new york. shanghai.

love theatre. love dance. love art.

new york university, class of 2017!

time, fly.

Dear Future Daughter:

1) When you’re at some party, chain smoking on the roof with some strange girl with blue hair and exorbitant large dark eyes, ask her about her day. I promise you, you won’t regret it. Often times you’ll find the strangest of people have the most captivating of stories to tell.

2) Please, never mistake desire for love. Love will engulf your soul, whilst desire will emerge as acid, slowly making it’s way through your veins, gradually burning you from the inside out.

3) No one is going to fucking save you, anything you’ve read or heard otherwise is bullshit.

4) One day a boy is going to come along who’s touch feels like fire and who’s words taste like vanilla, when he leaves you, you will want to die. If you know anything at all, know that it is only temporary.

5) Your mental health comes before school baby, always. If its midnight, and you have an exam the next day but your hands have been shaking for the past hour and a half and you’re not so sure you want to be alive anymore, pull out that carton of Ben and Jerry’s and afterwards, go the fuck to bed. So what if you get a 68% on the exam the next day? You took care of yourself and at the end of the day that will always come before a high test score. To hell with anyone who tells you differently.

Abbie Nielsen  (via narobe)

(Source: passionandcoffeestains)

Seeking Sanctuary III

         Three days ago, I believed that writing down my thoughts would help me accept them and move on.  I believed that by writing them down, they would no longer threaten the life they belong to. But I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

         I decided to send my thoughts and feelings to my nearest and dearest, so that they would understand what I was feeling, what I was going through- that I wasn’t being distant on purpose. They read what I wrote and finally understood that I just needed some time. I just needed some time to learn and figure out how to live without him, because I didn’t think I could.

            I sent my thoughts to him too, as a final goodbye. A peaceful parting. I wanted him to know and understand how I felt too. So that he would understand that I did everything for him. For us. I expected him to read it and say goodbye too. Except he didn’t.

            Three days.

            That’s all it took for everything to spiral out of control. He wouldn’t say goodbye, he didn’t want it to end. But he didn’t want it to work out either. He wouldn’t tell me he loves me. He wouldn’t tell me to wait, but he made it clear he wanted me to.

            Wait for what? Wait for how long? Wait while holding on to what? I was given nothing, just told to hold on. Just to hold on.

        I want to hold on. I want to wait. I’m willing to wait- but give me something to hold on to. When I said I needed something to hold on to, I was blamed for giving up. Told that I didn’t understand the story of the lady turning into stone.

          She knew the sailor loved her. She waited for him to return as he went out to sea. What sea was my love going to explore?

           I need a reason to wait. I need something to wait for. I asked him, “Tell me you feel for me. Tell me you want me to wait and I will wait till whenever you’re ready.” I was given nothing but silence.

            It went to so far as to me being called “selfish and inconsiderate, thinking only about my love”. Some may believe that to be true, but I have done nothing but find middle ground between the both of us. I’m willing to wait for him to be ready, but in return I need a reason to wait. Is that too much to ask for?


            In these three days, I’ve been through enough with him to know that he does love me, he does miss me, he does want to see me- but is that enough? He doesn’t want to sort things out, he doesn’t want to move past this. Should I even allow myself to be stuck in this situation for one more day?

            Things have gotten so messy, so tangled up that there is no way to get out of this maze. The only way to move past it is to cut the web, start afresh.

I’m not saying I don’t love him anymore- I still do. But I love the old him- not this one. Not the one that has said nasty things to me, dragged me through hell and not helped me out of it. Sometimes you just have to realize that even though you love someone, you’re better off without them.

            I am more than willing to give us another chance if he is ready to move past this entire 5 week ordeal, if he is ready to properly commit- no more drama, no more fighting- just love. Some might say that I’m hypocritical- willing to give him another chance even though I know he’s not good for me anymore. I’m willing to give him the chance because you don’t just go back from imagining your life with someone to nothing.

I was told I was too young to love him- he’s 9.5 years older to me, and I’ve had to think about my future at a much younger age than I would have imagined. But that’s what you do for someone you love. You learn to keep up with them, learn to make compromises for them, learn to adjust to them.

