Sometimes it is hard to forget certain days – like today. Eight years ago, I had a near fatal experience and it changed a lot of things in my life. It changed my outlook on many things. Maybe that is why I think of it as a personal red letter day – a chance to stop and take stock of my life.
I stopped smoking eight years ago. I am still not smoking. I have never regretted anything more than picking up that first cigarette as a teenager, all in the name of being cool, being part of a clique and imitating others. I am not wired to be part of the cool kids, or be part of a herd or good at imitating others. It was a bad idea to try and be someone else.
Addictions are a life long curse and it takes a lot of fear to keep fighting them. It is especially harder for those of us who prefer to be solitary. Anyone who has quit smoking knows what I am talking about. A few days ago, I had a dream where I smoked two cigarettes, then felt guilty and threw away the package, mad at myself. I woke up in cold sweat, for once glad that it was a dream. Smoking is a neurological dependency that never goes away.
I have given up a lot of other things and they are still not in my life. I am 80 percent vegetarian (aka only one of five meals has animal protein), don’t eat red meat, don’t eat anything fried, and don’t touch liquor. However, as the time has passed some of those old bad habits have crept back into my life — I didn’t really work out last year. I managed to lose the rhythm of my daily schedule and dealt with fitful sleep for most of the year. Being a diabetic, sugar shouldn’t be part of my diet, but occasional pastry has crept back into my routine.
I had vowed to never past the 190 pounds mark, but I am way beyond that point. I had vowed to walk three miles a day or about 21 miles a week — I averaged about 12 miles a week. I promised to go to the gym three times a week, I went three times a month. I thought I would read a book a week — I have read only six books so far this year. I can come up with many excuses, but in all honesty it doesn’t matter — today is a good reminder that I had a second chance and I need to do my best to capitalize on it.
The only thing I was able to get right this year — I cleaned up my apartment and have gotten rid of about half the things I owned. I have pared down the wardrobe to be efficient. I am actually pretty thrilled that I curbed my spending on clothes and instead invested in a camera and a couple of lenses, for photography is what saved me this year. It forced me to leave the apartment, it forced me to see the world and learn a new art form, even though I am still a novice.
As I look back in the rear view mirror of time, I see someone walking on the side of the road, on one side fast incoming traffic and on the other side of the edge, a deep ditch, dragging his feet, not looking where he was going, slowed down by the weight of an invisible past chained to his feet. I was mourning the loss of something so precious, something that was more than a business. It was my context for myself and my life. This loss made me an uglier version of me in my own eyes: selfish, looking inward, shirking from relationships, seeking solitude more than anything else.
It took a few months to realize that I was making the same mistake I have accused others. Just as television industry missed that they were in the video (and not in the TV) business and thus failing to understand Netflix and YouTube, I too was fixating on a container and not what I do. I was too tied to a webpage (GigaOm) and a mode of writing (classic news medium), forgetting what really mattered was — that I write and think out loud in a public space. Enveloped in this shroud of sadness, I lost control over things that give me context — my words and my rigour around writing.
Writing, in many ways, allows me to think and evaluate the world, work out my thesis and ideas. Writing, and re-writing, collating, collecting, curating and conversing — that’s my process. As the year comes to an end, I suddenly find that I have a lot to say. A lot to write. A lot to catch up on. A lot to be grateful about. And a lot to be thankful for.
December 28, 2015, San Francisco