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0.3 | Rising (परवाज़)
Words color our world. They guide our thoughts, make us feel, connect, and understand. They are our joined reality, allowing us to reshape the past, understand our present, and yearn for the future. Words transmit beyond ourself, our places, and our time.
I came across a beautiful word recently:
Parvaaz / परवाज़ / پروااز
It's an Urdu word that, as every language does, has a literal meaning – to rise.
the rising of a bird during its first flight.
That flutter in your heart before the kiss. The audible thudding before a performance. The rush before an adventure commences.
The sensation that lies in that space between the unknown turning into the known.
The flattening of all potential realities into the one you will now live in. Your life, in all of its thrilling moments.
It's scary. Existentially terrifying. You risk death, or worse, the death of your world, of the ideas and beliefs that have led up to this splitting point in time.
In a good life I think, you feel it a lot.
I've struggled in those moments. To stay present, to acknowledge the terror, the excitement, the possibility, and to still persevere with the moment.
In my best memories I've come through. In my regrets, I didn't.
"It's confidence that got you through those moments", I think to myself now with all the graces of hindsight.
I know what confidence feels like, but it hasn't always been accessible. I've felt the paralyzing anxiety rush through my body before, seizing my very breath, my thoughts, my moment, me.
"Anxiety", I decide, "is then the opposite of what I want".
Every motivator worth their likes will tell you "confidence is a fake it till you make it" kind of ordeal.
That hasn't really worked for me. What does "faking it" even mean?
A few months ago, a close friend of mine invited to go skiing with him. It was a pastime I never really had the socioeconomic ability to really partake in it before, but this time I did.
As I spent the humbling first days, bumbling my ways through beginner slopes, crashing, falling, and learning, I relished in the mechanical improvement. Like most physical action, you can feel yourself getting better. It is a visible progress. It's inordinately satisfying to recall being utter shit at something that comes effortlessly to you in the present.
The improvements happen gradually across multiple dimensions of growth.
You go faster, take more calculated risks, try a more challenging terrain, fall less, shit your pants less. You get better.
In learning theory, they call this the zone of proximal development.
It's that area just outside the familiar, where you nudge against what you know into the area of what you don't know, one prod at a time.
We all do this intuitively, we talk to children at their vocabulary level but introduce a few words we know are likely unfamiliar to them to help them improve. We explain things to a friend, dropping words that they likely don't know, but in context of the explanation, now understand. We take risks, pushing right outside our comfort level.
It's a delicate balance. Venture too far out this zone, and you risk everything negative: confusion, shame, injury, or death.
But in this zone you experience the fundamental human satisfaction of growth.
I felt myself getting better. I found the beginner slopes easy. I felt confident. The terrain was familiar – effortless even.
I relished in telling that to my friend. He congratulated me on the progress, and I felt good. I was confidently in my comfort zone. It wasn't scary, it wasn't unknown.
He told me to try harder, "this isn't the confidence that you want, you don't want confidence in the terrain, you want confidence in yourself".
"Try this one", he pointed to intense looking pathway on the ski resort's map, with a concerningly innocuous name.
My heart pounded. I felt that fear. The anticipatory worry that I wasn't yet ready for what life was offering me.
I was confident in where I was, wasn't that enough?
Without processing the feeling, I took the lift to that run.
As I stood at the top of that terrifyingly inviting slope, I reflected on those words in sheer panic.
I wasn't confident in myself, my abilities. I liked where I was before, it was familiar, known, comforting. I had mapped out my terrain, but change the terrain on me, and I was back to existential anxiety.
To get better, to be confident, is a regular charting to your ideals, through the winds of your fears, insecurities, and discomforts. It's not a one time affair, it's an intentional practice of orienteering from where you are at and making progress towards where you want to be. Stay blissfully where you are at, and you risk the conditions changing on you while you are not prepared.
Confidence isn't a state to relish ones existence in, it's a comfort appreciated through the consistent provocation of the self.
I dropped down the slope.
It was exhilarating. It was terrifying. I loved it. I felt alive. I wanted more.
Growth often seem like it's linear. Like its improvement should charted on a line, each assessment an upgrade upon the previous state, point by point.
But growth doesn't always look like improvement or optimisation.
It's not always getting better.
In 2020, I felt myself struggle to make progress towards my goals. Everyday's effort was spent in just keeping myself from drowning.
A forgotten growth in the world we live in that chases ultimate efficiency is resilience.
Weathering the complex storms of life. The calamities, the suffering, the inevitable loss. To survive, to metamorphise, to adapt in place.
This progress is invisible. It's also essential.
You grow downwards, like a tree, to maintain your strength, not to seek the light.
It's a wonder then why I run, why I cower away from this. It feels good doesn't it?
The intoxication of growth.
But the risk is there.
I risk myself, my world, my reality. I risk suffering.
I risk trying, failing, and facing my own imperfection. I risk making mistakes. I risk going backwards. I risk perpetually not reaching the idealized state that I will always be short of being.
When am I ready? I won't know. I can't. There is no signal, no sign from above, there is no optimal level of preparedness that I can strive to reach for.
There is only the moment and my confidence in myself to get through it.
But I can relish in that feeling. The silliness of failure. The pleasure of success. The rising that occurs only after risking falling.