The new pathway I am trying to forge has led me to learn that mental health is indirectly related to finding out and understanding what I want to do next in life. To address this topic fairly, I need to cover what I learned whilst travelling for three months. I thought that I needed to travel in order to become more humbled, and to simply get away from my old life and the habits I had become accustomed to. However, I did not expect to learn and be taught so much more during this trip.

Being the youngest, I think all members of my family were equally surprised when I said I wanted to travel to find out more about the world. This was unheard of in my family — and I’m  pretty sure I’m the first to do something of this nature in our close and extended family too (bucking the trend again, seems I have a knack for this.) I wonder, how many people do you know who are brown and have done the exact same thing? I reckon you can count them all on one hand. Is this because it’s still difficult to explain to our parents that this is something we would like to do? Is the thought of being so detached, remote, and unavailable such a big fear that we think they will struggle to come to terms with? Are parents worried about what other people might say or gossip about their children behind their backs? I’m lucky to think that I was able to do this because I’m the youngest and have elder siblings who can sort of back my corner. If my sister were to say something like this when she were my age however, over a decade ago, I don’t think her request would even be considered let alone granted. For her, their focus was “get married, the clock is ticking”.

I think I saw travelling as a way to recharge my batteries and find parts of my personality which I felt had left me after all those years in the corporate world — compassion and love for others, which coincidentally are taught as key values in Sikhi. A great benefit of travelling is the observations you can make abroad, really appreciating how lucky you are to live the life you have. Seeing families who are in the most remote locations in the world, but absurdly happy, makes me think how is this possible? Perspective is key, and if you feel your life isn’t as glamorous as you’d hoped believe me, we have it good living in the first world. Yes the weather may be dire in the UK, but wet season is much worse than we have over here (the flooding and torrential downpours I saw were absurd). When my time abroad had concluded, I had gained a lot of perspective and insight into who I am as a person, and which values are of the highest importance to me. First and foremost, be happy. The rest comes after. I feel happiness is the key to a lot of emotions, and if you don’t have this first, then everything else around you will not feel truly fulfilling. It makes me think: what kind of choices would I have made if I didn’t go travelling and just left the corporate world trying to figure out what I wanted to do next? I would have probably come to a very different conclusion and made some unfitting choices for myself. Fulfilment and happiness tie in to mental health, and are key to the barrier we can encounter when explaining this to elder family members.

Well documented people have spoken about how mental health has affected them but also propelled them to their success they are achieving today. Looking at what Superwoman aka Lily Singh has done is a good example; she now holds influence with millions of people (predominantly women) on a daily basis, and her videos are relatable content for her followers. She explained how she used YouTube as an outlet for her battle with depression, and that this needed to be spoken about in the brown community. There were bound to be others who felt the same as her, and now as a result of her videos, people thank her all the time for empowering them to get the help they need. The same is said for Humble the Poet, a more lowkey YouTuber in comparison, but still equally effective. Can Social Media tie into mental health problems? Absolutely. As I mentioned in previous posts, using Social Media as a benchmark of happiness is a recipe for disaster. You see the glamorous sides of people, who could equally be the most upset and depressed characters offline when they’re in their own comfort zone. A lot of people use Social Media as a filter for their life – what they want you to see and be a part of. It’s important to think of everything in perspective, and not take what you see at face value. Take when I went travelling, sure I came back with some nice pictures and experiences, but if I showed you the poor standard of half the places and accommodation I stayed at, the long 14 hour cramped bus journeys on rough terrain to get to places, and the budget I lived on, it may not seem as appealing to you. But that is stuff we tend to forget about. Social validation isn’t everything, and it shouldn’t be what you seek at the end of every goal you pursue.

Generally, there is a lack of awareness about mental health and well being. As a community we beat ourselves up about this when actually mental health is a big problem for many communities. I can only touch on this because I do not know the true depths of this subject or can even remotely relate to those who have conquered or are still battling their own mental health issues. But I know of so many people who have dealt with and prevailed from their own bout of mental health issues from within my closed circle, that I can say they’re the strongest people I know as a result of this. Let me be clear, it’s not as easy as saying “oh just be happy and that’s it”; the conversation of this runs a lot deeper, and it’s hard to explain or articulate this to first generation parents. I don’t know how to tackle this subject or how to educate elders/first generation parents about this problem, but it needs to be spoken about. People need to know and recognise the signs of pain others go through and offer their support, especially when it’s your own friend/family member going through that battle within their own mind. Offer a helping hand, and be there for them, it could make all the difference. Sometimes the smallest things we do have the biggest effect on others.

When telling my parents I wanted to quit my job as I wasn’t happy, my dad’s reaction was to say, “ask for a pay rise. Why would you want to leave this as it’s good money coming in?” The fact is money wasn’t a driving factor for me anymore; I just felt unfulfilled deep down and emotionally numb whilst at work, something I don’t think anyone else can relate to unless they’ve felt the same emotions. You are taken to some really dark places; to have the bravery to say you need to separate yourself from this before it worsens is something we need to instil in every person in the world, no matter how old they are. I’m pretty sure my dad or Nani did not see their occupations at their humble jobs as their dream role. They simply did what they had to do to provide for their family, and they saw a job as a means to an end. We do not have this same responsibility as second generation Punjabis/Millennials; there is a lot more opportunity out there for us, chances that were not as readily available for our parents. I’m extremely thankful for the chances my parents have given me, I just need to pursue these avenues so that later in life I have no regrets.