We watch this amazing Atlantic sunrise this morning. The breeze is perfect. Florida has beautiful summers.
As we wash our feet at the beachside shower, I notice sand stuck on my feet; I do my best to rinse my feet. As I enter my Q5, the freshly shampooed carpets import a dusting of that sand.
I have a feeling, it will irk me when, the next day, that sand attaches itself so callously to my shoes, with some sort of a romantic vision of changing Italian leather.
Like a small blemish, on perfect skin.
It’s all in my twisted thinking.
My daughters openly protest my OCD habits of cleanliness and organization. When I unload the dishwasher, the glasses need to be lined up in a particular manner. And absolutely no transparent objects (like drinking water glasses) can be in the same area with translucent (ceramic coffee) cups or bowls!
For years, I have told myself that things “out of place”, give me anxiety and I don’t correct it. I try not to modulate this expectation and just surrender. In this constantly changing and chaotic world, I organize, whatever I can organize.
This morning though, after sharing that magnificent ocean sunrise with Shania, I look at that sand and encourage my mind to think a little differently; I ask myself how often, and how many people get to do what I do? How often do they soothe their souls with the lapping of waves on their feet. How often do they get to sip their favorite latte, while listening to their favorite tunes, with someone they love! Today is a special day in my life.
I need to let the sand linger on my feet, for as long as I can.
When tomorrow that hard pair of dress shoes pick up some of that sand, its actually a good thing! It’s a reminder of a softer time in my life, when there was a perfect moment of alignment.
I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”
As I look back a year, with or without the help of social media, so many things have changed, for me. Especially, in the lives of my children. But also, in my own life.
Last Spring, I was a pensive from the roller-coaster feeling from my constantly changing role at work; I was also in pendulum motion, from my home that I love, in Florida, to the cold of Boston. I had a feeling that this Boston chapter of my life, has to come to a close soon. And, by Fall, my role ended; allowing me to seek what I have wanted all along.
This Spring, I am ready to move to Florida, permanently.
Some things have become more certain, and other, more dispensable things, people or feelings, have dissipated. There is no lingering nostalgia about losing these feelings, which didn’t serve me.
My children have made tremendous strides in a year.
After a re-defining 2018, Daiyaan graduated college in 2018 and found her professional footing, bought her “dream” Jeep (that she has named Natasha, after the singer Natasha Bedingfeld) and now wants to buy her first home this Summer/Fall. She is starting to put down her own roots, in a place she loves. She has chosen a healthy lifestyle of balance. She took her first ever solo trip, and conquered Puerto Rico; she has grown up.
Last Spring, Shania, competed to become her Middle School Vice President and won! She has switched from softball to golf and today, loves basketball as her main school sports; instead of acting in plays, now she is co-directing, for the second year, a school play! She was accepted to attend the prestigious Dana Hall school in Wellesley, MA, but instead, is heading to be with family and joining the pre-law program at her new choice school in Florida.
As their lives unfold, and I see these two beautiful women take their next steps, I enjoy listening to their musings, and life interactions. The new friends they make, and the relationships those fray over time. I tell them my stories, from that particular time in my life that maybe relevant to their experience.
Even though I was raised as a teenager in a different continent, in a completely different era, with no electronic gadgets, or Google, to help answer my questions, the struggles of all awkward teenagers, or young people defining their dreams, are still the same.
Whether you are 13, 23 or 52, Constantly, we search for belonging, love and certainty; it’s tough to accept that none of these feelings are constant, and just to maintain an equilibrium, is a lot of work!
This morning, five of my close friends (same age group), are in deep pain: one from a broken hip (from a fall), another from domestic abuse, and one more, with cancer. Two of my best childhood friends lost their mothers in the last weeks – I knew these loving moms – I have eaten meals with them at their dining tables; having lost my own mom a few years ago, I know that big hole in their hearts are not healing soon.
I pray that my friends have the courage and support to bear the pain they are feeling today. When you experience pain, the depth, the excruciating nature of it, numbs us. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make you feel differently.
Like last year, I know with certainty, this year, there will be those moments of joy, and sadness. You know there will be a Spring of hope, and the still of Summer.
