I can’t go back to who I was before 2021. And here’s why!

  1. I got COVID and it was a long haul as they say: The dreadful delta variant got me in May 2021 and honestly the term ‘mild’ is quite misleading and a misfit when it comes to what the virus does. I was in a long haul for about 3 months post recovery and it was no joke. I had cognitive impairment, chronic fatigue, loss of memory, weight, hair etc and intense mental health issues. I started feeling myself back again in September, but it took a whole new reconfiguration of my body, mind, emotions and energy.
  2. I decided to remove meaningless ‘sorries’ from my life: I realised how misaligned the placement of the word ‘sorry’ was in my life. My therapy helped me find out how easily and frequently I say sorry to mend and fix certain situations, and how difficult it is for me to say sorry for other situations that demands more of myself. At the beginning, I thought it would be fairly easy to mindfully edit “sorry” from my vocabulary. It was not, but I kept trying. To avoid saying sorry for delayed email response or text messages or calls, for being caught up in life events, for missing in action, for quick-fixing a fight to save a relationship etc. I started keeping time, space and meaning for ‘real’ sorries, the one that offers me a portal from my mistakes/offence towards amends, growth and transformation.
  3. I started drawing healthy boundaries: I didn’t know healthy boundaries exist in the world. I thought ‘boundaries’ come up when people and situations fail to work through together. I wasn’t entirely wrong but my assumptions and belief systems around boundaries were. I saw them as weakness, anti-social and rude acts in the world. At the same time, I was suffering and failing to make sense of ‘why am I being taken for a ride, why do I let certain people act certain way in my life, why did I allow people to dance on my fences, why is it affecting me’. Most part of therapy in 2021 was about learning boundaries for myself. Boundaries for me, are like a door in the wall — I have the key to open that door — I decide when I want to open, for who all I want to open, how long do I want to open, and most importantly how do I communicate and negotiate about it to people I work with, my family and my friends. Holding boundaries made me honour my own humanity, while holding space for the humanity of others. A healthy boundary is not meant to control other’s behaviours, it is meant to shape our actions to protect our energy from decay – this was life-changing!
  4. I moved towards expression of needs than anticipation and reading minds: I have been a very sensitive and an intuitive child. Intuition has been one of the important tools of my personal adult toolbox. It made me an intuitive family member, romantic partner, friend, coworker and an intuitive leader — which meant that I could feel and read people’s needs and act on them before their expressions. And honestly, it acts as a boon for me to find my place in any group setting. I am also someone who used to expect my loved ones to read my mind and know what I need. But I started feeling this immense pressure post COVID, when my intuitive ability drastically changed and I wasn’t able to make sense of the people and surroundings. I didn’t have the capacity to anticipate, read minds and wait for my loved ones to know what I need. I was in pain and lost. I then tried working on asking people what they need from me and being transparent about my own needs to my loved ones and coworkers. I had one of my biggest breakthroughs. It was awkward, but this skill is now complimenting my personal toolbox :)
  5. I felt deep vulnerability receiving and being cared for: My primary relationship with care and nurturing is being a ‘giver’. In my family and friends settings, I have also occupied that role with lot of love, satisfaction and also power. I have loved ones who take care of me, but I resume my giver role very quickly in situations. This year, with long COVID recovery, grief of losing my last grandparent, strategic and emotional leadership challenges at my organisation, and while making some fundamental life decisions— my body and heart needed love and care like never before. I experienced serious turmoil being dependent on people physically and emotionally, and being at the receiving end. Receiving requires a deep vulnerability that puts us face to face with being loved, seen, witnessed, acknowledged, considered and cared for. I am learning to receive by embracing this vulnerability and trying to figure out what causes the discomfort and distraction.
  6. I said goodbye to some old relationships and welcomed some new ones: If there is one thing that this year has taught me again and again, it is this — as we adult, most relationships (biological and chosen; professional, personal and public) come with a shelf life, some will change and evolve to something new, and only a handful will remain as they were. It’s also important to normalise and treat it as a healthy life event. Some relationships will end, because they no longer serve each other’s needs. Some relationships will end, because they are in different life phases and fail to find enough shared reasons. Some relationships will end, not because of what someone did but because what they or you didn’t do to maintain that connection. I learned the good way and the hard way, how important it is to observe early warning signs of a dying relationship — personally and professionally. The choice still remains if we want to reinvest and reconnect or we want to let it go gracefully. And both are okay based on where we are in our lives. I chose to let some of them go, chose to connect with some in more fulfilling ways and allowed myself to not make decisions this year on some. Last but not least, I made some beautiful and soulful new connections by putting myself out there and trusting my energy field.
  7. I was able to discover the beautiful difference between friendship and camaraderie, that works for me: I am grateful to be surrounded with wide circles of relationships — in my team, in my sector, close and extended family and friends, mentors and coaches and a wide network of acquaintances. Almost 7 years ago, I took up a demanding leadership role and picked a whole a new path for myself, when I decided to build Haiyya into one of its kind organisation, as a founder & CEO . Which meant being a ‘people person’ was kind of my core job and I have found it very fulfilling. Activism, organizing and campaigning is intimate work, it’s hard to differentiate personal, professional and political/public relationships. The work we do, the politics we hold, and our life experiences are so inter-connected where we share deep personal values and stories with one another. The pandemic made me really wonder and ask myself — how do I make sense of so many relationships in my lives that I really care about, and how do I manage my time, emotional energy and commitment to show up for my people authentically. After months of trying to figure this out for myself, I decided to define and simplify two concepts for myself. Friendship to me means ‘a really personal and intimate bond that is chasing the vision of being co-travellers in life; share and support interests, company, life goals, values, respect and love towards each other’. Camaraderie to me means ‘a bond that originated and continues taking its shape and meaning primarily in public work and political spaces. It’s chasing the common purpose of doing something together to change the world’. The key differentiating factor is their origin, how and where the primary interaction happens, and the vision they are chasing. Having said that, there are and will surely be overlaps where some relationships will be both and that’s okay. But this differentiation helped me pencil down and manage my expectations, my needs, my resources, my commitment, and channelise my care and love in the right way to both my friends and comrades; and also protect access to my own energy field.
