Take off your social mask

We all have a social mask. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all do. Most of us even have our social mask so well defined so we can rally it out on our CVs, LinkedIn profiles, social media bios, or when someone asks the golden ‘Tell me about yourself’ question.

Want to hear mine?

‘I am a 26 year old Sri Lankan Tamil girl, born and brought up in the UK. I am currently working as a junior doctor for the NHS. I am also a Bharathanatyam and Bhangra dancer. I am a dance choreographer, events organiser and blogger. Above all, I am a daughter, sister, lover and friend.’

Fancy right?!

In the last 2 weeks that I have had to self-isolate, I have reflected a lot. During these two weeks, I was not any of what I described above. I was a human being in bed, confined to one room, taking regular paracetamol to bring my fever down, rubbing Vicks onto my chest and nose to aid my breathing; I hadn’t showered in days; I was not eating. Ultimately I was an unwell human being. That’s all.

I looked at myself as a human being. That is what I am. I am a human being. We all are the same. We are all human beings, trying to survive in a world that so desperately wants us to have a definition for ourselves.

This desperation is what pushes us to make decisions, say things, build stories that may not be hundred percent true to who we truly are, and what we have achieved. Why? Because we want to fit in. We want to feel validated. We want to feel like we have a purpose.

This forms part of the reason that I bid Instagram farewell. We are all so tuned into to thinking so two-dimensionally. We are all looking at ourselves through social masks, rather than as human beings. I found it all so fake and untrue. I found myself moulding into this 2D person. I saw people lie about their lives so openly, for attention. I was scared I was falling into this trap. The funny thing is, if we all used such technology as mere human beings, it probably would not be as exciting as it is. I needed a break from such superficiality. I needed a break from mindless scrolling. I need a break from creating dance content just to create a ‘buzz’.

It was a really hard decision. I have been going back and forth on this decision for at least a year now. I was scared of deactivating my Instagram accounts because I was scared that I would no longer be defined as a dancer, because I did not have an Instagram page that said I was one. It made me realise how much I was relying on social masks to define myself. That is when I told myself, enough is enough.

Socially I am living a life that every girl/boy my age could only dream of. Spiritually, emotionally and mentally, I was losing myself to social conditioning. I decided to snap out of it and here I am. Thank you to social distancing, self-isolation and self-reflection.

Alive, Well, Happy & Grateful

It has been quite a while since I blogged. I have been so busy with medicine and dance which has meant that finding the time to sit down have time for myself to reflect on my life and thoughts has been a lot more difficult. However, I am back, and I have a few things I would like to talk about.

Firstly, ‘work’. I say this in inverted commas because I seriously do not see medicine as work. It is my passion. I am grateful that I can say this. I love waking up in the mornings, I look forward to Mondays and do feel sad when Fridays come. Yes, I am a very bizarre human being! I was never that ‘perfect’ medical student. Truthfully, I did not enjoy being a medical student as much as I enjoy being a Doctor. I feel so purposeful now and I realize how worth-it all those years of hardship were. I am still clueless most of the time, and I have several moments when I have to turn to my colleagues and the amazing nursing staff to help me out. I have even experienced moments where I was so near to tears in the middle of the ward. Nonetheless, this is what being a Doctor is all about – LEARNING and GROWING, not just as a Doctor but as a human being. I am so much more driven to be a good Doctor, seeing first-hand and working with some amazing ones. Ultimately, it is not easy at all and most of the time I have no idea what I am doing; but the key here is, I am doing my best and turning to someone for support when I need to. This is just the beginning of my medical career. I have so much more learning to do, so many more exams to sit, but for now I am enjoying every moment of my medical career however pain-staking and stressful it gets.

Secondly, dance. I do not think many people believe me when I say I have dance rehearsals pretty much every day of the week. Well I do! If I am not doing anything medicine related, I am doing something dance related. This could include working on dance shows, wedding choreography or own projects. Currently I am focusing on the former two. I do not want to say much about it now but do trust me when I say I am busy with dance rehearsals.

Last but not least, YouTube. Now this is one I have wanted to have a heart-to-heart about, with you. The reason is because I have not been amazing with staying on top of YouTube. This year I set myself a goal of wanting to be more active with producing YouTube videos – dance videos, tutorials, discussions. However, I have only managed to release on dance video and two discussion videos about dance. I have been meaning to film another video but I have not had the motivation to film it. I am not going to make any soppy excuses here. I would like to be open and honest. I did want to try YouTube and I am glad I did, but, is it for me? Unfortunately not; well not now anyway. I wanted to give YouTube a go and I am glad I did; I got such a wonderful response to my videos. So many of you were very encouraging and spreading so much positivity which made me feel very grateful. YouTube, however, takes a lot of commitment and time. At this point in my life, with my medical career, dance shows/projects, wedding choreography business, I am struggling to find the perfect time to film and release good-quality content. Therefore, for the time being, I am going to pause with my YouTube videos. I do not want to promise that I will be back on YouTube; I will try my best to produce content in the future if time and circumstances permit. I will blog about the topics I wanted to create videos on, so keep your eyes peeled.

