I am grateful for…

My family

My boyfriend

My friends

My education

The roof above my head

The food on my plate

The clothes I am wearing

The clean water I have access to

The people I meet through my career

A career where I have the potential to touch the lives of others

My love for dance

My love for learning

Every negative experience, which is helping me grow

…and God

Thank you God for all that you have enabled me to learn. A grateful soul attracts all things positive.

What are you grateful for?

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To my dearest mother,

You are honestly an inspirational human being. This letter is from me to you, to say how much I love you and am proud of you.

There was once a time when we did not really see eye-to-eye. We had so many differences. Your values were different to mine. Ultimately we just did not vibe, the way I dreamt a mother-daughter to vibe.

I used to look around and be jealous of other mothers and daughters and I wanted that for myself. I started blaming you for me not having that.

I realise how wrong I was. Now, all I do is love you and be proud of you. What has brought about such a change in me? Well it is where I am at right now, and what I see on a daily basis through my job.

You were always a very ambitious woman. You were smart, grounded, knew what you wanted in life and did all you can as teenage girl, living Sri Lanka (amongst all the political stresses against the Tamil community) to live your dreams.

You wanted to be of service to others, and managed to work a great job at one of the top banks in Colombo. Then you got married, and came to London, putting all your faith into a man you hardly knew (my wonderful father – honestly he is such a legend, and can’t wait to write about him soon!).

You had to start from scratch in the UK. You did courses at a local college and successfully got qualifications, and managed to find yourself jobs. You were a girl in her mid to late twenties, trying to navigate herself around the busy London, figuring out tubes, travelling in the late hours on public transport on your own. You proved that you had a courage like no other.

Then I was born! You started to juggle motherhood and working full-time as a mother of a toddler so perfectly. You proved to me again how strong a woman can be. You put your family first and understood the importance of working to support your husband to provide for your small, imperfectly perfect family.

You managed like this for 6 years before my sister was born. During this time, you were blessed with the help your own mother, whom you managed to get London, all the way from Sri Lanka. Grandma’s time in the UK, was short. Two years following the birth of my little sister, your second daughter, grandma was lost to cancer.

Two young children in your hand, a family to bring up, and having lost your own mother. Honestly, you stood strong and became an even stronger woman. At this point you and dad had the ‘talks’ and decided it was best for you to stop working so you can look after me and my sister, whilst dad provided financially for the family.

This time was life-changing for me and little sister. You learnt driving so you could take us to all our classes: dance, music, swimming, tuition; and all our dance and music shows. You sacrificed your evenings waiting in the car whilst sister and I had 1-3 hour classes. You sacrificed your social life so you could be there for us to make us endless cups of tea when we had exams coming up. Your sacrificed couple-time with dad, so you could embrace and comfort us when we were stressed out with life.

When we started university, you sacrificed your weekends: making food for us to take back to university; doing our laundry because we were spoilt brats who did not know how to do the washing; ultimately making sure we had a stress-free time at university.

Basically you started living your life, for us. That became your purpose and that still is.

I have come to the biggest realization. I am able to live the life of my dreams, pursuing my passions in various avenues, because of all your sacrifices. I cannot imagine a life where I am not able to be a doctor, a dancer and blogger. I cannot imagine a life where I do not live independently. I will always want to live on my own two feet. But for me to have the courage to be the person I am now, you sacrificed your independence and dreams. I can only imagine how scary that must be, because the thought alone makes me sad and anxious.

You sacrificed your whole life for me and sister (and dad, but dad is dad! Haha). We became your world, your social life, your passion, your love. You CHOSE to make us your world. Our successes are not ours. They are yours.

Amma, our relationship is not perfect. But it is nonetheless beautiful. I love how we are working on it on a daily basis. I love this new openness we have, and I can’t wait for more of such beautiful memories together, because amma, you are a superhero in my eyes.

So damn proud of myself

I am going to keep this short.

I’m so proud of myself!

Today I went to cinema on my own, for the first time in my life, and watched Aladdin (2019).

