I recently wrote about battling anxiety and depression. After four months, writing about something uncomfortable yet close to my heart seems partly easier now. My last article helped me engage with an audience going through something similar. It’s remarkable how much we can uncover about each other’s inner worlds simply by communicating.

That article shed light on how my life transitioned from one horrid experience to another, how life kept pushing and pushing, each time scraping a larger piece of my elbow and knees, and yet ultimately made me resilient enough to stand back up. Each time, I grew more resilient. Moving from one trouble to the next, I built up ounces of resilience as I walked through these challenges, slowly attempting to fight back and stand back up.

While attempting to stand back up, I grasped a few outstretched hands reaching towards me, taking slow, hesitant steps, trembling feet, and grasping with anxiety, reflecting on the looming possibility of failure. Slowly starting to walk, looking up, I realised I could walk and wasn’t alone. Others walked alongside — some ahead, some behind — each with their own stories and struggles.

Now, looking around, I see a few familiar faces looking back at me with their eyes glazed in anticipation. Some walk along the same lines that I am in. Some ahead of me. Some seek validation for their achievements, while others yearn for reassurance in their uncertainties. They acknowledge their missteps, their gaze carrying the weight of a million untold stories — apologetic yet determined to make amends. Walking beside me, expecting me to hold their hands and help them forward, mirroring the same help I received. Some just wanted to talk, wanting me to be there and listen and not judge. To be there for them. That’s all it took. Others, too tired to take the next step, wanted to change lanes and ask for help.

As we walk alongside each other, this eerie feeling of “this happened to me” surrounds us. I realised that our lives were not a lot different from each other. All of us walking together are equally in debt, although with separate issues, but we are there together. Talking and sharing stories with each other helped me scratch the surface of the walls, looking behind them, uncovering the unsettling darkness within them. There are these walls we construct in our lives and not look behind. The walls that we build to protect ourselves from the world.

In a world teeming with activity, it’s apparent that everyone, everywhere, is grappling with their own set of challenges. Life has universally become a struggle. Some speak about the job market being messed up, some about the house prices soaring through the roofs of lighthouses, some about how finances are becoming more stressful, and some about how capitalism is at its peak: the rich get richer.

Amidst the bustling cityscape, forging genuine connections feels like an insurmountable feat. The ones you want to talk to are in a different city, timezone, or space altogether. They are not available anymore. Those promises we made while leaving school and college, promises to stay in touch, meet, and gossip, were all mere promises: sweet and generous lies we told ourselves. We moved on and learnt to live without each other. The family has done its part. Exploring what you are passionate about and an unwilling expenditure in a delusional “life” in the work-life balance are eating you up from the inside, and our mere existence is morbid. We grapple with our internal demons, navigating the labyrinth of our minds where uncertainty rules. The inevitable challenge now becomes wrestling with the monsters that inhabit your grey space. Welcome to the daunting realm of adulthood!

Amid this darkness, empathy proved to be a beacon of light. With a myriad of challenges weighing me down — financial issues, work-life balance, having to find new work, living alone, grappling with the increase in weight, being unable to make friends, breaking up, and what else not, empathy that I received was my knight in shining armour.

I turn twenty-four today. Life has been gradually improving for quite some time now, ushering in a subtle calmness with each day. The days are still a blur of monotonous routines, the nights, a routine of napping and with nothing to-dos, but I find myself more at peace with the world. Each morning, I awaken with a sense of purpose, eagerly planning my day and contemplating the possibilities lying ahead. I settled into a new workplace, made new friends, and realised that the trials I faced were not mine alone. Through heartfelt conversations, I discovered that others were navigating similar storms.

I made my friends read my article about all these issues I had been going through. They loved it and shared feedback. They rooted for me as if I were the main character. They wanted to help. They shared their stories and showed me different perspectives. I realised the world works differently for each individual. Speaking to them helped me understand that it is okay and that it happens. One colleague confided in me about experiencing imposter syndrome, a sentiment I wrestled with. She said she also thinks she somehow got this job. Another friend said that he went through a similar breakup process. It’s uplifting to see connections with friends and colleagues becoming meaningful experiences.

One friend said he had been looking to join a gym for a long time, while another wanted a badminton buddy, just like me. Some wanted to go on trips, and some wanted to hang out after the office, have a beer and talk about day-to-day life. Another friend from my previous company wanted help and said it had become too much for him, and he needed an escape. Grappling with job switching and confiding his issues in me helped him discover new insights. Some of my juniors reached out for help, and we started working together on projects to improve our collective knowledge. Talking to people, sharing my problems, listening to theirs, collectively trying to come up with solutions, and being involved in others’ lives brought a sense of fulfilment.

There are still a lot of things on my list. Now, I find it easier to tick them off one by one. I resumed playing the guitar. I planned and went on new trips with my family, tried out river rafting with my mom and sister, and visited deserts, mountains, and beaches. I resumed my coding community, made new friends, and got busy. I got to know that I am not the only one who is unsatisfied with his cook. I am not the only one who is looking for a better apartment. We chat about our short stories, lives, and places we come from. Talking about these million things started lifting me up. I didn’t plan on doing that. It just happened.

I now find joy in the simple pleasures; having a hearty breakfast, coaxing colleagues into joining me for fancy lunches, and persuading friends to hang out and spend an evening of fun before settling into bed, weary but fulfilled. An evening stroll, working from the cafe, catching the latest movies with friends and colleagues, attending stand-up, and trying out new beer breweries, gin joints and pubs before I go to bed became the daily norm. I started hanging out often. We spend most of our lunches outside. Time passes by, and we don’t even notice. Amidst it all, I find solace in the conversations and connections made along the way. Together, we navigate life’s ups and downs, finding support in each other’s company.

These conversations transcended the mundane, offering glimpses into each other’s lives, dreams, and struggles. As we shared our stories, I found solace that my experiences were not unique. We laughed, commiserated, and dreamed, finding comfort in our shared humanity. Visualising lives from another perspective helps us remarkably. Empathy reigns, and we look to live another day more resilient, looking forward to sharing our stories, breaking bread, and gulping beer cans with each other as we engross in laughter and mutual connection.

We are all stuck here. You might be on the further end of the scale than I am right now. But both of us are here. If I could walk downstairs, you could too. Talk to people, share, watch movies, read stories, get lost in a million other worlds, and come up with something to do about your issues. In the end, it all becomes an act of letting go. Trying to get back up, holding hands and walking together. It took me some time to figure this out; you take the sourest lemon life has to offer and turn it into something resembling Lemonade. Share it among others; live, try, and help live. Build memories. After all, that’s all we are, really. Memories.

parakeet king

- the evildoer
undersigned