Looking back before moving on: 2015 edition

  
2015 had a rocky start. I found myself struggling with social anxiety more debilitating than ever and a growth on my right eye that required immediate attention. 
A very close friend from Melbourne was here for the holidays but I was unable to really enjoy 2014’s year end or spend quality time with him thanks to troubling pcos symptoms and the pain from the eye that caused constant fevers along with pain. My friends thought I was alienating them when the truth was, I needed to sort my life out. Trying to get a handle on life again took me all year and I am pretty sure there is much work to be done in 2016 as well. 

Things started to turn around when my parents moved into their new abode about 15 minutes away from me. We find comfort in the unlikeliest of places. I had a strained relationship with my family for years and I did not give it a chance to mend properly. At first I was daunted at the prospect of having them so close to home. Gradually over time however, I realised that this was a chance to reacquaint myself with them. So I did that over the months and hey no family is without drama or strife – but I learnt that there is a great deal of love between us and we look out for one another. They have become a safe haven. 

In the month of April, something surprising happened. The We Can! campaign that I am an advocate for got in touch with me to speak about body positivity and the journey that led me down this path with a writer from Cleo – a local magazine catered to young women. To see my name in print on a local platform for the second time was surreal. To have my We Can campaign members point the interviewer in my direction, was a very moving gesture. After the article was published, people came forward on social media and told me about their struggles with body image. I listened, encouraged and reminded them that they were not alone. I spoke at length about how they could make helpful changes in their outlook. They had nothing to be ashamed of. 

When we claim our stories and say it out loud, we take away the shame. 

During that time I was also approached by a local Indian newspaper Tabla! read in selected circles to touch upon my life as a plus size Indian woman and blogger. South Asian fashion is still rather limited to smaller sizes – distressingly, it is even encouraged. Actresses at a size 6 in Bollywood are called Fat and shamed across social media. I was more than glad to share my views and experiences. 

To be very honest I was not getting much work done on the blog during this time. It was hard to push myself. The social anxiety exacerbated the depression and it became a vicious cycle all year long. While it felt like I was a part of something bigger as a blogger and advocate, I felt increasingly misunderstood and alone. 

The plus size community is constantly evolving like any other community but I was not too pleased with some of these changes. There have been a campaign or two by a few retail companies that claim to be body positive and cater to plus sizes that have absolutely No Idea what body positivity entails. I speak my mind openly and unfortunately that saw me falling out of favour with people I was in contact with in the industry. It was a disillusioning period as a blogger. The least I wished for was to be a part of this community, having somewhere to belong. 

So I decided that it was time to create a community of my own. It started with a secret group where friends and people I knew in the community could come together to share what inspired them, vented about grievances, posted their latest articles etc. Women supporting Women, uplifting and rooting for each other. The discontentment within the larger global community however was bound to spill over into this little group. By this time you could say it felt much like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. It took a huge toll on me. 

I fell ill too many times to count in 2015. I sat in silence feeling heartbroken. But It was not all gloomy. It did have good moments. 

I breathed easy in the comfort of the parental home, with the pets, with one or two friends. There were a few good people online and in the real world who checked in on me. And I am so very grateful for that. These little gestures made a big difference. When I expressed my disillusionment about the ps community on the whole in the little secret group, people opened up about their own sentiments. I have been so touched by the kindness of others this year. I am not the kind of person who asks for help or support, it is difficult for me because I am usually the giver and listening ear.  

The fashion posts this year were a whole lot less from 2014’s but I tried to make them count. I still cannot peg my style sense but oh do I love experimenting and I think that is always going to be how I enjoy dressing up. While routines are a necessity in some parts of my existence, I prefer a creative organic process when it comes to fashion. 

While blogging intermittently, I did try to keep my social media pages reasonably active – Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook page, Instagram – and I read in abundance. Buried myself reading the works of my counterparts in the industry, on relevant articles and topics that matter. It was helpful with keeping me in the loop. 

I guess that is how I came to start writing for Wear Your Voice and Volup 2. I love their body of work and share the same passions they have for what they write about. You can say joining the writer bandwagon was my saving grace for 2015. There is now a balance between writing professionally, writing for the blog and fashion blogging. It will probably take a month or so to get settled into the groove of things. 

There are hopes, plans, ideas for this new year. As you know by now I am one to work in silence and let my work do the talking. Which is why it took me a while to write out my previous post. As for how 2016 will pan out, we will have to wait and see. 

I used to write new year resolutions and long term goals. Now I have come to accept that you really cannot plan ahead for everything because we have no idea what’s coming on the horizon. 

What I do know is, I have learnt aplenty from the struggles of 2015. What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger, confused and vulnerable. With that strangeness comes originality. With confusion comes hard work to find clarity. With vulnerability comes openness and courage. 

C’est La Vie 2015. Bonjour 2016. sending you hearty new year greetings and all my love, 

xxxo Aarti Olivia 

  

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