Now you may be thinking, seriously is that all Praveena?! Actually this is big deal for me. I have always done things with other people. If there are things I want to do, and no one else is on board, I have not pursued it. I decided a few weeks ago that this needs to change. If I want to do something, however big or small it is, I just need to do it.

I have always been the person to get a little anxious when I have to do things on my own. When I found out Aladdin was coming out today, I literally booked a ticket for myself without a second thought. I just couldn’t be bothered to ask around and wait to go with other people. I wanted to go so I booked it. However, today at work, the thought of going on my own got me very anxious. I was so close to not going to the cinema. I spoke to my boyfriend who said, ‘Praveena, you are going.’ (Gosh I do love him for his tough love). So I came back from work, showered, and then left to go to the cinema. I bought popcorn for myself, went to the theatre and queued outside on my own and sat on my own.

Literally it was the best decision ever!

May this be the beginning of a journey or self-love and self-development, where I grow more and more courage to do things and be present as much as I can. If I have a burning desire to do something, I don’t need to wait for anyone. I should just do it! Even if that means I am on my own.

By the way, the movie was so epic!! It reminded me of my childhood dreams of wanting to become a princess!

The hardest relationship…

…is between myself and my body.

Ever since the day I remember, I have had a dysfunctional relationship with my body. I think if I was left to my own devices I would have been fine and quite secure in myself. However, throughout my whole life people around me (many of whom were my relatives) passed comments about my body, my weight…and worst of all, compared my body to my other cousins’/friends’ bodies, which made me feel so sh*t about myself. I mean I was only a 10 year old child when I started facing such demeaning comments from some of my extended family members and family friends.

Believe it or not, when I was a teenager my uncles and aunts turned around to me and called me ‘fat’. By the way, I was of, and have always been of a healthy weight and within the normal BMI range. Nonetheless, who in my society ever cared about being ‘healthy’. Everyone just wanted LOOK ‘healthy’. Sadly being healthy, for many, meant looking ‘skinny’. I am not skinny. Never will be and never want to be.

I have come to terms with a few things now. Being skinny does not mean you are necessarily healthy. Eating the correct food and doing moderate exercise, at the least, is what being healthy is all about. My goal has always been to be healthy, and less about looking skinny. Why? Because I have fallen into the trap of crash and restricted diets, which have led to ill health and low mood to say the least.

My metabolism is changing as I am getting older, which is why I have become more aware than ever of what I eat. I try and avoid crappy food, but that does not mean I will not treat myself. I deserve a few guilty pleasures from time to time.

Now what I have experienced is only one end of the spectrum. I know of individuals who are naturally skinnier, and get called out that they need to put on weight. Guess what there are individuals who struggle to put on weight, no matter what or how much they eat. It is not their fault that their bodies are the way they are. Let’s not be giving them a hard time; let’s not put the pressure on them that they have to put on weight.

Ultimately, we need to encourage a culture where healthy lifestyles are so much more important than conforming to body types. I am so grateful to be surrounded by amazing friends who make me feel so beautiful. But I know that there may be individuals in this world who may not have that.

So here is what I wanted to say through this post. F*ck what they all say. If you suffering from body image issues, you are not alone. I am here with you, alongside several thousands across the country. Never stop living a healthy life. Don’t fall into the trap of crash diets. Don’t fall into the trap of extreme workouts. Be healthy. Be safe. Just love your body for what it is, and take care of it. It is seriously that simple.

I mean…I don’t know

I cannot believe that the last time I wrote here was over three months ago.
Honestly I have been wanting to share the whirlwind of emotions I have been going through. I have made a start to write. I have paused. I have disliked it; I have become more anxious; I have started over-thinking about who is going to read it, and why those who may come across my writing would even care about my emotions and feelings…so I delete what I have written and go to bed feeling unaccomplished and more anxious than ever.

A lot has happened to me in the past few months, and I would like to say it is for the better. I am growing to be a wiser, more humane person. I have started to forgive. I have started to break down all the grudges I have held against others. I have started to share more positivity. I have come to terms with my own pain and disappointment, which I have felt with myself and others. Basically, I am growing up at a rate faster than ever before.

