I’ve got ‘COVID FOMO’. Have you?

Let’s talk about COVID-19 induced FOMO today.

FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out is defined as social anxiety stemmed from the belief that others might be having fun while you are not present. It is usually attributed to social media, and in better, less stressful times has to do with wanting to live a life as happening as everyone else’s seems.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic though, what I am talking about is very different but is still, per se, fear of missing out. Take University for example. I am in the final year of my undergraduate degree, which is fully online, as of now. This unprecedented circumstance has brought with itself a myriad of fears and anxieties that all sit and chitchat under the “FOMO” umbrella.

Half the time, I am convinced there is a class or an assignment that I forgot or am missing out on. I also feel very out of the loop with things that I take for granted, like knowing about how the placement season is going, when events are scheduled or even just gossip you can’t help but overhear like who is friends/not friends with who, who is going to whose party, you know, very pointless things that I used to usually scoff at. This anxiety of just missing out on the most mundane idiosyncrasies of my regular life has been a hard adjustment that 6 months hence, I am yet to fully adapt to.

I don’t, however, think, it’s just an issue those who are “Back to (online) School/College” are facing. I can imagine that it probably extends to those who are working from home as well. Maybe they are afraid of missing out on deadlines, meetings or just regular water-cooler talk. Maybe it isn’t such a widespread issue, feel free to correct me, I swear, I won’t mind.

You always hear, “Man is a social animal”, but nothing quite drives the idea home-like difficult times like these. Our innate need to have connections is so strong and so fundamental, that take them away and we feel unsettled and try to reach out to even those who we haven’t spoken to in many years. (Yes, here’s looking at you, having family reunions or childhood friend catch-ups on Zoom all of a sudden, I love it, keep ’em going.)

For me personally, as someone who is going through placements in the middle of a pandemic and will most probably be graduating in one too, this fear also extends to my future. All my future plans have been thrown for a lurch, and I’m living suspended in uncertainty. I have anxieties about how I might be missing on options or paths because of the current situation and how this pandemic might end up being why I miss out on a future I wanted and have worked towards.

I understand quite well that for me, this is not an earth-shattering problem. I am privileged enough to come out at the other end of this just fine and I fully acknowledge that. It is just that I am sitting at the cusp of growing up, of being independent, of building the life of my dreams, ready to spread my wings and soar, and the sky that seemed so clear before is now foggy and ridden with obstacles.

I am a dreamer, to a fault. I had and still continue to have, against hope, so many dreams and ambitions for what I want to do, where I want to go. With each passing day spent watching the Coronavirus case count rise, those dreams seem to go further away from me and it becomes hard to not feel afraid that I would never be able to achieve any of them.

As depressing as this has been, I am also an unflinching optimist at my very core. (Verrrrry deep inside.) I always believe that at the end of the day, I will be okay. Things will be okay. I will be happy. And it is with this belief I forge ahead, in the face of my FOMO, which is still very present but I am getting better at handling with each passing day. I don’t expect it to be gone but I do hope that we can come to a peacefully coexistent negotiation, mostly for my sake. Wish me luck.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you faced or are facing ‘COVID FOMO’?How are you dealing with it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

A Changing Sense of Time During Lockdown.

Let’s talk about the concept of time during the COVID19 pandemic today.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The opening lines of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities really capture how I feel about the lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic. The reasons to dislike it are obvious and many; I can’t go outside, can’t meet my friends, can’t go to college, the economy is being ruined, so many livelihoods are affected and obviously, so many people are getting ill and dying, the aforementioned worst of times. I have been privileged enough to, however, find some nice things about it too; a whole lot of gratitude for what I had taken for granted before, all this time to spend doing things I love, how I have been able to work on my blog and have a transformed outlook on living every day to the fullest, not the best but very special times. (As of today, I am still very much in the thick of the pandemic, so the day I get back out there is a bit far for now)

I have talked about the coronavirus pandemic, its impact on the world and most majorly, its impact on my world in two of my posts before, which you can find here and here. In both of these posts, I talked more of the immediate reaction to suddenly finding myself in the middle of this pandemic and stuck at home, than the effects of being on lockdown for what is now the majority of 2020 and the contemplations that come with it. In this post, I’m getting into that aspect of life through a pandemic. (And I admit that this is through my undoubtedly privileged lens)

One thing I have noticed and have actually discussed with a few people is that time seems to be standing still and whizzing ahead at the same time. Like, how I for one feel like I have just been living the same day over and over and have not registered the passing of the months after March. (How is it literally almost August?) But also, there is the fact is that somehow 4 almost 5 months have passed and my 21st-year in life and 4th(and last) year in University are just passing me by, without me having registered it.

