Even though a loss would teach me more than a victory…I’m a sore loser, and I want to savour the glorious moment when the referee raises my fist in the air.
Before I left home, however, my mom called me into her room, and asked me to sit on her bed.
“Uh-oh”, this must be serious, I thought.
I won’t get into the specifics, but here’s what I can share:
She said I was crying last night.
I was astonished. I had no idea I cried at home.
Yes – I cried at least 2 times yesterday – but it was with two of my best friends during the day; and it was because I felt grateful, and happy.
She passed by my room (which was locked) and heard me sobbing loudly.
What’s funny is I had no idea this happened.
I will put this strange incident down to rediscovering my zest for life.
Destroy, then rebuild.
Break ups are messy, and usually complicated. I know someone who is going through a rough patch because they broke up with someone they loved.
The best healer is time. I write from experience, because I unceremoniously got dumped by someone I gave all my love to.
Thankfully, we only dated briefly, which meant we didn’t exchange physical belongings.
Instead, what we shared as a couple were fleeting moments of happiness, intimacy, and – in this modern dating world – a digital trail that occasionally reminds me of her.
The person I know shared more with their former lover.
A roof. Possessions. Memories. A life.
Whilst it hurts to see someone I care about unable to find their feet as a newly single person, I realise I cannot help them until they help themselves.
And this is the single biggest lesson I have learnt over the past 9 months, when the girl I liked disrespected, cheated, and lied to me.
When we began dating, I knew I had to fix myself if I were to make space for someone else in my life.
Someone I gave a damn about. Someone I wanted to build a life with. Someone I wanted to discover new things with.
Which is why – seemingly out of nowhere – when I was smoking a cigarette in my building’s parking lot, the idea came to me:
I had physical ailments I had to heal.
I had important relationships I had to rebuild.
I had sinful addictions I had to curb.
So, what did I do? I put myself through hell.
I embraced pain.
I expanded my comfort zone.
And killed a Karan Sharma I hated.
To make room for a Karan Sharma I loved.
It’s been an educational journey. And it’s going to be a long one. The road to self-improvement never ends.
But, as I’ve experienced before, (as a former music vlogger) when you put yourself on a path which aligns with your authentic self, you meet magical people who bring out the best in you.
Death is inevitable. Which is why I want to leave my mark on this world.
I am keenly aware of my impending mortality. We are blessed with one life, and after murdering a self I disliked, I can now see – crystal clearly – what I must do to leave a positive impact before ol’ Grim Reaper pays me a visit.
And as I turned 29 on the 21st August, I could see Father Time in the distance; nodding at me in approval, urging me to continue doing what I do best:
Creating, living, loving, improving, and motivating.
My 29th birthday was memorable because I broke a tradition I’ve maintained since 2015.
For the past 7 years (excluding 2020 – looking at you…Big C) I’ve celebrated my birthday anywhere but Dubai.
2015 was spent in India
2016 was spent in Hawaii
2017 was spent in Sri Lanka
2018 was spent in Romania
2019 was spent in Malta
2020 – you already know
2021 was spent in India
I will probably celebrate my 30th in a different part of the world. Time will tell…
Today marks the end of my birthday week.
And yesterday I met my best friend, who came bearing gifts that were not only thoughtful, but practical. They will come in handy for my White Collar boxing match.
Those are the kind of gifts that tug at my heartstrings. Unsurprisingly, I teared up when receiving them.
I love her. She’s a sweetheart. And one of the strongest women I know. I am grateful to have her in my life.
That is all, for now. Thank you for reading. I will leave you with some photos from my 29th birthday, which I celebrated with my friends – most of whom I’ve known for over 15 years. Precious.
And some from meeting my friends yesterday for a Japanese lunch.
(This is how I journal in Google Keep. I mention the date, write a headline, opening time, do the journalling, and then sign off with closing time. I must write now – editing and structure be damned – else the duties and troubles of tomorrow will weigh me down, and I will not be able to express the way I’m feeling. I secretly hope no-one will read this blog. Because I’m feeling vulnerable. And I’m not the kind to share when I’m feeling down; I prefer to bear my burden by myself.)
God, it’s been a day. It is tough being a man. Yes, it is. Is it tough being a human; no matter whether you’re a man or woman? Also true. But it’s tougher being a man.
We’re expected to largely figure things out on our own. Make something of ourselves. Get a job. Find a mate. Start a family. Put a roof over their heads. Raise the damn family. Protect them.
And be the rock when things go south. Not The Rock. Although I’ll admit, it’d be cool being The Rock.
Man, why do I try being funny. I cringe every time I try to crack a joke in my writing.
(Note to self: do not try your hand at stand-up, no matter how tantalizing the idea of getting up on stage may seem.)
Ding-dong! My phone’s notification bell just went off. I check it, and Bumble tells me I’ve got a new bee in the hive.
It’s a girl I matched with several years ago.
I think back to when we matched; we didn’t get past the messaging stage. She either ghosted me, or I deleted the app. What I do remember is I liked the way she looked, and she was an art-director.
I thought it was fitting, because I used to be a copywriter.
In conventional agencies, copywriters and art directors work together to make ads.
Naturally, I thought we’d make a baby. Or get married. At the very least.
I’m kidding. It’s not like I used any of those lines when chatting her up. I swear.
On this girl. Who I don’t like. At all.
(I actually don’t, just to clear the air. There’s another girl I like, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Read on to know more…)
I used to have an on/off relationship with this shitty dopamine-rollercoaster.
Now, I just don’t give a fuck. If I meet someone I vibe with, great. If not, also great.
I have no shortage of beautiful women in my life, and sex isn’t as appealing as it used to be.
I’ve been around the block. I had an unforgivable addiction to pleasure that I’ve finally tamed.
(This next sentence is graphic. Proceed with caution.)
I’ve had mind-blowing orgasms that have had me rolling my eyes to the back of my head, and had me exhaling in ecstasy afterwards. ‘Pure carnal pleasure’ is putting it mildly.
After that, I usually puff on a Marlboro light, and question if there’s more to life. Spoiler alert: there is.
When you’ve scaled peaks of pleasure as high as I have, you realize you must give purpose to your life.
Devote yourself to a mission. One which gives you a profound and personal sense of satisfaction.
Not happiness. Because happiness is fleeting.
Ideally, this mission should give back to your community in some form.
Happiness is overrated. Contentment? Now we’re talking.
I ask not for a lighter load, but broader shoulders.
I will not write about my troubles – because, again – I dislike being a negative Nancy.
And they seem trivial as I think about them now. Of course, they haven’t gone anywhere.
The problems are snoozing. So should I, because it’s 11:46 PM, and I’ve had a long day.
I was at a boxing class at 6:30 this AM. And another one at 6:45 this evening.
And I’ve got a Strength and Conditioning class at 5:30 PM tomorrow. It is a brutal class.
But I must put in the work. I’m fighting my first public fight in November.
I keep saying this to myself, and telling the world, as if it will come to pass. And it will, subject to my boxing gym finding an opponent in my weight and experience class.
The boxing gym offers free training to the fighters. In exchange, they have to sell tickets so the event is a success, and the gym makes a profit.
I initially had reservations about signing up, because the prospect of selling 20 tickets seemed more daunting than the intense training.
But after a hiatus of 3 years, I’ve reactivated my social media profiles. And I am confident in my ability to generate hype.
As I often tell myself; I am the ultimate hypebeast. I have this gift to get people behind me. Cheer me on in my endeavours.
In fact, being my biggest cheerleader has held me in good stead on my journey to be the best me I can be.
Even when no-one’s watching, so long as I’ve got my beauty sleep, I can motivate myself to finish a project, or put in the hours during training.
I haven’t started promoting my upcoming fight on the-necessary-but-evil social media platforms yet, but the few people I’ve told – even in passing – are keen to come, and support me.
I’m thankful for my circle. I’m grateful to have good people in my life. I was crying about it in my car last week on my sister’s birthday.
I wrote a few hundred words about how I felt…although I’m not sure if that blog will see the light of day.
I didn’t have the cojones to complete it, because I felt I came across too sappy.
Sappy? Ooh boy, you have no idea how sappy I can get! Screw it, let me tell you about the girl I mentioned earlier.
Love yourself boy,
or no one will.
Right. There’s this girl I like. (“Oh Sharma, not another one!” You can almost hear the collective groan of my friends as I declare my undying devotion to yet another woman.)
To be fair, I used to fall for every second girl who was reasonably attractive several years ago.
