When I was much younger, my mum explained to me how they used to pick a sakhi (सखि), which means a friend for life in Hindi. In this day and age of cynicism (and often with valid reasons), we may think its idealistic to have a 'sakhi'. Some people are lucky to still have friends since their childhood, while others could have friends from university, work, a holiday, a wedding, a retirement home, supermarket and so on. It doesn't matter when, where or how. Befriending someone could take a couple of hours of realising commonalities between each other or it could be a much slower adoption from either side, when after a number of years you realise that you must be friends if you're still talking to each other. However, it often takes several years of being alive to learn what kind of friendship you have or once had with an individual.
One of my best friends gave this to me, while we recovered from a break in our own friendship. This saying, amongst few others, has stuck with me for a very long time.
I don't necessarily believe in categorising friendships, but when looking in hindsight, sometimes it could help clarifying what purpose certain people served in our lifetime. Have certain individuals already served their purpose in your life (Friend of Reason) or were they there during a phase of your life (Friend of Season) or have they been through various phases of your life and for whatever reason... are still there (Friend for Life)?
The friendships from my childhood probably fall under the 'seasonal' category as there would have been times when we thought we would always be friends. But people change with time, as do our priorities and thought process. For instance, when I met my best friend from primary school after 15 years, it wasn't what I expected. I had this weird feeling of closeness, yet acknowledgement of the fact that we have become completely different people and wouldn't exactly call ourselves 'friends' anymore (I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual!).
We experience constant flux over the years, which for me became more apparent between my late teens and adulthood. Whether its principals, beliefs, opinions or even the definition of a friend, everything changed and I started to fine tune my ideas on what was important to me.
Whether it's a reason or season, it's important that we accept that sometimes relationships including friendships have expiry dates. Some friendships gradually fizzle out, while others can be more dramatic and painful for one or everyone involved. There could be situations where the foundations of a friendship have been broken (intentionally or unintentionally), and despite individual or mutual attempts to fix them, in some cases, things can't be the same. The friendship is dead. However, what I have learnt from these experiences is that we need to stay clear of two things:
1. Blaming the other(s)
2. Blaming yourself
Neither works or helps the situation. Instead, we can make peace with what is and 'compartmentalise' (I love this word). We can put that friendship as a pleasant memory (of the times that were good) in a virtual 'box' and accept that it no longer is. Only then can we focus on any lessons we have learnt (if applicable) and carry on with life, making and investing in the people and relationships that we still have in our lives, as well as ourselves. We can make 'change' work for us.
RECIPE & ingredients:
Difficulty level: Moderate
Preparation time: a lifetime
Serves: minimum of 2 persons
Instructions: try not to forget the ingredients.
The list above is not unknown, but we could benefit from reminding ourselves about these once in a while to see if we have been a good friend to someone close to us. We don't need to beat ourselves over it if not, but we can make an effort to make some positive changes going forward.
I am fortunate enough to have a handful of 'sakhis' or in modern terms 'besties'. If I had to describe them in my own words, they are my rocks. We know we're not there for each other for just a reason or season, but for life.
We shamelessly step into each others lives to find solutions, we don't judge, we encourage the other to move on (even if it means we'll see less of them), we dance like looneys on nights out (cue: chicken dance), we fight with others for each other, we don't blame or intentionally hurt one another. And if we do, we apologise and we forgive and make amends if needed. We grow together.
Apart from my family, in moments of joy and crisis, we are each others' support group. As mentioned in my article on 'Life Hacks', teachings by Tara Brach, an author and teacher of meditation and self-awareness talks about 'Sangha' i.e. good company could help you grow and be happier.
moments & Memories
When 200 Whatsapp notifications don't bother me, or when I'm on the phone to a friend for four hours (especially when I hate talking on the phone), I know we must be close.
I have random funny memories of my best friends like when my friend walked into our offices to look for the culprit who wasn't nice to me, so that she could give them a 'piece of her mind' (wearing bright pink trousers and a parrot green top, obviously); or when me and another friend opened our first can of beer at 10am on the train to Brighton and ended up missing the last train home; or when some of us ran around in heavy rain like children in the City of London.
The point is that sometimes moments or certain signals tell us who we are close to at that point in time. Whether it's for now, or forever, we can feel a close bond with someone and we may want to spend more time with them, unless and until things change...
Meet some of my 'sakhis'...
We live in three different continents: Asia, Europe and Africa, but it doesn't feel like we are far away. When we do meet in person, it doesn't feel like we have 'missed' each other, but I often need to do a double-take, mid-conversation, to remind myself that they're actually sat in front of me. It's like a solid, independent long-distance relationship. One of them told me, when she was leaving the UK, that she refuses to say 'Bye' as we will see each other very soon. And we make sure we do...
