Apr 23, 2023
I just turned 27. It feels like a strange middle point. Approaching 25 felt like driving headlong into a wall, and I have no doubt that approaching 30 would feel similar. But 27 feels like a liminal space, a slowdown in the hourglass.
I've been a lot more reflective these past months, which means nuggets of wisdom have finally found their way to the surface of my consciousness. These are 27 select nuggets about life, the universe and everything else that I wanted to document on here.
If something makes you nervous or uncomfortable, that's even more reason to do it. It's a sign that some fabricated upper limit, somewhere, is begging to be shattered.
Do more things for people that make them feel seen and loved. Doing something for someone feels much, much better when a. they don't expect it, b. you don't expect anything in return, and c. read B once again.
Being rich, famous and published isn't the only model of influence — being quiet, persistent and genuine can be, too. Just as my own intellectual DNA is shaped by the writings of others, so will others borrow for themselves ideas they first heard in my voice. As George Eliot says of Dorothea at the end of Middlemarch, “the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts". In that spirit, here's the original influence for this lesson.
Even the most prolific over-sharers are revealing perhaps only 1% of their life (a sizeable percentage being, obviously, unknown to them as well). Be kind and judge less.
You're more in control of your life and outcomes than you think. Often, all it takes to break out of victim mentality is a literal hard shake of the self and a stern "no".
Regrets are resolutions. When you know what you wish you had done, you shouldn't pass up the next chance to do it.
There will be days that feel like the ninth circle of hell. And then there will be days where you just can't believe how complete, how wholesome a life you've built with the cards you've been dealt. Deal with the heat for the warmth of the sun you'll think of during winters.
Take yourself less seriously. Laugh louder and often, don't hide your teeth behind your hand. Let yourself be ridiculous, and don't think about it at 3AM when sleep is ghosting you. You're important, but you're not that important.
Sometimes, it is literally impossible for you to understand the gravity of a situation until you experience its consequences. You will inevitably fuck up. Experience is the comb life gives you when you've gone bald.
Jump down every. single. rabbithole. Until not very long ago, there was only one way to get information, Now there's a million. Use the shit out of them all. Take the same approach with the people around you. Question them relentlessly, get them to wax lyrical about the things they love.
Aim not for 100% perfect systems, but for 80%. Chances are you'll use the second type more frequently than the first. This applies to project trackers, travel planners, desk organisers, esoteric book shelving systems, the lot. Aim for usability, not for perfection.
Pay closer attention to your mother's Kannada proverbs. There's one for every situation under the sun, and they'll come in very handy someday.
Make serendipity your recommendation engine, not an algorithm written by engineers in a back room on the other side of the world. If all the art you "choose from" is from a predetermined list, you're neutering your sense of agency and the potential of art to take us way beyond who we currently are.
Take more pictures and videos. Blurry ones, candid ones, deranged-smile-and-scrunched-up-eyes ones. In the last year, you've gone back and smiled at these ones more than anything else on your camera roll. And while you're at it, resist the pull of social validation — don't post them anywhere.
Hold your parents' hands more often. Even when they don't ask for it. Especially when they don't ask for it.
Expand and examine your understanding of self-care. It rarely ever is wine and a face mask after a long night. It is: snotty cries in bed following a revealing therapy session, a comfortable silence while you borrow the warmth of your S/O, a day of arduous cleaning after a period of sadness, an hour with yourself and your favourite book, a sharp mental slap to shake you out of a downward spiral.
On that note: many, if not most, inherently human triumphs are invisible, unsexy, and deeply personal. Inner work is impossible to describe to others and almost always goes unrewarded because it is not monumental in the conventional sense. It could be going from 0 → 1 or 0 → -1 → 0 → 1. But it is the thread that holds the precious tapestry of your life together. Society assesses people by what their lives produce, and not the work that goes into living that life. Screw 'em.
Know when to stop. Know your personal range of tolerance like the back of your hand, and stop when you're at 80%. Apply this to anything that, in surplus, becomes bad for you.
Focus not on what makes you famous, but what makes you interesting. Engage all the senses you have available. Read, think, taste, listen, talk, feel. Cultivate a rich inner life.
If you have a special skill, a particular Zone of Genius, don't stray too far away from it. You'll feel regretful, lost, disillusioned. Even if you have to focus on something else for a time, keep yourself tethered to this skill in some manner. Nourish it when you can, keep that flame alive. At some point, after all the gallivanting, experimenting and getting caught up in capitalistic waves, you'll want something truly you to come back to.
Go on side quests. Talk to the bartender or the rickshaw driver, go on that long drive, steal a surprise into every mundane day.
Virginia Woolf knew what she was saying when she said "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." And when she said "When a subject is highly controversial, one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold."
Unclench your body. Relax your shoulders, drop your chin, uncross your legs, loosen them. Do this at least five times every day.
At many junctures in life, you'll find that your ambition outstrips your talent and skill by a laughable amount. Whatever you do, don't make a U-turn or take a diversion solely for that reason. Take it as yet another display of your taste, and then put in the work.
Speaking of putting in the work: everything needs effort. Being at work needs effort. Being at rest needs effort. Being alone needs effort. Being in a relationship needs effort. Achieving your dreams needs effort. Being content needs effort. The question that begs answering isn't "should I put in the effort or not?" It's "what, ultimately, is worthy of my effort?"
Control is an illusion. Surrender is the truth. Through an intimate knowledge of vulnerability, you grow.
Focus on the big-money decisions, the ones that are often less showy but more long-term. If you can, get yourself a financial advisor who can tell you where to put how much money and for how long. Do not, for the love of God, sleep on the wonders of compounding returns.
Having renewed my lease on this planet for another year, and with all my little lessons and tricks in my back pocket, I am excited to move into this new age.
I'd love to know if any of these resonated with you, in the comments below.