Thankfully, after my last breakup that saw me end up in the hospital – don’t ask, I let my vices get the better of me…
And the subsequent changes that took place, which included:
10 months of falling in love with myself;
Rediscovering my self-worth;
Building a life I’m proud of;
Embracing my masculinity;
And being wanted by women
I’ve finally developed a benchmark for what I seek in a partner. And that last point particularly earmarks how far I’ve grown since my breakup.
I never knew how much of a big deal it made to me. Wait, that’s not entirely true.
I always knew I’ve loved the attention from the fairer sex. Who doesn’t like an ego boost? Especially, as an Emirati girl told me this weekend…it’s clear as day I’m a proud Leo! And us Leos love the spotlight.
Let me take you back to 2014. I was consistently hitting the gym, and I looked hench.
I strutted into a fancy bar in Souq Al Bahar (an upmarket area next to the Burj Khalifa) to meet the boys on a Thursday night.
The second I walked in; I caught a girl who was shamelessly eye-raping me.
I had never felt more like a piece of meat in my life. And you know what?
I fucking loved it.
I knew she wanted nothing more than to go home with and ride me until the sun came up.
I didn’t give her the time of night, though. I enjoyed seeing her want me.
That was enough. Knowing I had that effect on her.
Ever since that Thursday night, I relish knowing women find me attractive.
I’m happiest if you put me on a dancefloor, which is my natural element. Add some banging house and techno to the mix…and you’ll find me snickering at the desperate attempts of women to woo me.
And me? I ruthlessly shoot down every single one of them.
”I don’t want to be your boy toy for the night, missy!”, I tell them with a cheeky grin.
Single, but not quite ready to mingle.
Although I know what I want in a partner…I’m also madly in love with being single.
It’s brilliant, being able to live life on your terms, with no one to answer to.
That said, if the right woman comes waltzing into my life, I’d love to tango with her.
It’s a funny place, this. What, you ask? The space me and this girl I like, are in.
I don’t think she likes me romantically, or views me as a prospective partner.
Me? I consider her to be my best friend. And I love her, platonically.
But…you’ll have to hold that thought. Allow me to wax lyrical for a few:
She is the most radiant woman I know. When she walks into a room, all eyes are on her.
And it’s not because of how attractive she is – on a related note – her sense of style would make Audrey Hepburn turn green with envy.
No, everyone’s eyes turn towards her because of her energy.
She’s got a bubbly, vivacious, childlike, contagious energy. I love it. I live for it.
At the same time, she carries herself with grace.
As if Cinderella herself advised her on how to be the belle of the ball.
I love her lilting voice, and her crisp North American/Indian accent.
The cherry on top of this gorgeous sundae is her impish laugh.
It rings clear in the air,
if you’d be oh-so-lucky to hear.
The way I’m writing about her, you’d think I’m madly in love. Or, I’ve gone barking mad.
Perhaps a bit of both? Bear with me, I’ll explain myself shortly.
Bottom-line: she’s a beautiful soul. I could sense she was pure the first time I met her, and I believe it was a serendipitous day we met.
I can be myself around her. And as energetic as she is, she brings an odd yet comforting sense of familiarity, and warmth when she’s around me.
It is effortless being with her. And that is rare, considering how cuckoo I can get, on occasion.
“Act normal, as that’s crazy enough.” This Dutch phrase describes me to a t.
Oh JT, you beauty. If you think I’ve fallen head over heels for my best friend, think again.
I’m not 19 years old anymore. I’m a decade older. I just can’t fall in ‘love’ with someone so easily anymore.
Or demonstrate the worst kind of love: which is unrequited.
I’ll tell you what it is.
I’m in love with the idea of being in love.
I entertain the thought of having this special woman by my side. Knowing if I’ve had a tough day – much like today – I can be vulnerable just for a few moments with someone I trust, and who’s opinion I value.
And of course, enjoy the other things that lovers might take for granted: waking up by their side; cuddles; new experiences; being their rock and biggest supporter; growing as people; celebrating the good times and commiserating the bad ones.
But even if I – on the rare occasion – fantasize being with someone I may never end up with, I can’t disregard that earlier today, she shared something with me that was dear to her.
And at that moment, I wanted to be by her side. Just to put my arm around her, and ask if she was okay.
My day wasn’t the best. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.
Is this the price one must pay to be a man? To be a rock, even if you’re going through a rough time?
Or is this the truest definition of ‘love’ – even if it is completely platonic?
I have no idea. It’s late, and I must sleep.
I don’t know where this will go, and if I want it to go anywhere at all.
Maybe, just maybe, the smallest part of me wants sparks to fly.
But here’s what I know without a reasonable doubt: if a woman’s mere presence in your mind inspires you to write, even if she’s a few thousand kilometres away; you keep that woman close to your heart.
This obsessive focus on The Work is our reason for being and our competitive edge.
We believe The Work is the only true measure of an agency.
Hi dear reader, I trust you’re doing A-OK. It’s been a couple of months since my last post, and I want to change that. Excuse my topless torso in your inbox – I will explain my shirtless-ness shortly.
I meant to write last night; but was not in the right state of mind, and sleep was not forthcoming either. At one point, I started thinking deeply about several topics, but when you’re bound by your own mind, things can get heady…
Which is why I write. Writing offers me the opportunity to untangle, and more importantly, weaponise my thoughts into action. As always, if I end up sparking positive change or create a shift in perspective for someone, I will be as happy as a squirrel that digs into their secret acorn stash after a harsh winter.
I hope this turns out to be the case, but I wrote this blog more for myself than anyone else, which is why I doubt it will resonate with anyone. If it did, please let me know.
Now…on the cover image. Guess who’s the owner of that glorious, sun-kissed body? Me – Karan! I’ve popped my ‘first topless photo on the Internet’ cherry with this upload, and it’s a big deal for me.
Why? Because as confident as I am, I’ve always felt insecure about my body, and I don’t quite know why.
I was fine up until the age of 8, when I used to visit Dubai’s famous Jumeirah Beach with my family.
It might have been my tweens (hello puberty!) when I started to feel awkward about taking my shirt off.
I vividly remember excusing myself from a fun day out at Wild Wadi Waterpark with my school friends when I was 12, telling them I didn’t feel comfortable in the water.
If anything, I felt more comfortable under water, than out of it.
The photo of them making a splash at the water slide is still up on Facebook. Minus me.
Skinny fat. That was my body type. I didn’t have muscle, and carried some weight around my stomach.
Still, I looked decent when I dressed up. There was only a slightly visible paunch, which didn’t faze me.
As long as I had a shirt on, life went on…
Started from rock bottom. Now we here.
Cut to 16 years later. With a pandemic thrown in for good measure. (Which I survived, in case you were wondering. If your heart is still beating, type ‘Life is as good as you make it.’ in the comments.)
God, it’s good to be alive.
I am still amazed at how much I’ve physically changed in the last 6 months.
Although this photo is probably not the best indicator, because I’m comparing myself from one of my lower points in 2020 – when my depression had returned – and I turned to (junk) food and (overindulged in) sex to cope. I packed on the pounds quicker than I could demolish a Big Tasty, and that’s saying something.
Even so, those cheeks are impressive – I could probably host a village of Smurfs on each one. Ah, and the cute double chin.
A combo of gluttony with a lack of physical exercise and a side of excessive masturbation got me to this stage.
It wasn’t pretty, but I never considered myself a pretty boy. Handsome? Under the right conditions, yes.
Burn, baby, burn: boxing, HIIT, and getting fit.
The photo from February 2022 is when I was a month into boxing.
I was hooked (punch me for that silly pun – I can take it) after the first class.
But here’s the thing: I never intended to get into shape. I merely fell in love with the sport.
I’ve always been a high-energy guy, and boxing was the perfect outlet to channel my excessive energy.
After the initial shock and subsequent struggle, my body adapted to the demands of each class, and I felt myself getting fitter.
Apart from the varied classes (HIIT classes, technical classes, and strength and conditioning classes) I took up weight-training and powerlifting to become stronger.
Naturally, I didn’t want to undo the hard work by pigging out. I just upped my protein, regulated my carbs, and slept well.
For better or for worse, when you lose a drastic amount of weight in a short period of time, people notice.
And people love to talk. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for it – I love stimulating conversation.
But to make a comment for the sake of making a comment? That vexes me.
“You’ve lost weight, Karan. Is everything ok? You’re looking thin, Karan.”
I’ve been working hard since January 2022. I attended two boxing classes every day, 4 days a week, every week.
One at 6:30 in the AM, and one at 6:45 in the evening. Sometimes, I’d stick around to spar at 8 PM.
