Monday, February 28, 2011

A Refreshing Weekend

I just spent the most wonderful weekend conferencing at the Wallowa Lake Lodge in Joseph, Oregon. The conference was called the Winter Fishtrap Gathering and the theme this year was "getting small." The theme encouraged us all to think and act on smaller scales, rather than the larger than life ways in which we have all been programmed to behave either all our lives or during some part of it. Why should we aspire for a bigger house? Is success measured by the number of possessions we own or how late we stay back in office or by the amount of money we are constantly running around to make?

I became a member of the professional world in 2002, the year I graduated with a master's in history. At that time, if someone had asked me the above questions, I would have laughed and said, "Stop making excuses for lazy people. You don't want a lot of money or a big house simply because you don't have the means to make it happen. You either are not smart enough, or don't have the required degrees, or are just plain lazy."

Ah, the arrogance of youth.

It disappeared quickly. Four years of nine-to-five or sometimes even longer hours of work, two-three hours of daily commute (except when I was living in Chandigarh) and the constant manipulation of people and circumstances I saw around me, convinced me that I wanted to get back to being a student. Not just because I HAD to learn how to write, but also because I desperately needed a change. And so I came to Idaho, with the savings I had from four years of work and a generous loan from a friend and my own parents. But rupees into dollars is not a savvy conversion and the first year in Idaho was merciless. I was broke, poorer than I had ever imagined I would be, and constantly homesick. That first year was hard and the temptation to go back was always around the corner. But thanks to my wonderful roommate Manasi, and scholarships from the University, I hung around. The next year, a teaching job came my way, and I realized I could indeed make this happen. And I did.

Two years ago, I graduated with my MFA in creative writing and I have stayed on to teach simply because Moscow makes me very happy. At times, I complain, just like everyone else and then a conference like Winter Fishtrap comes along.

This last weekend I heard multiple points of view from talented writers, activists, and musicians, and all of them gave me enough material to think about, discuss, and even bring in to my own writing and personal life. Of the many people I met and learned from, if I have to pick a favorite, it would be Tammy Strobel. I usually find it very hard to like, let alone be impressed, by someone I have just met. But Tammy floored me. It was her sincerity, her honesty, the fact that she had journeyed a long way from what her initial outlook towards life was (which was a lot similar to mine), that made her that much more credible and her message powerful. I have read several posts on her blog in the last twenty four hours, I suggest you do the same, and pay attention to her messages just as I am.