Satsumas are so under-rated

When I was a child/teenager, at secondary school, this is how my average week looked:

> Mondays – School, an evening for home-work/study/I sometimes had tuition on monday evenings
> Tuesdays – School; I finished at 3.30pm; I came back and then had some time to shower and eat before I had 2 hour dance practice at 7pm.
> Wednesdays – School; once I finished, again I would rush home, shower and eat and then get ready for singing and veena class for 2.5hours
> Thursdays – School; again 2 hours of dance class after this
> Fridays – School; I would come back, shower and eat and then go to the temple with my family
> Saturdays – I would have to wake up at 7am, because I had dance class from 8.30am to 11am/12pm. I would then eat the food, my mum packed for me, in the car as she drove me to swimming lessons, which were from 1 to 1.30pm. I then came home and had the whole evening to chill and catch up on movies, TV or home-work – unless of course I had a dance show, in which case that was pretty much a zero.
> Sundays – I had tution in the morning from 10.30 to 12.30pm, and then had the whole evening to myself after that.
> Back to Monday again.

Now this is all excluding the extra hours I had fit in for school plays I was rehearsing for, school show rehearsals I had to put time into, external dance shows I did with my dance school; and some time for friends and family.

I eat the Tesco satsumas. So juicy and sweet. Yum yum yum.

My life at university looked something like this:

> Mondays – university which normally finished at 5/6pm followed by dance rehearsals
> Tuesdays – university which normally finished at 5/6pm followed by dance rehearsals
> Wednesdays – university which normally finished at 5/6pm followed by dance rehearsals
> Thursdays – university which normally finished at 5/6pm followed by dance rehearsals
> Fridays – university which normally finished at 5/6pm followed by dance rehearsals
> Saturdays – dance rehearsals for at least 8 hours, if not I will be at home!
> Sundays – dance rehearsals in the morning followed by catching up with my friends or myself haha

This is excluding studying, assignments deadlines, societies I was involved in (Tamil society, Hindu society). I also tried to make time for family and friends, partying, getting drunk and recovering from hangovers, being in and out of relationships…in my last 2 years of university I was in a relationship which I am still in, for your information – woohooo go me! Hahaha, I was such a crazy person and do not know how I managed it all. (I am not going to neglect the fact that I was a terrible university student, hardly being present at any of my teaching sessions, unless there was a register. I basically just focused on doing enough to pass; this was particularly the case in my final 2 years of university).

I managed to get through a whole bag of satsumas this weekend.

My life now looks something like this:

> Mondays – work; come back, shower, eat and chill
> Tuesdays – work; come back, shower, eat and chill
> Wednesdays – work; come, shower, eat and chill
> Thursdays – work; come, shower, eat and chill
> Fridays – work; come back, shower, eat, drive back to London
> Saturdays – day for wedding dance rehearsals where I usually schedule 1 client at a time convenient to them, for however many hours they want (unless I have prior commitments)
> Sundays – morning and afternoon of rest; drive back to Birmingham
> Back to Monday again

Maybe I should buy a satsuma tree. Does that even exist?

What happened to me? When did I become so lazy and uninteresting? When did I stop taking interest in doing things I love and things which help me grow and learn?

Have I become that person who says ‘work is so tiring.’ Bullsh*t. I can understand 12-hour on-call shifts being tiring, but an elective day at work cannot be tiring. I have been that individual who has gone through the craziest schedules at school and university. I came out so strong. I need to bring back that fire.

Writing this made me reflect on life. Many of us who are doctors now, were engaged in a whole host of fun extra-curricular activities as children and teenagers, to help with our growth and self-development. We got to university and that started to narrow down slightly. We started working and then it all became non-existent. The most we do is go to gym (or hula hoop in my case) from time to time; go out partying and getting drunk, to numb ourselves of the monotone lives we are living; or travel around the world to escape from the mundane lives we have built for ourselves.

Here are things I want to do and I am determined to start weaving it all into my life:

1) Learn a new language – I want to improve my french (which I stopped practicing after my A Level French). I also want to start learning Spanish. I am going to find an online which I can use to start learning both. If I can get a few cute qualifications, even better haha!

