Right from when I was a child, Mumma took photos of everything! When I was born, when I walked, my first fancy dress or my first dance performance. It seems this was a trend in the early 2000s. There is a beautiful pink baby book with my name on it. But with this, Mumma also made it a point to take gazillion pictures of all the ‘not so important moments’ of my life!
When I went to Egypt for an internship, a lot of my friends and family were concerned about me for multiple valid reasons, especially after my episode at the airport with the immigration officer who got worried after hearing my travel plans.
The minute I got myself a Sim Card, I removed my phone and snapped an InstaStory with the ‘Cairo’ filter! The highlight of my Day 2 was a ride on a ‘feluka’ (ferry) across the Nile and of Day 3 was a fun orientation and official welcome to Egypt. In the first week, I realized that there is so much to explore and experience. I decided that no 2 days on my trip would ever be the same! Every day, I made it a point to take a picture that summarizes my day and put it up for my friends and family to see. It would also assure them that I was doing fine. This was my version of “Dear Diary”.
Everyone knew what a show-stopper was but after spending one week with me, they started calling me a street stopper! I had a habit of posing in the middle of an empty street whenever I had a chance! Usually, we would always be out at odd hours of the day, mostly early mornings when all of Cairo was fast asleep! Most of my daily updates had one of these pictures and captions with the highlights of my day.
I believe consistency creates habits and habits become nature. Usually, I have alarms and reminders set up to take some medicines or even drink water, but in those 36 days, I needed no reminder, it came naturally to me to be consistent with my daily photo update. It took only the first week to get going and then, it became like a habit with such a beautiful result. It wasn’t the most conventional way to document a journey but I was extremely proud of the result.
Ironically, my relationship with consistency has been very inconsistent. There have been episodes where I have been extremely consistent till the end and some instances where I lacked the discipline and hence lost my streak of consistency.
When the pandemic hit our city, and a lockdown was imposed, it was a little difficult for my sister and me to exist under the same roof all day long – every day! In the usual situation, she would be busy with school while I would be out all day at college, and back at home, we would busy ourselves with gadgets. Given our age gap of 8 years, there wasn’t so much we could do together at home without breaking into an argument, because in reality, we have pretty similar personalities. One day, Bored with the regular dal-sabzi every day we decided to recreate a pasta from one of our favorite restaurants. It turned out to be a really fun experience where I could boss her around and not get into trouble for it. Our family too enjoyed seeing us in the kitchen and found our food edible! We did it again the next evening and then again the day after! While working on our culinary and presentation skills, I made it a point to document our story every day. Our friends and family loved it! Just some cute moments from the kitchen which were never perfect but extremely real! We had videos of us burning cakes and parathas. Since I was sharing these stories with everyone and my sister’s name is Tamana, I started calling these stories “Cooking with TammyJ”.
We had 26 such stories and more than 26 recipes of dishes that we tried. As the day would begin, the main thought in my head would be – What can we cook today? Sometimes with college assignments and project work, at 11:30 pm we would remember that we forgot to cook, and then we would run and make something quickly. Honestly, after a point, I got bored. Bored with creating a new story every day, bored with cleaning the sinkful of dirty dishes we used, bored of hanging out with my sister for so many hours every day. And thus, after 26 days, we just suddenly stopped ‘Cooking with TammyJ’.
But this wasn’t the only inconsistent endeavor of the year. Fascinated by some very talented ‘next door’ girls turn into YouTubers and influencers, I too started video blogging and posting videos on my Youtube Channel. I was pretty invested in this idea because I remember spending a good 2 weeks learning video editing and understanding the algorithm I was going up against. Today, my channel has 4 videos that I am proud of but not enough to keep going at it.
There are so many such incidents, where I started something with a strong mind and never reached the finish line (and in some cases the halfway line).
Recently, I came across a theory, that in life, you are the stories you tell yourself – positive and motivating or negative and downgrading. I found this extremely powerful! I scanned a couple of chapters from my life and checked. Every time I was successful or victorious, I had pumped myself up with uplifting thoughts and stories. When I was in Egypt, I kept telling myself, I will get home – soon, safe & sound, and with a bagful of memories. I reminded myself of why I was there, and the result was wonderful. Similarly, all my successful consistent efforts had similar stories backing them up. I had a motive or a reason behind what I was doing. On the contrary, every time, I failed to be consistent with something, the stories I told myself to keep going weren’t strong or real or with a purpose!
This probably only works for me, but the hypothesis proved right in all my test cases.
Six months back, I joined a fellowship program to develop my enterprising skills and to get some hands-on experience. While doing my research, I came across a friend who had already completed the fellowship and he told me very bluntly, this opportunity can either MAKE me or BREAK me. If I invest time in learning and experimenting, this could be the foundation of a solid future, but if I decide to waste my time, make some friends and connections and relax, knowing the opportunity I have lost, there’s a good chance I would break! I got chills after he told me this.
My parents are very supportive of the learning and development I wanted to see in myself, but this was a big investment of my time especially in the last year of my engineering. I do look at myself as an opportunity magnet and while making the last signature which confirmed my participation in the fellowship, I promised myself, that I would make the most of this opportunity I was fortunate to come across.
It’s been over 140 days since I joined the fellowship and I have made it a point to learn or do or experiment with something new every single day if not multiple times in a day. It is in the design of the fellowship to document all the work we do, but the whole experience of keeping a digital journal, with photos and daily entries was very unique. There were days when I was just too lazy to type or days when so much had happened and I had the energy to only put in one entry. With a lot of positive stories that I told myself and some amazing peer support, I managed to keep my consistency intact in this case and this is something I am proud of myself for. I had enough reason to take breaks or not do this at all, but I kept at it and am still going strong!
After I was born, I can only imagine how much my mother’s life would’ve changed! But she thought about the amount of happiness I would get when years later I would see my childhood preserved so beautifully! She had the motivation to make consistent efforts for me. Even today, every time I see those pictures, I feel extremely lucky! I also know how happy I feel every time I am successful in my endeavors especially when they test my ability to be consistent! Knowing that now something as simple as the STORIES I tell myself can help me be more consistent, I have decided to apply this in 3 aspects of my life: my health and fitness, my studies, and one source of happiness – consistent every day!
Now that you have read the entire blog, feel free to reach out to me and ask me for an update on any of these 3, I would be more than happy to share my progress with you 🙂
Originally published at Enterprise India Fellowship on 19th September, 2020