And ooh boy, 6 minutes in the ring will leave you gassed!
I’d slip in a powerlifting/weight training session on the fifth and sixth day, and rest for one.
I was burning upwards of 800 calories per class. That’s about 1600 calories per day.
Which meant all that subcutaneous fat disappeared. Fast.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, I’m Indian. Now, what has that got to do with anything?
Culturally speaking, in olden times, having a pot belly was viewed as a sign of prosperity.
Since I’m Indian and work in the construction sector in Dubai, I interact with many Indians. Some of whom get needlessly personal.
And most of whom have a traditional mindset. Who do not question the world. Who are content living in their bubbles, doing the same thing, day in, day out.
Like suave, well-dressed monkeys, hitting keyboards.
Which inevitably led to some variation of the question above. It was fine the first few times…
But the fiftieth? Give it a rest, man.
What really got my goat, however, was hearing I’ve become weak. People had no idea.
Yes, I look lean. But I’m the strongest I’ve been all my life, and I’m only just getting started.
There is a difference between looking muscular à la the classic bodybuilder look versus putting on lean muscle yet becoming strong i.e. a professional athlete (think gymnasts, basketball players, football players, etc.)
Have you heard how a wolf does not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep? This is not to say I’m a wolf.
Oh, no. I’m a God damn lion. After pushing the envelope for the last half year, I’ve realized I can do anything if I apply myself.
People start to treat you differently when you take care of your appearance. Numerous studies have proved how attractive people earn more, are thrust into leadership positions, are trusted more, and generally do better at life than, say, average-looking people.
On a related note, it is a strange feeling to have unknown men nod at you as they pass. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is amusing how women throw themselves at you in social situations.
Pardon me if this sounds masturbatory. It is the truth. I’ve always written the truth. And will continue to do so, until my last breath.
Speaking of death, I am keenly aware of how I could die, or get seriously injured at a moment’s notice.
It may not even be my fault. Picture the most horrific car accident you’ve seen.
What if you were caught in the crossfire? Collateral damage ensues – you lose your vision, or maybe a limb?
What if you were to become paraplegic? And had to use disabled toilets, and park in ‘reserved’ spots for the rest of your pathetic, miserable life?
I have an Indian-American cousin who’s a year older than me. We’re similar in many ways, yet the key difference between us is our egos. Not the size of them, mind you.
We’ve both got egos the size of Mount Everest, but what differentiates us is how I know I am nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I could get punched, bleed internally, and die next Thursday whilst sparring a Mexican in my boxing gym.
Which is why I am filled with nothing but love for people, wanting the best for everyone, whilst my cousin can be self-centred, violent, and arrogant.
At the same time, what else can I offer this world but my self? Sure, I may look different now, but whatever happens, I will never let go of my inner child that lusts for novelty, craves adventure, and loves bringing joy to those around me.
Sleep was a foreign concept to me last night. I instead stared at myself in the mirror, thinking of how far I’ve come.
Thinking of how I held my own against bigger men in the ring. Thinking of how much money I’ve made. Thinking of my recent European holiday. Thinking of how much fun I had dancing in the sun by myself. Thinking of all the women who wanted nothing more than to fuck me. Thinking of how I climbed mountains no-one dared climb. Thinking of the new friends I made. Thinking of the old ones I reunited with.
(I also thought of this woman I like, and how I want her to become the woman she once was, even if we will never be together.)
I’ve grown more in the past 9 months than I have in the past 3 years.
But the work cannot stop. It does not stop. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s immense work to be done. On this blog. On my YouTube channel. On my t-shirt project. On my boxing. On my relationships. On my business.
But every once in a while, it’s okay to pause. To watch yourself in the mirror, wide-eyed.
Admire the person you’re becoming.
And thank them for being there, every step of the way. Because nobody, (are you listening to me!?) nobody – except for you – did those push-ups. Even when no-one was watching.
It’s scary, yet liberating to be by yourself at 3 AM. With nothing but your thoughts for company.
I’m proud of you, Karan. Thank you for being there for me when no-one else was.
But we’ve got a long way to go. I hope you’re ready for what lies ahead.
The clock just struck 6:56 PM, and for once, I’m not blogging from my office.
I’m in my room, sat on my desk, and eager to get these words out so I can get a solid arm workout in, break a sweat, listen to some tunes, and get those endorphins flowing.
I cannot expect every blog to be as inspirational as the last. I’ve been telling a dear friend lately you cannot expect perfection from every job, but that doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to reach it.
It is high time I practiced what I preach.
And maybe, just maybe, there may be some beauty to be found in writing about the mundane…
The WhatsApp messages keep coming in as I type this; and they’re on the ‘Fam jam’ group and they pertain to two work-related issues from today.
It is tough to mentally unplug from work when you’re a business owner. Even more so when it’s a family business.
But this is what I signed up for, when I abandoned pursuing my dream of becoming a music vlogger.
It was a jolly good year, and the most creative (and hedonistic) year of my life; but I had to stop playing Peter Pan, shoulder responsibility, and become the man I was meant to be.
Please read about it by clicking the link below. I touch upon the perils of social media, the skills I have transferred from my old job as an advertising creative to my current job, and how I touched thousands of lives through electronic dance music.
Before I get into today (28th March 2022), I’d like to tell you about my weekend.
I completed my first 10K in an hour on Saturday, and I am chuffed with the effort.
My knees aren’t in the best shape
I didn’t practice for this run
I haven’t run in 16 years (the last time I did was in school)
I didn’t know I was running my final lap
An hour is not too shabby! With preparation, I can bring that time down to 50 minutes. Easily.
Once a runner, always a runner, eh?
After the run, the aforementioned dear friend told me she was done with her shoot (she’s an actor and a model) and asked if we could have breakfast. I was hungry, but smelly.
After a quick pit-stop at home to freshen up, I was raring to go.
Since I’ve been watching what I eat (I’m on a see-food diet. I see food and I eat it. Note to self: this dad joke does not work on paper!) and she does too, Subway was the perfect choice.
We spoke about many things, and the conversation flowed effortlessly, like water. She’s a new friend. Prior to this, we’d only met a handful of times, but she’s brought out the best in me, and I’ve helped her too, which I’m super happy about.
I love meeting new people. I love connecting with people. Two sides of the same coin.
And if I click with someone, I let them know how much they mean to me. Unconditionally.
It’s the Leo in me: we’re incredibly loyal, steadfast with our love, and generous with those we consider dear.
(Spoiler alert: this new friend played a telling role in inspiring me these past 3 days. And she’s played a crucial role in helping me rediscover my voice as a writer, and capabilities as a creative. To know more, read until the end.)
Right. So I’d chowed down on my footlong, and she’d grazed on her salad. With our tummies sated and hearts content, it was time to get going. We bade goodbye, and planned to hang another time.
I had to pick up a fabric roll from Naif, and deliver it to Al Quoz to get it fire-treated. We were going to manufacture acoustic baffles on Monday and ship them to Oman soon after, and it was critical I got the roll to the fire-treatment people in time.
Into my Rav 4 I go.
It was a long drive from Motor City. And my legs were crying for some much-needed R&R. Even though I’d had a hectic week, there is no rest for the weary.
After collecting the roll, I was off to Al Quoz. I was there earlier than expected.
The driver promised he would be, too.
I had to wait for half an hour. I was terse with him as he apologetically rolled up in his minivan.
Home. Sweet. Home.
Work done, I tried to sleep. It wasn’t forthcoming. I was still riding the euphoric wave of having smashed my first 10K.
I tidied my room, and continued reading Joshua Mezrich’s brilliant ‘How Death Becomes Life’. Notes from a transplant surgeon.
Before I knew it, the sun had set, and my mind needed rest. I fuelled up, and crashed. Hard.
Sunday. Fun day.
The day began with a choice. Do I get an ab workout in? Nah, I thought to myself.
My body had been put under enough stress yesterday. I instead had a healthy breakfast, and got my Rav 4, my pride and joy, a much-needed wash.
I headed in to the office afterwards, and attempted to get down to working on my post-10K run blog. It wasn’t to be.
I usually have my head in the right place when I sit down to write, but I couldn’t focus my thoughts into telling a compelling story.
A couple of hours had passed. And it was time to get Sterilac yogurt for lunch.
My dad insisted I get this brand.
I knew it was only available in select stores. He recommended one. Three stores later, and a not-so-fun adventure later, I’d given up and come home with Almarai.
I wolfed down lunch, and rushed back to the office to attempt to write. In the meantime, a friend wanted to catch up.
