Pursuit of Perfection

Nida Chowdhry, writer, blog, perfectionism, writer’s block, voice, voicelessness, silence, claim your voice

It amazes me (in a non-incredulous, knowing way) how many pieces I have written here that I did not publish.

I thought for the longest time that I don’t have what it takes, the proclivity for prolificness, if I may be annoying in my words. I thought I didn’t have what it takes to write the kind of things I like reading.

Looking at this page, I’ve realized it’s not that. It’s that I thought the page had a power over me, and I was afraid. I thought I was not worthy. I now understand why writers say you just need to show up and do the work. It’s not about the quality of your work, but just doing it, that makes one a writer.

There are so many things a person can say to us, but inside it is a puzzle, that needs to be solved, a lock that needs a key, a key we must find on our own. A person can give away their secret, but it’s learning the meaning behind it that takes so much work, and one’s own personal journey.

For so long, I have held myself back with an axe over my head, a burden on my shoulder. A burden to have a complete thought. To have figured it all out before I open my mouth.

As I sit back and look at what my life has revealed to me, what I have explored and gotten to know from it, I see that there is no such thing as a complete thought, a final answer.

My writing has always been a conversation with myself. A healing antidote… I relate to the phrase “suck out the poison.” For me, when things, words, thoughts, ideas, stay in me too long, when I suppress them, I am poisoned by myself, suffocated by my own ideas. I need to let it out, and let it be and do its own thing. In that way, I am very okay with being a vulnerable and imperfect being. I know that I am responsible for my actions, and the effects of my words. And I know also that I am a mirror for my own humanity.

I have been afraid that the things that I so hate about people are within me, and that means that if I am to reveal myself, I am to reveal hateable things, and thus I will be hated. I increasingly find that love is not like that. Love exists as a whole. Love embraces, accepts, appreciates, loves. And it requires a surrender, to even the things we don’t like about ourselves. To surrender and accept our fallibility. Our inevitable shortcomings.

I read a line in my own journal from 2016:

Sometimes we spend so long listening
We don’t realize we have a voice

‘Secret of the Nile’ on Netflix is so, so good

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I just finished watching Grand Hotel or as it’s known on Netflix, Secret of the Nile. It’s the first Egyptian show on Netflix, and it’s actually a remake of a Spanish drama series, Gran Hotel. It’s Downton Abbey meets Cable Girls (also a Spanish drama, also on Netflix, also I’m obsessed), and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

The original Gran Hotel is 39 episodes, broken into 3 seasons. Secret of the Nile is 30 episodes, 45 minutes each, and it plays out as one long season (it was originally released as a Ramadan special in 2016). I learned about it this past Sunday and just finished marathon-watching it at 4am this morning… LOL.

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The acting is so rich and complex, the cinematography is riveting, the sets are stunning, and the wardrobe and hair/makeup are fire. But the reason I literally watched 1,350 minutes of TV in three days is because of the drama. Oh the drama! Egyptians. Know. Drama.

I never knew the true meaning of the words “the plot thickens” until now. The plot is so thick it’s a vat of cement and I am here for this concrete mixture of deception. Grand Hotel also has some phenomenal villains who’s character development is… to die for… and it somehow carries on through 30 episodes. I am here for these scary Tants (Aunties)!

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It’s in Arabic and I watched it with English subtitles. I’m proud to say I’m learning such important Egyptian Arabic as, “IDKHUL!” (Enter) and “Nazarthu. Dul. Alayya. ANNA… UMMIK!” (You sided with them against me, your mother!) Wow, this is really going to come in handy when I visit the Pyramids.

If you enjoy period dramas (low-hanging pun intended) and you’re looking for a new show to be obsessed with, I recommend watching two episodes before you judge.

Also, in case your watching and you’re like, Who does Ali/Fouad (played by Amr Youssef) remind me of? He looks like Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek):

You’re welcome.

P.S. ABC is remaking Grand Hotel, too!

The bar gets higher

A few years back, I met someone at an NYC networking event and we got to talking about what we were up to. When I told them I just finished the UCB Improv program, they were like, “Advanced?” (referring to the UCB advanced classes) and I was like, ::sheepishly:: “No.” And they were like, ::disappointed:: “Oh. Well… keep going.” (Read: DO YOU EVEN LIFT???)

For me, everything really has started with a step. And taking a step at a time has added up, and I have gotten further and further on my own path. But it turns out that the further I get, the length of the road ahead is all I can see.

