My faults and quirks are still there, and that is as much part of my identity as my strengths are.
I sold every possession I had except for a futon, my clothes and the 72 Mercedes 280se that had got me to Houston. I had just quit the auto mechanic school and was royally struggling to make ends meet surviving on the hours I worked at a fast food restaurant. I lay on my futon and just stared at the ceiling, wondering how I could be 26 years old and struggle this much.
It wasn’t because of a lack of education. I did fairly well graduating from college but for the life of me, I could never get or hold onto a good job. I had just moved back to the United States after a six-month stay with my uncle and his neighbor, a Nobel Prize Winning Freedom Fighter. I spent a few months with my parents, also staring at the ceiling contemplating how I could be 25 years old and struggling this much.
I blamed the small town location as to why I wasn’t getting anywhere. Late night commercials on television led me to believe my answers were in an auto mechanical college one thousand miles away in a place I had never been before, Houston. I packed everything I could into my Mercedes, unbeknownst to how leaky the fuel injectors were or how the engine mounts were so eroded that the engine wasn’t held in the engine bay at all. Hope was all I needed.
Here I was, facing rock bottom, a mirror of events seven months earlier. I was in the fourth largest city in the United States, and I was still struggling. I had a choice to make. I didn’t have the heart to tell my parents how much I was struggling so I talked to my aunt. I told her I was tired of moving somewhere else hoping that the new place and new situation was all I need. I moved to the other side of the planet and then I went home to the comfort of my parents’ place. Nothing. I moved to follow a passion and still nothing. So I told her with a serious voice, “If I become homeless, I don’t care, I am not moving anymore. I’m going to make this work.”
I started my journey by building deep sea buoys for an Oil and Gas Deep Sea Platform Service company. I spent my hours making fiberglass injection molds. I battled the sweltering summer heat with no air condition, fiberglass rashes, and chemical headaches that I could never shake no matter how many safety precautions I took. As hard as that labor was, my most laborious work done during that time was on myself.
Every day, I used the GOJO soap in my bathroom to clean up my hands even more thoroughly than I had done at the factory. For some reason one night, I just glimpsed at myself in the mirror. I noticed I didn’t like what I saw. I knew this needed to change. So every day after I came home, I’d looked at myself in the mirror for at least five to ten minutes. It was a hard at first, but I started to accept who I was and eventually love myself, faults and all.
I had struggled with my identity since as early as I can remember. I knew this, but I didn’t realize how important it was to love who you are as you are. I was an Indian boy that grew up hating his heritage only because of how it made me stand out and I just wanted dearly to fit in. I also fought with gynecomastia, which took a toll with shaming and ridicule but the deeper pain was my hatred towards my body. Even after surgery three years prior, I hated to be naked, so I began to spend more time in my small apartment naked.
I slowly fell in love with who I was and realized that others I had envisioned as being flawless weren’t. I just imagined them that way. Life is hard when you try to live up to something that isn’t real. Whether it was dating or landing that next killer job, it all boiled down to loving myself as I currently was and looking at the world externally with its flaws intact. I am still the same person, whether it is the version that flipped burgers or the one that led large teams in a hospital or the current entrepreneurial version.
I can look back to where I had my darkest moments, where suicide wasn’t just an option but a solution, and say with all certainty, the only thing that has changed is that I love myself, unconditionally. My faults and quirks are still there, and that is as much part of my identity as my strengths are.
Photo: Flickr/ NYCandre