You might be thinking, okay why is she blabbering on so aimlessly. On the contrary, you might not think anything at all. I mean why do I do I need worry about what you may be thinking? I have spent too many months worrying so much about what others may be thinking of me, that I have stopped thinking about what I think about myself.

I honestly do not even know the purpose of this post. I just needed to release a lot of tension in my mind, and give credit for myself. It has been a hard few months for me mentally and emotionally. I have been fighting many internal battles. I am not writing for anyone’s sympathy. I am just writing for my own peace of mind. The lack of any structure to this just shows how jumbled my mind has been.

But Praveena, do not worry, it is getting better. You are getting better. Do not waste your time worrying so much about what others think of you. You are so freaking amazing. You have been through so much, and you are coming out of it all stronger than ever. You are so freaking strong. I am proud of you.

PS: I do apologise to those, if any, reading this. It may serve no purpose to you, but it is serving a huge purpose to me. That is all that matters.

Home-sick

I am currently sat at my dining table, in the comfort of my own home. I feel so grateful, blessed and happy today.

This, however, was not the case when I was away from home, due to work, for over the past two months. Working Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year’s Day was one thing; but working shift-after-shift with very little breathing space and opportunity to go home and rest, was something else altogether. I was physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. As a result, my mood hit a rock bottom for a couple of weeks in January.

January marks the beginning of the year filled with hope, but for me it marked a feeling of hopelessness, lack of motivation and commitment. I had withdrawn myself from everything and everyone. I just about managed to wake up and go to work. I was forcing smiles at everyone whilst I was crying inside. I had very little motivation to cook which meant I was living off Tesco-brand prawn crackers for dinner for at least 2 weeks. Basically, I was in a very bad place and I was very close to getting professional help because I had no idea who to turn to and I had no idea what to do with myself.

It was not until I had a phone conversation with my parents that I realised why I was so low. I missed my family and my home. A LOT. I missed being spoilt by my parents. I missed eating my mum’s food. I missed my dad always fixing my car to ensure it was that much safer to survive the motorway drives I do. I missed listening to my sister’s random outbursts of singing from her room. Ultimately, I started to value and appreciate my family and my home to an extent that I thought could not be possible until recently.

I am not a ‘perfect’ child, whatever that means. Many people think I am, but I am not. I have made my fair share of mistakes and I have hurt my parents a lot. I am a human after all. It was never intentional but clearly there was a point in my life when hormonal influences had overridden my actual mind. What has changed now? Well I am working. But more than that, I am working with lives. I see individuals at the brink of their lives just wanting to spend their last moments surrounded by their family in the comfort of their own homes. Can we blame them for wanting this? NEVER. Seeing life and death daily is beginning to change me very slowly. Everything I see at work reminds me of my family. I do not know whether this is healthy for me in the long run, but I know that such reminders are what push me to take extra care of my patients (even though there is only so much you can do as an F1 doctor). All these thoughts and memories of my family, coupled with not being able to see them for ages, started to overwhelm me. I realised that my low mood was attributed to feeling so home-sick.

This weekend has been the first since the weekend before Christmas, that I spent time with my family…and I am on cloud nine! I have decided to stay home all weekend. I wanted to enjoy home and genuinely feel grateful about being surrounded by the most amazing individuals ever. I would not be the person I am today if it had not been for my mum, dad and sister. I am enjoying my bed, my mum’s food, my dad’s constant advice giving, and my sister’s general presence. I even enjoyed having the most pointless arguments with my mum yesterday!

When I was driving from Birmingham to London this Thursday night, I was literally crying out in happiness. I am not even exaggerating. Yes, it all sounds very melodramatic, but when your mental health has been suffering for so long because you have missed home that much, that drive back home becomes a very emotional affair.

I parked up, opened the door and was greeted by my mum and dad’s hugs. HOME. Suddenly, all that sadness, welling up inside me, faded.

Life is short. I am realising this more and more especially as I work in a profession where individuals may deteriorate within a blink of an eye. This has made me appreciate the loving and caring souls around me that much more, because we do not know what will happen tomorrow. Be grateful, stay humble and be present. Most importantly, do not take family and friends for granted. Life is full of blessings, and a beautiful family is the first and ultimate that we have to cherish.