She’s a gem, and she’s been going through a tough time off-late, so I took out some time to Zoom, and inspire her to improve…
Experiences worth noting, not nothing.
I’m on the journey to become my best self. And people have been taking notice. They want to understand what drives me, what I’ve been doing differently, how I’ve seemingly been killing it at my life, and want to share some of my energy.
Without putting too fine a point on it, it’s bloody hard work. People are not privy to the behind-the-scenes. All they see is the final product: whether it’s an entertaining vlog, or an inspiring blog.
Which is why I’m learning to be more careful with my time than ever.
Be mindful of who I spend my time with; either physically or digitally. I’ve realized being a social butterfly isn’t easy.
I love people too damn much. And I want to help everyone out. But when you do that, you realise that you might not have enough time left over for yourself. To excel at work. Or succeed at your creative endeavours.
Thankfully, I’m old-school in more ways than one. When I want something done now, I call. I loathe texting.
Mostly because people respond to messages selectively, over-share, (guilty!) or are terrible texters.
As wonderful as it is to be in touch with friends the world over through WhatsApp, (insert your preferred comms platform of choice here) I’ve learnt from my past-life as a music vlogger that I place unnecessary importance on digital relationships.
Not anymore. From juggling conversations across Antibes to Dubai, from Los Angeles to New Delhi, and beyond; I now place responding to WhatsApp messages at the bottom of my priorities.
It takes time. And mental effort. For the first time (in a long-time) in my life, I’ve got goals. Which demand much from me.
Whilst it may sound selfish, I’ve learnt the hard way that if you do not put yourself first, you will not be able to help anyone else.
Of course – if there’s quick plans to be made, things that require immediate attention, or digital relationships that I feel are worth my while fostering – I will respond to you. On my time.
I love you. Don’t forget. But right now, I love me, first.
One digression later…
Right. Where were we? I’d Zoomed with my friend in Berlin; put a smile on her face, reminded her why she must soldier on with her musical journey, and I now had to get back to finishing my 10K blog.
Several hours and coffees later, I had to show my family (who were relaxing back home) my gorgeous mug for dinner.
In. And out. Both: the food and me. Back to my office desk. Getting those words out.
10:45 PM. And I still had loads to write. I was tempted to work late into the night and finish it, but if there’s anything the past few weeks have taught me, it’s that burning the candle at both ends is sheer stupidity.
Even though I’d got two blogs out and felt creatively satisfied, things at work were piling up. Big time.
The weekly work forecast was jam-packed, and I had to bring my A-game.
Immediately after uploading my vlog, I was shocked to see it had been automatically converted to a YouTube Shorts.
Which meant it would pop up on people’s phones at random. Which, of course, is great to amass views. One of my best friends from school was stumped to learn his innocuous Honey Singh vlog had gained 14 million views.
Personally speaking, I did not want random eyeballs discovering my YouTube through Shorts, so I was freaking out about seeing my excited face talking back at me.
I will not disclose the biggest reason why I didn’t want the Shorts, but one of them is that I want my channel to grow organically.
As with all my creative endeavours, my YouTube is a labour of love.
I ask people to subscribe, but only if they want to. Only if they would like to support me as I discover the art of storytelling through video.
Anyway. There I was. At my work-desk. Freaking out.
I didn’t know who to turn to in that moment of madness, until the answer presented itself clear as day.
My new friend. Who I’d met on Saturday for breakfast. I am my truest self when I’m with her.
I can turn to her without being judged.
I feel comfortable sharing things I’ve never shared with anyone else.
And she turned up. I needed something confirmed, and she pulled through, when no-one else would have. What’s more, her words had the unusual effect of calming me down. I use the word ‘unusual’ because I’m fiercely independent, and can be as stubborn as a billy goat, rarely listening to people.
But because she’s someone I trust completely, I know she’s got my best interests at heart; so knowing she told me to calm down put me at ease.
Better still, she told me to stay in the present. And as I drove home, listening to this tune, I knew that is all we can do.
Live in the present. Not thinking about what may, or may not, happen tomorrow.
All we can do is give our best in the moment-to-moment, and trust that things will work out.
Which brings me to…today.
I woke up with my legs still smarting from Saturday’s 10K. Much to my chagrin but with the wisdom of hindsight, I decided to cancel tonight’s 8 PM HIIT boxing class I’d booked yesterday, because if I’d go, I knew my body would not thank me for it.
The first thing on my agenda was a meeting with our acoustic underlay supplier in their warehouse in JAFZA.
We’ve bagged the scope of undertaking acoustic works for The Marriott in the Jumeirah Village Circle, and I’m relieved to have secured this order.
The contract is worth around 750,000 Dirhams, and it will keep us afloat for the next 6 months.
We have a growth mindset in no small part thanks to my dad – who inspires me with his drive even as he nears 60.
My sister, who unfailingly lends a hand when I have surplus on my plate, and makes up for my weaknesses in Excel and accounting and finance.
And, of course, my two colleagues, who keep me on my toes. They’re hardworking. And loyal – I feel like my dad trusts people too easily, but the way things have progressed over the past 5 years – he seems to have picked the right pair.
Right. We had to determine the inventory situation in our supplier’s warehouse and confirm if they had enough stock to supply us for the next few months or so.
Although we’ve placed an order for 20,000 sq. m. of acoustic underlay, we’ve only supplied a partial quantity because the site is not ready for us to install.
Which is why we had to establish if our supplier would not run out of stock in the middle.
If they did, they would have to order more from Germany, and because of:
Global freight prices skyrocketing;
The Russia-Ukraine war, and subsequent increase of petrol prices;
And COVID-19’s continued after-effects on the business world
Our supplier would hike their price. Which they would pass on to us. Which would affect our bottom line.
Which we cannot afford. Not in this market. But they gave us their word, on the condition we would collect the rest of our order over the next few months, and not wait until 2023.
This will be the second major project I will handle. I will admit, I royally screwed up on multiple occasions on my first, a 63-storey tower in Business Bay.
But I’m going into this project with experience, confidence, and most importantly, knowledge. I could have excused myself on the first, all variables considered.
On this one? No fuck-ups, Karan.
Before I left the warehouse, I shared a video of what I’d gotten up to with my new friend. I’m proud of my job. It’s honest work.
And if there’s one thing I will never forget from the first time I met my friend, it’s that she took an ardent interest in my job. That was 2020, and I was battling imposter phenomenon that year. So to have someone who gave a damn about what I did for a living that torrid year was refreshing, to say the least.
Time is money.
I won’t write about the rest of my day. But one episode of collecting an outstanding is worth recounting.
As assistant manager, I don many hats. I do a bit of everything: management, procurement, invoicing, operations, admin, social media, accounting (both receivables and payables), site-work.
And considering it’s been a mad few weeks at work, and I’ve been blogging, and I’ve been keeping on my fitness grind, and I’ve been maintaining an active social life, sometimes…it can all get a bit much.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve developed immense aggression. This is both a by-product of deciding to take ownership of my life; and rediscovering, and harnessing my raw, masculine energy.
Which is why I no longer have patience for mediocrity. Or stupidity.
Unfortunately, I experienced both when trying to collect a cheque this afternoon.
Here’s the backstory: we’d submitted an acoustic report for a hotel to a contractor.
We were supposed to get paid some 2600 Dirhams within 30 days.
I called every few days. They never answered. I emailed their accounts team (it wasn’t worth my time going to their office to chase them) but to no avail. They were indifferent to my mails, occasionally responding with the generic Indian corporatese I despise with every fibre of my being, “Noted. Shall update.”
On occasion, it infuriated me we still hadn’t got our dues, but I had bigger cheques to claim, so this relatively paltry sum fell by the wayside. Before I knew it, 90 days had gone by with this back-and-forth.
I had had enough. I decided to cut out the middleman. And go straight to the decision-maker. Who in this case was the project manager.
It only took a few stern calls with a brusque tone (on my part), and sharply written mails (my time in advertising will continue to serve me well in the future) to start applying pressure on him.
Finally, they budged. A man-who-shall-not-be-named asked for our bank details last week, and mentioned he’d prepare our payment certificate, which I had to sign in order for them to release our long-overdue outstanding.
What worried me, however, was him mentioning this would be a PDC (post-dated cheque). Those were not our payment terms. Our payment was already late by 90 days…how much longer would they delay this by?!
Which is why I went into this encounter hostile. I was prepared for it to be delayed further, but it was the circumstances around collecting this payment that set me off.