I would like to thank everyone for your patience with me. I believe that I do not need to post constantly on social media to prove that I am doing something purposeful/useful, which is why it may seem like I have gone very quiet…but folks, I am alive, well, happy and grateful!

Lots of love,
Praveena

PS: Feel free to message me if you have any questions about medicine, dance, blogging, YouTube, or anything really. Would love to hear from you!

Should it always be about the hustle?

In recent times, terms like ‘hustle’, ‘grind’ and ‘hard work’ are really trending. We are all trying to build a life where we are constantly pushing ourselves and striving for more.

I love how I have built my life. Working professionally as a Doctor, creatively as a Dancer and personally as a Blogger. It really is an amazing feeling. I am learning to push my own limits and reach for heights which I never thought were possible.

However, here is the real deal. It is exhausting and I am exhausted. I am constantly ill, sleep-deprived, and tired, all because I am constantly working on what to do now and then planning my next ventures. On top of all of this, commuting as much as I do to ensure I accomplish my goals has a knock on effect on my productivity and quality of the work I am producing. This made me question whether all this hustling was actually worth it, when my mental and physical health is not at its best as a result of it all.

Sadly, we are also the generation where mental illness is at its peak. Depression and anxiety are becoming so much more prevalent in professionals. So maybe if we built a community where it was more acceptable to take well-earned breaks, we would be facing a decline in mental health problems.

Long story short, I have learnt that we need to push ourselves to strive for more, but within reason. I am slowly learning about the importance of resting and giving myself a break. I do not mean just 1 to 2 hours a day. I mean 1 to 2 days a week. I need at least one day a week where I am focusing on nothing related to medicine/dance/blogging. I need at that one day to re-energise. I need that one day to bounce back stronger. I used to think taking a break was weak. No way!

Taking a break is the strongest thing we can do for ourselves. We need it. Especially as we are the generation pursuing more than one profession/passion. Let’s give ourselves a break, because we deserve it. At the end of the day, hard work alone is not enough. We need to know how to work smart as well, and that is where the trick is.

My new motto in life is: take as many breaks as you work!

Life as a Competitive Dancer

I watched a Tamil movie called Lakshmi last weekend. The day before I watched this movie, I was on stage in front of an audience of 1600 competing in my first ever professional Bhangra competition. Therefore, watching Lakshmi really struck a chord with me. This is why I am sat here right now blogging (after what seems like ages). Lakshmi is a movie which probably hit a chord or two for every single individual who has watched this movie so far. Dancers who struggle to convince their conservative parents of how important dance is to them will really understand the emotions of the protagonist who struggled, as a child, having to face the same issue. Dancers who have experienced stage fright would really understand how the protagonist felt on her first ever stage performance, whilst being blinded by the strong stage lights and immense crowd. Dancers, who have experienced relationship problems as a result of their arduous dance training schedules, will be able to relate to this movie as well. Those who do not dance may want their child to become as strong of a dancer as the protagonist is in the movie, or maybe even not!

For me however, watching this movie really hit home regarding the life of a competitive dancer. This includes: the auditioning phase; getting onto the team; sacrificing free-time/family-time/social life for training; facing failures as a dancer and as a team member; fighting through pain whilst struggling on stage; protecting and fighting for your team-members no matter what; knowing the feeling of having your team as your new-found family and willing to sacrifice anything and everything for this new family. All these factors get amplified 100-fold when dancers are also balancing another professional career or degree as well.

I competed in my first ever dance competition at the age of 9 years old. At that age I had no idea that I would be spending a large proportion of my dance career training for and competing in competitions. But here I am now, 15 years on, having competed in 11 national dance competitions: 3 Bharathanatyam competitions, 1 Bollywood, 2 Gaana/Tamil Cinematic Dance and 5 Bhangra competitions. Of the 11, 8 of them happened in the last 3 years!

I am writing this to showcase the realities of training for a dance competition. It is tough. It is not as glamorous as it sounds or looks. The final product that the audience sees is merely a 5-10 minutes result of more than at least 100 hours of training. The sacrifices competitive dancers make to perform the way they do on stage are terrific.

I am writing this blog as an awareness to those who do not know of what we, as competitive dancers, go through on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Many of us competitive dancers have sacrificed spending time with family and friends on numerous occasions. There have been times when I have not seen my family for 3 months! I have whole-day dance training during the weekends; I have university/work during the weekdays. I cannot jeopardize my team at any point. Ultimately I have signed up to investing my weekends into dance training, so I cannot just turn around and say, I cannot go training because I feel homesick, unless of course something urgent crops up.