My friends used to come to my improv shows and lovingly tell me how funny I was and how I compared on stage. All I could really see is how good everyone else is, and how much I need to improve.

Maybe it’s classic imposter syndrome. But also, I think it’s that thing people talk about. The thing where they say, you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. And the other thing, if you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Nevermind that both of these things are a bit pretentious sounding. I think what they refer to is making sure that we always challenge ourselves. If we’re not in a place where we see room for improvement, if we’re not feeling like the weakest link, it means we’re not challenging ourselves enough, we’re not asking ourselves enough. (And I think it’s possible to feel like the weakest link in any room if we see each person’s unique gifts and ask ourselves to work harder.)

I haven’t really figured out the look-around-and-appreciate-the-milestones part. I am still focused on the climb. And yes, it is exhausting to think like that. I’m sure I’d be better off if I marveled at the distance a little more, but I don’t/won’t/can’t. If instant success were a thing I’d gladly give up the hard work and sit on the throne of my ginormously cushy ego. But it turns out it’s not a thing (mostly) and there is only one way: the hard way.

I do find something both humbling and exciting about constantly feeling like the loser in the room that has the most work to do, the longest way to go. It’s thrilling really, because there is potential. It’s like… knowing how much burn one has to feel in a workout before getting to the next … goal? Idk muscle language/talk. But yes, there is a sort of thrill/adrenaline rush attached to it.

I guess I’m writing this to share something I didn’t know when I was 22. There is no instant satisfaction or award awaiting the end of each milestone. There is what I have in myself. Knowledge, and also, increased knowledge of how little I know and how much more there is to learn. I think and hope this is how I will always feel. Which is cool and exciting. No matter how much I accomplish, how much I do, there will always be bigger achievements, people who have contributed “more.” And “we can always do more,” but also, “we’ll be dead soon anyways.”

So there is a built in dissatisfaction in achievement that I had no idea about. And witnessing the pattern of my life, it’s clear now. There really is no such thing as “winning” in the solo sense and it really is about how we get there together (even when we think we got there alone). And… winning doesn’t really feel like “winning.” It feels more like, “wow! that was fun! okay cool, now let’s get some rest, and then… onto the next.” I think that’s pretty cool, and grounding.

And also P.S. I’ve met lots of cool people on the road who are like, oh cool! and lot’s of people on the road who are like, oh. that’s it? The road giveth medicine for thine ego.

I love Grace & Frankie

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You guys, I love Netflix’s Grace & Frankie. I can’t believe I just finished watching Season 4 – four seasons in and it’s just as good / getting better. Let me count the ways:

1) Who doesn’t love a good Lucy/Ethel, Thelma/Louise combo? Grace/Frankie have a dynamic worthy of its ranks. I appreciate the consistent stubbornness of their qualities, and how their flaws (and virtues) balance each other out. And cause chaos.

2) I haven’t been blessed to watch Golden Girls just yet, but I can’t think of another show that appreciated / embraced older women since then. How do we not? It’s embarrassing and we’re missing out. Grace and Frankie helps me appreciate who I might be and feel seen rather than slowly disappearing off the face of existence.

3) The humor is just. Next level in every way. I appreciate how honest and vulnerable the comedy is, that it stems from Grace and Frankie’s genuine struggles, hopes, and concerns in this chapter of their lives / f*ck you for calling it a ‘chapter of their lives.’

4) I love being able to see these beautiful humans with their beautiful wrinkles and not so beautiful joint pain, struggling with all of the above. It’s not just refreshing to see two women in their 70’s as leads – it’s necessary.

I can’t wait to rewatch it this summer and I’m looking forward to Season 5. Bravo to show creator Marta Kauffman, and the incredible forces that are Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

Is there a show with older lead characters that you love? Leave a comment with your recs. I’m putting together my Summer Watchlist right now and would love to learn your favorites.

The energy it takes to run a social media campaign

Something that wears on me more than it used to (or I’m allowing myself to notice it) is the effects of running a social media campaign. I limit how much I run these things now, just because I need the mindspace to focus and produce my work.  Continue reading “The energy it takes to run a social media campaign”

The Impact we want to have

I’ve been focusing on being mindful with my social media presence, and noticed I was feeling some feelings during yesterday’s scrolls, not unrelated to Forbes 30 Under 30 list being published. And not unrelated to me trying to understand my relationship goals for Instagram follower numbers.

In contrast to my new “look but with love” feels, yesterday, I was feeling… kind of crappy, hopeless, helpless, worried, comparativ-y. Continue reading “The Impact we want to have”