Doing Away with Vestiges of the Past

I held on for so long.

But after two notifications from the library informing me that my copy of War & Peace was due soon and furthermore, my bookmark remained nestled in that same spot, I had to do it. Just looking at that tome each day — I could feel it staring back at me — was torturous.

I finally returned the unfinished book today.

What compelled me to want to read a 1,000+ page piece of 19th century Russian literature for pleasure in the first place?

During my high school and college days, I was obsessed with Soviet Union history. That eventually turned into pretty much anything Russian. Though I’ll make obscure references now and then (calling my husband Leonid Brezhnev, for example), truth be to told, my Russian history trivia nowadays is an utter embarrassment. My one-time dream of sweeping the Russian History Jeopardy category will sadly never be.

This is from a few years back. I saw I the Soviet Union flag, so I had to do my signature pose.

No, more than wanting to rekindle a former love, I think my decision was more influenced by the fact that Tolstoy is a classic.

For much of my life, I’ve done well in school (not all years, of course, as close ones know). Other than my size, that was what I was most known for growing up. Being big wasn’t a good thing, so I held onto school. The thing with pretty much anything is: if you put effort into it, you’re likely to get good results. I was never naturally smart, but I worked hard and it paid off. My circle soon became the naturally smart kids and then I wanted to become one of them, too. One way I thought to do that was to try to make myself like things that they liked. 19th century Russian literature apparently being one of those things.

This all sounds ridiculous at age 29, I am fully aware. I guess I needed this library moment to confront the fact that some parts of my childhood have needlessly remained. I’ve been out of grad school for almost a year now – even if I needed it then, I certainly don’t need it now. This might actually be part of a larger problem, an issue my latest article for The Tempest touches on: I still haven’t fully made peace with who I am and what I do. Will I ever allow myself to just enjoy what I like? Or will I always feel this need to do and be something more?

3 thoughts on “Doing Away with Vestiges of the Past

  1. I really enjoyed your Tempest piece, Rafia! I always feel like I can connect with what you’re saying. I’ve only been done with my UG coming up to almost a year now & each day feels like I need to prove that I’m not not doing anything. And even if I wasn’t, I’m not supposed to be criticised for it.. But I have expectations piled upon me, and that is actually demotivating. I was so on edge about this today & I snapped back at someone saying that my worth isn’t dependent on traditional employment. I think for you, if your family members are supportive, then that’s a big win and should really contribute to your acceptance of how your life is right now. You’re doing great for yourself & no one should let you think otherwise :)


  2. Rafia, loved reading this and your Tempest piece. I have also been one of the kids who fortunately (or I don’t if I should say unfortunately) did well in school and would be the school topper. So instead of pursuing anything creative, I went ahead and got my bachelors in economics and then an mba in finance, because that’s what the smart kids were doing, not realizing that I had no interest in it and was not doing being smart about my life decisions. Probably if I had not been doing well academically I would have tapped into my creative side earlier and could have started work on my dream sooner. But I guess everything happens for a reason and I will be connecting the dots later. I still find people commenting on how I am wasting my degrees by baking, cooking and blogging- I would now beg to differ. Its just that I am using the knowledge I gained in non conventional way. Not everything has been a waste.

    You also brought up an interesting point- will we ever be satisfied with what we are doing or will we always have this need to do something more. I blame a lot of it on social media and the constant in your face success stories you see, making our own stories lacking somewhere. We, as a generation, really need to learn to take it easy and be happy and take pleasure in our own success, even if they are smaller than others.


  3. Shumaila, thank you so much for this comment! It is very reassuring to know I’m not the only one with such a struggle. I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that we’re Desi? This pressure to do well in our careers, to live a life better than the previous generation? I’m glad to know that you’re finally doing what you love! I don’t think your degrees are a waste. You’re right, it’s just a matter of connecting the dots!

    And yes, I agree, too much information has become increasingly problematic for our generation. We literally have to forcibly remind ourselves that what we see on social media isn’t an accurate depiction of reality.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s