Everything Will Change In A Year: April 20, 2019

I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”

Last Weekend, April 13, A beautiful day in Ogunquit, ME

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.

I know, everything will change in a year.

Hanging out with Daiyaan and Shania @Portsmouth, NH
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Upgrades of Life. March 2018

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.

Beautiful sunrise by my new home in Oakland Park. Not upgradable

The Sunrise Last at the beach by my home in Florida. Not Upgradeable.

When Good Things Happen: November 9 2013

The last four weeks have been some of the most tumultuous times in my life.

After struggling for three years, with dissolving the institution of marriage, the divorce finalized.

I moved from one home to another.

I was offered another “once in a lifetime” chance to join a world-class team to take an organization from “good to great” – the kind of opportunity most people dream about.

Heading  into these four weeks, I was nervous, anxious, worried; I stayed up late thinking about all the possibilities of things going wrong. My analytical mind concocted up linear algorithms of disaster, trauma and tragedy!

Finally, the nail-biting stormy, triple effect night passed, and none of those disasters materialized; this morning, as the sunlight shines down from heaven, I feel stronger, motivated and relieved. The feeling isn’t euphoric – it’s just a “deep breath” moment.

When the lights come down from heaven

I have regained my confidence in the energy of the Universe; good things do happen, when you keep your intentions pure and clean and when you choose to do the right and beautiful thing.

Your expectations do become your experience.

All through my journey, I am grateful for the moral compass of my two beautiful daughters. Every decision I make, every step I take, I have made their safety and  well-being as the center-piece. This centering allows me to think clearly – even if my heart is wondering or my brain is analyzing and criticizing.

I am also grateful for a wonderful, supportive community of friends and family who watch me struggle – never interfering– but keep telling me over and over – “This too shall passyou are making the right decisions”.

Just before the three events took place, I went away to Key West for two days and just walked the streets or sat by the pool trying to re-focus my energy. When quandary overwhelmed me, I called a friend asking for his guidance – specially on this emerging new role; his answer was clear, “Dude, you have trained yourself for this role all your life – why are you thinking so much? Do you think Shania will be happy if you aren’t happy? “  It gave me the clarity of thought at that moment to stop being a worrier!

I remember the evening before the court proceedings, I texted a few friends about being a nervous wreck; they left their work early, and met up for a glass of wine and helped me divert my attention to other things in life.

I Skyped my sister on weekends and unburdened my emerging feelings and anxiety. She patiently listened and encouraged me to keep moving forward and staying focused on the day after – the day when all this drama will be over.

At the end of the day, as I look out to what the Universe has gifted me; my health, my two awesome daughters,  wonderful – supportive friends and family and a truly wonderful career that has availed me possibilities to learn, grow, travel and work with some amazingly talented people. I have re-connected with my spiritual side and found peace in boating, writing, reading, wine and food.

I have so many things to be grateful for.

I watch the Atlantic this morning – the surf on the azure blue sea and wonder about the changing scenery – the clouds appear and disappear in a moment’s notice; as if the sea and the sky are teaching me that same lesson.

Good things do happen, when there are good intentions.

The skies do clear up and the ocean does regain its blue; just have to keep believing in the immense possibilities of the future.

Neatly Packed Boxes of Life: August 7, 2011

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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.

Memory of Home – Craving For A Place to Belong: From Merrimac to Marina Drive

Daiyaan sends a short text, “Daddy, I don’t want to come home because it hurts me too much, that we are selling the house.”

I take a deep breath and sit back; when I moved into this home, I imagined retiring from this place,  imagined Daiyaan’s wedding on the small patch of grass by our backyard; I had believed this as my final destination. In the next six weeks, we will be moving to a new place to live – smaller, more manageable for my new life.

I was in the pool last night– staring at the banana and coconut trees, listening to my favorite tunes – soaking in the happiness this home has given me.

A home has a lot of meaning; a lot of connections. When people move to new homes, sometimes they try to hold on, to their past, that has become the fabric of their souls. I have written in the past about Anchoring in an Uncertain Sea; as first generation immigrants, the concept of “anchoring” has a very special meaning, for many of us.

In my 45 years, this is the first home I have lived 5 years in one home; the first eighteen years of my life, with my parents in Bangladesh, we moved 6 times. In the last 18 years of family life, I have moved in-and-out of new homes, 7 times.