I entered their office, and was redirected to another counter, where some clerk had no idea what was going on. I mentioned our company, and he dawdled towards the back of the office.
Realizing, and relishing my words have power.
The useless clerk returned, and still hadn’t communicated my company’s name to the right person.
Vexed, I opened the receipt book and pointed to our logo, and mentioned who had told me to come in.
He walked off. After far too long, the accountant came in. The guy who’d asked for our bank details. So he could prepare the payment certificate.
I took one look at it. And immediately spotted a typo in our company’s name.
I pointed it out to him. He didn’t understand. He robotically asked me to sign.
(God, everybody I meet seems to be meandering through life! Or is it me that’s got too much energy?)
I told him again. He finally understood. I then noticed when the payment certificate was dated for.
26th June 2022.
This payment was already 90 days late. A little over 2600 Dirhams. All this trouble was not worth my time.
“Stuart, (name changed) this payment certificate is dated for June. Which means this payment would be 6 months late. Are you joking?”
“No, sir, I’m not. This is my management’s decision.” came his robotic reply.
“Fair enough. Tell me, when you go to the supermarket to buy a bottle of milk, do you pay them 6 months later?”
“But this is not milk. What are you saying?” he asked, unintelligently.
“Exactly. This is a business. If we go by your logic, how is it fair to pay for FMCG’s on time, but not pay for an acoustic consultancy service on time. Do you know what the sole purpose of a business is? It is to make a fucking profit.”
I could tell he was more shocked than usual by my rude tone. As an accountant who’s been delaying other people’s payments, I’m sure Stuart had faced the wrath of many.
I know he’s been delaying other supplier’s payments because I had a chat in the lobby with a poor chap who was owed 63,000 Dirhams, and he’s been waiting for it for over 6 months.
But here, Stuart was defeated by my argument. Besides, I’d switched up my accent to add a bit of British flair (love you, Lancaster!) for dramatic effect, and he could tell I wasn’t your usual, meek Indian.
“I cannot do anything.”
“Yes, I know you can’t. You’re just following orders. But can you explain why you’ve made a mistake in our payment certificate? You asked us for our bank details. We sent them. You merely had to type our company’s name and print this out. You had one job, Stuart. Were you half-asleep when working? Or did you not have your coffee?And then, you try to justify a delay?!You delay a meagre sum of 2677 Dirhams for 90 days, periodically respond to emails, never answer your God damn phone, and then have the audacity to date this 3 months later? Preposterous!” I started to raise my voice.
My mask slipped off my mouth, he saw my angry jaw, and I spotted fear in his eyes. So I went for the jugular.
“Is this what you’re paid to do? Make elementary mistakes on payment certificates? You’ve wasted my time, and even if I accept this ridiculous delay, why on Earth should I excuse mediocrity?!”I bellowed.
He backed off, and said he would do something. Amidst hearing me shouting, two colleagues came over. One tried to pacify me. I told him I chose not to relax in this moment, and to mind his own business.
I noticed the drones in the back room shift with unease. I reckon they were probably even enjoying the drama.
Well, I won’t lie. I loved it. I loved using my command of the English language to make that grown man squirm.
I’ve only recently come to realize the power of my words. Off-late; I’ve used my words to inspire, make people cry with joy, help them tell their stories, and in a professional context, make money.
Of course, it’s not my words alone that are having an impact on people, and changing my life as I speak.
I’ve also been boxing for the past 3 months. I’ve always been a supremely confident guy (bordering on cocky, some may say). And boxing has caused my confidence levels to soar. I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, and I’m only going to get better with time.
My posture has improved drastically. I stand straight, with my shoulders back. I don’t merely walk; I strut.
Also, when you know you can knock someone out with a few punches if you wanted to…you tend to be more assertive with what you want.
I’d like to say this story will have a happy ending, but I doubt that will be the case. There’s only a slim chance our client will prepare a new current-dated cheque – there’s excessive bureaucracy with big companies – even to release a tiny sum of AED 2,600. Nevertheless, Stuart Little has asked me to come in the day after to collect the cheque, and I’m going to enjoy toying with him again….
Update – 31st March 2022. Being assertive paid off: I received a cheque dated for 2nd April. Which means I do not have to wait for 3 months more for this money. Admittedly, it is a small amount, but I will take it as win.
On finding someone who matches my vibe, and inspires me.
I ended my day by posting a story on my WhatsApp status, where I shared how I felt bogged down after the events that transpired when attempting to collect that cheque. But as I watched myself talking to the world, (rather my world – I’ve limited who can view my status) I didn’t like what I saw.
I saw a guy complaining. Moaning. Whining. And bitching. About how things didn’t go my way.
But things will rarely go your way. Such is life. It is a test. Of our mettle. And it is how we respond to life’s trials and tribulations that makes a world of difference.
I don’t want to put negative energy out into the world. As I’ve explained in my blog’s about section, I’ve chosen to play the hero in my life. And a hero doesn’t complain. He may occasionally take an arrow to the knee, but he marches on, resolutely.
So I deleted my vlog 20 minutes later. I rarely delete content I post online, because I publish with consideration.
But it’s what happened immediately after deleting my vlog that not only cheered me up, but caused me to rush home, and write. And write. And write.
I started typing this blog at 6:56 PM. It is 12:26 AM, and the colons continue to blink. I have not had dinner. And there’s no way I am going to work my arms out now. If I do, I will probably be up until 4 AM.
I thought of my new friend. Scratch that. I thought of my best friend. I wanted to know how her day went. I also felt like telling her about why I deleted my story.
I knew I could talk to her openly and tell her exactly how I felt, because she’s a great listener.
And that is important for someone like me, who loves to talk! Thank goodness I’m well-read: I know a little bit about everything. I draw from psychology, creativity, anthropology, the arts, biology, pharmacology, culture, philosophy, self-development, pop-culture, the human condition, and my own deep wealth of experiences, and numerous adventures.
So whenever I open my mouth to utter something, it mercifully isn’t complete horseshit. Most times.
But enough about me.
I am keen to share the story of how I met my best friend, who has inspired me in my creative renaissance to the point where I continued to post videos on my YouTube because she motivated me in her signature carefree,
and energetic way.
Remember how, earlier on in this blog, I mentioned how I used to place importance on digital relationships?
Well, that is me to a T. I value relationships; period.
Again, I write: I just love people too much, God damn it. I want to be there for everyone, all the time. And want to uncover the best in people.
But just as my network has expanded over the years through travel, my world has shrunk as I start to shoulder more responsibility.
There simply isn’t enough time in my day to adequately maintain strong relationships. As I’ve matured, I’ve become aware of this fact.
On my part, I put my best foot forward, and express myself sincerely.
Not everyone may like me or my energy, but they don’t need to.
No, wait, that’s not true. Most people like me. I’m a likeable person. (I’m also a lickable person, but you’ll have to verify that with one of my old flames…)
Jokes aside, once I’ve identified that someone wants the best for me purely out of the goodness of their heart, I will let them know I love that. And I will tell them I love them. And I will be there for them. To celebrate their victories. And give them company in their miseries.
Several years ago, when I didn’t have a plan for my life, and no goals, I would constantly think of my friends, and how I could add value to their lives.
I’d often use the phrase, “I’d take a bullet for you, xxxx!”
There was no need to get emotional.
Because as my friends have grown older, and they’re married, they can lean on their partners for support.
So, I’ve backed off. I trust by now my close friends know I’m there if they need me.
A chance meeting with
a beautiful soul.
It is perplexing how some people appear in your life at critical junctures.
I will forever marvel at this unexplained phenomenon.
The person in question is a friend of a friend, but I’d never known about her existence.
Until one winter day, I went to hang out with my friends, and she was there.
I remember how she carried herself with grace, was well-spoken; and like I mentioned earlier, exhibited a genuine interest in what I did for a living.
We didn’t see each other for 10 months after. And when I saw her again, I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend, which was strange, because I barely knew this girl.
Subsequently, we bumped into each other at parties, danced together to Bollywood music, and got to know each other over a glass (or three) of Merlot.
And we kept in touch. Over WhatsApp. Which is key. You see, although I’m not on social media anymore, this doesn’t mean I’m not a social butterfly.
My personality rang through by way of voice notes, and my words.
I’d also launched my YouTube around then, which she supported, wholeheartedly.
And at one point, there was an unexplainable sixth sense that pushed me to check in with my (then, still-fledgling) friend.
I shared this video. And texted, “Just in case you needed this. If not, keep your head down and continue getting that work done. (Insert bicep emoji here)”
Personally, I was in my element once again. I used to come up with ideas, and write and edit scripts; and headlines for a living.