My Morning Routine – For Increased Productivity

How well your day is going to go is very much determined by how you start your day.

My mother instilled this value into me ever since the day I remember. Therefore, I give a lot of importance to how I start my day. I really enjoy having a calm and relaxed morning. This sets the manner in which I am going to progress for the next 24 hours. For example, when I have a rushed morning, the rest of the day naturally becomes stressful and I lack motivation to complete anything. When I have a calm and productive morning, the rest of the day develops onwards and upwards!

Firstly, with my usually busy schedule of trying to balance medicine, dance and blogging commitments equally throughout the day, being organized and productive is of utmost importance to me; as a result, I like to use my mornings to plan what I need to get through for the rest of the day. Secondly, I struggle to find me-time during the day, so my mornings are the perfect time for me to really enjoy my own company and spend time with myself, and only myself.

I am going to now go into more depth about what I do in the mornings, especially as many people have asked me how I manage to balance everything and what helps with my productivity.

1) I wake up at least an hour before I have to leave for work. For example, if I need to leave at 8am, I wake up at 7am, the latest.

2) The moment I get out of bed, I make my bed. This may sound like a unimportant thing. Remember, however, that it is a task. This is the first task I perform for the day, and it is already one which helps to keep my room look and feel clutter feel. When my room looks and feels this way, I already feel more positive.

3) I then brush my teeth, shower and get ready. I usually plan my outfit the night before, so I do not need to stress out in the morning, and the process of getting ready is a lot faster as a result.

4) Once I am ready, I go straight to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. Whilst the kettle is boiling, I make sure to drink a glass of water and eat a fruit of some sort (bananas are my favourite!) – what you eat for the rest of day is also determined by what you eat in the morning, so remember to eat healthily. By this point, the kettle has boiled and I can make my tea.

5) With my tea, I go to my room/living room and open my diary to check what I have to do for the day. I edit my things-to-do list as necessary, either in my diary or my phone. I personally like to have a physical diary. You may call me old school, but it actually does help when I am able to physically write my commitments, things-to-do and deadlines. I use my phone to compliment my paper diary but I have learnt not to rely on my phone as much as I once did.

6) Once I have gone through my to-do list, I am mentally prepared for the rest of the day and know exactly what I need to achieve.

7) After this, I pick up the recent book that I am reading, I sit down and read for around 20 to 30 minutes. This time is crucial for me; and it is the only time I get during the day to read. It is my form of meditation. I forget about everything and immerse myself into the world created for me by the book.

8) Once I have had my reading session, I am nearly ready to take-on the rest of the day. All I have left to do is pack my lunch (if I am taking lunch to work), water bottle and bag. I prepare my lunch the night before in my lunch box and leave it in the fridge so I do not have to worry about it in the morning. The same applies for my water bottle and bag. This then means that I actually do not have much else to do before I leave for work.

9) Finally, with everything ready now, I just put my jacket on, take my bag and am ready for the day!

As you can probably see, I plan the order of even the smallest of things for my morning. When my morning goes smoothly, I genuinely have a lot more motivation and drive to get through all my tasks and jobs for the day. My mind is in the correct place as well to face anything the day is to bring.

A large part of my morning routine involves me being organized the night before. These changes will not happen overnight. It has taken me years of conditioning to ensure my mornings go according to my plan. Everyone’s priorities for their morning routine may be different, so I do not expect everyone to follow this. My point is, having a focused and detailed morning routine will set the tone for the rest of the day, so do not neglect your mornings!

Hope you found this useful. Please feel free to share your morning routines. Would love to hear what you guys do!

Praveena x

Alive, Well, Happy & Grateful

It has been quite a while since I blogged. I have been so busy with medicine and dance which has meant that finding the time to sit down have time for myself to reflect on my life and thoughts has been a lot more difficult. However, I am back, and I have a few things I would like to talk about.