            But the adjustment shouldn’t be made one way.  

            I need to learn to live without him. I need to learn to just be without him. Its not easy, but coming to this realization has been the best thing that has happened to me in these 5 weeks.

            Three Days-that’s all it took for me to find my way back. I may still be lost, but at least now I’m following a path that will lead somewhere. He’s too lost to find me right now.

            I’m writing this at my favorite coffee shop in Manhattan, realizing that even though I’m going through such a hard time, I’m doing it in my favorite city, my sactuary. It’s moments like these that hit you- you live in New York City, anything and everything is possible. All it takes is to make it through each day, each moment.

            Now, please excuse me while I go order myself a Dirty Chai. 

Seeking Sanctuary II

August 2014

         Two years later, I have walked out that door and moved to New York City. I have moved to my sanctuary, feeling a certain comfort by just being here. The feeling this city gives you never leaves you, it gave me the power to survive another year in Shanghai, while maintaining my personal nirvana, and then move to New York City, thousands of miles away from the life that I knew. All this while, I have been able to keep myself intact. I have been to hold on to that feeling I felt two years ago.

           Until now.

            I never thought I would question myself again. Question who I was- whether who I am is right or wrong, whether I am good enough or not, whether I should be a different person. I have come back to the mentality- there must be something terribly wrong with me.

           I have constantly asked myself, how could this be possible? I live in my sanctuary. I live in the city that has saved my soul. How can I be on the brink of where I was before? And then it hit me- no matter where you live, whichever city is your sanctuary; your love for someone will always trump that feeling.

             They say New York is for lovers, and I whole-heartedly agree. It may not be Paris, but it has the potential for so many beautiful memories- whether that be a dinner in the Meatpacking district, watching the sunset from the Highline, getting lost in Central Park, kissing on an intersection or even being cooped up in your apartment with a movie. These beautiful memories are not created by the locations themselves, but rather by the person you are sharing them with. I say New York is for lovers because I found that person. The person that makes staying home and snuggling in bed on a Saturday night exciting.

            When I say I found that person, I do not mean I was looking for him. He just came into my life and stole my heart. He made me feel a lot of things I had not felt, even things I wasn’t ready to feel. He opened up my world to a whole new paradigm. I least expected it, but loved every bit of it. Every moment spent with him was beautiful. Whether those moments were spent having fun, fighting, sleeping- it didn’t matter. There was just a certain comfort in those moments because he was in them. Much like the feeling New York gives me- a comfort in just being here. My love for him is so great; there are no words to describe how I feel with him in my life.

          There are also no words to describe how they are without him. I have lived in New York for a year; he has been in my life for 4 months out of that year. Nonetheless, New York has changed its colors since he hasn’t been. They say New York is for lovers, and while I whole-heartedly agree, I say it’s for lost souls too.

            I’m lost.

            I’m no longer a racehorse, who has enforced goals to see. I have no rider on top of me to tell me where to go. I’m running in the wild, unable to see where I have to go or what I should do. I’m running wild in the wild. My wild thoughts have started to ask questions I don’t want them to. Am I wrong? Am I not good enough? Am I not pretty enough? Do I not love enough? Why can’t he love me? There must be something wrong with me if I have done everything I can think of and he still can’t love me. There MUST be something terribly wrong with me.

            But this is the new Sonal, the post 2012 Sonal. I need to believe in myself or try to at least. I keep wondering if things would have been different if I had met him at a different point in his life. If things would be different had I not left for Shanghai in between? If things would be different if he truly loved me. I keep wondering and wondering, these thoughts haunting me while I’m awake and in my dreams.

            Did I really make it that easy for him to walk right in and out of my life? Why does he get to just walk away and leave me in pain? Why does he get a free pass? This isn’t a game of Monopoly.

            It’s funny how love works- it’s supposed to be beautiful, but little do people know there is a whole lot of agony that comes along with it.

