21 things I have learned in 2021

Nevertheless, I am going to list random things down now, and there will be twenty-one bullet points, so I shall not have lied.

  • I’m rubbish at household chores. This isn’t even indicative of my abilities to maintain habits of doing chores, this is about my skill level at them. I just can’t do chores well. I genuinely think I just push grease around when I do the dishes, I move dust from one point in the room to another when I do the dusting, and I exercise my arms in vain when I clean the floors. I do not even have the gorgeous biceps to show for it. I do have one arm adorned in permanent artwork though, so I am fine with it.
  • I survived needles without needing to cry to mum about it every time. That’s three doses of covid vaccines, one dose of flu vaccine, one nostril piercing, and two tattoos. And none of them hurt as much as the sodding speculum.
  • I would like my room to resemble the aesthetic cave of a student of classical antiquity in Renaissance Florence or 60s Oxford. It doesn’t change the fact that I live in rental properties with mostly rubbish lighting. Also it seems to involve a bunch of antiques as far as household items go, and personally I’m not that good at haggling to do decent bargains in the antiques store. Additionally, I cannot hoard things, because I have the mental block that my life has to genuinely fit in two suitcases. In such situations, decorative household items turn into extraneous objects of sheer vanity.
  • I did love history all along. This is a difficult one. There’s an argument to be made that it is inherently a conservative thought process to dwell incessantly on the past because there is a level of romanticisation you have to do to find it fascinating. That’s not an accusation that has ever been levelled at me before. But moral quandaries aside, I spent my school years telling anyone who wanted to know – and I am Bengali so everyone wanted to know – that I found history and geography and all things humanities so very tiresome. It’s not entirely untrue, I was poor in geography, which meant that I automatically disliked it, the way little boys feel about mathematics. I was good at school level physics, so I was fond of it. I was convinced that I was going to be a proper fiction writer, so I had no qualms telling people that English was my favourite subject. But history genuinely drew a short straw here. I was pretty good at it, I could construct narratives with relative ease, I had a decent enough memory so history wasn’t a subject I struggled with at all. But it seemed a bit unfashionable in my circles to claim that I liked it. So I have pretended, for about a decade now, that when I finished studying history (which was a decade ago now) I felt a sense of relief. “Good riddance”, I would say to the enraptured audience of relatives lapping up my fawning over the “science” subjects, “I no longer have to read about random dates and wars, ugh”. Now I feel comfortable saying, “I like those random dates and wars, and will totally discuss the Peloponnesian War with anyone interested”.
  • I like fantasy! This statement isn’t a surprise to people who know my reading and viewing tastes, I suppose, but I have had a mental block that constantly told me that science fiction and fantasy were not high literature and that my reading habits weren’t objectively “worthy of respect” unless I was reading non-fiction exclusively, after a certain age (twenty, say). I don’t believe I am going to win an argument regarding this, because I have seen where these conversations can go, yes I’m on the internet as well. But while my reading habits were unequivocally encouraged when I was a child, the sense that you’re meant to no longer read, say, Tolkien and Terry Pratchett and Ursula K Le Guin after an age was also instilled in my subconscious. I find that fantasy is a brilliant vehicle to convey real-world philosophies and principles, that Tolkien and CS Lewis can teach you more about philology and religion than you think, and that if you’re like me, you’ll read or watch something (say BBC Merlin), find it fascinating, and then read up everything that has ever been written tangential to the topic. Yes, I have read actual academic papers on Arthurian legends, their cultural, political, and literary impact, and what we understand of their historical provenance. Don’t dismiss something merely because it has rubber snakes or CGI dragons or imaginary creature of your choice.
  • A hair dryer is a good investment for winter. This one seems self-explanatory.
  • I run out of hand cream much less than I think so I need to stop buying hand cream. Actually I need to stop buying moisturisers and eye creams and lotions and potions overall – I have too much of this stuff. So guess who’s doing a skincare and makeup no-buy in 2022? Yes, this girl.
  • I miss writing. And I miss drawing. And I miss the structures that made me do these things, like the art classes on Sunday afternoons and the essays in English exams.
  • I realised that my friends are in the same boat as I, as far as having deeply complicated feelings towards our educational background is concerned. Some of us are more charitable towards the institution concerned than others, and that is reflective of the diversity in the experiences that we all had. We’re also decently unsure of what we are doing in life, and mostly struggle with any sort of satisfaction in “work” per se.