And helping this friend reminded me of how much I used to love doing this.
How I was excellent at this.
By helping a friend tell her story, I’ve been able to tell my own. Again, and again, and it will happen again.
Because now, after 4 years, I’ve finally found the courage to start publishing on my blog again. And now, I’ve hit my stride.
My mind is buzzing with ideas and I need only make time to get them on my blog.
I can’t quite place my finger on what it is about you that’s inspired me so greatly, Ridhdhi. Maybe it’s your vivaciousness. Maybe it’s your energy. Maybe it’s your bubbliness. Maybe it’s your infectious laugh. Maybe it’s your innocence. Maybe it’s your goodness. Or…”Maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.” (Sue me. It’s the perfect tagline, I couldn’t help but weave it in there. I’m sure you laughed out loud – I cracked up writing this.) Whatever it may be, thank you, once again, for bringing out the best in me. I love you.
As I’ve told you, I feel incredibly comfortable in your presence.
I feel like I can talk to you about anything in the world. And to be yourself around someone; to speak without judgement, laugh about silly things, share personal anecdotes, and grow alongside them is an indescribably precious thing indeed.
And that concludes yet another story on my blog! God, I feel elated to publish another one. I have definitely hit a purple patch in my writing.
But at this point, I know unleashing your creativity is neither good luck, nor is it something mysterious. It is work. Plain and simple.
And you’ve got to put in the hours. Like with anything you want to succeed at.
The next blog in my series will be about my first 10K. I look forward to sharing.
If you’ve enjoyed reading, I would love it if you subscribed to my blog by email.
You can scroll to the top, hit the button, and I bloody well hope I don’t need to tell you how to type your email in.
I promised myself I wouldn’t bring this up until I’ve built a habit of consistently publishing. Now that I have, I have no shame in doing so.
I appreciate you reading, and I will catch you in the next one.
What a magnificent weekend! It is Sunday, 13th March 2022, 11:25 PM, as I’ve begun typing this. I’m in my office, and still riding a wave of euphoria, novelty, love, and surprise.
To say I have been looking forward to this wedding is putting it mildly.
I’ve been counting down to this date for several months, and decided to set a few goals at the outset. As history has taught me, having an upcoming event makes me work harder to achieve my goals.
I am somewhat satisfied with the progress I’ve made towards them, but this inspirational weekend also reinforced how much work remains before I get to where I want to be.
Which is why I’d like to thank you; Jesar and Daniel, for hosting your wedding in Abu Dhabi, sharing your love with us, and having me as part of your celebrations.
As cheesy as it sounds, I love love – it is a pure and incredibly powerful emotion – and one that, off-late, I’ve been giving myself healthy doses of. Love truly does conquer all. I also love functions that bring people together.
And your wedding delivered on both accounts, and how.
From witnessing friends reuniting after several years; to getting emotional at speeches (and making me tear up in the process) to connecting with new creative people (aka my favourite thing ever!) I am grateful to have experienced unconditional love, and uninhibited human connection these past 3 days.
I will elaborate on the events of this weekend in another blog. Stay tuned.
Until then, here are three memories that will not leave me in a hurry:
I will never forget the vivid colours of the sky during magic hour. Just like me, it seemed like the clouds themselves had taken a leave of absence as the sun gradually set.
Completing this picturesque sight was the calming beach backdrop, the gentle sound of the waves as they lapped the shoreline, and the gorgeous mandap taking pride of place as I watched one of my oldest friends solemnly circle the sacrosanct flame. Priceless.
2. Receiving a trophy for hyping the ‘#DanSaidJes Party Squad’ WhatsApp group. Jesar – if that was an ad-hoc decision, wow, I am touched. If that was planned previously, that’s still excellent. I’m guessing it was the former. Either way, I loved it! I thrive on being the ultimate hype man and to have my efforts recognized like that was super. Big love, thank you.
3. This isn’t a memory as much as it is a bouncy, up-tempo Spanish EDM track, that is stuck in my head. (Appreciate the ID, Athena.) And you know what? I don’t mind it at all. Whilst I have outgrown my big-room house days – I now fiercely love underground house and techno – the role of dance music has always been to unite, and provide people with a cathartic release.
And based on the reactions from the yacht, Sangeet, and Reception, this tune collectively made us lose our marbles. That’s a win, in my book.
Big up, DJ DAD. He certainly knew what he was doing when he closed the wedding with this ravey, Carnaval-esque banger…
The transatlantic curse
To the US and Canada-bound crew, I trust you’re back safe and sound. (Update – just learnt that some guests tested positive for COVID-19. I hope it isn’t the latest variant, which can cause people to gain tremendous amounts of weight. It is quite annoying; it is called the om-nom-nom-ni-cron variant…
Yes, dad jokes are my specialty. Sorry, not sorry.)
Jokes aside, I hope you are able to acclimatize to your current time zone, and fast. Having flown in to the US several times (one trip included another unforgettable wedding in Hawaii) I know all too well how vexing dealing with jet lag is.
By the time you’ve adjusted to your local time zone, it is already time to fly back, and readjust.
I have two tips for you:
1. Get some sun to help reset your body’s circadian rhythm. Which will mean staying up during the day, even if your brain is telling you to sleep as per Gulf Standard Time (GST).
Suck it up peeps, life is difficult. (I’m only half-kidding. The sooner you accept this fact, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.)
2. Exercise. At night. If you’re the kind that feels sleepy after a workout, this works a charm! If you’re the kind that feels rejuvenated after a workout, like me…
…then God help you. May the Sandman pay you a visit ASAP, and cover your eyes with their magic dust.
Sri Lanka’s bountiful beaches beckon
Jesar, I trust you’re having a wonderful honeymoon in Sri Lanka. Although I’m sure Daniel’s got it planned to a T, I’ve visited in 2017 and have recommendations. If you’re looking to hang ten, Arugam Bay on the west coast has solid waves; Mirissa is home to whale-watching; and Hikkaduwa has a lovely beachside vibe.
“The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will.”
Oh, Andy. From my early days in advertising to the on-going renaissance in my creative life, you continue to inspire from beyond the grave.
That’s about it from me. For now. I must make time to work on the second part of this blog, not to mention the #DanSaidJes wedding vlog. I am also considering to restart my Instagram-based t-shirt blog @teesonthestreets, thus ending my 2.5-year hiatus from social media.
Moving forward will be a tricky balancing act:
I’ve already got my hands full with my YouTube channel. Editing is a time-consuming process. More so when you’re learning from scratch, and despise releasing shoddy work.
The ideas for my blog are flowing freely. I’ve seemingly hit a purple patch in my writing. Most importantly, I’ve finally figured the secret to beat writer’s block…
Show up. And write. It’s not rocket science.
And after watching Susan’s vibrant UAE vlog, my mind ran abuzz with the possibilities of exploring TikTok. Susan, I love your vlog! Track choice was spot on. I’m not sure how much footage you shot and had to edit. Or did you shoot mini clips from TikTok itself? No idea how this works; but it was a fun watch, and succinctly summed up both, the wedding, and your trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I watched a few of your TikToks on my laptop and enjoyed them. If I download TikTok, you’ll be the first person I follow. I’m game to listen to someone talk about art, culture, and design.
So many projects. Not enough time. But that’s not your problem. It’s mine.
And it’s a good problem to have. To learn how to master your time, so you can have more time to do what makes you happy.
Which for me, is working on my creative endeavours.
Thank you all for coming down to Abu Dhabi, and for bringing your unique energy to make this weekend unforgettable. It was an absolute pleasure hanging with some of you. Have a strong week – I’ll catch you in the next blog.
“A story doesn’t have to appeal to the heart. It can also appeal to the spine.
And with two magic words…ay, no pressure.“
That’s a handsome guy, extra hand notwithstanding. I clicked this on Sunday, 27th Feb 2022 on my way to Wadi Abadilah, Fujairah, with a vibrant and diverse crew.
Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s been a whirlwind week.
We’re into another weekend as I type this on Saturday, 5th March 2022, and I must get these words out now before life’s duties and responsibilities get in the way of my writing.
I’ve been itching to blog for months, but never seemed to find the words, or make the time.
But as any great writer knows, you must show up, even if your muse doesn’t.
The process must be trusted. The inspiration will flow. The words will come. The story will be told.
I’m in a good place in my life. I’m happy. But not content. There is much work to be done before I will be.
And once I get to that stage, I will set more goals, and work relentlessly towards achieving them.
