A Stranger in a Strange Land

It’s almost the end of 2016. I couldn’t be happier and more scared about how much the world is going to change in the next few years. Everything is changing so rapidly. I’m starting to sense a decrepit fear about how I’ll be irrelevant if I don’t keep up with the trends and if I don’t embrace Technology.

Lucky me, I’m a millennial, staying with the times is a part of my DNA. But what happens when I decide not to? What happens when I decide against downloading the latest messaging app the whole world is using? What happens when I decide not to learn the latest software technology that will help me do my job better? What happens when I get out of the loop and defy cultural norms, like calling a person to see if they are doing better? Or knocking on my colleague’s office door to ask them how they are doing without having any agenda? It feels bloody damn good, let me tell you.

Photo credits: Mahima Saigal

Photo credits: Mahima Saigal

8th November 2016 is still fresh in my memory. Every person has a pivotal moment in their life that permanently changes something about them. This day was one of them for me. It’s almost a month now and I can’t get myself to say what happened. When people talk about the elections or the new President-elect (of United States of America), I refer to that event as “you know that day” or “since that happened” because I still can’t come to terms with it. It wasn’t just the ushering in of a new political era that will change the geopolitics landscape of the world forever. It wasn’t just the voice of an "oppressed" class of people that was finally being heard. It was much more than that.

It felt like someone very close to my heart died that day. Someone I deeply believed in. Someone I rooted for. Someone I wanted to become when I grow up. Someone that shaped my world view. Someone so close to my idea of life died that day.

Since childhood, I have this problem where I think that people will always choose and fight for the “good” side. They start telling us these stories in kindergarten. They paint this picture where the world is divided into “Good” and “Evil”, “Black” and “White”. Subconsciously, we decide we want to be on the “good” side and we’ll always be the heroes of our stories. Mostly, we stick with this outlook with different situations we are faced through our journeys. But here’s the curveball, we may be the hero of our lives but a villain in somebody else’s. If we don’t pause for a second to think how our actions affect other lives, we do more harm than justice.

Why am I talking about all this now? Because I think I’ve lost something very important. In this bid to be with the times, I’ve lost my view of those who are not with the times. I think I’m trapped in a bubble of what I want to see. I’m digging for information everyday but I only see what I want to see. I can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction anymore and I’m convinced I’m not the only one.

That night what happened to me completely broke me down. I couldn’t function for the next few days. I was breathing but I felt dead inside. A few days later, I found out that they had a term for what I was experiencing in psychology, it’s called cognitive dissonance. I was convinced that the world is a better place when we are all in it together, respecting each other, respecting our choices and beliefs, supporting gender equality, working on dissolving borders and helping those who are in need. But when the electorate chose someone who was completely opposite to the idea of all what I truly believed in, I didn’t know how to rationalize it.

When I woke up that morning and heard Hillary’s concession speech, I sobbed uncontrollably. It hit too close to home to see someone who might be a sexual predator win and have access to the most prominent seat of power in the world. It reminded me of all the times I let bullies win and all the times I chose not to fight someone who was manipulating me for personal gain. It reminded me of how I let people have their way with me because I was scared if I didn’t, the consequences would be worse. It re-affirmed my belief that in life, the rapists will not be convicted but the woman will be ostracized forever.

I wish life was a movie because in movies the “Good Guy” wins. I questioned myself, am I the “Bad Guy” in someone else’s life because of the beliefs that I have today? Am I choosing the wrong side if I believe that a woman who’s worked her way to the top should get it irrespective of what good or bad deeds she’s done in her past? Is this my way of subconsciously rooting for a world where one day a woman can “hold someone by the dick” and get away with it? (You’d like that, wouldn’t you, you sick pervert?!)

Source: Westworld, ign.com

Source: Westworld, ign.com

I just couldn’t watch the next few days unfold. I found similar dissonance in the words of Stephen Colberts, John Olivers, Rachel Maddows and Bill Mahers of the world. They kept saying that this is time to get more involved, to actively stand for what you believe in and build a Resistance.

I have a problem with that. As much as I love feeling vindicated when what I believe to be true is the truth, I also want to take a little more time to evaluate why I believe what I believe. Someone died that day for me. It was a little part of me that viewed the world with a rose-tinted vision. Inherently, I try to look for beauty in the chaos but it was too much chaos for me to handle that day. That part which confidently believed in the better nature of humanity died that day. Humanity is just as ugly as it is beautiful. There are days where we brave against all odds and then there are days when we succumb to our deepest fears.

On a personal front, I allowed myself the liberty to succumb to my deepest fears a few days ago. I wanted to see how it felt to live like that. It was sickening but I found a way to connect to what I didn’t understand and that gave rise to another hard bullet for me to swallow. What if someday I become this person? What if someday I become the person who holds on to beliefs that are archaic to others? Would I not want to be understood? Would I want to fight and never see eye to eye?

Or will I easily disconnect because now I have the option to? Will I choose to further enhance my hyper-reality to make it exactly what I want it to be by isolating myself to a chosen few whose ideas match with mine? Will I surround myself to be hyper-targeted only with messages I want to hear? Will I be driven by information that I seek or by information that is out there in front of my naked eye?

I don’t know. I feel lost. I feel a loss of human connection. I feel strange. I feel like I’m a stranger in a strange land and I need more time to grieve the loss of a part of me that died that night.

I ate civilization. It poisoned me; I was defiled. And then,” he added in a lower tone, “I ate my own wickedness.
— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World