I bought my first home on Merrimac Road with a singular goal; to demonstrate to my family that I had finally attained “stability”:  I had a job, and I was pursuing the American dream. The small three bedroom home, without central air and only one bathroom, is where I moved into with my unstable sofa and a single mattress. The night before I signed the bank papers, my mother, coincidentally was visiting me in Toledo and complained incessantly about why I had to take on such a big “responsibility”.

Daiyaan and I at our first home on Merrimac Lane in Toledo, OH – Spring 1996

I started my career and family from Merrimac road;  I met my future wife and made her a cup of International Coffee one evening, the first time we met. I got married and brought her home here; we bought our first new car, a dark blue Toyota Corolla.  Our first child, Daiyaan came home and slept on my chest, the first night of my transition to fatherhood on a warm summer evening. There was a beautiful Dogwood tree on the front yard, which was in full bloom when Daiyaan arrived.

Daiyaan and I at our 2nd home in Perrysburg, Ohio Summer 1997

After 4 years of Merrimac Road, right around Daiyaan’s first birthday, we moved to our first custom-built home in Perrysburg, Ohio.  Since then, we have never stayed at a house very long. Fifteen years later, I arrived in South Florida; in between, we bought and sold, four other homes in far away places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

The first time I stepped into our new home on Marina Drive, I felt at peace; I believed,  I would retire and live in this home forever. Shania learned to swim, read and carve a pumpkin, at this home.

Shania carves her first pumpkin at our home!

Daiyaan finished middle school here. We went away to Spain, Australia, Morocco and many other places from this home. But every time we went away, I  felt that I could come back to this blue-green home, where I felt safe – I felt that my soul had a place to rest. The little patch of grass in the backyard, surrounded by coconut trees is where my imaginary hammock rests.

Daiyaan, Shania and I when we first came to our “blue green house” at Marina Drive 2007

Heartbreak, success, anger, celebration, pain, glory and variety other emotions are commingled in this space which has provided with shelter and continuity during a very tranquil and subsequently, a very difficult “turning-point” in my life.

When I sit outside on the patio, listening to the sound of our inter-coastal waters, I  feel peace; I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to have this as my home for this period in my life.

With my uncertain, anxious heart, I send a text back to my daughter, “Baba,  A house is just a box – it’s where people live – the people are more important than the box”.  

I know by consoling her, I am consoling myself as I start the search for the next stage of my life.

Our backyard in Lighthouse Point Summer 2011

Ekla Cholo: If No One Listens To Your Call: March 2012

In 1970 When India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressed the United Nations, in the face of tremendous opposition of the United States and its western allies, making her case for an Independant Bangladesh, she invoked Robindronath Thakur’s “Ekla Cholo Rey”: She recited:

“Jodi Tor Daak Shuney Keu Naa Ashey (If no one listens to your call) Tobey Ekla Cholo Rey” (Then go it alone)

Its an amazing poem, with multiple levels of messages about standing up on your own, carrying your own beliefs and moving forward – even if the world is not ready for you – or disagrees with you. To listen to the musical rendition, please click: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPqdlR_X1Vk)

There are times in our lives, as individuals, this message has a stronghold of significance.

I remember, when I first graduated from college, I took a relatively low-paying job (even though I had a technically oriented, post-graduate degree); many of my peers, professors and family friends discouraged me from taking that job. Just like now, in 1992, the US economy was uncertain (Iraq war, recession) and I didn’t have the coveted “Green Card”. I saw this role as a “no-regrets” option; I did work for this small, family-owned company for 4 years and it turned out to be one of the most challenging and entrepreneurial roles I have ever had.

For a young man, struggling to make ends meet, Ekla Cholo, is about taking a job that may not be the right role for you – because it pays the bills; for a young girl in love, it may mean marrying someone that your family dislikes; for another unwed mother, it may mean carrying a baby even though your own community disowns you.

For a nation, like Israel or Bangladesh, it may mean facing the odds – even if the whole world disagrees, creating a nation based on principles of a people that have a common bond!

Whatever the significance, this Going it Alone, is something almost everyone faces, at some point. Recently, I faced a struggle, where many (of my well-wishers) called me; without knowing the subtext of conditions, they urge me to take one path or another in my journey.

Upon contemplation, it’s clear that I cannot really let these forces sway me. Whatever decision one makes, we make someone unhappy. Even if we make everyone else happy, at the end, we ourselves may not be happy!