2) I want to build dance into my weekly schedule. At least once a week, but I can do it twice a week, it would be ideal.

3) I want to try something new. Something like pole dancing/acting classes. I have always loved acting; I did drama at GCSE and did three/four school plays at secondary school as well. Why did I stop? I would like to believe I was pretty good. Maybe I need to rekindle that fire.

4) When I am in London, I want to start making use of the Veena my parents bought for me. I loved playing the veena and I want to get back to taking lessons and learning again.

5) Of course I want to travel. However, I want to travel to learn and immerse myself in other cultures. I do not want to travel to escape from my life. This may be why I do not feel ready to travel yet. I am working on building a life which is amazing in itself; that way I do not need to look forward to going abroad, but instead embrace the fact that it is just another fun aspect of my already fun life.

6) I want to do small courses here and there. I have a particular interest in nutrition and skin-health so it may be something I venture into, on the side.

6 months down the line, I want to be able to read what I have written above and say that I have commenced at least 2 of the above. It’s all in my hands.

PS: Satsumas are so under-rated…oh crap, I’ve already made that point very clear.

PPS: This piece was nothing to do with satsumas, as you have probably clocked already.

Medical School, Dance and everything else

‘Praveena, how do you manage Medical school, dance, blogging and everything else you do?!’

I am not going to give you the cliched ‘Time management’, ‘organisation’, ‘commitment’ talk. That is given in life regardless of what you want to pursue.

I am going to tell you how much I struggled. Honestly it was tough. Society prefers me to do one or the other, but not everything. This is because society does not believe that I can do all of it well.

I wanted to prove society wrong. I think it is completely okay to have a passion for multiple things. I think it is also okay to pursue it simultaneously with the right mindset.

Being a medical student (now doctor!), dancer/choreographer, having a small wedding choreo business and blogging sounds glamorous but it involved a lot of sacrifices at different stages of my life.

To pursue my medical studies, there were moments in my life that I had to stop dancing. To pursue dancing, there were moments when I had to put dance over medicine. When I wanted to establish my business, I had to sacrifice my health and well being and travel more between cities (driving two hours from Birmingham to London and back doesn’t sound as strenuous but imagine doing that nearly every weekend for the past year!). To blog, I had to invest so much more time into reading.

To pursue it all at the same time, I had to sacrifice my social life big time…and I still do. I couldn’t go out as much because I would have to be awake early the next day to drive back to London/Birmingham. I stopped watching TV shows for a whole year, because I genuinely did not have the time. The big reminder is, this is the CHOICE I made. Others may not be like that and that’s completely fine. Just remember to make a choice that is true to what you want.

During each stage of this process there were failures and disappointments I experienced. As a result I was constantly being judged for my choices. By several people, but I put that all to the side because I knew exactly what I was doing. It may have not been the way others may have done it, but that’s okay because I am slowly getting through it.

Sometimes the balance has tipped and I have made mistakes. It was not all as smooth as it looks. My health, my education, my dance career, business, blogging have all suffered at some point or another. Nonetheless, finding the drive to get through and find the light at the end of the tunnel was key.

Moral of the story – be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to commit. Be ready for criticism. Make the choices to pursue what you love. You do not need anyone’s permission except your own to do good. So just do it!

The journey has only just begun. Being a student did make it a lot easier to pursue everything I wanted to and establish a strong foundation for my passions. I will start working in a month and a half. Therefore, work life is going to present to me a whole new set of challenges, so I do not know what is going to happen and how difficult it is going be. That’s the perks of life though right…ready to take on the next set of challenges to further establish my profession, passion and everything else.

Materialistic?! Stay away from me…

I despise materialistic people.

Quite in your face right? Well that is the truth. If you asked me this question at the beginning of this year, my opinion would not have been as strong and I would have put my hands up for being guilty of being quite materialistic. However, over the past 10 to 11 months, following the wider reading I have done, putting that reading into practice and generally just taking time to observe what people describe as happiness, my thinking and priorities in life have changed for the better.

My happiness is not defined by gifts, fancy cars or dinner dates, branded items of clothing, etc – these are short term perks; spikes of adrenaline for short term excitement and thrills. On the contrary, my happiness is defined by me working towards my goals in life, spending time with those I love best doing things I genuinely enjoy (which predominantly include drinking tea in my PJs, having fruitful conversations about life and the world, cooking together whilst watching a movie).