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This realisation that time stops for no one, not even a crippling,world-stopping pandemic, is not a new one. We choose not to think of it but even so, we do sometimes realise this in regular life too, as we look back and think, “Oh, I was just in school!”, “I just became a teenager!”, “Didn’t I just get my driver’s license?” and many more such quips, but never as acutely as now. This has been bothering me since at least May when I realised my third year of college was effectively over, abrupt as it was. This worry has only grown since and thus, obviously, I have done a lot of (over)thinking about it.

All this thinking has brought me to conclude that we, as a society, as human beings, measure the passage of time through milestones, through events, through watching the world around us change. Being stuck at home means that the big occasions; the birthdays, weddings, graduations look quite different or are cancelled. Not getting to go outside means that we don’t get to watch the seasons change, through the trees and the sky, not properly, so we miss out on nature’s signs that time has passed. We tend to make plans for the next few months and countdown to them and in such uncertainty, all plans have been thrown for a wrench. We can no longer plan vacations, parties or even, going to college far from home. With nothing to look forward to, we don’t quite feel the months as they pass us by.

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As depressing as that sounds, I also came to realise that the best way to handle lockdown is to live one day at a time, even if it is the same day over and over, try to find something new to do every day, to do things that make you happy, to socially distance but not emotionally distance and to use this crazy time to come out better at the end of it. With that thought, before I go, I’d love to wish you good luck for the rest of the year and take this opportunity to say that I really hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe. Please take care!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you felt like time is going by too fast during the lockdown or do you think it is going too slow? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

My Love for Languages

Let’s talk about my special fondness for languages today.

Hello, welcome! Hallo, willkommen! Hola, bienvenido! Namaste, swagat hai! Bonjour, bienvenue!

Now that you are properly(and a little insanely) greeted, let’s get into it, shall we?

Ever since I can remember, I have loved stories. As a kid, I loved having my parents read me bedtime stories and when I could read myself, it was instant love. (And I no longer needed to bargain or annoy my parents into reading me a story, so it was a win-win all around) I had found my passion.No, not stories like you think, but words and in a nutshell, the English language. This passion would eventually grow to encompass not just English and not just reading.

Throughout my schooling, all 14-16 years of it, the one subject that has never wavered from my favourite subject list was English. Other subjects came and went, depending on marks, general understandability, how much I liked the teacher and so on. I studied in an English medium school so, English was everywhere for me and has been one of my strongest assets through the years, due to in part the heavy reading I have done and the amount of attention I have always paid in English. I always tried to have a great relationship with my English teachers(Even when they seemed impossible to my teenage self) because I just really really loved it so much. Just to put this in perspective, my love for it was so all-consuming I sat and read a whole children’s English dictionary for fun. (Really, just get that I was just a giant language nerd.) It is the language I think in and the one I eventually chose to write in, when I discovered a different passion of mine.

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My actual mother tongue, Hindi, was a language I struggled with for a bit majorly with writing it, speaking was very natural(obviously); it’s a completely different script, we were not exposed enough to it, writing it didn’t come to me as naturally as English did(again, probably a lack of exposure thing) and whatnot but I eventually found the beauty within it too. During 9th-10th grade my Hindi curriculum was composed of mostly heavy-duty old and new Hindi literature and classics and these two years did wonders to my vocabulary and command in the language. It was then that Hindi became enjoyable for me, I had been good at it for a few years by then but now I liked being good at it and using it. Still, not as much as English because that was my comfort zone, my proverbial home within the world of languages.

