It was a trip of dreams, one I had contemplated about for a long time and it didn’t disappoint in the least. It added a new layer of energy and enthusiasm for my Japanese learning and I ended up sitting the JLPT level 4 exam in July. I have a very long way to go and it’s a challenging journey but random conversations with Japanese people on the train or in a restaurant in London, understanding parts of a song,  understanding a bit more about a very complex working society, catching some words when I am watching a drama or anime, make it all worth it. Next year, I want to aim to give the JLPT 3 exam and have longer conversations with my Japanese friends. One day I will be totally sugoi at Japanese for sure (excuse my indulgence, but I do keep having to tell myself this:-)).

Creative Projects –

I did a lot of traveling in the last three years in Europe (England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary), Asia(India, Japan) and the U.S.A(New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California). I wanted to find a way to remember my travels in a straightforward manner without documenting one single event in an article or blog and forgetting the rest.  So, I started keeping daily travel journals and sending myself postcards.

In September, I celebrated five years of living in Britain by collating 100 photographs of some of the most beautiful places I visited. As autumn gradually took hold of London, I decided to document my daily lunchtime walks around where I work by a series of photographs, taken every week for a month. I decided to work on a photography project for my other travels too.

I wrote a few short stories in the last three years and decided to spend time thinking about a longer project. My aim next year is to do this with more focus.

Travel -

I love discovering new and old places but I realized this year, that I also loved coming back home.  Life happens every day and I want to enjoy every moment wherever I am, not just lie in wait for the weekend or sunshine or  that big trip that I have been planning forever.  One Friday evening, I went on an impromptu adventure to the end of my ‘daily commute’ line and this set the tone of many adventures in the year.

I learnt about the types of travel I enjoy the most, about how to create and make the best of adventures.

My trusted young person’s railcard served me well these last five years in Britain and I can safely say that I made the best use of it I could. What better way to bid it farewell than going on a solitary adventure to the South Coast?

I took the train down from London to Dorset, was the only one in a beautiful hostel, had the aid of hand drawn maps for my walks and enjoyed my time of reflection.

 Today, as I walked along the Jurassic Coast, looking at cliffs and rocks formed 66 million years ago, the sun was shining and I realized how lucky I had been with this exceptional weather. That intuition to make this trip, that intuition to trust myself, made me realize that my perception of ‘truth’ has changed since I was 24 but I think I’m learning, slowly and surely about how I want to live and how I want to spend my time and that’s a very satisfying feeling indeed.

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