            Its come to a point where I need to accept that this is over, but how do I do that? How can I allow someone I love to walk out of my life? I can’t force him to stay, I can’t force him to love me, then why can’t I just accept it?

            When I was 11 years old, on vacation somewhere in Europe, I saw a statue of a woman by the river. The guide told us that there used to be a woman and a sailor madly in love, and when the sailor went off to sea, she waited by the water every evening, in hopes of him coming back. She waited so long that she eventually turned into stone. I never understood that- why wait when you know there is no chance of him ever returning? The whole concept flew over my head.

            I never understood it till now.

            I return to my old smoking spot under Third North occasionally, in hopes of him coming around the corner and walking towards me. I know its silly; there are no chances of that happening. But that’s the thing with love; your love is so strong that it stops you from giving up hope. Hoping that maybe, just maybe, that person will realize that they love you too and come back to you.

            I’m still hoping and I can’t seem to stop.

            I’m lost in this limbo between hope and reality, I’ve lost track of who I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going.

            They say New York is for lovers, but its for lost souls too and I’m a lost soul, lost hopelessly in love, trying to find my way in darkness, running wild in this concrete jungle. The only comfort I get is that New York is my sanctuary, and it has saved my soul once. I’m holding on to the hope that it has the potential to do that once again. 

Seeking Sanctuary

         November 2012

         Claustrophobia is what living in this society feels like at times. I feel trapped and suffocated. I need room, I need space, I need time. For what? To be me.

            I come from a relatively conservative Indian family of which I have to base part of my decisions on the society we live in, our reputation and what they believe. What’s more? I live in Shanghai, China where grades are given top priority, arts are a means to an end, and everyone has a similar outlook on the world. Life is turned into this horse race where all the horses have blinders on their eyes, enabling them only to see their enforced goals.

            I remember being a race horse.

            This past summer, I went to New York City after 11 years, the last time being when I was 6, too young to remember anything but the blue haired woman who was in line with me for the Empire State Building. Going back, my coat of brown fur melted off. People did not need to wear one there. They were proud of their glittery nails, purple lipstick, and rainbow suspenders. Everyone stood tall. If they could be flamboyant and confident, could I be too? I decided to take a leap of faith and put my head up high. In return, I received love, respect and acceptance. My looks, personality, sexual orientation, passion and talent were all warmly welcomed. I was whole-heartedly embraced.

            At that moment, all of the scattered thoughts made connections. I finally came to terms with the fact that I am right in my own sense, and that set me free. I felt so light- as though all the guilt and sorrow had left my body. I can now be the Sonal Chhugani I have always wanted to be, and feel no shame. I was so ashamed of myself, believed that I was always wrong and that no one could ever love me. I didn’t believe my own parents when they told me they loved me. I didn’t believe love existed. How could it for me at least? I was hurt enough times to put a wall up around me. No one’s love, affection and care could penetrate through. It was just me inside, self-destructing day by day, wallowing in my own misery. I was a victim of my own thoughts, until I was accepted for who I was in New York City. It tore down my walls and allowed me to create strong bonds and friendships. I knew now that love did exist for me, I deserved it too. Coming to that realization has been the biggest blessing, ending an excruciatingly long five-year depression. I thank my stars everyday.

            Many people have the cliché “finding themselves in New York City” story. However, I believe this is not one of them. Personally, this hits a much deeper note. Having grown up in a city of blinding lights, the concept of New York City is not strange to me. I was not starstruck by the infrastructure and energy of that captivating city. However, the people that inhabit that populous city make it extraordinary for me. It is not about meeting people that are passionate about my craft, but rather about people that are warm and accepting. Without them, I would not have had the courage to be my true self.

 Coming to New York City, I was expecting to be enthralled by lights, theatre and liveliness. The last thing I anticipated was to reach my own personal nirvana. Every breath I took there was equivalent to a sigh. Each one felt effortless, weightless and serene.

            Coming back to my life in Shanghai, I am still encapsulated by four walls. However, this time on one of the walls, there is a door slightly open. It gives me room to breathe and time to grow. Waiting for me to twist the handle and walk right back to New York City.