I know, that whatever incremental, or disruptive changes we are experiencing, pain or happiness, it too shall pass.
It fatigues me to think that, the pain and frustration of the political turmoil we experience today in the US (and resultantly, the world) will only sharpen in the next twelve months.
In my adult life, I have seen and experienced progress, and I don’t give up hope, but I choose to take a long view on history. While things are not perfect, I see progress in health, well-being and innumerable sources of joy.
This weekend, in my little microcosm, I am again, taking a good look at everything and everyone around me.
Acknowledging and accepting that change is continuous and constant – I will do my best to appreciate all those gifts that I have in my life today. I am grateful to the Universe for the love, beauty, health and contentment that I am experiencing today.
Late last year, I upgraded my IPhone and my car; same brands, just newer versions and different models; The IPhone X is a delight to switch from my news, to texting, and then to music, and my phone battery doesn’t die; the Audi Q5 overhead sunroof, along with Audi Pre-sense, which tells me about approaching traffic, and with Appleplay, makes my morning commute more productive and long distance driving definitely more enjoyable.
Some upgrades, in accessories, are definitely good.
When you leave your birth land, to find a my new country, is that a good upgrade?
When one leaves a boss who is described as, the bear from the movie The Revenant, scratching your eyeballs out every morning, is that an upgrade?
When one moves on, from high-school friends, who don’t really understand or empathize, to build your own new community, is that an upgrade?
Our lives are full of choices; sort of “forks in the road”. I have written in the past, of being at an intersection or crossroads – with decisions to be made. Not every decision, is an upgrade. On the other hand, if one is willing to do the hard work of research, and is committed to the investment, one can choose to make that turn in the fork, an improvement.
I made a choice, some thirty years ago, to leave my loving, warm family, and move thousands of miles away, to a whole different land – and start fresh. Many of my friends stayed behind and made their lives in Bangladesh – and then others have gone to Europe or Australia. No one ever is in the position to judge, why or how someone makes that decision to leave home – and one cannot consider these decisions upgrades or downgrades – who am I to say that my life in the US is an upgrade from my friends who chose to live in Bangladesh, or, for that matter, move to Australia. What’s most important is that they are happy and content wherever they have chosen to live.
Even since moving to the US, I have lived in some 11 homes, in 8 states in 33 years. Once, my young daughter came from school and asked if we were in the witness protection program! At least twice during these times, in Denver and Fort Lauderdale, I felt that I found my home and was going to live there forever. Then life changed; an amazing career move led me to Florida, where I thought we had built permanence. Then disease struck our family and we had to make a drastic move out of Florida.
I always wanted to live in a real city, coffee shops and crazy restaurants in every corner. I wanted a walkability score of 90+, coupled with heady intellectualism. When we moved to Cambridge, we found all that and more. Museums, a vibrant cultural scene, beautiful green spaces, and access to a coastal town, Ogunquit or Provincetown, in 90 or so minutes. I meet the most curious and intriguing people here; our dinner conversations are often about Blockchain and artificial intelligence, and the number of new fusion restaurants here are beyond my count. From late April to late October, Cambridge is a wonderful place to live. However, I also crave those blue waters of Florida, palm trees and that afternoon drizzle, soothes my soul.
January 2017, on my 50th birthday, I finally decided that however many days I have, I want some Florida in my life. So, I took the plunge and decided to build something which I could eventually call my home, at least for a portion of my life. Sometimes, in life, upgrades are necessary, and then other times, you know you gave up something good, that you just want back, even if it’s for a portion of your life.
There are other decisions, that are quite easily made, even if someone makes them for you! No regrets about leaving that annoying boss who makes you cringe every day, or puts their feet up on the desk while talking to a customer in their office. No regrets about letting friends go, when they bring you down more than they lift you up – however long that friendship maybe. In my experience, work or friends, if they are not willing to listen, or be “additive” in your life – should be upgraded quickly – without regret.
After a long day of dueling decisions, argumentative employees, fighting crazy traffic, when you return home and your twelve year old asks you, what’s the highlight of your day Daddy?, and you respond, without hesitation, dinner with you, honey!… that’s when you know, that some things in life are best just the way they are, without upgrades.
