30 at 30 – Lesson 3: Life Can DRASTICALLY Change In Seconds

30 at 30 – Lesson 3: Life Can DRASTICALLY Change In Seconds

In the past year of the pandemic, more people than ever have come face to face with how unexpected life can be. No one expected the lockdowns. No one expected the restrictions. No one expected their livelihoods to be threatened or dissolved completely because of the harsh realities of the actions that needed to be taken to protect as many people as possible. Now more than ever did it solidify for me that one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that life can change in a matter of seconds. It takes one moment, one minute millisecond, for your entire world to change.

This reality is quite harsh, but now more apparent to many than pre-pandemic. The magnitude of this reality is only clear if you’ve undergone that complete shift – that complete overhaul of what you expected from your life based on its current trajectory and how that future will never be, or rather can never be, after that one moment. The latter being because of life circumstances preventing that possibility or because your perspective of the world so gravely changes from that one moment that you could never return to seeing the world with the same lens as you did before. 

For those infected by Covid-19, it could be the moment you coughed and suddenly couldn’t breathe – landing you in the hospital in a near-death state. For those who had small businesses, it could be the moment you received the federal update that all non-essential facilities would no longer be open, realizing that you wouldn’t make rent that month. Pre-pandemic, it may have been the day you encountered a life-threatening accident or incident, or when you found out that the person you trusted – parent or significant other – was defrauding you for longer and more deeply than you’d like to admit. In these moments, one of two things definitely crossed your mind – will I survive until tomorrow and what is my life going to be like if I do survive. 

One day before the US Lockdown for the 2020 Pandemic, celebrating the last event of my best friend, Abiha’s, wedding.
Day 1 of the work-from-home (WFH) order for all non-essential workers in March 2020.

There is nothing more humbling than these life-altering moments because they force you to think about who you actually are and what you actually want from life. They force you to feel and let those feelings guide you. It is in these moments that the facade of what we are expected to do, expected to feel, expected to mark as our life trajectory just completely fades away. When that happens, you have only yourself to rely upon to find the answers to those questions. You are left to reconcile with what is within you – within the core of your being – that remains, and what it is directing you towards. You can envision this feeling as whatever you want – your conscience, a voice, a religious entity – whatever aligns to your perspective of the world, but at the end of the day it is the only thing that isn’t guiding you based on what society or the external entities expect of you.

The moment you begin to wonder “what will people think” or “what am I supposed to do”, you are placing external pressures on your internal guidance. The beauty of life-altering moments is that the lens of those expectations and pressures is removed. That lens is removed and you can finally see that life truly is what you make it or make of it. You, as the sole individual you were brought into this world as, have the ability to decide the next choice and the perspective you want to take. If life has changed once, it can change again, and again for an infinite number of times – that choice is not in your hands. The choice that is in your hands is what you do with your life so that you are fulfilled, so that even if life flips again, you know your direction or your path, and you know that you can always start again because you know your life’s value at it’s core.

After that life-altering moment, if you are alive and have the ability to think from your mind and feel from your heart, then you have the ability to define and rebuild your life, irrespective of where you’ve landed. This is not to say it is easy, or that the life-alteration does not come with the burden and baggage of trauma and healing. It does, and it’s not lightweight either. The fact of the matter is that it can take a tremendous toll on you and your mental health, and it will result in impacts to most, if not all, aspects of your life (hence the term life-altering…). 

October 2016: Celebrating my first and last Karva Chauth when I was married. This was taken just a month before my now ex-husband and his family abused me and chased me out of our home.
December 2016: I was homeless, broke, and stuck in India healing from the trauma I endured in my one year of marriage.

What one must come to terms with is that no one or no entity outside of yourself will ever know the magnitude of what you experienced. You and you alone experienced that moment in the manner that you did because of what you had experienced in and perceived of this world up until that moment. No friend, no therapist, no family, or no significant other will or can ever know exactly what you experienced. And anyone who does not experience that moment the way that you did, has no authority over how you respond to it, how you move on from it, or how you make decisions after it. If that is not the clarity you need that you and you alone can decide your life outside of externally driven circumstances, then what will be? At what point do you acknowledge that this life is yours and you are allowed to choose how you live it? At what point do you accept that you are allowed to build your life the way you want to, and you are allowed to remove anyone that does not accept that? That point is whenever you choose it, but it is most apparent in these moments where it is blatantly a life of your own. 

