I had always thought that the end would be marked by a steady deterioration in the state of our relationship. Or that he’d do something massively fucked up that would make me hate him irrevocably.
How wrong I was.
Just a week ago, I was so excited to go to bed because I’d finally get to see him the next day. (Not that we had been apart for long, we just never took distance well.) It had been a tumultuous week, to say the least. But we’d pull through. He promised.
I didn’t think for a moment that we could stand at cross roads, realising the homes we’d built in each other’s arms could (suddenly) no longer accommodate us. So we did what we thought was the best for us, individually.
Over the past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t nearly enough literature or music on lovers separated by circumstances. I tried the whole ‘wallow-in- sadness- eat- a- tub- of- ice- cream- and- mourn- the- loss’ routine but it didn’t work out, for several reasons. Mainly because I’m the kind of person who sees absolutely no value in doing something as unproductive as crying into a bucket of ice-cream. Also because the loss is more subtle than pronounced. I miss him, in bits and pieces. Like when I hear unbelievably juicy gossip that I know he’d love. Or when I discover new music that I think he’d like. Or late at night, I miss the comfort of snuggling into a human pillow.
So how do you suddenly fall out love with someone you’ve shared your life with for the better part of the past 6 months? How do you stop caring especially when you’re hurting?
I definitely feel his absence. My best friend tells me that it is but natural. I don’t see anything natural in knowing a person for 6 months, irrelevant details about their favourite NBA team and all, and suddenly hearing nothing but static. Of course, this is on me. I tried the whole ‘keep-in-touch-with-your-ex-after-you-break-up’ routine, and it did neither of us any good. In fact, it just drew out the process of letting go to the point where we were hurting each other from across oceans.
So I told him we wouldn’t be doing that. We’re not going to smile at each other in the hallway or ask about our respective days. No, I’m not going to torture myself that way; spare me the pain of talking like nothing has changed when we both know the only thing keeping us apart is shitty circumstances. (Last I checked it was circumstantial; I mean if his feelings have changed, then this might actually become a bit easier)
But what I didn’t realise is that there is a different kind of pain in looking at someone you know (or is it knew, now?) so well, and realising you know nothing about what’s going on in their lives, and with the way things are going, you probably never will, ever again.
What helps, weirdly enough, is the circumstances in which things ended. It feels like betrayal. For things to end the way they did, after the past 6 months.
All things considered, this has helped me learn to let things go and stop holding on to everything that could have been.
I’ve been meaning to write about this. For years, in fact. A conversation with one of my closest friends finally got me down to it. Also the fact that I’m comfortably buzzed and sleep deprived.
Looking back, I can’t help but smirk at the 15 year old version of myself. I thought I was above love. I remember scoffing on multiple occasions when my friends told me they were in love. In my head, I was made for greater things. I didn’t have the time to fall prey to human emotions.
I also remember being 16. When I chose to not go down that road. To spare myself a world of pain. Because we would both go away to college. I didn’t believe in long distance. I refused to be held back by a boy. College was about new experiences and I didn’t want to wait around for a carefully scheduled phone call across time zones. I deserved more than that, I reasoned.
My first tryst with this idea called love was when I was 17. We had gone for our usual ice cream drive after dinner on Saturday. Belgian chocolate in a chocolate waffle cone for me, hazelnut crunch or nutty delight for him. We started talking about love and what it really means to be in love. Unrealistic expectations, unsaid affection, and undulated longing spewing out of our immature egoistic mouths. I proclaimed that it was a luxury, not a need. You don’t need love to live. You need food, water, a decent roof over your head. Of course, some spare money lying around wouldn’t hurt. He chuckled. “You’d never be happy in a relationship, you know that? You could love someone maybe, but only from a distance.” I scoffed at him, biting down furiously on my cone. It hurt a bit more than I anticipated.
I was all of 18 when I experienced all of the pain associated with love, and none of the stability. Goodbyes are overrated, I muttered under my breath, when we hugged for what felt like the last time I’d ever see him. I was all of 18 when I kissed a boy and it felt like I’d swallowed fireworks. Love made me antsy, restless, and greedy for more. Love didn’t feel like it was enough. It made me feel like I wasn’t enough.
I was all of 18 when I recognised the inadequacy of this meagre emotion. When I denounced relationships and this idea called love. “The problem is that you put everything else above it. Literally, everything is worth more to you than him, you refuse to just allow yourself to be loved.” my best friend pointed out, on multiple occasions.
