The Stockholm marathon is coming up in about 2 months, and my training officially started the week before I left for Delhi. Given that I have not been running very much lately (read: I haven’t been running like a crazy person lately because consistently waking up at 6am is hard to sustain!), I was naturally pretty worried about spending 10 days in Delhi, Shitty Air Quality Capital of the World. Not to mention, I’d never traveled to India before myself, but had heard a number of stories — both from friends/family and from the news — that did not give me the most confident impression that the trip would be easy. But given the professional opportunity that would open to me if I took this trip, I caved and let my marathon training slide, something I wouldn’t normally do.
While my trip to Delhi did affect my training and I’m playing catch up now, ultimately, there was a larger lesson to be learned. There always is. As selfish as I am, I must admit that the world is bigger than myself, and I have lots to learn yet.
I sincerely enjoyed my time in Delhi, and that’s saying a lot given that my reason for traveling there was for work. I had about 4 days of preparation time before my trip, so prior to my arrival, I didn’t really have much room to formulate expectations. But despite the long workdays, hectic commute to the office, and sometimes seemingly neverending coworker socialization, this trip was one for the books. It was a humbling experience to meet coworkers who I’ve been working with for over 3 years. The commute was basically a twice daily adventure – an exploration of New Delhi and the surrounding areas. And the hotel we stayed in was great, so the forced free happy hours and dinners with the coworkers really weren’t so bad after all. And to top it off, the food was way more worth the calories than expected.
But on a less superficial level, it was obviously not the completely unnecessary amounts of paneer that I ate that made the trip memorable (…..or was it?….) Just kidding. It was the overall experience of traveling to a country and city so purely different from my own. Visiting this place with such a spectrum of social, cultural, and infrastructural dichotomies was enlightening beyond what I could’ve anticipated. To see the vastly intelligent population, the technological competence, and the extreme displays of wealth, coupled with the poverty, prevalence of decay, and hectic sense of community — while not unexpected — was more surprising than I could have imagined.
A place in our world of such history, has grown into a bustling metropolitan area, still without many of the conveniences of the western world. But somehow, experiencing these things in the raw environment that they’ve been born out of seemed natural. Once I adjusted to actually being coherent during my waking hours, adjusting to these social and cultural differences was not only comfortable, but exhilarating. I saw cows out the window of my taxi, as I learned from my driver about his life growing up in a small village, on my way to see the Taj Mahal, classifying myself as one of its 3 million visitors each year. And the next day I spent wandering markets in the center of New Delhi, salivating at the sight of each street vendor. Just about everything was different, but I was eager and excited. It felt right to be there seeing life through a vision other than my own.
I guess, in some roundabout, overly wordy way, I’m trying to say that while I’m truly grateful for the life that I’ve led, it’s the appreciation of the world I live in that I want to define me as I continue on this adventure. Among other things, the life I’ve been given has made it possible for me to tour the world running, and if I let that escape me, I don’t deserve it.
While I owe a lot of my success thus far to my hard work and conviction, I may not be where I am today if it weren’t for the resultant combination of these personality traits along with the extraneous outside factors that constitute the amorphous “privilege”.
So take a minute to reflect. Remember who you are and how you became that person. Life’s no cakewalk, and we all work to create our stories. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and know that the next level is no more than a question of “how high?” Eat your vegetables, work hard, and deserve it.