The Sunrise Last at the beach by my home in Florida. Not Upgradeable.
I reserve the largest storage unit I find in a ten-mile radius; when signing the six-page lease for this space, I have no idea that this space would somehow hold the residues of most of my adult life.
When I padlock the climate-controlled space and walk away, I feel perplexed.
I am leaving so many of my memories in this 10’x 20’ space!
The bedroom set that I picked out of a show-case window in New Orleans and had to wait two years to afford; Shania’s new twin bed, that she personally picked out a few months ago.
The bicycle that Daiyaan learned to bike with, and my own bike that has carried Shania and Daiyaan on a child safety seat over 15 years!
As if, by leaving this continuum of my life, I have neatly packed and locked away portions of myself!
Kevin, a heavy-set, stubbled, mid 50 ish mover, laughs when he sees my little stuff – he calls them “critters”; “if you don’t use this stuff in the next six or seven months, you will lose track and never use them again; when you feel like starting up again, you will want to start fresh – this stuff has too many memories”, he tells me philosophically.
I know what he says is most likely true; but it’s too difficult to put away the black Afghan that adorned two beautiful dining areas – and hundreds of friends and family enjoyed meals with!
I don’t know why I keep the $25 coffee maker, with which I dutifully made “deshi” style milky-sweet tea, every time there was a big gathering at our family home. I doubt I will ever again make tea for 20-30 people.
After giving away three trucks of stuff to charity over the last two weeks, still memories of good times linger on me – like the smell of incense, when you leave the potpourri store.
The storage company asks me for two alternate contacts – in case they can’t get hold of me; I put down the name of my seventeen-year old daughter whose childhood memories are also in that 10X20 space. Somehow, I just cannot imagine giving her that responsibility to sort this stuff out one day – “in case they can’t get hold of me”.
I have always believed that life’s all about creating good memories; Like anyone else, my life has conjured up sets of dramatic moments – high pitched laughter filled with friends and family and sad, long-on-tears, tragedy.
Also, I have been fortunate, to have built memories in six continents – in exotic locales and not so “illuminating” places. But wherever I went, in rain or shine, there was a good time – because there was my family there to share that moment with.
Sometimes these memory droplets show up in a dream; or, on a cloudy day they become part of our colorful perspective of life that we share with someone else, “I remember a few years ago, when, this wonderful thing happened…… “
As if these memorabilia connect, like a long tunnel, the moment we just left and the bright moment we are racing towards.
One can neatly pack away memorabilia, and put them in climate-controlled storage and not remember that they are there; but the memories of those good times, specially, with loved ones, are hard to lock away in neat boxes and walk away from.
I look forward to go searching for some of my memories in my residual 10X20 space.
Since last week, the late afternoon Sun, on our South Florida waters, seems to have a lazy glow. That intensity, felt in mid-July, seems to be toning down a bit; on a breezy evening, it’s nice to sit outside on the patio, and enjoy the evenings – it’s even better, with smell of bar-b-q and a crisp glass of a mild Shiraz in hand.
This has been an amazing summer; it started with a visit from some wonderful friends from Zurich, right around Memorial Day. They helped us welcome another beautiful South Florida summer. Sometimes, when you live in a place, it’s easy to forget how beautiful it is here. They reminded us, again, that we do live in a corner of Paradise.
Soon after, we went on an exciting expedition to Australia; Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and Brisbane – in three weeks we connected with astonishing natural beauty, amazing food and service, a “no worries, mate” mindset all wrapped with some beautiful memories with childhood friends. On our way back, our 15-year-old declared that this is most likely the last “long vacation” we will take as a family. Her declaration makes me realize that, in the future, it will most likely be the three of us holidaying somewhere – where she will be at a camp or doing some pre-college activity. We will always, leave a piece of ourselves behind, as we discover new things.
Like other turning points, very likely, this is the end of one stage of our lives – and the beginning of something different. It’s as if I am feeling happy and sad at the same time. I am happy that my teenager is starting to become independent; but I am also sad that she is starting to build her own universe – that is different than ours.