Firstly, ‘work’. I say this in inverted commas because I seriously do not see medicine as work. It is my passion. I am grateful that I can say this. I love waking up in the mornings, I look forward to Mondays and do feel sad when Fridays come. Yes, I am a very bizarre human being! I was never that ‘perfect’ medical student. Truthfully, I did not enjoy being a medical student as much as I enjoy being a Doctor. I feel so purposeful now and I realize how worth-it all those years of hardship were. I am still clueless most of the time, and I have several moments when I have to turn to my colleagues and the amazing nursing staff to help me out. I have even experienced moments where I was so near to tears in the middle of the ward. Nonetheless, this is what being a Doctor is all about – LEARNING and GROWING, not just as a Doctor but as a human being. I am so much more driven to be a good Doctor, seeing first-hand and working with some amazing ones. Ultimately, it is not easy at all and most of the time I have no idea what I am doing; but the key here is, I am doing my best and turning to someone for support when I need to. This is just the beginning of my medical career. I have so much more learning to do, so many more exams to sit, but for now I am enjoying every moment of my medical career however pain-staking and stressful it gets.

Secondly, dance. I do not think many people believe me when I say I have dance rehearsals pretty much every day of the week. Well I do! If I am not doing anything medicine related, I am doing something dance related. This could include working on dance shows, wedding choreography or own projects. Currently I am focusing on the former two. I do not want to say much about it now but do trust me when I say I am busy with dance rehearsals.

Last but not least, YouTube. Now this is one I have wanted to have a heart-to-heart about, with you. The reason is because I have not been amazing with staying on top of YouTube. This year I set myself a goal of wanting to be more active with producing YouTube videos – dance videos, tutorials, discussions. However, I have only managed to release on dance video and two discussion videos about dance. I have been meaning to film another video but I have not had the motivation to film it. I am not going to make any soppy excuses here. I would like to be open and honest. I did want to try YouTube and I am glad I did, but, is it for me? Unfortunately not; well not now anyway. I wanted to give YouTube a go and I am glad I did; I got such a wonderful response to my videos. So many of you were very encouraging and spreading so much positivity which made me feel very grateful. YouTube, however, takes a lot of commitment and time. At this point in my life, with my medical career, dance shows/projects, wedding choreography business, I am struggling to find the perfect time to film and release good-quality content. Therefore, for the time being, I am going to pause with my YouTube videos. I do not want to promise that I will be back on YouTube; I will try my best to produce content in the future if time and circumstances permit. I will blog about the topics I wanted to create videos on, so keep your eyes peeled.

I would like to thank everyone for your patience with me. I believe that I do not need to post constantly on social media to prove that I am doing something purposeful/useful, which is why it may seem like I have gone very quiet…but folks, I am alive, well, happy and grateful!

Lots of love,
Praveena

PS: Feel free to message me if you have any questions about medicine, dance, blogging, YouTube, or anything really. Would love to hear from you!

Should it always be about the hustle?

In recent times, terms like ‘hustle’, ‘grind’ and ‘hard work’ are really trending. We are all trying to build a life where we are constantly pushing ourselves and striving for more.

I love how I have built my life. Working professionally as a Doctor, creatively as a Dancer and personally as a Blogger. It really is an amazing feeling. I am learning to push my own limits and reach for heights which I never thought were possible.

However, here is the real deal. It is exhausting and I am exhausted. I am constantly ill, sleep-deprived, and tired, all because I am constantly working on what to do now and then planning my next ventures. On top of all of this, commuting as much as I do to ensure I accomplish my goals has a knock on effect on my productivity and quality of the work I am producing. This made me question whether all this hustling was actually worth it, when my mental and physical health is not at its best as a result of it all.

Sadly, we are also the generation where mental illness is at its peak. Depression and anxiety are becoming so much more prevalent in professionals. So maybe if we built a community where it was more acceptable to take well-earned breaks, we would be facing a decline in mental health problems.

Long story short, I have learnt that we need to push ourselves to strive for more, but within reason. I am slowly learning about the importance of resting and giving myself a break. I do not mean just 1 to 2 hours a day. I mean 1 to 2 days a week. I need at least one day a week where I am focusing on nothing related to medicine/dance/blogging. I need at that one day to re-energise. I need that one day to bounce back stronger. I used to think taking a break was weak. No way!

