Last night I asked Sage to help me rename this site. The process that ensued was a blast, filled with improv exercises to clear the mind with useful questions sandwiched inside (Without thinking, name five characters from 80’s sitcoms…OK now name five spice names in Hindi…Now name five things you care about writing about…Now name five songs that are guilty pleasures…) At the end of it she took down the answers to the relevant questions we came up with the domain name and site title you see above.
“Go Outside Today”
When we came to that idea I was really happy. This name captures, in three simple words so much of what makes me tick. It’s a simple command that tells me to do the things that make me smile, that make me happy, that challenge me, and that bring me joy.
If I am feeling down, or uninspired, the advice Sage will have for me is almost always some form of “Go Outside Today”. It’s something I am often resistant to and yet is almost always the best thing. Take one of the last trips I wrote up – the visit to the night market. Heat warnings were posted while our apartment was a comfortable 22°C inside. I overrode my inertia, got on a bus toward the lake, and had a great time at the night market.
What does “Go Outside Today” mean to me? A lot of different things.
Of course there is the obvious and literal translation: Go outdoors. Living in my climate-controlled tower it’s easy to forget to go outdoors. In these days of cheap delivery of everything from office supplies to groceries to take-out food it’s never been easier to stay indoors. And yet, going outside is where you see and connect with other people, feel the ground beneath your feet and smell the air.
Go outside your cooking routine. I love eating new foods because then I often end up with new favourite dishes to eat. But often, especially when I get busy, I fall back on routines. I’m still eating homemade food but a lot of the same dishes: bean burritos, Thai Red Curry tofu (or chicken), kung pao chicken, and so on. And yet, I’m always thrilled when I cook something new. Making this breakfast a few weeks ago made my whole day better. Not only was it delicious, it transported me back to our time in rural Maharashtra.
Go outside your usual neighbourhood(s). Visit parts of your city, state/province, country or world you’ve never been. Talk to people you haven’t met before. Learn about the new places you go and people you meet. This is a great part of why I’m visiting every library in Toronto. Sure, I get to take you to some of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city and maybe tell a story or two about what it was like when we lived there. But I also get to visit parts of the city that I would otherwise have no reason to go to.
Go outside your comfort zone. This can mean a lot of things. This might mean pushing yourself physically but it also might mean academically, or socially. In my case it often means the latter. I’m quite shy to begin with, and much of that shyness comes down to wanting to avoid being embarrassed. But I also know that those times I push through this – most often lately in the form of speaking Hindi to a stranger – are the times I feel best. The most common example of this relates to a rule I gave myself for traveling my neighbourhood. This neighbourhood has a lot of residents who used to live in Pakistan and who speak Urdu. At last count 30% of people in this part of town speak Urdu as their first language. It’s close enough that my Hindi knowledge can carry me just about as far with an Urdu speaker as a Hindi speaker as long as I’m careful to avoid using Shudh Hindi words – words that come from Sanskrit. And so, when I’m out and about here, I promised myself that if I understand someone else speaking Hindi or Urdu and I have to speak to them then I will not speak English. Every single time it feels as scary as getting up on stage. What if I sound dumb? What if my accent is horrible? What if they think I’m implying that they don’t speak good English (this one is a bigger fear than I’d like to admit – probably my biggest one here). But when I do it, I’ve never been disappointed. There is always a degree of surprise, often a smile, and every time I feel a little less scared to try it again.
A couple of weeks ago I was at our weekly market in the park here. At one stall a woman was selling chaat papri and grilled corn. In front of me was a Canadian woman who was also ordering chaat papri. As she was ordering she said “And don’t make it spicy, you know none of us Canadians can handle spicy food.” (as an aside: This is why it is so hard to get spicy food here!). The woman behind the counter started making her food and then spoke Urdu to her friend who was grilling corn. That’s it, I’m committed. And so I ask for chaat papri and then add “Aur is men bahut mirch daaliye.” – “And please put lots of chilli in it.” Without missing a beat she responded in Urdu and we continued talking. Then I went to pay and as I now realize is my habit, I held my wallet in my right hand and took the change from her in my left. She corrected me and told me I should use my right hand for giving and receiving money. And so I got language practice and a lesson out of it. And I felt great.
And these are the things I want to continue to share with you here – to hopefully inspire you to go outside of whatever is boxing you in as well.
What are you trying to go outside of?