In social structures, it’s common to articulate a view of “for the greater good” – which (typically) isolate and denigrate the individuals view or interest. Most organizational, social, church and national norms are designed on this basis of limiting the individual interest (over the greater good). In social and tribal structures, especially old ones, the rights of the individual are often overlooked or underplayed, to “benefit the greater good”.

United States is the only nation, that was founded on the basis of individual liberty and justice; this society respects the individual right more than most other traditional societies. While greater good is emphasized, it is not the only determinant of social norms.

I remember, as a child, my mother always reminded me of this same song and my favorite part of the song was,

Jodi keu kotha na koy  (If all stops talking to you),

Jodi shobai thakey mukh pheraye, shobai korey bhoi (if everyone looks away scared),

Tobey Poran khuley, mukh phootey tor moner kotha ekla bolorey (speak out and let everyone hear your solo voice)”

At the end, the truth always prevails; Bangladesh and Israel survive on their own right; similarly, individuals who bear the hard truth risking going against the tide, will also prevail. It maybe painful and solitary at times – but at the end, the message remains crystal clear.

Attainable Goals, Undefined Destinations: December 2011

Choices we make everyday!

My personal “happiness” goals for 2012 are:

  1. Kayak on the inter-coastal canals (at least) 5 times
  2.  Explore the option of making a new “best friend”: a Golden Lab (dog)
  3. Take two intriguing vacations (Alaska? Israel?Brasil?)
  4. Buy a hammock for the patio and use it once a week!
  5. Volunteer (at least) 6 times, at a local food kitchen or charity and bring the girls along
  6. Buy beach chairs and at least go to the beach 12 times in the year

In the past, I have set lofty goals that were never accomplished; I always have justifications as to why they didn’t happen – too big, brash or audacious!

Last year, I set three goals: lose 20  lbs,  learn how to play the guitar and start learning Spanish!

I have only achieved the first goal.

Never went near a guitar store, never bought that package of the Spanish Rosetta Stone (even though I have walked by their airport kiosks many times). In the mean time, I have signed on to some other goals that were not part of the thought process. Life takes such curvy turns, I have all the excuses ready as to why I didn’t accomplish my other personal objectives.

If I was a working in my “Life” business, I believe, I would have been fired by now. Finishing one of three objectives in a whole year, gives one a failing grade of 33%!

We are pretty good at setting work related goals – since corporate objectives have to be met. Why do we get have difficulty with personal goals?  These are things we always wanted to do or things that at that particular time thought, would make us happy!

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t memorialize or socialize our goals with others. Most of us lack the discipline to set and prioritize our own goals.  We set too big goals setting ourselves up for failure and then, let “life” get in the way of “living”!

I wrote an essay a few months ago about making checklists and checking it off – making small, daily, achievements meaningful (http://wp.me/pDd9a-6V)!

Similarly, I believe, we need to memorialize our “happiness” goals every year – write it down somewhere where it will be visible on a continuous basis! Hiding these goals away, somewhere, in private only delays or postpones the accomplishment of the goal. I know someone, who has a picture of his ” dream boat” clipped on his closet door!

Socializing these goals, just like we do with work goals, with at least 5 close friends, may actually help us achieve these goals. These “happiness coaches” of our lives, by pestering us to achieving these goals, may actually play the role of being an advocate for making sure we do spend some for our ownselves.

Finally, we need to give ourselves some momentum; setup at least one goal that’s very achievable – very simple and affordable – like buying beach chairs!

Like a meandering river, life takes on its directions; rainfall or a storm may obstruct the flow once in a while – but the river of life continues with its full force. Rarely do we know what heartbreak or disaster lies ahead of us in this journey. Predicting tomorrow  – and it’s uncertainty is no better than playing the lottery.

In this constant uncertainty, let me argue, setting a few measurable, attainable “happiness goals” every year, is ultimately meaningful; otherwise, one day, we may wake up and find that the river has overruled and we have lost the semblence of any accomplishment that we believed could make us reasonably happy.

Happiness is not just a state of mind – happiness must be defined, and achieved on its own merit. Go ahead set a few goals for yourself for the coming year – see how it feels once you accomplish one or two of those goals!

I went to Costco today and bought a couple of beach chairs! I will start the practice of my beach going habits before the end of the year!

Finally accomplished the 3 year goal of parasailing with Daiyaan on Christmas Day 2011