One hard good-bye

So this weekend, after ages, I drank quite a bit of alcohol. I got drunk to an extent that I was vomiting and passed out. I can’t remember the last part of the night. All I remember next was waking up in my friend’s flat.

I honestly have not got that drunk in ages! I have actively been staying away from alcohol for some time. I drink small amounts when I go out for meals, but that is about it.

Honestly, this experience has been an eye-opener (no pun intended). I feel embarrassed, and that feeling of what could’ve happened when I was completely out of it, gives me anxiety. I’m getting mini-panics every time I think about what others would’ve thought about me. I know these thoughts of what others think do not define the person I am, but I cannot help it can I?

I just thought to write about my thoughts and feelings. In the past 2 days, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection about what I want out of life. Alcohol is not on that list anymore. Having fun with alcohol is definitely not a priority for me. I have realized that I have so much to achieve and accomplish, and alcohol is proving to be a hindrance to that. It is slowing me down. Most importantly, it is the biggest barrier to my current spiritual growth.

I am not against alcohol at all and I will definitely have a glass of wine socially with a meal. However, drinking to get drunk and have fun is definitely not me. I’ve been there, done that. I’m turning into a different person, and I’m proud of this self-reflection and awareness of my spiritual, emotional and physical needs.

No one told me it would be this hard

It is so difficult to focus on this present moment when I was programmed all my life to think about the: ‘what if’, ‘what next’, ‘how will it’.

I sat down to meditate today and I really struggled to hone in on the Now. I had a flood of thoughts about what I had to do next, and what I had to do tomorrow. I felt like I was physically fighting my way against thinking these thoughts which drained more of my energy.

Accept it. Don’t resist it. What I had learnt today is my thoughts do not define me. I cannot start judging myself for not being present. Actually thinking those thoughts was my present. The more I resisted, the more I hated myself for resisting. I just have to accept that that is what my mind is thinking of at this moment, be at peace with it and continue. I believe that slowly that will help to calm my mind down.

I can see that this journey to awareness and presence is going to be a long one, but I know I will get there eventually.

Don’t take for granted freedom of speech

Words are so powerful. They have the ability to make or break any situation.

I’ve seen so many use words so powerfully to create such an impact in society. That is what I call inspirational.

In contrast, there are people who use the term ‘freedom of speech’ to talk bad about others and harm/hurt others. This is what I call an embarrassment to humanity.

If more and more individuals understood the power of their words and how to tailor it to meet the needs of society, we would all be growing at an exponential rate!

Medical School, Dance and everything else

‘Praveena, how do you manage Medical school, dance, blogging and everything else you do?!’

I am not going to give you the cliched ‘Time management’, ‘organisation’, ‘commitment’ talk. That is given in life regardless of what you want to pursue.

I am going to tell you how much I struggled. Honestly it was tough. Society prefers me to do one or the other, but not everything. This is because society does not believe that I can do all of it well.

I wanted to prove society wrong. I think it is completely okay to have a passion for multiple things. I think it is also okay to pursue it simultaneously with the right mindset.

Being a medical student (now doctor!), dancer/choreographer, having a small wedding choreo business and blogging sounds glamorous but it involved a lot of sacrifices at different stages of my life.

To pursue my medical studies, there were moments in my life that I had to stop dancing. To pursue dancing, there were moments when I had to put dance over medicine. When I wanted to establish my business, I had to sacrifice my health and well being and travel more between cities (driving two hours from Birmingham to London and back doesn’t sound as strenuous but imagine doing that nearly every weekend for the past year!). To blog, I had to invest so much more time into reading.

To pursue it all at the same time, I had to sacrifice my social life big time…and I still do. I couldn’t go out as much because I would have to be awake early the next day to drive back to London/Birmingham. I stopped watching TV shows for a whole year, because I genuinely did not have the time. The big reminder is, this is the CHOICE I made. Others may not be like that and that’s completely fine. Just remember to make a choice that is true to what you want.

During each stage of this process there were failures and disappointments I experienced. As a result I was constantly being judged for my choices. By several people, but I put that all to the side because I knew exactly what I was doing. It may have not been the way others may have done it, but that’s okay because I am slowly getting through it.

Sometimes the balance has tipped and I have made mistakes. It was not all as smooth as it looks. My health, my education, my dance career, business, blogging have all suffered at some point or another. Nonetheless, finding the drive to get through and find the light at the end of the tunnel was key.

Moral of the story – be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to commit. Be ready for criticism. Make the choices to pursue what you love. You do not need anyone’s permission except your own to do good. So just do it!