I was 19, when I decided to give it a shot. “You’ve never allowed yourself anything real. Give it a shot. It might not even go anywhere. Who knows if he’s serious about you. Who knows if you really like him. Try it. Fuck it up. Then give up.” I coaxed myself. (I motivate myself in questionable ways, really)
I am just 20. I’m not sure what love is. Sure, it’s not a necessity, people live without it all the time. But that doesn’t take away from how enriching it feels. Love feels a little like the high that hits you when you take the perfect drag of pot. Love also feels a little like cheap whiskey, potent and fiery. Love is most definitely an intoxicant; addictive and encompassing.
But most of all, love is steady and reassuring. The adjusting limbs when you shift in your sleep, the instinctive forehead kisses, the familiar scent of where neck meets shoulder, the brush of stubble against soft cheeks, the rhythmic heartbeat that you can fall asleep to, night after night.
I’m just 20. Maybe my idea of love will change in a few months, in a few years. Mostly it will. But that’s okay. I’d call it progress that I don’t think of love and cringe. That I can acknowledge it as a perfectly acceptable human emotion. Recognise that the vulnerability that comes along with it isn’t the same as weakness.
Mostly I’m just grateful. It’s wonderful, while it lasts.
I’ve found myself sitting in front of the ocean, more than once in the last week, mesmerised. Some nights I go alone, tired after work. Some nights I sit amidst friends. Some days I make it in time to watch the sunset, usually with a work friend, whom I hated but have somehow grown to really adore.
Of course it’s not very difficult to see why I’m drawn to it, Worli in particular. I’ve always been extremely fond of the ocean. Despite complaining about the disturbing lack of an actual coast (it does not compare to actual coastal cities with their beaches and what not), I realise that I have an inexplicable soft spot for sitting cross legged, listening to music, lost in thought, weaving in and out of conversations, staring at the waves crashing beneath me. So much so that I will miss this in 3 weeks. So very much.
Growing up in Bangalore, for over 15 years nonetheless, I got my fix of the ocean during our (frequent) trips to my grandparents’ beachhouse. Once I grew up a bit more, I started making annual trips to the coast, even if it was just the annual Goa trip with my friends (lol, so many stories, so many memories).
My favourite beach trip till date is when we went to Andamans and Nicobar islands in the summer of 2016. The Bay of Bengal in that part of the world is something else altogether. And trust me, it is a wholly different part of the world. We stayed at Havelock Island, far far away from civilisation. Okay, just far away from a working network connection. But it was a major reason why those 8 days were absolute bliss. The turquoise// teal// seafoam// aquamarine// cobalt// indigo ocean and the pristine scenic beaches aside, the expansive solitude I experienced there, was something I’ve never been able to find since.
The only other time I felt something even remotely close to that kind of contentment and peace was with N, on our last trip together (to Goa, incidentally). It was our last evening there and there were so many things left unsaid by then. Words of affection that never made it past the back of our throats. So we sat in silence, our playlist on shuffle, watching the waves crash as the sun disappeared.
Even before that (in retrospect) profoundly emotional moment, I’ve always been big on listening to music while watching the sea. Andamans was no different, and Bombay has been no different. Of course, my ocean gazing playlist has undergone several changes since. But every song that I’ve ever added to that playlist holds so much value to me, it’s hard to explain. Or comprehend.
So here’s my (latest) playlist, the list of songs I inevitably go through everytime I sit and stare at the sea.
I’ve been listening to a whole lot more of Seafret this past semester and at any given point of time, I have a new favourite song. Admittedly I haven’t heard all their songs, but the ones I have, I’ve grown to love and listen to on repeat, until I find the next song to repeat the process.
Sitting Room- Beta Radio.
I love Colony of Bees, on the whole. I chanced upon the band on Spotify (thank God for Spotify). But it took me a while to actually get through all their albums. Having said that, Beta Radio is definitely one of my favourite artists right now. It might be just me, but their music has a certain calmness that reminds me of the comfort of lullabies.
505- Arctic Monkeys.
All time favourite. Alex Turner is my forever kind of man.
This song is an emotionally loaded trap of feelings. The weird thing is that it’s grown to mean so many different things. N and I shared an immense love for Arctic Monkeys, so it was only fitting that we turned one of their songs into our gospel truth. So of course, for a while in college I didn’t want to hear this song. I don’t remember when I started listening to it again, but 505 is (once again, for wholly different reasons) my favourite song.
