Belly flop.

By Kanika Bali

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” The more number of times you do it, the more conditioned your mind gets to it and the more time you have to think while you’re jumping.”

There a big decisions to make when you jump off a cliff.

Your life may change forever afterwards.

You body may be in pain for weeks afterwards.

You might bellyflop and live in shame for days afterwards.

You can choose to take the plunge without thinking, or you can spend a few minutes ( or well, half an hour) deciding whether you’re going to let this change your life.

I’ve always been the latter. Change has always come to me in small forms and it’s always taken me a while to embrace it. This trip was so much more than a course for me. This is my last course, I’m a graduate after it, I start a new job the day after I get back.

Big, big plunge.

I applied for this course at the start of the semester, not knowing if I’d get in or not. I signed up for enough classes to fulfil my credit requirements by the time I got the news that I could come. So, I basically came out of personal interest. I’ve grown up being taught to give back to the society that has built me. But the thing is, when you attempt to give back to the society around you, you end up taking more than you give.

This is a business course, nothing you learn in theory will be the same when you practice.

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We had our final presentation with our business today, and believe me making that presentation was a mammoth task. Last week, we ran from office to office trying to wrap our heads around the informal hierarchy in the business. With all the intricacies and informalities, writing my report in simple and clear language was hard. But I did it! Our presentation was successful, the board of directors approved my suggestions and  even began working on some of them, following our earlier discussions!

I’ve also learnt that most small businessmen, practice business but never really learn about the theories. They use the money they get to run their households, to get their kids to school, to buy toys for their grandkids. They believe that practice makes perfect. Through mistakes, they learn and thus some prominent expansion and growing strategies are missed by their eyes.

They jump right into the water.

It’s quite the paradox really, business students who gain degrees and the foundation of theory seldom decide to start their own businesses. Instead, they covet high paying jobs and get stuck in the trap of putting money before learning on the job. Maybe it’s the thought of sustaining the safety net we’ve had through our lives, or the risk of loss and not being able to start over. Many of us plan on starting our own businesses in x amount of time.

But after all that thought, some of us still back out of nose diving into the water.

Personally, this trip gave me a lot of time to think about my life and goals. Life in Hong Kong is a hustle. You spend everyday trying to make it, trying to get a job, trying to get that good grade, trying to please everyone so you can network. You barely get time to slow down. Packed in this hustle, we often have everything, but also nothing.

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I came here to live with new people, in a new environment. In addition to falling in love with the place around me, I fell in love with the myself. Away from pressures of conforming, I realised that I’m actually pretty awesome. A place that has taken me twenty years to get to. Some of my earlier posts have been a bit conceited maybe, I was in the process, forgive me. If I keep questioning myself, there will be room for others to question me. I think this realisation actually came through a conflict I had here. I like everyone here, but there’s this one particular person who is just really difficult to deal with. Usually when I have a conflict, I take a lot of time off to reflect on myself, the part I had to play, my personality and whether there is anything I can change about myself to avoid this again. The way I dealt with this one was different. I talked it out and put it on the table that growing up is about letting go of childish grudges. The way the other party reacted, made me reflect on something that was thrown around- ” Why have you been nice to me over the past two weeks.”

No questioning myself this time. I’ve realised that you can never please everyone.

There is always scope to learn. From the people I have lived with for the past month, I have learnt that you can find happiness as long as your stomach is full and your family is healthy. I spent a lot of time realising that throwing myself under the bus so that other people can grow was becoming a trend with me. That I am too liberal with giving and too miserly with taking. Reflectively, my host family did exactly the same thing. They gave too much and asked for too little.

But the cycle comes back. I know that in the long run, their kindness and the bond I’ve created with them will last. If they ever need anything, I’m a phone call away. My host mom has plans of making a “rest house” for me (like Beau’s, she boasts loudly) so that I come back often. I’ve found a friend and a sister in my host sister, Shaira, who aspires to be a care taker and live a simple life. Shaira is obtaining an expensive college degree in business but she wants to move abroad to take care of the elderly, a dream that she’s had since her childhood. It made me reflect on my aspirations, what I want in my life- what is most important to me.

All of this is coupled with my conversations with the many Chinese nationals on this trip. The history of China is fascinating and having lived in Hong Kong for three years, I think nothing has inspired me more than this trip to learn Mandarin. To take that extra step to break the barrier and try and form a friendship that goes deeper than lunch dates. They put their nose down and work really hard, they’re bright and they have good social lives.

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Perfect 10 for life balance, something that I need to hope to instate in my life soon.

In the course of this trip, I decided to take the plunge and accept the job I got back in Hong Kong. To take time out and realise that it’s okay that I keep moving around, it’s okay that I keep challenging myself in new environments, that my friends change as fast as the seasons. It’s okay that I take time out once in a while to think about it. To think about the faces whose contours I could remember with my eyes closed and now I don’t even remember the colour of their hair. Ferdinand De Saussure once wrote, “I’m almost never serious, and I’m always too serious. Too deep, too shallow. Too sensitive, too cold hearted. I’m like a collection of paradoxes.” I’ve been pondering these words for a while. It’s okay to not be perfect, as long as I’m perfect for myself. It’s okay to have a small comfort zone- my family and keep changing everything else. It’s okay if I don’t land that high paying job with a prestigious named company and it’s okay that I didn’t go on that expensive grad trip with my friends.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath.

Three, two, one.

BELLY FLOP.

Change is inevitable and the more number of times you start embracing it, the more time you to enjoy it while it’s happening.

Take that plunge.

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