“You have a double masters and an Ivy League education. Never forget that.” -my dad
It’s difficult to share so openly without feeling like I’m in some way sounding ungrateful. Before I go any further, know this: without the support of my parents, sister, few close friends and husband I would not be where I am today.
It’s hard not to shake those titles when the first question out of any Indian aunty or uncle’s mouth is typically “So where do you work?” or “What school did you go to?”
My first master’s degree from Hofstra University always seemed to leave them with a slight glaze over their eyes. I even remember one time while talking with a family friend, my association with Hofstra clearly wasn’t interesting enough to warrant further conversation.
Until one day everything changed for me.
I got accepted to Columbia University.
I could have gone to NYU but my parents believed Columbia was a better choice to get me further in life.
“How could you not? It’s COLUMBIA!” they said.
So I went to Columbia. Got another master’s degree (in Social Work}.
I was proud. My parents were happy for me. Two years later, I earned a double masters and an Ivy League education. Now, I finally had something worth talking about.
When I reconnected with the family friend and mentioned I went to Columbia, they were completely engaged in our conversation this time around.
I finally felt like “YES, I made it into their good books!” Whoever they were. I looked really good on paper. But here’s the kicker, I never got a job in Social Work.
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT HIT
The constant reminder and push to be better smarter and more educated in the Indian culture is one that never ends.
I’ve pretty much lived my entire life seeking the “next.”
The next TV gig.
The next major spot on a popular blog.
The next shout out from someone “huge” in status.
The next massive online launch.
Just like with any drug, the next gives just the right amount of high to keep you going.
Until you need the next.
Some people prefer drugs. I tried for a while. Way too expensive.
Instead I chose degrees, having fans and fame, and being noticed by anything and everything that could move.
Until one day I didn’t want that anymore.
Now this wasn’t some huge AHA light bulb moment. It was a culmination of incidents, events, experiences, and feelings that led to this.
If I were being really honest with you, I was unhappy. I was unfulfilled, out of love, irritable, agitated and, to be frank, I hated who I was.
No amount of praise could ever fill the dark gaping hole inside of me.
Fast forward a few years after I started my business, I thought this feeling would go away. I found something I was good at. I was helping people with my programs.
But even as I read emails from my subscribers thanking me profusely for my Acts of Freedom or other ways they found inspiration through my work, I still found myself thinking:
“Well shit, why do I still not feel GOOD?!??”
THE HUNGER GAME
There’s comes a point in your life where you can keep playing the same old game or you can learn a new game. (tweet this goodness)
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but, man, they hadn’t met Vasavi yet.
I was an old dog but I was hungry.
Hungry for love.
Hungry for self-acceptance.
Hungry for peace.
Hungry to just look in the mirror and love (or at least LIKE) who I saw looking back to me.
I never imagined my journey to Austin and culinary school could fulfill that for me. But is has.
It’s not about the cooking. Of course I’m learning a ton and have made good friends in my classmates. I’ve had a lot of time to be with my Self.
Have you ever had to spend time with someone you’ve known forever and it’s seems like you’re complete strangers?
That’s what it was like for me.
Sometimes it still is.
But the more time I spend with my Self, the more I’m starting to become fond of who I am.
You don’t hear that word too often. It means to have affection or a liking for.
So do I like myself now? Not always. But I’m starting to more and more every single day.
Is it weird for me to not be “out there” and seen and known? You better believe it. Every day is a constant dismantling of the identity I’ve created.
It’s painful, this process.
I spent 31 years to create the perfect persona so I could fill my dark gaping hole. And now I’m slowly deconstructing it.
I go to events with fellow online folks and instead of introducing myself as Vasavi of vasavikumar.com, which by the way even saying that out loud gives me the heebie-jeebies, I now say “I’m in vegetarian culinary school.”
I’m practicing to not even use that phrase because, once again, it is yet another identity I’d be creating.
I’d rather just say, “I’m Vasavi.” And leave it at that.
When you strip away the Ivy League, the accolades, the media spots, the glamour shots, the fancy website, what’s left is me: Vasavi.
The rest is left to be discovered.
GETTING NAKED AND REAL WITH YOU
Now depending on where you’re at in your life I can share a few things I’ve learned and how to break it down into steps you can manage:
1. The thing you’ve been wanting to try or do since you were a kid–do it. No matter how silly or crazy you think you are, just do it.
I’m pursuing a dream of mine (culinary school) that I’ve had since I was 5!!!! And I’m taking deejay lessons in a few weeks. Crazy? No.
2. Notice how much importance you give to the perception of others. What are all the identity structures you have constructed in order to look good?
Creating an online personal growth business was just a small part of mine. Having people look up to me spewing advice made me feel good, needed, and important. Needless to say it was fuel for my ego.
Did I set out to have it be that way and serve that purpose?
But the more I strayed from spending time with me, the more I needed SOMETHING—anything—to fill that relationship to my null and void self.
3. Talk to yourself. Everyday. Open your eyes to everything around you. Take it all in and notice it without judgment.
I’m very cerebral which means I spend most of my time in my head. And while being cerebral has gotten me this far, I also know that it’s taken a toll on my mind, body, and spirit. these days I spend a lot of time in introspection. Solitude holds the keys to the kingdom.
4. The most valuable lesson by far is to put yourself in situations where you are forced to be humbled.
For me, it was bussing tables, washing dishes, cooking for others, cleaning out the bathroom and taking out the trash at the yoga center and ashram where I am currently working. In my opinion, there is nothing more humbling than serving others and cleaning up after them. It’s in those moments that my ego wants me to be ashamed of what I’m doing.
After all, I’m Vasavi. “I have a double masters and an Ivy League education.”
I should never forget that.
Or should I?