Your friend, your therapist, your family, or your significant other will not experience your illness. They will not be the ones who are without money if your business fails. They will not be the ones who are paralyzed after an accident (unless impacted peripherally by it). They will not be the ones who are single or theoretically-orphaned by the broken trust or abuse. They could be additionally impacted if you are the breadwinner or if they are saddened by your pain, but they will never and can never be the ones whose life-altered in the way yours did because that moment happened to you. When the hospitals are in lockdown, only you are admitted for treatment. When rent is due, only your name will be on the eviction or collections notices as the sole individual responsible for the business loss and inability to pay. If you died from any of these scenarios, whether by external factors or by suicide for the pressure and toll it took on you, only you would be missing from this world and only your name would on that obituary. So when only you are responsible and even society isolates you in these scenarios, why would you live your life based on what all of these periphery individuals think of your life? 

March 2021: Free, fulfilled, and thriving at 30, almost 5 years from my life-altering moment.

Learning this lesson can feel like a curse in the moment, but it is a gift once you survive it. The moment feels like your whole existence is irrelevant and makes you question “why me” and “for what purpose”, but it is only in surviving through the moment and taking one step at a time to rebuild based on what is true to you and your core being that you realize how beautiful life can be. You realize how free and peaceful life is when you remove all the expectations of other individuals and society, and truly live life the way you want to. The most beautiful part is that people and a society that accepts you and the life you choose will find you. The beauty of that is the clarity that you are born into this world with the life and people you are granted, but you have a choice to live within those means and with that society, or you can define your life on your own. Making the choice instead of accepting it is as it is made for you is true bliss.

So whether you have faced such life-altering moments or you are faced with the expectations of the people and society that surrounds you, I want you to remember that you are solely responsible for your life. You can make the choice to live it on your terms. You just have to be prepared and well-founded in the core of who you are to have the strength to undertake the losses that will come with. You will lose people. You will lose community. But you will gain yourself and the beauty that is life.


Life is what you make it
That is what they say
You don’t realize it’s truth
Until it’s forced upon you one day

Your life is yours
No one lives it like you do
So choose your way now
Or live it like they want you to

– Akiti –

Fast 5 of the Last 5 (2020) Day 5: Gratitude

Fast 5 of the Last 5 (2020) Day 5: Gratitude

We are often asked what we are grateful for and there are some usual suspects that folks answer with, as is customary, because we are expected to be grateful for certain things like family. Gratitude, by definition, is the willingness to be thankful for or show appreciation or kindness towards something or someone. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are not equally blessed with people or experiences that we can be thankful for, and so we should be gracious to those who are grateful for other things in life because of what those things mean to them and their life. For example, not everyone has family or even should be expected to be grateful for them if that “family” has been abusive or disruptive to their life or peace of mind. Therefore, those individuals may be grateful for a great many things or other people in their life and that is absolutely, unquestioningly acceptable and I am grateful if you prioritize yourself and your peace of mind enough to recognize what is okay for you.

And so, with an open mind and an open heart, I welcome you to Day 5 of the Fast 5 of the Last 5 of 2020 as we count down to the new year! If you’re joining for the first time, please visit the introduction to this new year-end tradition, and then return here for the first activity below.

Gratitude Activity

Without pause, quickly list 5 things, people, or experiences you are grateful for in 2020. Here are mine:

1. Life
2. My Crew:
Mommy & the Boys
3. The Family I Choose
4. My Health
5. My Freedom

Share your 5 things in the comments and on social media, and be sure to use the hashtags #Fast5oftheLast5 #F5L5 #2020F5L5 and tag me (@__akiti__) so we can be grateful together!

Activity Reflection

My list actually rolled off the tongue quite expeditiously because I realized what truly mattered to me after a traumatic period in my life. I often refer to that period as a previous life because it genuinely feels as though I died and was reborn with a second chance at the life I want and deserve to live. That’s not to say my list is not specific to 2020, but it just so happens that the pandemic reaffirmed for me the importance of these 5 things and why I am grateful for them.