  • I am genuinely more comfortable in putting my friends in clear groups in my head now. There’s one lad who is very often my emotional anchor, he is the one I will reach out to in times of strife and I find it easiest to pick up with him irrespective of how much time has passed since we last spoke. I do not know if he reciprocates. I just find it easy to be his friend. There’s the second group – my old school group – with whom it is ridiculously easy to be friends with. There’s very little expectation or judgment in that circle. And the effort everyone puts in to be a friend to each other in there is frankly extraordinary. They’re the human company equivalent of putting on my favourite pair of boots, my favourite perfume, my favourite album, and walking by the Serpentine. I treasure them. There’s the third (and final) layer, who are people I met in university. They’re not my emotional confidantes and indeed have never been so. I find my relationship with them harder to maintain because there seems to be more of an expectation on both sides of it, but they’re always good fun in person and generous in their affections. They are the people I had the most substantial growth with, in years when my mental health was in tatters. My department was very good at having fun. I find that years later, when you put us all in the same room, we’re still very good at having fun. Then there’s Farheen, I suppose, and she’s surprisingly more like my old uni friends than you’d think. She slips in and out of my life, like a song that you listen to repeatedly and then it just never comes up on the radio again. But then when it plays on some random evening, your mood is lifted and you are the happiest you have been in years.
  • I keep falling into a coffee habit if I am physically in the office. I had genuinely quit, then I went back to the office and was down the slippery slope again.
  • I have too many bags. I just counted them. It’s absurd and I do not need that many bags in my life. They won’t fit in my two suitcases. No buy for bags in 2022.
  • I wear shoes till they fall apart. Surprisingly, I used to think I had a problem with buying too many shoes. I no longer think I do. I wear my shoes to death, I wear them till the sole is but a rubbery slither that hurts my foot. And then I mourn them.
  • I am a sucker for the broken boy on telly. Yes. I know. It’s the worst trap to fall into but they are beautiful and I love them. And yes, my type continues to be the skinny, tall, bespectacled nerd. Watch this space as I go beyond that to date someone who likes leather jackets and tattoos and piercings as much as I do.
  • I do like the colour black. And while glittery, colourful outfits are fun, they do feel like costumes on me. I feel that I am one year away from pulling a Neil Gaiman and only ever wearing black. Note that he did this in late twenties as well, I have photographic evidence of a Neil Gaiman in the mid 80s in not black clothes at the Milford Writing Retreat.
  • I don’t appreciate being talked to like you’re criticising the plot motivations of a written character. And I don’t appreciate being the victim of someone else having a moment and lashing out at me. We’ve all been there at eighteen. There are people who have levied personal criticism at me that are less “oi that was uncalled for” and more generic “this is a hypothetical character flaw that makes your narrative unsatisfactory”. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a rubbish time, but I won’t engage with it anymore. I’m not a very good emotional support retriever, and I’m not here to be anyone’s trauma-dump friend except for Shobbo’s. He’s gonna hate me for this, cause he very rarely does trauma-dump on me, and I love him for it. I’d accept it from him though.
  • I wish my childhood friends were happier. I think one of the biggest realisations I had was that they were more unhappy in life than I had thought. I wish this wasn’t the case. I find myself emotionally invested in it in a way I don’t find myself caring about everyone else’s wellbeing. The rest of the world, sure, I’d like it if people just were doing better. But my childhood friends always seemed so lighthearted as, well, as children, that it hurts me to see them bogged down by adulthood the way I have been. I actually never equated my school friends with fire so the analogy of fires being dimmed doesn’t work here. Airy. That’s what they were. And now they seem weighed down. And that’s not cool.
  • I still do not know what writer’s block is. Do you see me rambling here? Are you still even reading this nonsense?
  • I miss having a writing desk. I miss the space for notebooks and books, the reading lamp, the space for fountain pens, the cushy chair, whether it be the one in Calcutta or the spinny one in Nottingham.
  • I need to set better boundaries with people. Without getting too much into it, it seems that I give off the air of more things in my life being up for discussion or criticism. This seems to include everything from where I go to how I engage with things on bloody social media. It’s not. And I may have given off an air of allowing such conversation by being too approachable online. So there’s a resolution to work on from, well, tomorrow.
  • I enjoy video calls with the friends I want to have video calls with. I gain massively by turning up at events and things, photography exhibitions and podcast festivals, RPG cons and the pub after work. I like to socialise. I look forward to doing more of it next year. And I look forward to putting more words on paper about it all as well.

Happy new year, readers. Have a good one.

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