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I was 11 when I realised I had a major soft spot for languages. We had to choose a third language to study alongside Hindi and English. I took German and absolutely loved it. I loved learning new words, learning to count, trying to read, practising pronunciations, listening to people speak in German and whatnot. I just loved learning languages. Languages, I was certain, were my thing. So, I thrived learning German till 8th grade and even gave the FIT in Deutsch exam(The official exam administered by the Goethe Institut to prove proficiency in german) I ended up getting the highest marks in Speaking and missing the full score by a very little margin. I also loved my german teacher, as has already been mentioned, the teachers were an important part of the equation to me because they had all the knowledge and I wanted nay needed it.

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I consider people who know multiple languages to be extremely wise and knowledgeable and the best people all around. (Did you know Audrey Hepburn spoke 5? How cool is that?) It is my most ardent dream to know and speak as many languages as I possibly can. For now, I am somewhere on the road between bilingual and trilingual; I know, understand and speak Hindi and English extremely well and know just enough German to get by, if I absolutely had to.

I’ve realised that my love for languages stems from how I find it crazy how we humans, so different yet so similar, found a way to strings sounds and noise together to mean the same things and eventually figured out symbols and a whole way of representing it written down. I find the different alphabets and scripts and quirks so fantastic. I find the little similarities you can sometimes find in Germanic languages, Romance languages and languages like Hindi fascinating. Did you know that most languages around the world use a word with ‘M’ in it for their mothers? Like ‘mother’ in English,’mata’ in Hindi,’ mutter’ in german,’madre’ in Spanish? How bonkers is it that all these people in all these different geographically distinct places with their own thriving cultures and value systems found similar ways to describe a mother, something they all had in common?

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There is much more fascinating stuff about languages that someone far more knowledgable(or the internet) would tell you. (I am warning you though, it’s quite the rabbit hole) The reason I wanted to talk about this particular fondness of mine at this moment in time though is that I think, in tough times like these, it is more prudent than ever to realise that despite our differences, despite the different tongues we speak, the ways some of us roll our R’s or seem to be speaking in cursive(Looking at you, French) we are all at the end of the day, the same; just human beings. On that note, I wish you well and bid you farewell, in the same few languages I greeted(Read scared) you with, in the beginning.

Goodbye! Auf Wiedersehen! Adios! Alvida! Au revoir!(Did you notice the A’s everyone uses here and the H almost everyone uses in their greetings? Languages are SO incredible.)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: How many languages do you speak? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Life In The Time of Corona

Let’s talk about my life and experiences with the coronavirus pandemic today.

Let us begin at the very beginning: my birthday. I turned 21 on March 10, 2020, and my family was in the Corbett National Park, on vacation. There was not much talk of the virus there, except the sanitiser bottles provided at the reception and restaurant. It was business as usual. After all, there were 50 total cases in India, no deaths, some people had already recovered and they were only in cities, not a town like the one we were staying in. We came back to Delhi, where I go to University, and I realised that things were not okay when I saw the kind of panic and flurry of masks everywhere. New Delhi was debating locking down the city and closing all schools and colleges to stop the spread of the virus. In 2 days, my University was shut and I told my parents, who were going to Mumbai, our home, on the 16th, to take me along.

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Together, we came back on the 16th of March, armed with our masks, sanitisers, constant hand-washing and being very very careful. Less than a week after my birthday, things were so drastically different than what I could have ever imagined. I was home and have not left the house since. My University began online classes and I was, if possible, more exhausted by them than regular college. It was hard to learn through just the video because my teachers through no fault of theirs, were struggling with this new medium, the classes were published for longer hours, staring at a screen with earphones in for 8-9 hours a day was physically tiring and sitting with assignments after that made it worse. Though it was a rough time, I was busy. It made it easier to deal with things and major life changes like the whole country being on lockdown, the world suffering at the hands of the COVID-19 virus and being far from friends and loved ones.

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My semester officially ended on April 1st and finishing up all the assignments and stuff I was fully done with it by the 3rd. By this time, the country had 50 times the cases it did on my birthday, we were on a country-wide full lockdown, all flights had been completely stopped and, economy and humanity were both suffering. My college then decided to prepone our Summer Internships and think of the exams we would have ordinarily had when the situation “normalises”(So they hoped.So I hope, to this day.)It was made 4 weeks instead of 8 and was scheduled to begin from the 13th, giving me a 10-day ‘holiday’, in which I somehow had to conjure an internship in an environment where people were losing their jobs of many years. Eventually(and thankfully), I got into a company through my college and had an internship in the nick of time(Got my acceptance literally the day before we were supposed to start.)