  8. I now know that I am am not responsible for people’s feelings and they are not responsible for mine: Every emotion of everybody is valid. All of my life I have always oscillated between ‘Only my emotions are important right now’ and ‘Only your emotions are important right now’. One of my strongest beliefs were that other people’s emotions were my responsibility and vice-versa. I struggled a lot to practically burst and change this belief system that I have had my whole life. Every person is responsible for their own emotions, including me. And they are the only person responsible for their emotions. We cannot expect to change how somebody else feels or change how or what they think. The only person who can do that is themselves. I can influence their emotions — for the better or worse — but ultimately, they decide their emotions and behaviour. As soon as I understood this, I saw my relationships differently. In a freer way.
  9. I felt it’s okay to not feel forgiving and grateful to everything and everybody: Pushing any emotion, thinking or decision is unhealthy. Likewise pushing and pressuring yourself to feel forgiveness and gratefulness is also unhealthy. It’s okay to not be feeling them. I felt every moment in 2021 was asking of me to be grateful, and honestly it was exhausting to have this moral obligation. I have experienced different moments in 2021 — when I decided to not forgive and feel grateful, when I felt nothing but indifference on some apologies and gratitudes, when I felt an outpouring of gratitude and also when I decided to work on myself to remove bitterness and find forgiveness. Don’t push it. If you’re not feeling it, your heart is probably telling you something which is important to hear.
  10. It was messy and gratifying to feel, desire and express without guilt and apologies: So much had happened in little and big ways in my life and in the lives of people I love and care for, that I struggled being in constant touch with my feelings and emotions. I experienced ‘numbness’ for a quite a prolonged period of time in 2021. When I started working on getting back in touch with my emotions, I was torn judging myself between ‘good emotions’ and ‘bad emotions’, trying to beat myself into ‘good’ ones and out of ‘bad’ ones. To be able to learn to feel back my emotions, not categorise them into good or bad, trust that every emotion is guiding or protecting me towards something or someone, was a true gift. If I am angry about my parents treating me in a certain way, the inner work is not about ‘stopping’ to feel the anger. The inner work is about speaking with my anger, understanding what I need and then making a decision on what I want to do about fulfilling that need. And this approach made me experience some of the messiest and most gratifying moments of care, love, romance, sex, growth, and laughter.
  11. I practiced to validate and honour my moments of joy and pain, while try to show up for people I care for: I almost felt guilty having moments of joy and successes. Sharing ‘good news’ with my friend, comrades and coworkers felt awkward and sharing ‘bad news’ felt too much when the year was too full of them. I saw myself and my loved ones struggling with the same. I didn’t know how and when to share my joys and happiness, when I know my loved ones are probably in pain or sorrow. I didn’t know how to be there for my loved ones in their moments of celebration, when I am experiencing pain. And it isn’t simple. It took courage, trust and healing to be able to enter a state where I practiced to validate my pain and still be there for people I love; and hope my people will learn and practice the same to show up for me.
  12. I tried giving up perfectionism and stopped chasing authenticity as a thing: I know that my source of being a perfectionist comes from my childhood family trauma, the fear of failing and never being good enough to remove the stigma that’s attached to my family. To give up perfectionism meant to work on my fear and really break it down to its relevance in my current life. I didn’t ditch (trying to) perfectionism to chase the new buzz word ‘authenticity’. I ditched perfectionism because it has locked me in a mental prison for years based on my fears that are no longer relevant. Another pitfall is chasing ‘authenticity’ as a thing. I want to connect, collaborate, learn, trust, commit, show up, offer and receive in most genuine ways — that may lead to me demonstrating authenticity — not the other way round.
  13. I learned to show kindness to parts of my old and current selves that I don’t like: Our mistakes, flaws and imperfections make us human. When I realised and found out about the parts of me(behaviour, traits, patterns) that was keeping me stuck, anxious, locked up and in pain; my instant reaction and response was to shame and pity myself for having them in the first place. And boy! That is another spiral. I am investing and focusing on my healing, which means being kind to the versions of me I want to change and slowly put them to rest. I will tell myself — ‘even if I fall short of my own expectations, I will still love and trust myself unconditionally and provide the tenderness and nourishment I need through these tough times
  14. I started trusting that my soul has a plan: There is something about knowing yourself beyond your brain, heart and body — and that is your ‘soul’. I started feeling the connection with my soul towards late 2021, while traveling through Ladakh. ‘Soul’ can mean many things to many people. But to me it means ‘a vital energy field’ that is created by me and belongs ONLY to me. My soul shows me visions of future possibilities and even though I don’t know the big and little details, there is extreme comfort in trusting that my soul has and will always know the ‘big picture’ :)

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Founder & CEO of Haiyya. Community Organizer. Leadership Trainer & Coach. Organisational Development & Campaigns Strategist. Dog mother. Experimental cook.

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Aprajita Pandey

Aprajita Pandey

Founder & CEO of Haiyya. Community Organizer. Leadership Trainer & Coach. Organisational Development & Campaigns Strategist. Dog mother. Experimental cook.

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