There are several people these days who focus on the ‘stuff’ and forget that materialism and money cannot buy happiness, morals, character or love. What is worse is social media has made it that much easier to focus on the ‘stuff’ and less on the character of the person. Pictures are 2-dimensional after all. You see what you see and nothing beyond, so do not judge a book by its cover.

Let me make one thing clear though. All the above does not mean I don’t like gifts haha. I appreciate gifts from my loved ones and I will do my best to give them something whenever I can in any way shape or form. I just despise people who define relationships by the materialistic exchange of ‘stuff’. I hope I’m making myself clear!

Ultimately I ask myself this question all the time and it gives me hope every time I think of the answer. If you stripped me off all my material possessions, would I still be able to smile? Yes. Why? Because I have my family, my friends and importantly I have myself. If you believe in yourself to create a life out of nothing, the material ‘stuff’ will not budge you.

Finding Myself

It has been a while since I sat down to write. This is because I have genuinely had little time to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea, let alone read, write or hula hoop! (Yes hula hooping is super important to me).

I have had to juggle a lot over the past 5 to 6 weeks – managing the work load, midwife shifts and on-calls of my Obstetrics and Gynaecology rotation; choreographing for the Kings of Gaana (KoG) dance competition; finding time to choreograph and practice for my first ever dance video shoot in collaboration with another dancer; choreographing and coordinating dance rehearsals for 2 dances for a wedding show (which got cancelled a day before due to unforeseen circumstances – regardless, a lot of time, effort and concentration went into putting those pieces together so I still count it as something).

Long story short, I pushed myself to the limits: mentally, physically and emotionally. Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself. Looking back it was all worth it because I have grown.

There is a really nice quote which says, ‘Push yourself to the edge of your limits. That’s how they expand.’ This defines me very nicely. I do not like settling for a simple life. I like pushing myself to my limits. Just when I think I have done the most I can do, there is more I want to achieve and have the energy to do. I am going to be truthful though, the past 6 weeks have drained me and I will probably need a week or two to unwind and re-energise but that is fine, normal and I do not feel guilty about it.

I wanted to use this time to get back on track with my reading, writing and hula hooping, so that’s exactly what I am doing. I am currently sat on my bed, in my mismatching pyjamas with a nice warm cup of tea writing what you are reading. Life is bliss.

Now that I have summarised my life over the past 5-6 weeks, it is time to bring my mind back on track as to what got me to write again today. Well since KoG came to an end, I have had a lot of time to think about what made me fall in love with dance. I have had a lot of time to think about why I love performing. Honestly, I have not always been so in love with performing. I used to be so lazy and Tamil politics at dance class made me fed up of performing. Things, however, started to change halfway through university and it was because of Bhangra.

‘Oh here she goes again…this girl has nothing better to talk about than Bhangra!?’ Trust me I know this is exactly what you are thinking now. My family and friends think the same as well – they do not have to say it, I can just gage.

For the outside world, Bhangra is something I have done for 3 years – all fun and games, what is so emotionally engaging about that?

Well, let me set things straight, Bhangra is something which I started 5 years ago. Long story short, I got onto the Bhangra team in my first year of university but fractured my foot which meant I could not dance on the team. This fracture however stopped me from dancing at all for a whole year. I became very anxious about restarting dance because of the fear that I may injure myself again. In my 3rd year of university I decided to audition for the Bhangra team again. The reasons I have never properly discussed with anyone. Well here goes…

I was in an emotionally dark place in 3rd year. I felt useless and I felt like I was not achieving much in life. Studying medicine at university was clearly not enough for me (you may call me greedy – but I would like to call myself constantly hungry for opportunities). I needed more. I wanted to be defined for more of my hard work and achievements. I wanted a build a name for myself. I was so conflicted emotionally, during which I made the sudden decision of auditioning for the Bhangra team again. I did not tell anyone at the time I auditioned, not my family nor my friends. I made this decision for myself and acted upon it. I literally walked into those auditions in my placement trousers and top (shows how clearly I had planned this out!). At the point I auditioned, I had not done Bhangra since I fractured my foot, which had been 2 years at the time. Somehow my rusty Bhangra moves got me onto the team and ever since I have not looked back.

