I have always wanted to go to Iceland. I remember it was fifth or sixth grade, and our teacher asked everyone where would we wanna go for the vacation. Some said Shimla, some said Kashmir, but I said Reykjavík. The teacher asked me where it was and I said, very proudly, that it’s Iceland’s capital. Everyone gave me weird looks as if a person can’t dream. Of course, I pronounced the unpronounced J in Reykjavík. But now looking back at that class, I think nobody was smart enough to correct me, let alone the teacher. If school teachers in India were smart, then they would not have been school teachers in India. It is an honorable profession, yes, but there is nothing to admire about the person who willingly chooses to be a part of a rotten education system. It’s either they have given up on dreaming big or they are expecting too much from our governments. They should be respected but they aren’t and yet they keep doing their jobs. A strange breed really.
I don’t know how my strange obsession with Iceland started though. I never knew anyone who had been there. All my knowledge about the country was either from books or the internet. I remember discovering Sigur Ros in eleventh grade. What a great band, I’d say to everyone, not knowing that they were from Iceland. A year or so later, when I got to know that they were from Iceland, my reaction was ‘of course’. As if anything that comes out from Iceland has to be great. But I believed it so. In fact, I still believe it.
Even in my early twenties, my only aim was to go to Iceland. I had joined an internship at this backpacking startup in the last year of my college. They were trying to change the culture of hiking in Himachal and Uttarakhand. In my interview, I asked the founder if they ever planned to expand internationally, like to Iceland or someplace like that. The founder looked me in the eye and said they just wanna focus on north India for the next five years. I quit a month later and the startup ceased to exist after six months. I forgot about Iceland for the next four-five years. I chose to forget, rather.
Have you ever made a silent promise to yourself? Not the new year resolution types, but something more concrete. Something that comes out of your gut and you would be embarrassed to look at yourself if you don’t fulfill that promise. I don’t remember when, but there was this day in my life when I decided to be a workaholic. It happened all of a sudden. I was always a laid-back kinda person, something which even I hated about myself. So one day I got up and decided to not waste a single second of my life. I worked and worked. Stayed late at the office. Then took up some work for the late nights, wrote dozens of things for strangers across the Atlantic, slept at 4 woke up at 9, and worked. Of course, there were days when I couldn’t keep up with all this but they were rare.
When you are a workaholic, you don’t have time to reflect on anything. You don’t sit back and ponder, you just run and run. I have seen people becoming bitter, insecure, self-unaware, essentially assholes, because they haven’t had time to reflect on who they have become. And mind you, they still think they are nice people. I’d look down on people who would be doing 9 to 6 jobs and taking weekends off. I didn’t take breaks. Vacations became work from vacations. My mental health went for a toss. I wasn’t exactly at my happiest, to put it nicely. And then a few breakdowns later, I questioned all of it. Was any of this worth it? Of course, the answer was no. And so one day, I decided to stop this madness. Just like how I had started it, I had to stop it. I am still unlearning, I am still not the happiest, but at least now I have the time to think about the ‘why’s. It’s not important to solve a problem, it’s important to have the intent of solving it.
I remember I was at this party a couple of years ago. It was very late. Like it was early morning late. However, it was still dark enough out there. We were sitting on the balcony. A friend asked me what’s my dream. Like the ultimate goal. At this point, I should probably mention that I was going through a very low point in my life. I thought for a while and then looked at her. “Should I say it?” “Yes, tell me”. “You know the Aurora Borealis? The northern lights? That are visible in many parts of the world and also in Iceland? One day I wanna die under them. I wanna die under the northern lights of Iceland.” Everyone went quiet. I could feel that they were looking at me with concern. At this point I must have cracked a joke or something to release the tension. The obsession continues, I thought to myself.
Last year, a couple of my friends were planning a Euro trip which also included Iceland. “Will you come with us?”, they asked. “Yes, everywhere but Iceland”, I said. I don’t wanna go to Iceland yet. I feel like I am not ready. I don’t know how to explain this but I have this fear that if I go to Iceland now, then I might not have anything to look forward to in life. It has been my only dream and I don’t wanna see it yet. Iceland has become the ‘Saturday’ of my life. I wanna wait for it, and I am still at the Tuesday. I feel like someday when I will go to Iceland, it might feel like visiting a distant cousin who I know inside out but haven’t seen in the last twenty years. “Why not Iceland?”, my friends asked. “Because it’s expensive”, I said. Because I am not ready to die yet, I thought. Do you ever have such thoughts?