I love my family. I love the family I chose – my friends. I love my motherland. I love traveling. I love reading. I love technology. I love my hometown. I love Manchester United. I love books.
I wrote the above paragraph without taking a pause. I didn’t think. I didn’t want to wait for my brain to catch up on what I was doing. I didn’t want to shut it down. For years, I wanted to write something. (Check when I started this site. That should give you a glimpse). 12 hours later, I wrote the second paragraph. Even before I wrote it, I kept looking at my bookshelf – specifically the bottom shelf.
After distractedly staring at the shelf for around 20 odd minutes, I realized what I was doing. I didn’t write, read, walk around, or open my phone (I KNOW) for the whole duration. I just stared. When I finally “saw” what I was staring at, I knew what I wanted to write about. My Bottom shelf and the special kind of books it holds. Yup, I am writing about the shelf that is full of my notebooks that hold everything I’ve scribbled (or haven’t scribbled) over the last 20 years.
The best and the most important part about the books is that they’re empty. That’s right – they are EMPTY. Tens of notebooks sitting on my shelf for years. I’ve moved 13 times across 4 states and 2 continents since I started collecting them. I started it in 2001. I haven’t written down a single thought in them since 2005. I didn’t throw them out either. Or use them to write something other than my thoughts. They stayed there, collecting dust. They remain, to this day, a stark reminder of my superhuman capability to procrastinate writing irrespective of the format, topic, motivation & energy levels, and mental state. it seems that over the last 15 years my mind developed an axiom for writing – nothing public, nothing permanent.
I always wondered about this change. Wondered – and did nothing about it. You see, something fundamentally changed within me when I was 17 that made me recalcitrant about expressing myself aloud even to myself. At some point, I lost my confidence to voice my feelings in “irrevocable” ways. I used irrevocable because it describes a written thought perfectly. Unless it’s destroyed completely, it cannot be revoked. I guess that’s why my ancestors had some many books and libraries even before 6th century AD. Maybe the fact that libraries can be burned down (Alexandria, Nalanda, Takshashila) made them carve our stories into stones. They got razed down too. Even then, it’s hard to forget a written word.
I digressed. It took me 15 years to realize that I went through this change in 2005, one that made me restrict my thoughts, ideas and feelings to the back of my brain than confiding in a book. Looking back, I think that was the time I started losing my opinions, accountability, confidence and discipline. My subconscious, however, knew that I was slacking. It made me preserve notebooks as a reminder that I can ignore but not dismiss it altogether.
This coronavirus pandemic is the reason I am writing about this today. In fact, it is the reason why I am writing in the first place. It held a mirror to the privileges in a way nothing did since 2005. It took away most of the things I spent my time on – friends, traveling, live sports, outdoor activities, etc – and limited my circle of influence by such a magnitude I was forced to for new things. Despte reading ~20 books, I had enough time left on my hands that I could spend thinking what I wanted to do. I could actually spend time on my personal growth even though there was a pandemic raging in the world. How many people you know have such few responsibilities and concerns in 2020? If this isn’t privilege, I don’t know what is.
I don’t know if I should be happy or sad about this. I don’t know if I should feel ashamed for not having a skill to contribute during a crisis or grateful that I remain unaffected. I don’t know if I should be elated that I am finally working on something I procrastinated for 2.5 years or feel sheepish that it took a pandemic to get me doing so. All I know is I am finally filling those special books that have been patiently waiting for me to get off my butt and do something about them. I think they would be happy that they’re fulfilling their purpose. What do you think?
AN: I have rambled on this post with little regard to rhyme or rhythm. I guess I wanted to let my thoughts flow unfettered and free before I fall back into my habit of stifling them. Or it is a representation of my chaotic brain. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment if you can. Thank you.