Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diving out of my comfort zone....

A few days ago, we were at a wedding in New Jersey. As the Reception event, held at a fancy Golf Club, was winding down, a murmur for an "after- party" started. An enterprising friend of ours got busy on his i-phone and started looking for restaurants that would be open at 1 am.
"There's just one place open, a few miles from here," he said.
There was a chorus of assent all around.
"So what kind of restaurant is it?" somebody asked.
"It's a Dive Bar," our enterprising friend answered casually.
Most people around were just thrilled to hear the word "Bar". But I got a little nervous, because I knew what a Dive Bar is. I had never been to one, but I knew it would be a far cry from the Golf Club that we were sitting in.
My token dissent was firmly over ruled by all. And so 5 couples headed out in 3 vehicles. As we pulled further away from the manicured landscape of the Golf Club, and closer to our destination, the road became rough, and the sidewalks were unkempt.
"Here it is," my friend said, who was riding shotgun with me, pointing to a very unimpressive, shack like structure on the side of the road.
He barged straight on inside, and the rest of us, men in suits and ladies decked up in brilliant colored Indian outfits, followed hesitantly. The Dive Bar was approximately 50 square feet in size. There were about twenty five people already inside, spread around a bar that looked like something out of an an old western movie. The patrons gave us curious looks, as we ordered our drinks. We eyed them back nervously, taking in the numerous tattoos and sleeveless leather vests. The only comfortable person among us was our friend who had led the way. He seemed to be having a great time.
"The problem is not them, Arvin," he said to me, sensing my nervousness. "It's us and our preconceived perceptions. Relax and have a drink."

And he was so right. We are so used to being in a cocoon, that we rarely step out of our comfort zone. At most social events, the tone, tenor and more often than not, even the content of the conversation is repetitive and predictable. Everybody's role is well defined and the attention seeking egos are fed a healthy dose of  "You are soo special!" Generally, I am a part of that social scene. So it was refreshing to step out of that cocoon and  experience something different. And as we became comfortable in that Dive Bar, we relaxed and actually had a good time.

I am not advocating that everyone should head out to a Dive Bar. But I think it is good, once in a while,  to step out of a familiar, protective environment and experience a different face of life. Not everyone who does not look like you is bad, and not everyone who looks like you is good. Preconceived perceptions and ideas are dangerous in an open society.

"Everybody has their own story to tell. Your life is like a book that you don't ever get to put down. So make it interesting." ~ Author unknown


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

To Experience, or to possess...? That is the question

"How is everything else?" I asked the 64-year old patient in my office, after his physical exam.
"Never better, Doc. I am retired now," he replied.
"Retired? Planning to take it easy now?" I asked.
"Well, not really," he replied, with a big smile. "I sold my company for a couple of million."
"Oh good... so what's in the near future? A new car... a bigger house... travel?"
"Just the last one, Doc. Travel. I'm over my materialistic streak. Did that in my forties and early fifties. I plan to travel and visit places & people. I want to experience things, make pleasant memories for the rest of my years."
His last line stuck with me. Experience things and make pleasant memories. 

Should we spend our time and money on an experience, or get a material object? Of course, if you can afford both, nothing like it. But if we have to make a choice, which will give us more happiness? The answers can be varied, depending on personalities and individual priorities. Psychological research suggests that, in the long run, experiences make people happier than possessions.
That's in part, because the initial joy of acquiring a new object, such as a new car, fades over time as people become accustomed to seeing it every day. Experiences, on the other hand, continue to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred.
Recent research at the San Francisco State University found that the reason for increased happiness in experiences was that people felt a greater sense of vitality or "being alive" during the experience, and in reflection. As nice as your new car is, it's not going to make you feel alive for more than a few weeks or months.
And the surprising part? As per this research, the moments in life that people remember most fondly were the impromptu gatherings of close friends or family, where the setting was informal, without any pre-planning and there was no particular occasion. And what do people reflect on most about these casual get-togethers? Its the conversation, the camaraderie, the feeling that you connected to people around you....and as a result trust, which is the backbone of any relationship, grows.
The same research revealed that the material possessions people cherished high up on the list were gifts with a personal touch. Such gifts often become keepsakes and have sentimental value that increases with time, instead of diminishing.

People are different and personalities vary. Some of us might not agree with findings of this research. I happen to agree with most of it. If some people are not on the same road of life that you chose, it doesn't mean they are lost. They've just chosen a different path.
I believe life is just not about what you own. Its about people who are a part of your life and your immediate world. We can't control the thought process and attitude of people around us, but we surely can control our own. Create beautiful moments everyday, so that you have wonderful memories to look back on.

"I can explain as much of life as I can to you, but you must remember that there is a part of life for which you are the explanation." ~ Robert Brault