Letter to My Younger Self

Yesterday I came out of a 14-day isolation period. Not that I had contracted Covid-19, but I was in close contact with someone who had this killer disease. At first, I was worried about being seriously ill but after two negative tests results, I was more bothered about my lack of freedom.

The only point of contact with the outside world was through my phone. Dependent on online shops and social media, I moved into survival mode. This wave of panic was getting out of hand. One knock on the door and the delivery man was already leaping out of sight. Beware of the invisible COVID sign, I was now the untouchable. Sigh!

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” – Paulo Coelho

This daunting time was not going to disappear overnight. I needed to do something, take back control of my life and avoid depression. I was sure life would be different if I had a plan. I recalled memories of happier times. This time last year I was preparing for my trip to Rome, and the year before that to Mother Russia.

Unfortunately, I have an annoying habit of leaving something behind during my holiday – not intentionally of course. I accidentally left my house keys at the hotel reception in Rome. I only noticed when I got back home in the middle of the night and could not get in.

I was upset of course but a few days later after getting a new set of keys, I was able to laugh at my stupidity. I even shrugged the whole incident off when the hotel failed to return my keys. A key can easily be replaced. No big deal. Life goes on.

Had it happened ten years earlier, my mental state would have been affected. My life would have been ruined. I am older and more experienced. I can deal with disasters and have learned to control my emotions instead of letting them control me.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” – Deepak Chopra

How I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self not to worry when faced with decisions and choices. How I would tell ‘mini me’ that there would be no success without failure and not to beat myself up when I made mistakes. I would tell my younger self that life is a journey full of adventures, hop on and enjoy the ride.

I wished I had known everything I know now when I was 18 – the age of independence yet so fragile and naïve. How I wish I had followed my passion and not let someone else dictate my future. Not to settle for second best but strive to become the best. How I wish Cupid did not use my heartstrings to make chord for his lyre. Being single is not a curse.

“Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit” – Man proposes but God disposes

The future is not set in concrete. It is okay to change path when we find ourselves on the wrong one. Covid-19 has brought the whole world to its knees. Plans and hopes have gone up in smoke – dreams shattered, replaced by a fear of dying. Social gathering is frowned upon. We now live in our own bubble to the point of being unsociable.

A little advice from my older, wiser self

So, my dear younger self, I encourage you to throw caution to the wind. Be more courageous and take risks. What would be the point of sacrificing yourself when the future is uncertain? Do not feel rejected and insecure because of peer pressure. You cannot be what everybody wants you to be. Instead, learn to love and respect yourself. Life is a wonderful game. You just need to know how to play it.

When Life Gives you Lemons

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a popular phrase used to encourage optimism and positivity. Lemons suggest sourness of life’s challenges and making lemonade out of lemons, is turning those difficult times into something positive and achievable.

Not many people will agree with that. When we become sour with life’s adversities we turn into a sourpuss. In the video game Portal 2 the character Cave Johnson, angry at the proverbial phrase quoted this:

“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what the hell am I supposed to do with these?”

Yikes. So much angst, but I understand. When you are going up shit creek, it is difficult to be philosophical and positive. However, we can learn how positive people turn their lemons into something sweeter.

In 1915, writer Elbert Hubbard wrote an obituary post (The King of Jesters) about actor Marshall Wilder’s optimism and achievements despite his dwarfism.

“He was walking refutation of that dogmatic statement, Mens sana in corpore sano. His was a sound mind in an unsound body. He proved the eternal paradox of things. He cashed in his disabilities. He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand”

In those days, dwarfism was considered a disability and to be successful, was a great achievement. How time has changed. Nowadays we look up to those famous actors. Who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones?

In 1940, The Rotarian published a poem entitled The Optimist

“Life handed him a lemon,
As Life sometimes will do.
His friends looked on in pity,
Assuming he was through.
They came upon him later,
Reclining in the shade
In calm contentment, drinking
A glass of lemonade.”

It is true that life can be pathed with lemon trees. To be resilient against the adversities, we need to find the mental and physical resources that help us deal with those challenges. But how? Well, there are two options in life: abandon and live in misery or plough forward even if it kills you. We need to realise that we cannot overcome our troubles on our own. We need to reach out for help.

Or, you could do what I do: throw yourself on the floor, have a tantrum that a two-year old would be proud of, then get to the supermarket and pick some real unwaxed lemons and make something with them. I have three recipes that keep me going through rough time: lemon and ginger drink, for a morning boost, jam marmalade on my toast and lemon pickle when I feel under the weather.

Lemon juice in warm water is believed to melt belly fat and ginger has been used to treat a variety of cardiovascular conditions. Lemon juice increases our body’s metabolism and improves our immunity due to the presence of vitamin C in it. Without this antidote, I would be the size of a bus by now!

Lemon/Ginger Recipe:

Cut a 5 cm piece of ginger and 1 lemon in small pieces and add to 2 cups of water in a pan. Slowly bring to boil. Turn the heat off and let it steep for 10 to 15 mins. Strain the liquid and it is ready to drink hot or cold.

When I am in a pickle, I go for the spicy one:

Lemon Pickle Recipe:

Boil 5 lemons for 10 minutes until soft. Remove and cut in quarters. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon each of salt, chilli powder, cumin seeds and crushed black pepper. Mix well. In a saucepan shallow fry half teaspoon of mustard seed and add to the mixture. Pickle will be ready in 3 days.

Lemon Marmalade Recipe:

Take 10 lemons, remove the peel and cut into 4 cms strips. Cut the rest of the lemons into quarters discarding seeds. In a saucepan, combine everything with 4 cups of water and simmer until soft. Add four cups of sugar, increase heat and let boil for another hour until set.

So, what are you going to do with your lemons?