The journey has only just begun. Being a student did make it a lot easier to pursue everything I wanted to and establish a strong foundation for my passions. I will start working in a month and a half. Therefore, work life is going to present to me a whole new set of challenges, so I do not know what is going to happen and how difficult it is going be. That’s the perks of life though right…ready to take on the next set of challenges to further establish my profession, passion and everything else.

Your Lunch Break

I am sat in my hospital library having just finished a wonderfully refreshing book by Laura Archer called ‘Gone For Lunch – 52 Things to do in your lunch break’.

I have not started working yet but I know that when I do, I will do my level best to ensure I invest at least a good 10 to 15 minutes for lunch – (based on what my friends, who now work as doctors are saying, getting a 5 minute lunch break is a blessing; so let’s see what work life has in store for me!).

Reading this book made me really think about how important taking some time out to invest in ourselves is, especially during a long working day.

How many of us truly give ourselves a well-earned lunch break? We try to multi-task by doing admin jobs whilst eating, we scroll through our phones whilst we eat, or we do not give ourselves an opportunity to eat at all. We get so focused on having to finish work on time that we think working through our lunch break will enable us to do that.

The impact of not giving ourselves a lunch break can be negative on the quality of work and the quality of our health.

We are all entitled to a lunch break. I do not think there is any professional work-place that expects us to work for 8 to 12 hours constantly. So why do we expect that for ourselves?

For us to work productively, we need to have a break. Giving ourselves a fun activity to do during that break will make us look forward to the break and ensure we take it (even if it is for 15 minutes). It also means we return to work after our lunch break, with so much more energy and our productivity will increase. This in turn will make us enjoy work that much more, because we are not tired and we are not hungry.

Remember, we are humans. Not robots. We are entitled to a lunch break so why deprive ourselves of it?

Work. Break. Work – a cycle of full enjoyment!

Judgements – A Default Weakness

We have judged, and remain to judge. This may come in the form of judging others. However, more often than not we judge ourselves, and we are not even aware that we are doing it.

We judge ourselves based on the judgements others pass on us. Let me give you an example of this from my own life. I have several relatives who have made sweeping judgmental statements about me. This, at one point, tore me apart. One day I looked in the mirror at the girl staring back at me and told her, ‘You are not a bad human, your way of approaching life maybe different to many you know, but that’s okay. You do not have to conform to another’s norm. You need to find your own norm, for which you need to find yourself and be comfortable in being the person that you truly are.’

I have also had moments where I have not had the confidence to say ‘No’ to certain situations, just because of the fear I had of being judged. This brought upon me a lot of mental clutter because I did not know what I truly wanted out of life, I was just floating around and getting by life. I started losing focus on my goals and passion, and most importantly myself. This began to change for me when I separated myself from my own judgments. I accepted myself for the person I am. I am an introverted person, who is very task orientated. I do have a social life and that social life for me is dance rehearsals/training – I am not ashamed of admitting it anymore. Yes I do take time to just not think about anything medicine or dance related: once in a blue moon. I do it to re-nergise myself when I do get back into Medicine and Dance modes the following day, and not to escape that life I have chosen.

Anyone can be and do whatever they want. I will not judge, neither will I judge myself. By witnessing my judgement and taking control of such thoughts, I am one step closer to being judgement free.

This blog is platform via which I am making this promise to myself:

I am me. You are you. I define who I am and who I want to be; you define who you are and who you want to be. Life truly is simple.

Daily Musings

Social media has helped me a lot with my professional dance career. I do not of course depend on it, but it has for sure given me a portal through which I can interact with fellow lovers of dance which I never had before. 

I use my social media now not just to post about my dance work, but to also to use it as a way to convey my thoughts about general life, in the form of inspirational, motivational, thought-provoking quotes. Everything I post has a reason but I never share it so here goes with some of my favourites. 

‘Are you really happy or just really comfortable?’

This is the deepest question one can ask themselves. Do not settle for a life that looks good on the outside. Do not settle for a life where a roof over your head, financial security and everything materialistic are set out for you. Work for it. When you work for it and can say to yourself, ‘This is something I have built’, that is when you will feel truly happy and accomplished. Until then keep hustling. 

‘Success does not come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently.’

Especially in the scene of performance arts I’ve come across many who pursue something for a short while and call that success. For me, success is a journey and there is no end point. You need to practice something consistently to really unleash your potential in it!

‘You can speak spiritual eloquence, pray in public, and maintain a holy appearance…but it is your behaviour that will reveal your true character.’

I call such people hypocrites. I say this very confidently because I used to be one myself. Until 2 years ago I realised I need to own up to what I really feel and act on it. It is no good saying that ‘I am this…I believe in this…’ when your actions say the complete opposite.

