Sunday, 5 January 2014


(This is post number 4 in my series of year end posts. 20 year old me would have never imagined that I could actually carry on a tradition for four years in a row.. Turns out I can.)

There was an earthquake, I was sure of it, the table shook, I was the first to get up and leave the building.

2013 taught me that self preservation was my strongest instinct in more ways than one. You were a year of final decisions, of finally biting the bullet and moving on.

2013, you pushed me in ways that I have never been pushed before. You helped me look within and make decisions I didn't know I was capable of making. In the past, standing up for what I believed in always seemed to come easy to me. Those who know me well have heard a story about standing up in a new school in the very first week and insisting that the school timings are inappropriate or the story of how I stood up to my dad. That always used to be my way of doing things - of taking a stand and speaking up, no matter what everyone else thought. But over time the consequences started piling up. At school, I was suddenly not popular anymore, at college I was suddenly losing an election, so on and so forth. Self preservation kicked in, and again I modified myself. I stopped being that blunt, I stopped being that upright. I began to listen to those around me.

2012 was a year that was a great exemplar of how not to stand up for yourself. 2013 in contrast was a great exemplar of finding yourself and doing what you do best.

I finally found the courage to be me, to not listen to pessimism or critique and to do what appeared like the most rational thing to my own self. It didn't happen overnight and it wasn't all me.

I had external help. But here is the other thing, I have always been a very personal person when it came to my troubles. I told the facts to whoever bothered to asked but I never opened up to anyone when I really needed help. Never called a friend in despair asking for help. I always figured out a plan in my head that seemed like the most appropriate and simply implemented without consultation. Primarily it was just the incidents in my life were sometimes too embarrassing, sometimes too difficult, sometimes too complicated. So I would take a call and move on, my way.

But this time, at the beginning of 2013, I finally decided to give someone else the reigns. Once I accepted that I had ceased being the best version of me, I stopped and asked for help. The first time you ask for help can be exhilarating. It can teach you that all your walls are for nothing, that people who love you will love you even if you make them weaker, even if you tell them things that will break them.

2013 you were a year of such bravery, of simple things that seemed so daunting in 2012, of amazingly intense hard work, of beautiful victory.

Many years ago a friend said to me, "Zoya you will reach the top but you will be alone". 2013 you prove to the contrary that no matter where you are, you can be lonely, and even the pinnacle can be engaging and extremely social.

And then the earthquake happened again, this time milder, making it a lot harder to convince those around me, so I left the building again. The news said later it was a small earthquake. But it was - there, I wasn't just a paranoid person. I remember going home and not being able to move for a bit. I remember being glad I lived on the ground floor. I remember waking up on many nights after with a feeling of the ground below me shaking. Then I found myself a stationary object that wouldn't move unless there was a real earthquake and made that my constant. That helped calm me down. Soon I moved to a different house, this time on the 6th floor. And I remember feeling extremely scared initially, but then finally feeling safe. Then it happened again, three times in one single night. This time I slept through all but the last, and even then I just went back to sleep.

A simple series of events, but it taught me something even more interesting about myself. I can be very adaptable. I can take my circumstances, create a new set of defense mechanisms, and restart. I have done this all my life, subconsciously, but 2013, you brought this stark in my face and showed me how my circumstances have shaped me in small but significant ways all my life.

This year I also heard from one person that my first impression was one of an arrogant person. So I asked other people, those that mattered to me, those I could trust. Turns out, everyone seemed to agree. 2013 showed me that my version of myself can sometimes be so diametrically opposite to what others think of me.

2013 also saw me deliver my first real bad news to someone, and what made it worse was that I could make the nightmare go away but I was bound to keep pushing and not back down. When you look someone in the eye and tell them their world just crashed, you learn so much about yourself. You learn whether you are a empathetic person, whether you can cross the line between fairness and unfairness while wearing multiple filters and assessing from many angles - yours, theirs and others. In my personal life I always take the easier path of being unfair to myself but professionally, I represent the interests of a company not just myself and there the balance usually tips in the other direction. This taught me that sometimes uncomfortable situations are important to execute, even if it means that it is contrary to your natural personality.

A year of travel, sometimes alone, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes to towns small, smaller, sometimes scary, sometimes intense. But each time I got on a flight and left for those two or three days, I became a stronger person. I learnt how to deal a little better with the world around me. I learnt how to get my way with airport staff, how to get upgraded at hotels, how to convince people from different backgrounds to listen to me, how to sit and wait endlessly, how to walk out with a win in hand, how to waste an entire day.

I learnt that I could box myself into categories that I thought were me, but an year like 2013 could break everything and show me that I was nothing I thought I had become. 2013 you showed me that I can be a sales person, that I can be a managing director, that I can be a friend, that I can be a great competitor, that I can stick to ground rules and break everything else.

Sometimes it only takes one small step in any direction to send you shooting where you need. All I had to do was break the habit and try something I thought was impossible and suddenly I was doing something insanely well that I would have never imagined.

2013, you were a year of me, after many years, I finally shone the way I have wanted to shine. You were an year of humility, of simplicity, of feeling nothing when someone sent praises my way, of feeling extremely moved when someone that I knew only slightly many years ago took the time to send me a note of acknowledgement. 2013 you were so many contradictions wrapped into one.

And finally, you brought me face to face with intensity like I have never felt before. I remember the first time I stood there, in your shoes, watching the stars - that was the most emotion I have felt in a really long time. This year taught me what real love looks like - when it can be simple, intense, secure, exciting, fun, intriguing, compelling, comforting - all at once. Or those moments in which I disappoint you, taught me that sometimes it's okay to make mistakes, that real people forgive and forget and move on. That foundations of compatibility are more important than anything else.

2013 you taught me how to really give myself to another without losing myself. You taught me that it was possible to have a relationship between equals - that being the saviour wasn't the only way to be - that being saved was fun too.

2013 - to being me, to changing me, to standing up, to moving, to intense coincidences, to accepting what felt right, to holding on.