If only I had this drive and determination a couple of years ago, I wonder where I’d be today.
That said; I don’t dwell on the past. I only learn from it. A wise man reviews history, analyses what they could have improved, and armed with that knowledge, boldly creates their future.
Which is why, in this two-part blog, I want to tell the story of the most creatively fulfilling year of my life (2018 – 2019) as an electronic dance music vlogger, and t-shirt blogger.
With the exception of a Twitter I barely use; I don’t have social media anymore. Although I use LinkedIn, I’m not lumping it along with the big three – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – because it is a different and necessary beast.
(I also loathe how it has aped Facebook’s UI, but that’s beside the point.)
Depending on who you ask, not being on social media may either be considered a cardinal sin or completely normal. What is worth examining, however, is your relationship with, and what you gain from it.
What follows is the unabridged tale of when I was building something greater than myself.
My end goal was to secure a job covering underground electronic dance music across Europe. Either as a journalist, presenter, vlogger, or DJ. Although I already held a day job as an advertising copywriter, I had become disillusioned with the gig 3 years in. The reasons for my disillusionment? Several, but chief amongst them was that I didn’t see the point to my work, because I felt I wasn’t contributing anything of value to the world.
To reach my goal, I decided to hone my creative and social media skills through @karangoesdancing, where I would post Stories involving a mix of vlogs, photos, and blogs every day. All I did was change my existing handle (where I had some 300 followers) and start sharing content that was dance-music-focused.
Post with purpose, essentially.
I started experimenting with vlogs on Instagram in June 2018, making them for myself and noticed that people enjoyed watching. Note; I wasn’t strictly talking about music back then.
I merely went about my day, documented it, and had fun doing so.
After losing my job in advertising (mostly due to managerial changes, in part because my love for it had waned, and it showed) in September 2018, I decided to – with unconditional support from my parents – put all my eggs into the music vlogging basket.
My folks gave me a year to do as I deemed fit (known as a gap year in universities) and I was intrigued to see where this path would take me…
And this path certainly took me places! Some highlights:
1. Being asked to handle on-site social media creation for a boutique Burning Man-esque music festival called Magnetic Fields, held in a heritage 17th-century palace in Jaipur, India.
3. Meeting, and befriending my favourite artists, some of whom shared nuggets of wisdom on leading a creative life. I also crossed paths with veterans from the music industry, who guided me on how to succeed in the business.
4. Winning 4 passes to Glitch Festival, and reuniting with rave-happy friends in gorgeous Malta, who came to party, no questions asked, in the summer of 2019.
5. And last, but not least, connecting with people across the world through music.
I look back in gratitude at these magnificent experiences. And cannot believe what an extraordinary year that was.
…but I’d like to direct your attention as to why I started doing this in the first place.
I wanted to make a career of this, remember? And when you commodify yourself with an identity like @karangoesdancing, there comes a pressure to keep up appearances, especially on social media, where everybody seems to be having the time of their lives.
So, I chose to share,
Cherry-pick and publish highlights.
Things appeared rosy and hunky-dory on camera. But, for better or worse, (better, in my opinion) life is not a party.
There are highs, and lows.
That’s just the way life goes.
Whilst things seemed great digitally,
my physical life was in tatters.
My parents weren’t happy with my still-fledgling career choice. Besides, I wasn’t making any money doing this.
To remedy that, I started freelance writing. I was excellent at my job, so made enough to get by, but working freelance requires extreme dedication, and self-discipline. None of which I had at that time; I’ll admit. My food and living expenses (not to mention credit card bills) were also generously paid for by my loving parents.
I was doing what I loved but wasn’t working to a game plan. Whilst I had connected with key players in the music industry, I wasn’t sure how to leverage these connections into landing a job. And when I wasn’t creating content; I chose to party instead of work.
Common sense dictates you must have a mentor when you journey into the unknown. Especially in a field as hyper-competitive as music.
But what happens when you embark on
a journey by yourself, wanting nothing but to connect with and make people happy due to the naivete in your heart, yet also wanting to make it lucrative – thus going against your fundamental principles for doing something creative
– at the same time?
You overthink. And crash. And burn. Hard. And when you’re a self-professed hedonist, you turn to your vices. Which, for me, was unbridled pleasure.
Sexual gratification. I’d lose myself in lust for days at a time, but like a hamster running aimlessly on the hedonic treadmill, I’d return to my baseline level of happiness after reaching massive heights of ecstasy.
What’s worse is that I would repeat my mistakes, and like good old Pavlov’s dog himself, go through the same thought-stimulus-pleasure loop.
I don’t want to elucidate on this dark period, but of two things I am sure:
1. There is immense work to be done in the shadows, and on my Shadow, before I get to where I want to be. What’s encouraging is that the work began some time ago, and I’ve grown since.
2. Everything in nature is cyclical, and things are bound to improve. So long as we are conscious of our limitations, and make pushing past our comfort zones part of our daily routines.
Back to the story, then. Nobody knew what mental tug-of-war I was going through, yet I blissfully continued sharing Story after Story every day, creating ridiculous hype leading up to Glitch Festival – so when I was awarded 4 free festival passes, I was not surprised.
I’d organically grown my page from a paltry 300 something followers to a 1500-strong community in the span of 11 months.
The math worked out to about 110 new followers every month, which was decent, considering I wasn’t sharing any sponsored posts. I merely interacted with the global dance music community. I also viewed each person I connected with as a, well, person, and not a number.
Although I must say: this number included several bots. I’d be quick on the uptake to block them, but if memory serves me correctly, they would still count as part of your follower count. I do not remember.
People were following my journey every step of the way (the analytics didn’t lie) and were keen to hear my thoughts about this sonic festival on the sun-drenched shores of idyllic Malta.
And I was just as eager to tell that story, but couldn’t do so in good conscience upon my return from that significant trip because of a decision I had to make…
To do what is right, or what is difficult?
That is the question.
My year was up. I had to answer my parents – would I continue the music-vlogging shenanigans (and continue freelance writing on the side), or would I join the family acoustics business?
Frankly, I didn’t have to think long. I was done writing for brands. It was dull work, and I was not a self-starter. It was the same job I’d come to hate over the past few years, except this time I was on my own. No team to help.
I had to be the judge of my own work; which I’ll admit, has held me in good stead…
The music-vlogging was fun whilst it lasted. But I knew the party had to end at some point. Over the course of my vlogging efforts, I was offered one job in the music industry in Dubai, but I didn’t follow up when I should have.
So, I bit the bullet and joined my family business in September 2019. I decided to go off the grid by:
Deactivating both my Instagram accounts @karangoesdancing and @teesonthestreets;
Deactivating my Facebook;
Turning off WhatsApp notifications, and archiving a bunch of chats so I wouldn’t be disturbed;
And not responding to anyone, no matter what remaining platform (such as SoundCloud) they reached out to me from.
Many thought I had died, or worse. It was a selfish decision but had to be done. I had to give my all in this new field. On occasion, I felt the brunt of leaving people (including friends) in the dark, and it stung. But, I had to focus on the bigger picture. My goal was crystal-clear: I had to rise to the occasion of shouldering my family business.
I’d be lying if I said it was smooth sailing post my return from Malta. But, after a year and a half of impostor phenomenon, mistakes, stress, (coupled with the tempestuous time that was 2020 – hola, COVID-19!) I have somewhat found my feet in the esoteric (who am I kidding, this stuff isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be) field of acoustics.
Whilst I do not enjoy every part of my job, I feel satisfied from seeing a project through to completion. I also enjoy managing my team. But, this is no ordinary job, nor can I treat it as such.
This is my business. And I must treat it with the care and attention it deserves.
What I lack in technical know-how, I make up for with my interpersonal skills and resilient attitude: I get the job done, no matter what.
I’ve also belatedly realized that a career in advertising has given me three invaluable skills:
1. For one; I can communicate. Competently. Which already puts me head and shoulders above the masses in the construction industry. Where it seems like people cannot write a coherent email, or give a clear order to save their life…
2. Two; it has sharpened my thinking – the best creative is rooted in logic and insight. Which will no doubt play a vital role as I progress in my career, and deal with people from varying walks of life, and contrasting worldviews.
3. And three; I can sell. Effectively. I’ve recently begun taking an interest in our company’s social media page, and know that growing a business’ digital presence boils down to staying human, no matter how large you become, and utilizing the usual social media strategies – and some unusual ones, too…
I sometimes miss the halcyon days of vlogging about electronic music as @karangoesdancing. But, they’re just that – a time rooted in nostalgia.
