A few thoughts on what is essential.
I recently watched a YouTube video by Pick Up Limes where they talk about minimalism and essentialism. The crux of the video is that instead of getting rid of things, owning the minimum amount of items, or having the least amount of commitments, it would be better to have a list of items and then prioritize them. That sounds so simple. You list things you wish to do and then prioritize a few of them and work towards them. That is more efficient and meaningful than spending too much time narrowing down the list or saying yes to everything.
In an ideal world, that is how it would be. Considering the chaos in my life, I don’t think it would work for me, however. There are so many things I wish to do correctly. I hope to do well in academics and write essays regularly. I wish to publish new issues in this newsletter every two weeks and have a stable relationship. I want to be a great brother to my younger sister while helping out my mom whenever possible. On top of that, I strive to cook excellent meals to stay alive to do all that.
There are so many things that I wish to do, and I cannot possibly rank them. My sister means the world to me, and so does my girlfriend. The fact that I am 4 hours and 30 minutes behind their timezone does not help either. When mom needed help, I would drop everything in the world to help her. The same goes for other things. However nerdy it may sound, I care deeply about academics and wish to be an academic someday. So, if I were to rank each of these — sister, girlfriend, mom, academics, writing, and food. They would all end up within the same rank or at least in the list of top three things that matter to me most right now.
Many videos and articles talk about how to prioritize things, but none are helpful in my case because they are all “essential.” I depend on people in my life for emotional stability and happiness. One cannot survive without food, and what would my kids say if I had awful grades in college? I wish there were a guidebook discussing How to do life the right way. These things keep me up at night, 5500 km away from home. Video calling friends and family help on most days, but there are days when the mind overthinks, and I cannot do anything about it.
Growing up, I constantly clashed with my parents over how protective they were of me. I wished they had let me loose so I could do whatever I wanted. Weirdly, I now find myself acting very protective of the people close to me. I tell them what to do and how they might do it. In my mind, that is supposed to help them avoid the same mistakes I made. It does not take very long to realize how hypocritical that is of me. I wonder if that makes me a terrible person. I vowed I’d act differently than my parents when I grew up. It’s funny because I find myself increasingly turning like them.
My parents and other people close to me lied about certain things for my well-being. I never learned about some things, and maybe I won’t find out ever. But, when I found out about certain other things, it altered my worldview. It is as if we lived in this shiny castle, but the moment I learned the truth, the castle collapsed. We moved out and continued living in this newer lesser shiny castle, but my worldview changed forever. This has happened to me more than once. More often than not, I cried night after night, eventually coming to terms with reality and embracing the beautiful uncertainty of life. The newer castle is less shiny but also brings its inhabitants closer because you feel like you know a lot more now until you realize you don’t.
I wish I could hold their hands, look into their eyes and say, “No, I don’t want to live in the shiny castle; I am happy living in a lesser attractive space and knowing all facts. Please be honest to me.” In all fairness, I would probably do the same if I were the one who gets to build these castles. Most people are caught up in making these massive castles without recognizing the beauty of human life. The uncertainty of life, amalgamated with the web of lies that we tell our loved ones, means we get a genuinely chaotic world. I’m amazed at how anyone finds order within such a world. If you think this 23-year-old is cooking up too many thoughts, wait until you get to the next paragraph. Read on.
In a recent podcast, Hasan Minhaj talked about the beauty of life — why it is beautiful and how no matter how advanced technology gets, it won’t be able to mimic real life. That struck me because I always told my friends I was not too fond of uncertainty. Maybe I had it wrong; life is beautiful because I do not know what tomorrow holds. I don’t necessarily need to end every conversation like it is our last conversation. (Although, I do this sometimes.) Still, I appreciate all the people I have close to me and the privileges I possess. I know any or all of them can cease to exist tomorrow. I am not very religious, but I pray earnestly that this does not happen.
It is sometimes mind-boggling to think about everything. I know some events can happen because of me, and then there are events I have no control over. I control whom I love, what I like about them, and what I do not like. I have absolutely zero say in whether or not they love me in return. I cannot do anything if they decide to take a U-turn and say we’re done. That is so terrifying — I would love to know for sure in this case. However, it also means that I can have things way worse. If I knew everything, I wouldn't try to please them. They would not try to impress me because they knew whether or not I liked them. It would be such a mundane life.
So, yes, human life is beautifully tragic this way. Are there better ways? Maybe there are, but I won’t want to change much about my current life. I know there is a place for me in this world — where some things are in my control while others are not. I hope that also means that eventually, I get to experience everything without knowing when or where life events will take place.
Sometimes you feel like someone is stepping on your chest — you feel the loss of air, a bland feeling in your mouth, and everything you believed collapsing like that castles I told you about. I am going through that as I write these words. It does not happen often, but when they do, the feelings come and go quickly. Writing in this newsletter makes my head feel lighter, lifting that weight off my chest, and it clears my mind. It means a lot to me if you read until this point. I hope you have a great day, and I hope you are happy in life. Until next time. 👋
— Debashish Reang