Towards the end of our summer, my mother has come to visit us from Bangladesh. Over the years, she has visited us almost every year, around summer, and spent a few weeks. We eat a lot, argue a lot, play a few games of Scrabble and talk about old times, friends and relatives. My conversations with her are peppered with advice on how to do things differently – and how things are never, fully right.
This time, I notice the frailties of her age, which have started to take a toll on her. It’s difficult to watch your (once strong) parents, move on to a different stage of their lives. Maybe, this is the last time she will visit us like this. With this realization, another stage of my life is changing forever. However much I try, it’s still difficult to acknowledge, that the person that has encouraged me all my life to “aim higher” is slowly fading from my life.
Searching for Nirvana, you realize, you never really get there. Just as you get close, the direction changes a bit – or a few more steps are added. As if, you are always waiting, at the doorstep of heaven.
On the other hand, maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe it is that journey – that stairway – this “bitter-sweet” transition, is the real thing. Getting near, but never really getting there.
As the sun settles down, my little mermaid and I play in the pool together. We are mesmerized by the jewels, grottos, sharks and dolphins; We notice the crimson sunset together. She reminds me how beautifully God has painted the sky. I take a lazy dip into the ninety degree pool water.
I am at the doorstep of heaven. It’s close to perfect here. Just like this sunset, tomorrow things will be different. Life will continue with its journey. I will keep climbing those steps again.
With a bit of lingering nostalgia, I am grateful for today, to experience this near perfect moment – on this near perfect day – at the end of this near perfect Summer.
25 years ago, on April 26, started a major exam in my life: the High School Certificate Exam (HSC).
I remember the day clearly. It was hot and humid. It was our Bangla I exam. For those of us from Notre Dame College, our exams were held at Kazi Nazrul College. Defying traffic and the large potholes of old Dhaka roads, we arrived at the examination center early. We had prepared for months for this series of exams.
Special pens were bought; the ink was tested and picked diligently; erasures and geometric tools were all stored in carefully cleaned boxes. A clean white shirt… pair of blue slacks; all prepared meticulously the night before. My favorite breakfast, paratha and eggs, were devoured. Everyone at home was alert that these were some special exams and “Bhaia” needed all the help he could get!
Anxious parents said there ardent prayers and sent lunch (I had requested for chicken patties from some bakery). The environment clearly created a sense of apprehension and nervous anxiety.
Little did we comprehend that our lives could forever change based on these few days and how we performed (or didn’t perform) during these days.
I am huge believer in Turning Points in our lives when an opportunity or accident happens that changes the direction of our lives for good/bad.
I remember that the whole HSC exam was not a very good exercise for me. Distracted by many things, I just didn’t think it was that important of an exam. With a cavalier attitude, I didn’t take many things seriously at that time. The results reflected my insufficient efforts.
Today, twenty five years later, our daughter, Daiyaan, is getting ready to start high school next year.
Sometimes when I talk to her, we talk about this exact experience. I ask her to consider the repercussions of the next four years in her life (better college, better network of friends, better this, better that).
Sometimes she just rolls her eyes and says, “I know, I know”. I think she realizes the importance of the next four years of her life; but she also wants to enjoy the day with her friends…thinking that, well, she will do better at the next test.
She is a good kid and works hard at school. But, sometimes, I get dramatic about her next four years, putting too much emphasis on the academic side.
It’s difficult to be a parent and watch your child go through the experiences you remember so distinctly. You just wish they don’t make the same mistakes you made, when you could have done things differently.
However, you also know that you have to let them make their own mistakes; they live in a different world, bridging continents and cultures, also a very different time.
Today, on April 26, 2009, I sit back and think about that day, twenty five years ago, that incredulous essay that I had to write in a language, that I hardly ever write anymore… the grammar that I can’t even begin to explain to my child.
I am not certain if those particular exams changed my life; however, it was still a critical juncture, a Turning Point in my life. I may not have paid close attention to the need of that moment or understood the gravity of the situation.
Do I understand the gravity of Turning Points in my life today?