The overall lifestyle of a competitive dancer is very different to that of a normal person. Firstly, I have to think twice about what I eat – I do not eat out; I cook my own food which I try to keep as clean as possible; I stay away from Tamil food, even if it is home-cooked. Secondly, I have to be cautious about what social and physical activities I do; for example, I have to avoid going out because I do not want to feel drained for training the next day and I want to feel well rested before training. Finally, competitive dancers have to get used to living with injuries – shin splints, blisters, muscle aches – I spend most of my time outside of training dosed up on maximum pain-relief and walking like a penguin, because of how many injuries I suffer. Even as I write this now, I am typing with my right hand because I pulled by biceps muscle in my left arm during training for my most recent competition I took part last weekend. No imagine this being our normal life for the most part of a year. Yep, that’s our life!

Training to be a competitive dancer means you are training to be an athlete. So yes, it is extremely difficult, but what is worth keeping will not come easy. I do not regret any part of this journey at all, because with every competition I have become more and more of a committed and disciplined individual. Every competition enables me to hone myself into a better dancer as well as a better human being and that is all I care about right now. Onwards and upwards.

Materialism is TOXIC

We are the generation that is obsessed with things: clothes; make-up; cars and technology; home decoration; skin and hair-care; branded bags, watches, accessories, jewellery; ultimately ‘products’ of any sort.

We are have come together to create this world of materialism which I believe is a vicious cycle. Products and goods have taken over our lives, our way of thinking and ultimately our souls.

We are living in the age where we literally worship anything that looks beautiful, new and expensive. We take photos/videos with it, share it onto social media and feed into this materialistic world even more.

I have fallen victim to this. I have seen so many around me fall victim to this. We have been drawing attention to the clothes we wear; the cars we, or others, drive; the accessories we have; the homes we live in. Ultimately, our lives have become so much about the stuff we own or wear, than about us.

Our economy is very much built on our addiction to material possessions and I have to admit that social media has not made it any better. People get more likes when they share their ‘obsession’ with things. If we keep liking, the world of materialism will only grow more. More businesses will start throwing more products and luxurious services in our faces, which will entice our senses; we will invest more and get more obsessed and…you get the point.

Now I am not saying we need to throw everything we own away and live in a shed. No. I do believe that we have the potential to live more minimalist lives; this way we can truly tap into our souls and serve those that need it more.

Life comes to this. What is our purpose? Are we serving our purpose? Are we serving this planet in any small way that we can? The ultimate spiritual goal is to live a rich life with less stuff. Let’s come together for that.

Love,
Praveena

Study tips for Finals

Finals were a super stressful time for me. However, having all my notes prepared and at the ready to go for when revision started made my life that much easier.

REVISION NOTES

I am usually very last minute with everything, however organised I try to be. I wanted to change that in my final year so I started preparing typed notes from day 1 of final year. Therefore by the time I got to the end of my final rotation, I had just about all my notes typed up.

When it came to revision, I went through these notes and created key cards of points I know are new content and I will struggle to remember first time round. By doing so, I avoided the need for me to have to go through my big pile of typed notes. Instead I had bitesize summary key cards!
Then I started going through these key cards and as I did so, I created my post-it notes (discussed below), which I went through the day before exams.

Overall I went through all my notes for everything at least 3 times before exams.
Everyone has their own way of studying and revising. For me, creating/writing and repetition of notes is important especially will the breath of knowledge I have to acquire for exams.

REVISION SNACKS

I do not know about you guys, but I tend to eat very badly when it comes to revision. I do very little cooking and just eat whatever is available to me. Little did I know then that my eating badly had a knock on effect on my revision productivity, until I changed my eating habits.

When I eat something a bit too filling, I tend to feel sleepy and cannot carry on with revision. For this reason, I began to stick to fruits and vegetables which I would snack on. My favourites have been cucumbers and carrots.

I just wash them and then eat it raw! I find it a lot lighter yet filling. Overall my concentration improved, alongside my productivity and my skin!! A win-win.

I guess the message I am trying to convey is that it becomes easy to neglect our diet when we have revision, but if we took a few extra steps to take care of what we ate, it will have a positive impact not only on our revision, but our body and skin as well.

THE DAY BEFORE AN EXAM

I like making summary post-it revision notes. Why? I end up make pages and pages of notes and revision key cards. The day/night before the exam, I physically cannot go through all the notes so these summary post-it notes are great.

I usually just write the bits that I commonly forget – minute details like certain drug names and doses for particular conditions.

I find it a perfect way to cover everything quickly, provided that I still remember major key concepts and medical presentations/conditions.

Hope you found this useful. I will be sharing more of my revision tips soon so keep your eyes peeled. For the time being if you have any questions or would like revision coaching, give me a message!

Love,
Praveena