Life

Often people offhandedly mention they are grateful for life as a general act of respect for all that life encompasses. My appreciation for life is a bit different though because I have been close enough to death, had multiple near-death experiences, and experienced the loss of literally everything in my life to truly recognize that every ounce of life I get to live is a blessing. Every person, every object, every sense I get to experience is beautiful to me and I actually wake up thankful for this opportunity daily. This year in particular reminded me how quickly these things can be taken away and reignited my desire to live my best life, so I’m grateful for that realization and the opportunity to exist here.

My Crew: Mommy & the Boys

As a result of the 2020 pandemic, we were confined to our homes to be left only with those living with us. For many this was difficult, dangerous even, and an unexpected sentence the world delivered them – and I feel for you all deeply. Fortunately for me, I could not have been more ecstatic to get to spend all of my time with just my Mom and my boys (my fur babies – Scooby, Shaggy, Scrappy, Sparky, Sonic, and Shadow – learn more about them here!). Outside of the pandemic, the world had become so focused on the activities and people we needed to engage with to feel like life was being lived, but I have known and was beyond grateful to get to engage with the ones I love most in this world because they deserve my time the most. They are the core of my being, the why for my existence, and the ones I would venture to the ends of the universe for. There is nothing that makes me happier or brings me more peace in this world than being with my crew and seeing them happy, so I’m grateful for the time I had and continue to have with them because each moment is a blessing.

The Family I Choose

Everyone is born into a family (biologically), whether you know them or not, are close to them or not, or in whatever form that may be. Society tends to promote the expectation that everyone should strive for and hold onto the “nuclear family” because that is the “right” way to live. In 2020, I believe we’ve progressed enough to realize that the modern family is what you make of it. Your family is the culmination of the people who choose you and with whom you reciprocate that choice because there is mutual respect, trust, and love in those relationships. If those three elements do not exist, then quite frankly, you have every right to not want to maintain the relationship and should not have to.

I learned this the hard way in life, but have come out with a strong family I choose that is a combination of biological relations and beautiful souls that made their way into my life, both of whom choose every day to be active and supportive parts of my life, and I in theirs. I got to spend beautiful moments with most of these people (all within the context of the safety protocols of this year), and we made memories for life that I truly cherish. The pandemic also showed me the true colors of many individuals I thought to be a part of that family and had to let go of in honor of my self-respect, and so I am even more grateful for realizing who is meant to be here and chooses to be.

My Health

Over the past 6 years, there was an onset of many random and life-induced medical conditions that I struggle with even today. In 2020, whilst the world was battling a health condition that has taken the lives of so many and continues to bring strife, I learned to appreciate my state of wellbeing more than ever. I am an asthmatic and Covid-19 has been a particularly high risk for me, so coming to the end of the year without having Covid-19 and remaining in generally good health for the greater part of the year outside of a few natural hiccups, is astounding for me and something I am truly grateful for. I’ve realized the importance of healthy practices and intend to continue the activities I engaged in this year to build my immunity and strength to remain well in the coming year.

My Freedom

In America especially, we speak of freedom as our right but take it for granted more often than not, especially if you are privileged enough to not experience freedom-hindering actions against you. I have lived a generally privileged life as it pertains to my freedom because my parents maintained a liberal mindset by which I was allowed and encouraged to explore the world and myself with their full support. Even coming from an Indian background where the culture does not always support such liberal lives, my family has always been this way and are loud and proud of it. It is probably due to us being of Punjabi descent (from the northern state of Punjab, India), in which such liberal nature is quite common compared to other parts of India. That being so, I ended up in a very traumatic marriage where that freedom was stripped away entirely and I was a modern-day slave in a life I never could have imagined for myself. After being freed of that entrapment, I realized the value of freedom and recognized that one cannot fully appreciate it until that freedom is taken away.

In 2020, as we were forced to remain in the confines of our homes and the Black Lives Matter Movement exploded with the attempted eradication of an entire peoples’ freedom, much of the trauma from that torturous time resurfaced in the form of thoughts of what life would have been like if I was not thrust out of that life. In revisiting those experiences and working through that trauma, I realized that freedom is not just political with regard to what you can and cannot do in society. Freedom is the inherent right you have to live life the way in which is true to you without any impediment by others or in any way that harms another’s freedom or life. That being said, in 2020 I am eternally grateful for the freedom I have to wake up every day when I want, how I want, and to live the life I want.


Life is what you make it
If you are able to do so
Let us all be gracious
For we reap what we sow

– Akiti –