The in-between years – Stumbling Around

2020 ended so much better than it began. After acclimatizing ourselves to a new reality of sitting in our cardboard-box sized campus apartments, our universe restricted to campus boundaries, we had somehow made it through an exhausting, boring and yet emotionally challenging year. Highlights from 2020 were: I had received a job offer to join Microsoft the next year (July 2021) as a Marketing Manager, and was shielded from months of job search; as was part of campus life, we had lost some friends and gained new ones; campus parties were in full swing every weekend; I continued working part time and also got through the next 2 semesters. Life on campus was fun but between the lockdowns with nowhere to go except our friends’ apartments (which looked exactly like ours), life had become monotonous. 

Arnav and I were living in our own apartment on campus now, both sharing a workspace – which sometimes translated in one of us taking calls from the storage room (we didn’t mind, it was a great conversation starter). Since that was the first time we were living together – just the two of us, we also went through an adjustment period, getting used to each others’ sleeping and waking routines, eating habits, and – the biggest challenge we’ve faced to date – getting used to each others’ Netflix choices. 

It may have been a tie between that and whose turn it was to throw out the trash. If you’re wondering at what time the “honeymoon period” in a relationship is over, I can confirm it’s when you see your partner holding garbage cans, yelling “I threw the trash on Tuesday and Wednesday, today is your turn.” Watching them clean the toilet bowl is a close second. 

Amid the multi-tasking that ruled our lives, on some days we slowed down. We would walk to the nearest Tim Hortons with our friends, enjoy board game nights or cook together in someone’s apartment (usually we watched them cook or shamelessly showed up just to eat – with zero remorse). Those were my favourite kind of days. 

We also took a road trip to Quebec that October, along with a few day trips around Toronto. I remember our Quebec road trip distinctly, because that’s when I got a call from my parents, that my last remaining guinea pig (her name was Nutella) had died. At that point, I felt a weird mix of heartbreak, exhaustion and numbness. There was too much to process and my heart had not caught up. I think we’re still trying to catch up.

Over the next few months, we tried to get out of campus more, whenever the lockdown situation would allow us. That’s also the time when I developed a love for small towns and it soon became a favourite weekend activity for both of us – just visiting a new place and exploring it on foot (my fav way to explore any city when I travel), stopping by vintage gift shops and bakeries, discussing the merits of small town living. 

Once again in December, I had flown home during the holidays. A trip where I got to meet and spend time with my family and friends – but still a restricted circle due to covid, and because I wasn’t fully ready to meet a lot of people yet. Over time I had gone so deep inward, that my external, social self had disappeared. I found it difficult to be around company, so I avoided it. During that trip I disappointed a lot of people because I didn’t know how to explain I wasn’t up to meeting anyone, so I cooked up excuses that some folks would have likely seen through. 

I’m glad, relieved and grateful that I made that trip home, even though I was advised not to. This trip ended up being the last time I saw my Nani. Even though, once again, I was planning to come back 4 months later. And once again, when I said goodbye to her the last time as I was leaving her bedroom, I wondered if I would see her again. There is such a sadness in accepting, or even subconsciously knowing, you are leaving someone you love, that you may never see again. The first time I had asked myself if I would have left had I known I would never see my dadi again. So would I still have left? I guess the answer is yes then, because once again I did leave. And this time a part of me knew. 

Could I stop myself from leaving then? How long could I stay if I wanted to, before my own life called me back? Life goes on, and go on it did. I shut the door to her room and watched her sitting on her bed, waving goodbye. The last time I saw her. 

That trip ended the way all my trips back home have done – with a heavy heart unwilling to leave, conflicted with the part of me that was also ready to go back to the life I had built there. My life – only mine, the free space where I now belonged, the independent life I had always wanted, that I now had. Questioning, every time, where do I belong? How am I happy here and happy there? Unhappy here and unhappy there? Is living in two places too much? Or too less? What did I move for? Did I get what I was hoping to find? Did I seize the opportunity? What WAS the opportunity? So far all I knew was what the opportunity came with a heavy price that I was unprepared to pay. 

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