A Few Important Things
Disclaimer: All names have been fabricated to protect the identities of the people mentioned.
“Do you have the code I asked you for last week?” asked Dr. Libert as he hastily entered the room. His kind eyes rested on me, expectantly. I blurted out “Yes, I definitely have it, let me find it.” On that note, my mind spiralled into a quiet frenzy as my eyes darted towards the computer screen. I had written the code just two days ago, and it’s related to data analysis, so if I remember correctly, it must be inside the folder ‘Research’ in which there is the folder ‘Matlab’ in which there is the folder ‘Data Analysis.’ There it is, ‘filtering.m.’ Now, if he were to ask me what was inside this code, I would not be able to tell him.
I had a few eccentric habits. I had folders on my laptop for everything with multiple subfolders that had their own subfolders. I would drop every little thing I produced into these folders and then I would let slip away the content from my mind because I could always go back to find it. The point was not that I remembered what I did, but that I kept everything I did.
It was noon. Michael looked up from his computer. “Ready for lunch?” he asked. Luke and Anne sighed in relief, took out their lunch boxes, and stirred out of their seats. I looked up as well. “So sorry guys, but I don’t think I can. You should go ahead” I replied. Michael looked surprised. “Come on, come join us for a bit!” The jolliness in his voice made me hesitate for a moment. I quickly ran through the list of must-do’s in my mind to see if I could make some time. The verdict was clear. “I think I’ll just stay.”
Anxiety—the naughty friend—had a knack for twisting one’s reality as a kid. Sometimes she slipped into my shower to tell me that if I closed my eyes for too long while I washed my hair, I would open my eyes to find a bloody child staring back at me. Other times, she would free a shrieking banshee during swimming lessons to chase me down. I jumped up like a child gasping for air whenever I felt the long green fingernails brushing past my feet as the coach shouted at me to keep going from outside the pool. Once, when I was about seven, she made a visit in the middle of the night. I was almost about to fall asleep when I saw a giant cobra on the side of my bed. In its complete stillness, I swear I saw its bright green eyes scan the room in search of its dinner. In the morning I would wake up to find a cold fan standing by the bed. But until the blessed morning sun rose, I stayed petrified under the covers, cold sweat gathering on my back and seeping through the pajamas to soak the bed sheets.
I quietly took out a sandwich from my bag in the empty office. I munched on the sandwich while my eyes stayed fixed on the laptop screen. I was clearly not making any progress. ‘At least I’m trying here,’ I soothed myself, unconvincingly. The list of must-do’s was long, and everything on it was important.
I imagine a day when nothing is so important: On this day, I am still doing things but I know that a list is not what is important. On this day, small talk weaves through the pauses of the day and I give a few hearty laughs to Luke’s many jokes. I remember what is written in ‘filtering.m’ without looking, and I can easily recount the small and big moments of this particularly unspecial day. In the evening I go for a swim. As my body splashes and wiggles to complete a lap, I feel the burn in my arms, legs and abs. It pains me so much that I want to stop. But I remember how much I love the feeling of cold water on my skin as I press against the water to pulse forward. So I keep pulsing forward.