Travelling Solo for all these years has taught me something very critical to today’s day and age of Social Media and the undeniable need to look perfect.
When we travel alone, and are in trouble, the first step to getting out of it is to talk.. talk to someone about it and then ask.. ask for help. Something so basic in words; and yet the hardest to implement in our real lives. And mostly for 2 reasons.. fear of being judged as weak and vulnerable and then becoming gossip among the unhealthy (what will people say?)
I normally don’t share my personal life or personal experiences…. Well not if they aren’t related to my travels. But this wasn’t Travel… I was moving!
When I told my family and friends that Suraj got a job in Dubai, I don’t think I had quite decided how to feel about it still… I don’t think I can still describe or term it! But everyone seemed so overjoyed that I assumed I was supposed to be gleeful. I was… I was very happy that finally after decades of being with each other, Suraj and I would finally get to live together. That he won’t be sailing and away from me for months at a stretch. It was exactly what he needed and deserved. I am very proud of him. But this wasn’t Travel… I was moving!
So I celebrated, had a week long farewell from all my friends, friends who had become more than family to me over the years while Suraj was away. They were all happy! My entire family was over-joyed too. Though it was dawning on them that I was going away.. away! That I would now be an international call and hundreds of miles away. I didn’t even speak to my sister… I think… I just didn’t wanna hear how she felt… I didn’t even know how I was feeling and yet I didn’t want to be disappointed on how she expressed. I’ve always held her at a pedestal. She had to be right and above all she was supposed to know what I needed to hear. I’ve always been unfair to her.
There were days and nights Suraj and I would be discussing what our lives would be like and how we would make the best of each day. Ours was a long distance marriage and we had kind of adjusted to it by now. But the opportunity to really live as husband and wife together everyday was very very exciting to us. We talked about how his days would be busy and we would do dinner and movie dates over the weekend or catch up with friends. This may sound very obvious to most of you but you see Suraj was in the Merchant Navy, so when he was home… all days were like a weekend for us. We had no routine or alarm clocks, just honeymooners!
In my quiet moments, I would try to figure out how I felt and found myself welling with tears each time. Mostly it was because I had been ummm.. inadequate at handling my Mom’s news of Breast Cancer, even though it was caught at a very initial stage… and we all knew for sure everything was going to be ok.. I wasn’t ok… I just wasn’t and I did try to be strong for her but had failed miserably. I didn’t wanna leave her now. I would get up non-chalantly and sleep walk to my favorite spot in the living room, sip my tea while I’d be checking my phone… and tears would fall from my eyes. Silly things of my mundane routine suddenly seemed so important and relevant. This wasn’t travel… I was moving! And I wasn’t OK.
I did try to share my confused state with a few, but it was like they were already ready with the band-aid “But you and Suraj will finally be together”. How can anyone express that they can be equally happy and devastated at the same time?? Yes for Suraj I was.. I was and am very happy. For us, I was and am very happy. But for me… This wasn’t like the 7 week long trips I made or the times that I even worked across the globe for years. This wasn’t Travel… I was moving!
I was leaving everything that was family, familiar and forbearing. I wasn’t OK.
I was finally leaving. Mom broke down for hours, I cried harder. It physically killed me to empty each drawer out while packing and leaving all the small pretty things behind which had made my house a home. I left my magnets on the fridge and packed only 2 of our photo frames. My friends, almost the dirty dozen came to bid farewell to me at the airport.. some shed a tear in corners, others just hugged indefinitely making promises to come to me soon.
At the airport I made the hardest call. I called my sister.. and as always… she was perfect. It may sound sadistic, but I needed to hear her cry for me. We both barely said a word to each other.. we cried! I had sat in that lounge so many times before at the International Airport.. always… only excited about my next adventure. But… This wasn’t travel.. I was moving!
In the flight.. I was blank! I honestly don’t recall that flight at all.
When I landed at the airport… and saw Suraj, waiting for me with a flower in his hand… I knew it! I knew life was going to be ok as long as he was by my side. And now he was going to be there for me always and forever! I smiled, called ma, shed just a couple of tears and we were on our way with our favorite date drug… chocolate croissant and a cappuccino!
His company had given us a nice large hotel apartment till the end of the month and I loved it! We both kept saying “Here’s to new beginnings” to each other every time we cheered our glasses. It was a weekend when I came here to Dubai, and even though I should have made the best of our time together, I was just so mentally and physically fatigued that I slept for a whole day at a stretch. The ones who know me… know I barely sleep for 5-6 hours a day… now I’d slept for almost 24 hours and still wasn’t fresh. Till date I can’t figure out what had happened to me.