It is okay to reminisce on occasion. Anything beyond does more harm than good.
I might return to that side of myself in the future but on a different platform.
Time will tell.
Electronic music is incredibly dear to me and has played a telling role during several moments in my life, shaping me into the man I am today.
Looking ahead, the story of my other digital side-project (@teesonthestreets) remains to be told, which deserves its own blog. Which I will publish. Soon.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I appreciate it when people read my words, or listen to my story. If you got something from this blog, please get in touch, or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
I missed this. So much. Blogging, that is. I would love it if you subscribed to my blog, but I want to make it worth your while. I want you to gain value from my words. I want you to feel something each time you receive my thoughts in your inbox. I want to write words that resonate with you.
That is what I’ve always wanted. Which is why I won’t ask you to subscribe again. At least not until I’ve built a habit of publishing on a regular basis, and consistently producing work that I am happy with.
The last time I published was in December 2018. The only reason for not publishing since then is because I was scared to write. But now, as I rediscover my creative capabilities, I know that writing is not as tricky as I made it out to be in my head.
After all, I was paid to write. And when people pay you to do something, you must be doing something right, even – and especially – if you don’t recognise it yourself.
No matter what creative activity I pursue, writing will be my first love. I find it deeply cathartic, and view it as a medium where I can allow myself to be vulnerable.
You cannot hide with words.
And if you know me even slightly, you would know I’m a guy who doesn’t mince his words, and wears his heart on his sleeve.
Which makes perfect sense. Because when I write, I write from the heart and look to connect not only with myself but you, dear reader.
I look forward to sharing more stories with you. Catch you in the next blog.
After a nightmarish two months, where I fell into a bleak rut, I decided to let it all out in three posts which you can find here,here and here.
I wrote for nearly 12 hours straight. More than 4400 words later, a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Losing this figurative weight also meant a great deal to me in a literal sense; my shoulders have been troubling me for the past five months.
I shared my blog on Facebook, the largest social media network in the world. Exhausted, I passed out on my bed at 7AM.
5 hours later.
Surprisingly I woke up quite refreshed. If it is one thing I cannot function properly without, it is my eight-hour man nap. ‘Beauty sleep’ is too mainstream. The other is food. If I don’t eat on time, I become unreasonable and irascible. Not unlike an angry green monster that once smashed a puny God’s sorry ass. Remember that scene? He completely stole the show!
Lack of food and/or sleep transforms me into The Hulk.
My day passed uneventfully. A few people got in touch with me over WhatsApp saying they had read my blog. Some messages were especially supportive. Belatedly, I realized I had not proofread before posting! Horrified, I logged in and read all three posts, searching for any potential mistakes. Working on just five hours of sleep was not doing me any favors.
It became apparent pretty soon that I had made some glaring errors: there was unnecessary punctuation, I had repeated a few sentences and some passages seemed to lack a decent flow. Admittedly, I had brought this upon myself. Most of these errors were present in Part 3 of Today I Write. This wasn’t surprising considering that I had been working throughout the night. Whilst writing Part 3, my energy levels were waning. Besides this, I was eager to fill up the white space on my laptop with thoughts (and not just words, mind you.) I just wanted to release all of the negativity that was festering within me for the past two months.
I was upset. You see, when it comes to writing, I hold myself to a high standard. I’m not the best writer. What I lack in style, I make up for in soul. I shoot from the heart and infuse as much character as I can into my words.
Having said that, it was not easy to write my first three posts. I want to make this very clear to anyone reading this. The past two months have been one big downward spiral.
To get out of this slump, I took two days off from everything and contemplated. I thought about what I wanted to say. I thought about how I wanted to say it. And I thought about where I should share it.
The answers were obvious, but I was soon struck with a paralyzing discovery. Writer’s block is a real thing.
Question: What was holding me back?
Putting your thoughts out into the world requires courage and conviction.
When I started writing Part 1, I had just begun to find my feet, so to speak. I tried my best not to make the journey (from September 2014 to May 2015) seem like a tragedy. If anything, I wanted it to be a delicately woven narrative that would simultaneously give me closure, free myself from the web of doubts that I had cast over myself, and explain to people why I needed some space. By the time I finished writing Part 3, I had certainly received this aforementioned closure.
Writing is seriously therapeutic.
Every writer has got their own ritual. For me it goes something like this:
Starting is the hardest part. I procrastinate for about 10-15 minutes, scribble some sentences on a notepad until I settle on an angle.
Once I begin to write, I try to weave in (pop-culture) references. This usually applies when I write creatively.
I always aim to finish my article in one go. I hate being interrupted in the middle or having to abandon my effort and later resume from where I left off.
After finishing the first draft, I read it out aloud to see if it makes sense.
Then I save my work and do not look at it until the next day.
Following a night’s sleep, I proofread and then post.
With all three parts of Today I Write, I skipped all steps except for number three! Without a doubt, it was an emotionally charged outburst that I badly needed to release.
I could write about the mundane things that happen to me every day. For instance, I had my third physio session for my shoulders yesterday. It was nothing great. If anything, the pain has worsened and now spread towards my back!
But, yesterday was different.
I had just stepped into the ward.
“Good morning, Nada! How are you doing?” I greeted her cheerfully.
“I’m well, how are you?” she replied.
“I’m good. Actually no, wait, I’m doing great!” I said enthusiastically.
“I’m pleased to hear that. Has the pain in your shoulders improved?” she asked.
“Not really, it has actually worsened. But it’s fine, I feel more positive about everything now.” I smiled.
“That’s the right attitude, Karan. Let’s begin…”
What was so special about this exchange?
Firstly, I looked forward to this session with renewed hope. Secondly, this was the most I had conversed with Nada. Being naturally people-oriented, I usually get chatty with anyone within the first ten minutes of meeting them. In my previous state of mind, however, I was very reserved. Considering that she would be my caretaker for the next two months or so, the least I could do was warm towards her.
So that day I did. I asked her about her life. I asked her how long she had been living in Dubai. I asked her about her ambitions. I learned who she was as a person. At the end of the session, we had developed a connection, however small.
Life is all about connections, isn’t it?
Whilst at Harvard, there was this American social psychologist by the name of Stanley Milgram, who conducted certain ‘small world’ experiments in the 1960’s. These experiments would later form the basis of this really cool theory called the six degrees of separation, although Milgram did not refer to it by this. You could theoretically, by means of six introductions or less, be connected to anyone in the world. How cool is that!
Facebook was founded in 2004 and originally known as The Facebook. (Cheers, Sean Parker!) It is a part of the very fabric of our lives and has blurred the lines between real and digital. It has encouraged us to share. It has made the world a more connected and intimate place. Unsurprisingly, it has also challenged the ‘small world’ theory. An article published by the social media giant noted that the number had shrunk from 6 to 4.74.
Why am I telling you this?
When I shared my blog on Facebook the other day, I was once again reminded of how small the world was. In spite of the fact that there remain a lot of global issues, dirty politics and unnecessary violence that should not exist, I was also reminded of another moving concept.
The world is a beautiful place.
For the past three days, I cannot express how blessed I have felt. The amount of support I have received for writing about an issue that was plaguing me is quite frankly indescribable. For that, I want to thank you all!!! I realize that this is not enough and so I want to dedicate my next post to all those lovely people who reached out to me with messages of encouragement, support and advice. Stay tuned for that!
Now to round off, I realized I have veered off on several tangents. Selfish as it may seem, I wrote those first posts for myself. The inspiration to start Life. Camera. Karan.came at a point when I was quite unhappy. I possessed the sight, but I still needed some clear vision about where to go. Life. Camera. Karan.can be that guiding map.
My blog’s name is a play on the “Lights, camera, action!” cue. With respect to that, I can be the hero in my own movie. I know I may have to slay dragons and conquer demons, but in the end I want to save the world and ride off into the setting sun (with my princess sitting beside me!)
If I can write positive stories that inspire, educate,motivate and spread some smiles along the way, I would be extremely happy! That’s my aim.
As mentioned earlier, I have written in the past but it was only for myself. I’m still finding my ‘voice’ when it comes to writing, believe me. My blog is still in its infancy. What it is and what it can become, I do not know as yet. But I’m excited for what lies ahead.
The following quote by American author E. L. Doctorow perfectly sums up my feelings. “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
Over the next several months, I will write about life.
Eventually, I will branch out and cover things I am knowledgeable about or can form an educated opinion towards. This could potentially include topics like advertising, music, sport, pop culture and more.
Until then, stick around for my next post. I cannot wait to display my gratitude towards some very beautiful people!