It’s a very simple message that I am trying to convey here guys. I am emotionally attached to Bhangra. Every time I hear Punjabi music, my heart warms up. Whenever I am at a Tamil party, and the DJ plays that one-off Punjabi tune I feel like my true self comes out. Why? It is not because I am an undercover Punjabi (although many think I am). It is because Bhangra made me fall in love with dance again, and made me fall in love with myself once and for all. Bhangra helped me get out the emotionally dark place I was in and gave me the confidence to pursue whatever I dreamed off. I learned to stand on my own two feet and most importantly I discovered my ability to push my limits in all realms of life.

Thanks to Bhangra, I have learned to not settle. I want to build a name for myself which is defined by my hard work and drive to go further in life.

#HustleHard

This piece is a short one.

I am back at University and I have officially started my final year as a medical student.

Just as much as I am excited, I am nervous. I need to get through this last leg before I start an infinite journey into the real world of medicine, being a doctor, and continuing as a dancer.

I am even more excited, yet nervous about my responsibility to balance my profession and passion, which reside in both medicine and dance.

So here’s to a new year of excitement, challenges and learning opportunities!

Striking the Balance

‘Live a life you love’

Throughout this academic year, I was asked by several people as to how I managed to balance Medicine and Dance the way I did. So here is my answer to those questions.

It’s very easy to stay in the safe zone because of the fear of trying new things out and the challenges they may bring. But this year, with the support of my best friend, I knew I could and would push myself in every avenue.

Medicine brings out my love for learning, and dance brings out my love for performing, choreographing and teaching. Therefore I know that I will work hard to make sure I grew in both areas the way I wanted to.

Several people around me probably thought I was not doing much Medicine this year because I spent so much time doing dance performances and competitions: this includes my family and friends. Oh trust me the number of people who came up to me saying, ‘Praveena, do you even do medicine?’.

When people around me made me question my own abilities to focus on both and succeed in both, the one person who stood by me and pushed me was my best friend. All he said was, ‘If you want to do it, do it. I know you will study hard regardless. And I will be here to support you whatever happens.’ What seemed like the simplest of things, had the biggest impact on me. No one had ever said that to me before, and that’s when I knew that I would be able to do it.

This whole journey came with one big sacrifice: my social life. Yes, I stopped meeting my friends as often and I stopped going out as much. When I had rehearsals for 6 months non-stop, it did exhaust me. I suffered quite a few dance injuries, I was tired. The limited amount of energy I had, I had to reserve for Medicine. Regardless, I stayed strong and pushed through.

I stopped believing in ‘studying’ or ‘revision’; instead I focused all my energy on ‘learning’. I wanted to learn because I loved learning and not because I had to pass exams, although this was naturally a by-product of it. There is no end-point to learning, especially in Medicine. I created my own system of learning and I enjoyed it. In the last month leading up to exams, I remained calm and I opened a book, to learn. I am not going to deny the last minute stress of having to cram bits and bobs because obviously I had an exam that I had to get through, but trust me, I have been in worse scenarios before.

I say all of this because I used to be that medical student who stressed a lot about passing exams and I forgot to enjoy the fact that I am learning some amazing material about the most complex machine in this world – the human body. This year, that changed for me a lot. I saw some peers around me stress the way I used to, and here I was, sat calmly taking every fact/concept I learnt in, and cherishing it. And for this reason, this exam period was the most enjoyable one for me so far, and that reflected in my approach to the exams and my results.

I would like to conclude by honing in on two of the most important take home messages of this blog: firstly, do not be the type of person to stop yourself from doing things you love because you fear the consequences. Secondly, enjoy the process of learning; do not waste your energy stressing so much about the exams that you forget to enjoy the process of learning.

I want to take this opportunity to tell everyone that with the right mind-set you can explore multiple avenues all at the same time and succeed in it as well. I have one more year of university left. I can assure you that I will not stop learning and I will not stop dancing. Every problem I face, I will take as a challenge to help myself grow further.