Today is my 36th birthday. I had quite a few paradigm shifts last year. I would not say they happen overnight, but tons of small steps and small choices I made through the years have helped me move towards a positive direction. I think today would be excellent timing for me to review them.
1. How to enjoy dancing without judgment
I was a part of my school Christmas party in Dec 2019 in Edinburgh. I did some items and also a solo performance. I was insecure about myself: about my look, about my alignments and technique, about how I would judge myself and how others would judge me. I used to think “the look” is very important for a classical art form. And I have cut my hair very short before the performance. But I am lucky to have a supporting husband and a supportive teacher. This event was a breakthrough for me. I enjoyed the process without thinking about the result. I came out of my comfort zone and just be myself. For the first time, there is no judgment, no fear in my dance. There was no emptiness afterward because I have done my best at that moment. I didn’t blame myself for the small mistakes in between, and I focus on the improvements that I have made. This event has set a cornerstone of my transformations this year.
2. Becoming a vegetarian
On 17 Jan this year, my husband and I have decided to change our diet. I had multiple attempts to become a vegetarian, and I was still a meat lover. Out of a spontaneous conversation with my husband, while we had started reducing going out because of the pandemic, we discovered a common intention between us to give it a try again. With a purpose in our mind, we had a “why” to keep us going. We were surprised that we didn’t experience any struggle this time. We have been happy and healthy without meat for 291 days. I think a correct intention helps, and also educating ourselves about the topic clear any doubt along the way.
3. Detach my self-worth from the way I look
I wanted to try buzz cut for so long. After cutting my hair short, I was thinking, “Why not try buzz cut?”. It was a very empowering decision because I decide how I want to look without considering how other people think about me. It allowed me to think about why I care so much about the approval from others and to detach my self-worth from the way I look. My look doesn’t bother me anymore; I am happy that I am clean and have comfortable clothing. I don’t need to express who I am as a person by the way I look anymore. I am even learning to love myself more.
4. Attitude towards dance, especially Bharatanatyam
Spending time almost at home this year wasn’t torture to me like most people. I was working hard and did many deliberate practices. I understand my body better and find out how to work with them.
Because of this pandemic, many impossible things become possible. One of them is learning from Kalashetra, a prestigious institute in Indian classical art forms. I attended two of their online workshops, and the experience was unforgettable.
But in the third quarter of this year, I was burned out. Suddenly so many talks and lessons are now available online. I was overwhelmed even I have spent all my time learning. I realized that I have learned too much and too fast in these years. I didn’t have time to understand and digest what I have learned; a decent execution is beyond my reach. Waking up early to attend free classes and talks offered online became a burden to me. My mind couldn’t follow up with so much unprocessed information.
Therefore, I decided to slow down and spend time with the thing I’ve learned already. With the help of my teacher, we go slow and approach the art form more holistically. We go through details, perspectives, and theories carefully together. I understand things my teacher taught me a long time ago, which I thought I understand, but I have only heard them instead. Now I have a new perspective towards dance, and I connect with my dance not only physically and mentally but also spiritually.
5. Let go of an obsession
I have an obsession with notebooks and stationery since I have been a child. Hoarding them made my living space very messy and my learning ineffective. I have a Kindle for reading ebooks, but I still need to read physical reference books with color.
I’ve got myself an iPad and an Apple pencil in July. I migrated everything I do digitally, writing notes, and reading. A bigger screen made reading a lot more enjoyable, also keeping my notes on the iPad made learning and retrieving information a lot more effective.
6. Learning Carnatic music
Singing was something that I have suppressed for a long time. I love singing since I can’t remember. I was told that I was singing all the time since I was a baby. Unfortunately, I was conditioned to believe I have no talent in singing, and I was not good at it. Even though I keep trying to approach singing, again and again, I couldn’t get out of my conditioning. I sing less and less and think it is not my “thing” after all.
The experiences I had in the past few years, I build up some confidence. After listening to an inspiring talk, I decided and started to learn Carnatic music in August. I am improving day after day. I realize all the frustrations I had before was because I approached it in the wrong way. When there is a teacher with patience and a bit of self-love, things would be totally different. Now I am singing happily every day, and I am looking forward to learning more from my teacher.
7. Living with Eczema
Eczema has been big trouble for me this year. It keeps flaring up. I researched a lot about it and experimented a lot with my behaviors. I am learning to live with it with a positive mindset.
Reading becomes an essential routine for me. I read a lot this year. Reading is a learning process, and having a conversation with myself. I am changing from a fixed mindset to a growth-mindset practically. I put the things I have learned from books into action. I am coming out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to become a better person in action. I keep fighting against my conditioning and exploring my possibilities. I am reading and learning things I was not interested in the past, rediscovering my potentials.
I even found out the way I used to learn is not practical. I was reading too fast and I didn’t understand the information I read fully. Now I am learning how to learn. I set up “Zettelkasten” as a knowledge management system for myself. Because of it, I am reaching my hands to emacs now. Never say never!
9. Electronics and programming
Science, history, mathematics, electronics, and programming, these are all the things I didn’t enjoy in the past. I helped my husband fixing his trackball mouse last month. He explained how things work, and he encouraged me to try soldering with him even though I never tried it before, and I may make things worse. Of course, his trust and support spark joy and interest in me again. I asked many questions, and he answered them with patience. In less than two weeks, I am totally interested in electronics and programming. He got me an Arduino starter kit to play with and also a mechanical keyboard to type. He always provides the best environment for me to grow. I won’t put any labels or boundaries for myself anymore.
All these significant changes wouldn’t happen with all the efforts I have invested in the past. All the failures and struggles count. Most importantly, surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial. I am lucky to have a partner and teachers that are full of patience and support around me. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. I am sure I am going in the right direction on self-development.