Long Way From Home- The Lumineers
I started listening to The Lumineers in September/October 2016 and my love for them has only grown since. I went back home in March this year, and somehow found that all the tumultuous emotions I experienced about my idea of home and the people I built my home around, had abated.
At last I was sure,
You weren’t far away from home//
I Will Be Blessed- Ben Howard
Heaven is a place we know,
Heaven is the arms that hold us, long before we go//
I listened to this song on repeat for days together during my third semester. So of course by the end of the semester, I was completely done with it. But during my internship break in November, I started listening to Ben Howard again, this time listening to everything but this song. Only Love and Time is Dancing are some of my other favourites. To be honest, there are very few songs that I don’t enjoy. Despite the association I have, listening to I Will Be Blessed puts me at ease.
Kaisey Jiyun – Local Train
One of my friends from college first told me about Local Train but I didn’t give it too much attention then. But I heard Aaoge Tum Kabhi on the recommendation of S, and I really liked it. I’ve sort of had a phase with different songs from this album at different points this past semester. Currently it’s this song.
Talk is Cheap- Chet Faker
His voice. And the way he croons those lyrics. One of my close friends covered this song nearly a year ago, and I’ve been hooked to it ever since. It’ll be a while before I outgrow this.
Yeh Pal- Prateek Kuhad
A lot chirpier than the stuff I usually listen to, but melodious and lyrical nonetheless. Always liked Prateek Kuhad. In Token and Charms has some of my favourite songs, but this one makes for some really peaceful ‘by the ocean’ listening.
Only Love- Mumford and Sons
Another one of my favourite bands, Mumford and Sons is a classic. I usually have atleast one of their songs in whatever playlist I’m listening to. Wilder Mind is a brilliant album, all things considered. Their writing is so raw and beautiful, and of course; Marcus Mumford, damn. Currently Only Love is my favourite, mostly because I paid close attention to the lyrics and read up about it. I’m sure it’ll change in a few weeks. Also I love the way the beat picks up.
Really random, I usually don’t listen to Lorde. But there’s something about her voice and the lyrics. Also I particularly like the rhythm of this song. Ever since I heard it, I’ve always come back to it.
Looking at this list of songs, I realise how random it all is. But that’s my taste in music, in general, I guess.
To many more peaceful nights at sea face. Atleast till the 10th of June.
The past 6 months have been rather volatile and the last 3 weeks, in particular, snowballed into a terrible nightmare. What affected me the most was that it was beginning to hurt people closest to me, and I didn’t know how not to.
But things are getting better.
I’m doing an internship with a HUGE advertising agency in Bombay. Like most of my peers, I’m determined to make this internship count, probably more so because of how unfulfilling my semester has been. I’ve been able to sort of move past my fuck ups, predominantly related to academics. But I’m sure the guilt and fixation will come back to haunt me once I’m back in Pune. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself. Which is okay, because I’m trying to accept that I won’t.
More worryingly, however, is the brunt that a lot of my relationships bore this semester. Once again, I’m not sure where to begin making my amends. Despite the weight they carry, words (however honest and emotional) are hollow and brittle.
I’m not sure what drew me towards this agency, but I was obstinately set on this since the beginning of the semester. Of course, it’s a big name, the clients are challenging, the work they do is inspiring (specifically because they focus on advertising for people rather than product), but I refused to settle for any other agency. Which is pretty stupid because as an intern you don’t really get options, singularly because no agency is hiring.
In a weird way, this internship had been my only incentive to get through the semester, especially at my lowest moments. As expected, getting in here wasn’t easy. There were a fair number of hoops to jump through. Having worked here for just over a week, I can safely say that every bit of it was worth it.
I’m really enjoying the kind of work I’m doing. I whine a lot about wanting to do more, but that’s just me, in general. The office is amazing, so much so that I don’t even mind spending my weekends at work. The people are very welcoming and cooperative, and that’s made it easy for me to strike up a conversation and maybe even make some friends. Professionally, I’ve got a lot of expectations from this internship. So I’m extremely happy with how much I’m able to learn every single day.
It’s been a long time since I woke up every morning and looked forward to my day ahead, so overall I’m very very thrilled to be working here.