This article has nothing to do with Rihanna and Drake, unfortunately.
When I started my first job as an intern, I got to work at 9:05am, went out for my full hour's lunch break (with the other interns who were no different) and by 5:10pm we were usually found at our favourite bar counter ordering as many of the BOGOF cocktails (Espresso Martinis for me...) as possible before 'happy hour' ended for the day. To put it in context, my life was mostly: PLAY, PLAY, PLAY, PLAY, WORK (80% play vs. 20% work).
Fast-forward ten years and my life is: WORK, WORK, WORK, PLAY, PLAY (60% work vs. 40% play).
Thank goodness there's still some 'PLAY' in there. If you're not careful, the 'PLAY' could keep going on a decline unless you consciously keep it in your life. Personally, 'PLAY' involves spending time doing things that I enjoy doing, such as writing, photography, traveling, going to different food places or bars, spending time with friends and family, as well as having some time to 'chill'. This no doubt, varies from person to person, with some people being fortunate enough to even consider 'WORK' as 'PLAY'.
From first-hand experience, I realised over the last few years that work feels less like 'WORK' when I enjoy what I do... or make myself enjoy what I have on my plate for most of the time spent in the office, so that it feels less like an effort. This could result in a reduced perception of 'WORK' and 'PLAY' being mutually exclusive (and possibly less of a reason to write an article about).
While work usually pays the bills and (hopefully) challenges us professionally and socially, it can also become routine. The opportunity cost of work is often the time and energy that could be spent on things that bring us more fulfilment. Climbing the career-ladder is often promoted with more money, increased knowledge and responsibilities, better connections, more authority, power and so on. However, this could come as a package with some additional politics, stress, conflicts and more.
Towards the end of last year, I went to a career's workshop run by ETC (Escape The City) that was quite interesting (so much that I actually paid for it). A lady called Skye took us through some frameworks that could help people identify key factors to help them find out if they're on the right career path and job.
Below are 3 key career ingredients:
Skye asked us to rate each category between 0-10, making a full classroom of 20-40-year-old men and women ask themselves whether their work is actually meaningful (to them) and if it is fulfilling their potential (Impact). We were then asked if we are enabled to have a good work-life balance, including more 'PLAY' time, whether it's to socialise or exercise, have our weekends to ourselves, reasonable working hours etc. (Wellbeing). Finally, we were asked if we genuinely felt like we were part of the places we work for (Belonging).
If we take everything in such courses with a pinch of salt, I reckon we can benefit from such frameworks, without making any impractical or dramatic changes to our careers. They can be beneficial as a sense-check to help people find the reasons behind any unfulfilling work, and try to tackle them with possible solutions, or look for more suitable alternatives.
The three career ingredients reminded me of a TED Talk by Emily Esfahani Smith who highlighted four 'pillars' to living a meaningful life. I felt like this could be applied to the ETC framework above, in order to help ourselves find the 'WORK: PLAY' (and life) balance.
Belonging, according to Emily, comes from "relationships where you are valued for who you are and where you value others as well." This can directly be applied to the 2nd 'career ingredient' mentioned earlier by ETC of 'belonging' as well. The second pillar is purpose, which is about "using our strengths to serve others" and reach an end result, which many of us do through work, i.e. "how we contribute and feel needed".
There are moments at work, like today when I was sat in a filming studio with a product manager who was being recorded to talk about his product. I watched him getting nervous, failing to say what he wanted to... and trying and trying again until he got his best shot. For a couple of seconds, I felt inspired by his dedication and ability to refocus on the task at hand and I felt fortunate to be exposed to inspiring people through work. This ties in with the 'growth' element of the 1st ETC career ingredient mentioned earlier (Impact). In such moments, I can somewhat relate to the 3rd pillar from the TED talk: transcendence, i.e. experiences beyond the normal. However, in the industry I work in, I have to say these moments are infrequent... (at least compared to the Health and Charity sectors!). Depending on who you are, it is possible to find random things that make you feel uplifted and motivated. For some it could be while writing or analysing data and trends (not me...) while for others it may be networking, treating people in hospital, playing a sport... you get the picture.
The final pillar is about story-telling. How you define your experiences in life or at work can determine how you feel about work feeling like 'WORK' or 'PLAY'.