Taking a break is the strongest thing we can do for ourselves. We need it. Especially as we are the generation pursuing more than one profession/passion. Let’s give ourselves a break, because we deserve it. At the end of the day, hard work alone is not enough. We need to know how to work smart as well, and that is where the trick is.

My new motto in life is: take as many breaks as you work!

Life as a Competitive Dancer

I watched a Tamil movie called Lakshmi last weekend. The day before I watched this movie, I was on stage in front of an audience of 1600 competing in my first ever professional Bhangra competition. Therefore, watching Lakshmi really struck a chord with me. This is why I am sat here right now blogging (after what seems like ages). Lakshmi is a movie which probably hit a chord or two for every single individual who has watched this movie so far. Dancers who struggle to convince their conservative parents of how important dance is to them will really understand the emotions of the protagonist who struggled, as a child, having to face the same issue. Dancers who have experienced stage fright would really understand how the protagonist felt on her first ever stage performance, whilst being blinded by the strong stage lights and immense crowd. Dancers, who have experienced relationship problems as a result of their arduous dance training schedules, will be able to relate to this movie as well. Those who do not dance may want their child to become as strong of a dancer as the protagonist is in the movie, or maybe even not!

For me however, watching this movie really hit home regarding the life of a competitive dancer. This includes: the auditioning phase; getting onto the team; sacrificing free-time/family-time/social life for training; facing failures as a dancer and as a team member; fighting through pain whilst struggling on stage; protecting and fighting for your team-members no matter what; knowing the feeling of having your team as your new-found family and willing to sacrifice anything and everything for this new family. All these factors get amplified 100-fold when dancers are also balancing another professional career or degree as well.

I competed in my first ever dance competition at the age of 9 years old. At that age I had no idea that I would be spending a large proportion of my dance career training for and competing in competitions. But here I am now, 15 years on, having competed in 11 national dance competitions: 3 Bharathanatyam competitions, 1 Bollywood, 2 Gaana/Tamil Cinematic Dance and 5 Bhangra competitions. Of the 11, 8 of them happened in the last 3 years!

I am writing this to showcase the realities of training for a dance competition. It is tough. It is not as glamorous as it sounds or looks. The final product that the audience sees is merely a 5-10 minutes result of more than at least 100 hours of training. The sacrifices competitive dancers make to perform the way they do on stage are terrific.

I am writing this blog as an awareness to those who do not know of what we, as competitive dancers, go through on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Many of us competitive dancers have sacrificed spending time with family and friends on numerous occasions. There have been times when I have not seen my family for 3 months! I have whole-day dance training during the weekends; I have university/work during the weekdays. I cannot jeopardize my team at any point. Ultimately I have signed up to investing my weekends into dance training, so I cannot just turn around and say, I cannot go training because I feel homesick, unless of course something urgent crops up.

The overall lifestyle of a competitive dancer is very different to that of a normal person. Firstly, I have to think twice about what I eat – I do not eat out; I cook my own food which I try to keep as clean as possible; I stay away from Tamil food, even if it is home-cooked. Secondly, I have to be cautious about what social and physical activities I do; for example, I have to avoid going out because I do not want to feel drained for training the next day and I want to feel well rested before training. Finally, competitive dancers have to get used to living with injuries – shin splints, blisters, muscle aches – I spend most of my time outside of training dosed up on maximum pain-relief and walking like a penguin, because of how many injuries I suffer. Even as I write this now, I am typing with my right hand because I pulled by biceps muscle in my left arm during training for my most recent competition I took part last weekend. No imagine this being our normal life for the most part of a year. Yep, that’s our life!

Training to be a competitive dancer means you are training to be an athlete. So yes, it is extremely difficult, but what is worth keeping will not come easy. I do not regret any part of this journey at all, because with every competition I have become more and more of a committed and disciplined individual. Every competition enables me to hone myself into a better dancer as well as a better human being and that is all I care about right now. Onwards and upwards.