On a personal level, I feel more like myself. I’m reaching out to a lot of people I shut myself off from, my parents included. I’ve got an incredible support system, and somehow I’ve always felt undeserving of them and their affection. But of late, I’ve realised that overall, I’m a fairly nice and likeable person. I do stupid shit when I’m awkward, but for the most part I think I’m a good friend and a lot of fun to be around, when I’m comfortable with the person. Consequently, I’ve become a lot less self-conscious, which is a good thing. Unconsciousness is the best state of being, if you ask me. But this works too.
Probably the most progress I’ve made is with regard to overthinking. I’ve been able to massively curb it. I try to actively not overanalyse my feelings and thoughts especially with regard to other people’s actions, because that’s where it all goes to shit. It has honestly made my thought process a lot clearer, which also means I don’t make skewed and rash decisions. The sinking feeling that always persisted because it felt like something was ALWAYS off, has diminished tremendously. I go to bed on most nights, content and undisturbed.
I’m learning to differentiate between asking for help and dependance. I don’t particularly like asking, it makes me feel weak and helpless. For some reason, needing people also makes me the same way. But like a good friend of mine pointed out, “You’re full of shit if you think being unattached makes you powerful.”
Lol this is so intense.
To conclude this rather long rant,
I’m having a lot of fun in Bombay. There’s so much to do here. This city is always ON, it’s incredible how you can get shoved around at the railway station at 4:30 in the morning. Most of my batchmates and a bunch of my friends from across the country, are interning here. And of course, my favourite bit is how much independence I’ve got. There isn’t as much to do in Pune, and staying with family in Bangalore automatically makes me accountable for things like where I’ll be, is it really safe, and how late I plan on staying out. Besides, there’s something very exciting about a new city.
I feel very hopeful; about the next 6 weeks, the last year of college, and whatever lies ahead of that (come at me, life). This is weird.
Edit: I also plan (and hope) on getting back to writing (not just ranting), maybe at least once a week.
I’ve got too much of an ego to admit to myself yet alone somebody else that I can’t do this anymore. Things have been difficult. Things have also been a lot worse. And of course, a lot of people have it SO much worse.
I’ve got everything I could possibly ask for. A roof over my head, more than adequate resources for 3 square meals everyday and then some, a group of people who’ve endured more than they ever had to, and a family I can always find my way back to.
Yet I’m failing. And there’s no amount of privilege that’s making it easier. Of course, it helps that I can get grotesquely expensive treatment to feel better, ridiculously pricey fruits to make me healthier, pretentious private school education to fulfil my ‘passion’, and resigned late night walks with my best friend when everything else fails.
What do you do when you can’t point to where it hurts? How do you explain an inertia so powerful it took away several months of your life, without due warning? You pull up your socks and you fight harder. Because you don’t know any other way. Self pity is a disease much more potent than anything you’ve ever had to fight. So you fight to keep it at bay. You can’t recognise what you are, what you want, or how to get there. Very little makes sense anymore.
I go through everyday, trying to keep as busy as possible, in the hope of not feeling this way anymore. And I don’t know anymore, how to not feel this way. It’s been so long since I’ve felt anything but. It rises and ebbs. My disease is a person, fully functional, right below my skin. She visits at odd hours, and stays for days at a stretch. My disease feels more comfortable in my body than I am.
I try to tell myself everyday, I am more than this. I’m more than the gamut of emotions I experience, whilst struggling to process even one. I’m more than my failing body and my jaded mind.
Most of all, I’m better than this. I’m supposed to be the tough one, the strong one. In my head, I’m stronger; titanium, indifference, and a heart of stone. In my heart, I need to fight this alone. I want to fight this alone. Any form of help accepted might turn into dangerous dependency.
So I’ll stew in my own company. Because if you can’t be comfortable being all by yourself, how can you ever get better? And I’ll sleep alone, falling asleep to a carefully curated playlist instead of my thoughts on a loop. On the days I don’t, I’ll curl up against him, grateful for the warmth.
Love feels a little like disentangling yourself and turning away, only to find him following suit; half asleep, groggy, but with arms wrapped securely around you, chin nuzzling into your shoulder. I’ll fall asleep, feeling a little reassured.
But I know I’ll wake up 40 minutes later, unsettled. And when I do, nothing makes sense again. That brief feeling of security has disappeared along with any signs of restful sleep.
I try to call for a period of quarantine. To work through everything. To get back on track and fix myself. But isolation doesn’t take her away. She thrives in dimly lit rooms, when she has me all to herself. It’s almost parasitic. It’s most definitely pathetic. It makes me weak. And weakness is unforgivable. I’m stronger than this. I’m better than this.