To the Girl Who Lives Next Door

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I woke up this morning, stretched, made a cup of coffee and began writing. A few hours later, you woke up. You began talking to someone on the phone and in the silence of an early Saturday morning, I could hear snippets of your conversation. Your voice sounded different, as if you had been crying. It sounded heavy, broken, cracked. You spoke into the person on the other line, desperately explaining your side of the story.

Last night, you threw a Diwali party and graciously invited me over. I couldn’t come. From the sound of it, guests included laughter, good jokes, music and close friends reconnecting. You have excellent taste in music by the way — I appreciated the 1990s throwback playlist the most.

Ironically enough, I had a feeling you would cry today. You did the same thing when I moved in next door four months ago. Our birthdays are days apart and you threw a birthday party where, again, friends, booze and music celebrated another year around the sun for you. The following day, you cried.

A week later after your birthday, I woke up at three am to hear you yelling at someone. It was the type of yelling that raises goosebumps — your sounds were more animal than human. Your screams, crying and words were coming from deep within your chest, your voice unrecognizable as it chocked with sobs. You were pleading. A man’s voice wearily responded intermittently, replying to your anguish. Your guttural sounds of wailing was the personification of uncontrolled suffering at three am, perhaps the most quietest and purest hour of the night.

Haunted by memories of me crying similarly in the past, I waited until you stopped crying before falling back asleep. This pattern continues — friends, parties, fights and crying are repeated over and over again, like a perverse grounds hog day extended into repeating weeks in the life of the girl who lives next door.

I don’t know how old you are, who you’re dating, what your hopes and dreams are in life. I know, however, that, like me, you’re a young Indian girl in NYC, living in an apartment alone, surrounded by endless possibilities. Sometimes, I bump into you as I’m leaving and perhaps, in a different life, I imagine that we might have been friends. You sound friendly, cheerful and welcoming.

What happens to you at 3 am?

More importantly, what happens in all the hours before and after 3 am? Who are you surrounded by? Who are you dating? Who are you fighting so often and so passionately? Why do you suffer so much?

You sound popular by the sounds and volume of your parties. If I may ask, are all those friends there for the party or for you? Are they looking for an event on a Saturday or are they genuinely interested in seeing you? Do they notice the bags under your eyes from sleepless nights? I remember being you six years ago — the times in college when I had circles of friends that I lost myself in. I attended a prominent school in Los Angeles and attended lavish parties in Hollywood and Santa Monica, rubbing elbows with singers, rappers and actors. With a close group of girlfriends, we took over the night scene, visiting comedy clubs, lounges and hosted parties. We stayed out late, met men who whispered sweet nothings and promised the world into our ears and saw, firsthand, an enchanting world of fame, wealth and hallow emptiness.

Throughout the years in undergrad, with more and more partying, ‘friends’, and circles, I began to feel different. I invited myself my sister out to a comedy show one time and she commented later, how I was different— how I seemed more shallow, insecure, desperate for attention. All of this was true. I had created this world where the number of people who showed up to a party, number of strangers who said I was beautiful, number of friends who came through for an event, was indicative of my own worth. I let the world put a price tag on my value. It’s what happens when you give up your center. You lose your grounding. You look outside for confirmation, rather than inside for reassurance. You become a social butterfly, suffocating in the company of others, taking in attention as oxygen to survive. You’re left with nothing.

If I may suggest, and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, that you take a step back from your friends. Go somewhere that you feel at peace, whether that’s a lakeside, a temple, a library or bookstore. I feel the most centered when I am alone at the guardwara. Although I’m not the most religious, I do gravitate towards the peace, sense of homecoming and silence in the temple in the evenings. There is usually no one there at that time. Through deep breaths, a clear mind and moments of gratefulness, I feel my soul calibrating to find my center. I begin to feel the stress, baggage and doubt from day to day things begin to melt away. I breathe easier. I know everything will be okay. I feel less alone. I have faith.

I have faith that life will always work out as it should, that ultimately all of ‘this’ is moving towards both a greater state of disorder and betterment of my future. Have faith that what you’re going through will pass.

There is a quote by Rumi, an ancient Persian poet and philosopher, that beautifully captures what I’m telling you. It goes:

When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret here for anyone who can grasp it.

If you understand this, you will never cry at three am again.

With the pleading, yelling and arguing, with the fights repeating every few weeks, with the crying and screams, you’re attempting to fight the universe. You’re trying to control how things play out. From the sounds of it, there is a man involved. You’re either asking for something he can’t/won’t give you or you’re upset over something he did. Although I understand (trust me) your frustration on both accounts, I know that there is nothing good that will come out of you fighting him on this. If he doesn’t give you something on his own accord — commitment, marriage, time, fidelity — than you shouldn’t ask for it.

It’s analogous to building a piece of furniture. Follow me with this logic: when you put together an IKEA table, for example, there are steps that come along with it. If you choose to follow the natural flow and instructions of things, then, in due time, the table will be constructed in a sturdy and reliable manner. It’ll stand strong and it’ll stand the test of time — or at least a few years if it’s from IKEA. In reverse, if you unbox this furniture, disregard how it should be assembled, quickly shove screws, parts together so that it somewhat resembles what it should like, you’re left with an unstable and unreliable piece of decor. It’s going to break. If you force something together, you’re simply waiting until it falls apart. Similarly, if you force him to commit to a relationship or to marriage, then your relationship will, at some point, fail from too much pressure.

Let it be. If he doesn’t commit, let it go sis— you have more options and more things to do with your life anyway.

This brings me to my last point.

There is more to you than friends, boys and parties. I know you mentioned you do real estate. What else do you do with your time? If you don’t mind, I suggest spending your time towards something bigger than you. It will inspire you. It’s hard to get mad over something trivial when you’re doing something meaningful. Go volunteer with the foster program. Become a mentor. Help dogs get adopted. Read to children from low income communities in the Bronx. Invest in micro financing ventures supporting working mothers in different countries. I can direct you to any of these side projects. Read, write, run. The whole world is open for you to explore.

Why limit yourself to this repetitive cycle of crying, partying and fighting when you can literally do anything you want with your life? The possibilities are endless. With no children, attachments or husband, you’re in an unique position to literally do anything right now — you can start a business from the ground up, you can create your own global non profit, you can go back to school, you can put all of your furniture in storage and go travel the world.

The last thing you want to do is cry at three am.


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