Then came the moment of truth! He left for work the next day. Once I shut the door behind him… I just stood still. Still. I was blank. What was I gonna do all day? I mean in Delhi, I never had to make plans or anything, the day just always unfolded and everyday was full of excitement cause I just knew so so many people and work was booming. I was a somebody to so many people at home; and even though I had some friends here, this wasn’t like Delhi where not everybody was working or bringing up their families. People here had a hard life and routine going on. Many of our friends did make time for us and helped us a great deal, but… I was left feeling thankful… A feeling I had become unfamiliar with at home. I was never thankful to any of the people I met or who made time for me cause…. cause (and I say this hoping I won’t sound pompous) I was spoilt and showered with love. Here…. I just knew 4-5 people and only 1 of them was somebody I could expect anything from. My best friend from college; Sandy. The only one who I didn’t feel was doing me a favour when he made time for me. No, no, it wasn’t what anyone made me feel like… it was just how I was feeling. Solomon, one of Suraj’s friend, for example was our best guide in terms of everything we needed to know about paperwork and more and had his home doors open for us with amazing home cooked food always. And yet I, I always felt obliged. You see at home, us driving our friends to corners to the world was totally normal for us.. but here .. here we were new and didn’t have a car yet, so I (I stress on ‘I’ cause it was only how I felt) always felt grateful. Being the independent woman I was.. and still am… I wasn’t ok with feeling obliged.
I think at my age, change was just harder to accept. We had struggled and worked hard for many years to have a comfortable life and this was like having to struggle again. And, since everyone was already so happy about us, I wasn’t able to pick up the phone and talk to anyone and say “I was lost”
Do you know how it feels like.. when your mind is telling you exactly what to do and you JUST can’t get your body to do it.. That was me. Being alone all day, in a hotel room, with nothing productive to do… I wanted to write. I sat on my laptop and tried hard… I couldn’t write. I would miss my spot in my home and the constant service of Green tea or wine while I tapped my fingers away and not be able to write. I had hit a wall. I could have called friends and made plans for Karwachauth and I didn’t. Yes I own my mistake. But in my head… I was in denial I think. You see the problem with having amazing friends is… your plans just get made and someone is always there for you and you miss them so so goddammm much. But I had figured that we needed to plan Diwali better and do a proper Pooja somewhere. Couldn’t have done that in the hotel room!
So I started calling people I knew. It was hard! Hard for me to ask them what they were doing for Diwali and request if we could join. But obviously everyone had plans.. And after the third phonecall… I remember I hadn’t cried so loud and hard all alone ever. Ever. Here I was, new in a city, away from family and friends, asking people to let us join their Diwali celebration and couldn’t cause (and obviously I understand) they already had plans. I think I had hit rock bottom that day. I stopped crying in sometime and continued to make calls to the rest and finally found an old neighbor who had also recently moved and wanted us to join their Pooja. At home it used to be a mental scene. I missed home. I was officially home sick.
Looking for a house gave me something to do through the day, but we.. we had it hard. Not the process but the hunt. We didn’t have a car and walking, in the heat for hours took a toll on us. We both never said a word to each other but would always look at each other encouragingly, which gave us strength. We finally got us a perfect apartment right next to Suraj’s office which meant he could be home with me for lunch everyday. These were the small joys of our lives and I was so happy that instead of 9 hours away, it would be much easier now. And it did get better.
It’s been getting better!
And the first step to things getting better was to say these words out loud to myself “I’m not OK and that’s perfectly OK”. To accept and then to correct. When anyone would ask me how it was going, I started saying that Dubai was great but I was home sick and lost. Trust me everytime I said it, somehow I felt lighter.. like I was removing negativity from inside me sliver by sliver. I talked about it and I heard most people show surprise. Surprise on how easy it was for me to share the “unhappy” in a society where social media forces us to show only our “happy” and yet every single one of them said it was normal and gave various suggestions on how to get back on my horse. I think we don’t share our “unhappy” cause we think people will judge us and think we are weak in some way. Well some might.. and they would be wrong but most of the people are nice and wonderful and supportive.. you can find angels even in strangers if you open your heart. Figure out who to embrace and who to ignore. But talk about it…
It’s perfectly OK not to be OK!
I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s like being stuck in a Bigg Boss house where all your emotions become magnified. From all the grey emotions of the unfamiliar and quitting complacency to the small joys of being a doting wife who can pick out what to wear for her man and enjoy him devour a simple home cooked meal. I love how he shares his day and how he serves me tea in bed. I’m beginning to make new friends and be the one to offer the first hand.
Still Learning. Still Unlearning.
Still Clinging. Still Beginning to let go.
Still getting there and Smack in the middle of nowhere!
And most importantly I’m perfectly OK with not being OK sometimes.