Many of us come across that one difficult (pain in the...) person at our workplaces, who we can moan about on an hourly basis to the point that they become a reason for our stress levels soaring. Or we could define ourselves or our job satisfaction on things that went right or wrong. This could be a volatile view of our situations, though. The clue is in finding perspective on what we have experienced to see the positive and negative outcomes e.g. lessons learnt, subsequent successful projects, empathising with the behaviour of difficult colleagues and finding solutions around them and so on.
Obviously, if the situations are unbearable and in the ETC model you see yourself scoring say 0-5 on most of the 'career ingredients' and/or not finding a purpose or belonging in your daily work life, it's probably time to move on. For instance, if I ever find myself in a WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, PLAY/WORK (80% work vs. 20% play) situation (I hope not!), I may need to come back to this article and read it myself.
Many of us spend way too long looking for new ways to be happy. I found a few basic rules that have really sunk into me and have helped me deal with challenges and life so far.
Here are 5 theories that can give certain situations a 'name' or some structure to help us get some clarity and perhaps some perspective in certain situations. We just need to figure out how to apply them...
a time during each day when traffic is at its heaviest
Apart from forcing us to learn more about anger management, rush hour in the City of London can teach us a lot about ourselves. From avoiding eye contact to testing out your patience, resilience, physical abilities and from choosing the right outfits to learning how to maneuver through the city, rush hour can teach us quite a few things.
1. eye contacT
If I am on a train or bus or am waiting at a platform and I feel like someone is looking in my direction, the first step is to narrow down the reasons why, for instance:
*Most preferable option
The next step is to figure out how to deal with this not-so-comfortable situation. The absolute last option is a risky one... you can stare back at the 'starer' until they hopefully look away (this could backfire, unless you're good at staring games).
Some tried and tested ideas to keep your eyes and yourself occupied otherwise, include:
There will be times when you will be surprised at what your body can do when it doesn't have a choice when travelling on a packed train. Even if it's yoga or your usual stretching exercises.
Here are five things worth practicing at home prior to rush hour:
Remember: practice makes perfect.
3. DRESS LIKE AN ONION
I once made the grave mistake of wearing a winter coat, boots, a polo neck thermal top (Heat-Tech ones from UNIQLO), a woolly skirt, hat and gloves in the Central Line in the London Underground during Winter.
Apparently this is the second hottest tube line in London in Summer, but even in Winter, this line is deceiving and you need to have an escape strategy from your very own clothes during any season.
I learnt the hard way that a polo neck top is not easy to get out of, in general and even more-so during rush hour, while standing in very close proximity to fellow commuters. Even getting out of a jumper or taking a jacket off grabs way more attention during rush hour, than is necessary - compared to a normal environment.
A lot of squirming and what may look like a bad snake-dance, while keeping a straight face, 'playing it cool' and avoiding eye contact can amuse others while making one quite self-conscious.
Dress like a onion. Wear several layers of clothes that you can peel off one by one, seamlessly without touching your neighbouring passenger. Stick to thin layers unless you fancy looking like Joey from the TV show Friends when he put on all of Chandler's clothes.
Remember to have enough space in your bag to carry all the layers, before you have to put them all back on once you leave the station to the outside world.
We have all been a tourist... yes, and we have possibly annoyed the hell out of the citizens of the city you were visiting who just wanted to: Get to work.
However much we try to empathise when we are surrounded by tourists in London during rush hour, we can't get over the fact that some:
The lesson from this is: avoid tourists during rush hour.
5. SLOW WALKERS
I'm not referring to people who are older or less able to walk quickly, but I am talking about people who somehow manage to look at their mobile phone, or even more surprisingly read a book while walking down a narrow pathway, oblivious to who or what is behind them. OR people who wear ridiculous shoes or high heels and cannot walk in them... if you can't walk in your shoes, what's the point?
To top this up, some people overtake you, and then start walking slowly. This actually happens. I will never understand why.
The good thing about London is that most commuters have learnt to invest in comfortable walking shoes, for speed. Invest in a good pair and you won't be one of the slow walkers annoying everyone else (you can always change into your pretty looking high heels or work shoes at the office).
Your best friends when using public transport, apart from real people and entertainment are:
These can help us prevent suffering consequences of unwanted pollution. Whether it's a fellow passengers' BO, bad breath, post-night out alcohol sweats, a serial coughing or sneezing neighbor who thinks it's okay not to cover their mouths / noses, or those who didn't find the time to file their nails...and of course actual emissions from cars and buses or construction sites.
For some reason, using some sanitiser after my journey into work makes it all okay (but it does dry out my hands, but we have hand cream for that too).
To sum all of this up, rush hour may seem impossible to survive on a daily basis, especially when traveling on public transport in London, but it is possible to prepare for it and hopefully master the art of the 'London Commute'.