There are several people who just act in a way to seek public approval. With social media, the number of likes and followers seems to be used to quantify whether you are being approved by society or not.

How many of them will, including myself, actually practice what they preach?

‘Generally people like to bring up your past, when your present and future appears to be better than theirs.’

I dislike people who bring up another’s past. But now, the more they do it, the more I am like ‘Is that the only thing you have against them?’

Some people are so stuck in their bubble they refuse to accept another’s success in any way, shape or form. Therefore to bring another down they use their past.

Just think. If I did that to you? How would you feel? How ‘clean’ is your past? I can guarantee that those who act in such a way do not have the best of pasts. So if you believe you have changed, then give others the benefit of the doubt that they have changed as well. It’s that simple.

‘A private life is a happy life.’

Over the past few years I have become more and more aware of people who use social media to post about there private drama and unhappiness.

Question 1: Is posting on social media going to resolve that problem? Will it give happiness?

Question 2: Are you the only one in the world who is going through problems?

Question 3: What is the purpose of you posting your personal problems on social media? If you feel like that is giving your control over the situation, look at yourself and your attitude towards life.

Question 4: Do you actually think people care when each and everyone one of us is going through our own problems? I mean some may acknowledge by liking your post, but what does a ‘like’ mean? If a ‘like’ is the validation you need, then go ahead and keep posting. But I am secretly feeling sorry for you for reasons other than for the ones you wanted me to feel sorry for.

‘A lot of people want to make the institution of marriage a substitute for a real relationship.’

Marriage is not something which should not be a result of convenience.

Do not enter marriage because the current situation you are in warrants a marriage, so it is considered socially and culturally acceptable.

A marriage is a process which should occur at the right time, with the blessings of the right people, for the right reason which is nothing but true love!

Final thoughts:

Each of these thoughts are ones which I started to think more about based on the events which were taking place around me. I am not perfect, but I’m working on myself to think bigger and wiser so I can constantly reflect and grow myself. That is what life is about. Have a reason for every action and make sure you do not hurt anyone!

My Biggest Insecurity – My Body

I was never, as people liked to call it, a ‘lean’ child. I mean as a baby and a toddler I was the chubbiest kid you could ever find. See below for some of those badass poses I pulled off back then.

As I started to grow up, however, things started to change. This was the root of all that insecurity. I had every relative of mine compared me and my body to my super skinny sister and cousins and made remarks which went along the lines of, ‘Praveena is the chubbiest of them all isn’t it?’, ‘If she loses some weight and her belly, it will be perfect’. Some of my male uncles even went to extent of poking fun out of my weight. I remember one of my uncles came to our house a day or two after my Arangetram (my debut Bharathanatya performance) and was comparing me to my slimmer cousins and said, ‘Praveena you are fat aren’t you?’ – if you think this sounds bad in English, then it sounds 100 times worse in Tamil. See my arangetram photos below and you tell me if I was in anyway overweight, because honestly speaking, I think I looked sickly skinny.

At this point I want to remind you of a few things. Even if you are joking, do not make such remarks to anyone, let alone a child or teenager. It is horrible to say such things and you are horrible to think and say such things. It is so easy for anyone to make these remarks without any thought about what the consequences are – you are indirectly helping them to feel more insecure. So who is the bad person? YOU.

Anyway, back onto what this blog is about. Me. Well, I went through bad phases when I starved myself because I wanted to prove a point that I can be ‘skinny’ too. This was particularly the case when I started university and my mum was not there to make me food.

Do you know when things started to change for me? When I started taking dance more seriously in 2nd and 3rd year of university. For me at the time, I started to realise that starving myself was extremely harmful for my body, and jeopardised my ability to dance. During this whole realisation, I found out that if I want to build up my stamina and have ample energy to dance, I need to eat plenty and healthy. That is when things started to change. People thought that I was losing weight in the past 2 years, but in fact I have remained the same weight for the past 3/4 years. The difference is, I have started to tone up.

Here is my second point I want to remind you about. Your weight should not be defined by a numerical value, but by how healthy and happy you feel. This is different for each person. So when people ask me why I love dance so much, aside from the fact that I love dancing, I actually learnt to respect my body. I learnt to love my body. Weird right, that dance has made me feel all these things. Well it has, which is why I put dance at a very high place when it comes to my mental well-being.

Yes, I still do go through ups and down when it comes to my body. Even recently, I went through a whole phase where I started feeling very insecure about my body. The reason for this was because I was eating so unhealthily, so two weeks ago I started to cut down. I started: cutting down on white carbs, eating more fruits, drinking more water and hula-hooping more. The result of it is I FEEL amazing. I do not know whether by body has changed, but I do not care. When I feel my healthier body, my mind naturally is happier and healthier.

For me diet and exercise is not about losing, but about toning and most importantly feeling happy and healthy.

Dear Best Friend…

I am writing directly to you and no one else.

One piece solely dedicated to you is not enough to show how much I value you and your presence in my life.

I met you for the first time 3 and half years ago. Never did I think then, that today I would be writing to you and be grateful of your existence to the extent that I am.

I wanted to take this opportunity to Thank You. I do not know where to begin, but here goes…

1) I want to thank you for being the person and performer you are, and making me fan-girl over you since the day I first saw you on stage 11 years ago.

2) I want to thank you for being the vibrant sole you were when we first met in November 2013, and making that 20 year old girl, crush over you even more.

3) I want to thank you for creeping into my life and talking to me at times when I least needed the attention from another boy.

4) I want to thank the boys and girls of both my and your pasts respectively, for teaching us what we really need in a relationship – to be loved unconditionally and un-materialistically.

5) I want to thank you for being there for me and bringing out the confidence I never knew I had.

6) I want to thank you for unlocking my own academic and artistic potential.

7) I want to thank you for making me value my ability to write the way I do, and making me fall in love with writing endlessly.

8) I want to thank you for helping me hone skills which I never thought I would be able to do.

9) I want to thank you for tending to all sides and versions of me with care, and love which I never thought I was worthy of getting.

10) I want to thank you for being you.

Of course I have more to be thankful for especially with regards to everything you have intentionally and unintentionally done for me. Whatever our future holds does not phase me, because right now I am so thankful for you and the life you have made me discover. So thank you!

Striking the Balance

‘Live a life you love’

Throughout this academic year, I was asked by several people as to how I managed to balance Medicine and Dance the way I did. So here is my answer to those questions.

It’s very easy to stay in the safe zone because of the fear of trying new things out and the challenges they may bring. But this year, with the support of my best friend, I knew I could and would push myself in every avenue.

Medicine brings out my love for learning, and dance brings out my love for performing, choreographing and teaching. Therefore I know that I will work hard to make sure I grew in both areas the way I wanted to.

Several people around me probably thought I was not doing much Medicine this year because I spent so much time doing dance performances and competitions: this includes my family and friends. Oh trust me the number of people who came up to me saying, ‘Praveena, do you even do medicine?’.

When people around me made me question my own abilities to focus on both and succeed in both, the one person who stood by me and pushed me was my best friend. All he said was, ‘If you want to do it, do it. I know you will study hard regardless. And I will be here to support you whatever happens.’ What seemed like the simplest of things, had the biggest impact on me. No one had ever said that to me before, and that’s when I knew that I would be able to do it.

This whole journey came with one big sacrifice: my social life. Yes, I stopped meeting my friends as often and I stopped going out as much. When I had rehearsals for 6 months non-stop, it did exhaust me. I suffered quite a few dance injuries, I was tired. The limited amount of energy I had, I had to reserve for Medicine. Regardless, I stayed strong and pushed through.

I stopped believing in ‘studying’ or ‘revision’; instead I focused all my energy on ‘learning’. I wanted to learn because I loved learning and not because I had to pass exams, although this was naturally a by-product of it. There is no end-point to learning, especially in Medicine. I created my own system of learning and I enjoyed it. In the last month leading up to exams, I remained calm and I opened a book, to learn. I am not going to deny the last minute stress of having to cram bits and bobs because obviously I had an exam that I had to get through, but trust me, I have been in worse scenarios before.

I say all of this because I used to be that medical student who stressed a lot about passing exams and I forgot to enjoy the fact that I am learning some amazing material about the most complex machine in this world – the human body. This year, that changed for me a lot. I saw some peers around me stress the way I used to, and here I was, sat calmly taking every fact/concept I learnt in, and cherishing it. And for this reason, this exam period was the most enjoyable one for me so far, and that reflected in my approach to the exams and my results.

I would like to conclude by honing in on two of the most important take home messages of this blog: firstly, do not be the type of person to stop yourself from doing things you love because you fear the consequences. Secondly, enjoy the process of learning; do not waste your energy stressing so much about the exams that you forget to enjoy the process of learning.

I want to take this opportunity to tell everyone that with the right mind-set you can explore multiple avenues all at the same time and succeed in it as well. I have one more year of university left. I can assure you that I will not stop learning and I will not stop dancing. Every problem I face, I will take as a challenge to help myself grow further.