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In my 10 day ‘break,’ I took the first day or two to chill, which was great but then I realised how the empty mind really is the devil’s workshop. I now had all the time in the world to stress and worry about the current situation, the fast-spreading disease, the people who were ill, the people who had died and the pandemic’s impact on the future, especially as someone who was supposed to find a job this year and graduate next year. All my internship plans had clearly fallen flat, and offers I was pursuing were withdrawn. It was a horrible time, mental health-wise. This is when I first began to be active with blogging again because it helped me cope and gave me something to do. I also made a bunch of mug cakes, made the viral whipped coffee(and realised I should not have coffee, ever) DIY decor things, did a good amount of housework and read some books. (You know, usual pandemic activities) I was always an introvert and would have gladly chosen to Netflix over going out to socialise pre- corona, but I was beginning to realise the value of social interaction, of my university, of being able to be surrounded by people your age.

After the break, I began my internship and my time was filled with meetings with your guide, meetings with my team, working on our project, reading and watching stuff to work on our project and other things that all come down to the project. I am about to finish with my internship and will then be occupied by writing reports on it, for my University. In these 4 weeks, however, I have watched quite a few shows with my family (like Downton Abbey and The Good Place, both of which I highly recommend), watched the news every night to hear about the current COVID cases count, began rereading the Harry Potter books(which I am documenting on my instagram so if you’re interested to join in!), had many baked goods(Thanks mom!) and wrote more blog posts than I have ever written in a month. Musings of A Whimsical Soul has never in the last 4 years(Except the very beginning where I was publishing posts ever two days like a maniac) had a twice a week posting schedule and blogging have become my escape, my recluse and my coping mechanism, yet again.

That brings us to now,2 months into lockdown, no end in sight, with 74K cases in the country, 4.28 M in the world(At the time of writing this post) and us as a world living through these extraordinary times and our new ‘normal’. Most of us have not lived through a pandemic before, the whole world has been brought to a standstill by one virus and we have all realised the value and delights of the good old ordinary life, the life I for one, so easily criticised before.

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I have to admit that I speak from a place of privilege. I am lucky enough to have a roof over my head, be able to eat and sleep and live with very little major change in my life, have an internet connection, not worry about losing my job, I am with my family, I am not at risk by the virus itself and so much more. I am highly and deeply privileged in these times and I would be remiss to not acknowledge it. My objective with this post was not to flaunt my luck but simply to tell my story, to share my highs and lows, to feel connected with all of you across the world, to pay my respects to the unfortunate loss we are facing, stand with all those who are fighting this terrible illness, to let you know that we are all in this together, even if our stories may be vastly different.

This is a much harder time for many of us, and the only thing I can say is, please help if you are privileged enough and able to, please understand what other people are going through, please be empathetic and please, be human. These are unprecedented times and it is in times like this that we realise just how fragile the world we have built is and how important it is to support each other. These are hard times, difficult times and we can only get through them together. Support local businesses and practice social distancing, if not for you and your family then do it for the essential workers risking their lives for all of us at the frontlines. Stay strong and be brave. Give yourself credit, and don’t feel the pressure to ‘hustle’ and be productive right now. That’s not to say do nothing, but we must change our definition of ‘productive’ to one that fits the new world we live in rather than the world we were in before.

Good luck, take care and stay safe!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is your COVID-19 story? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

The Dance of Hobbies Lost.

Let’s talk about lost hobbies and my neglected relationship with Classical dance today.

These days, with being shut in the house, with nowhere to go, not much to do and always being inches away from driving each other insane, social media is the obvious respite. So, as I scrolled through Instagram and saw everyone else bake, cook, make art, play instruments and develop new hobbies I went down the rabbit hole of my thoughts and realised that I was no longer the person with a million hobbies as I had been for most of my life. I had, somewhere along the years, lost my many hobbies. But how, did I get here?

I was a pretty hyperactive kid, on an almost clinical level. My parents knowingly, or unknowingly cracked how to deal with all my pent up energy: Activity classes. I was always in a billion activity classes. You name it, I’ve taken a class for it. Be it arts and crafts, piano lessons, abacus classes, dance lessons, karate, roller skating, I’ve done it all. I left all classes over the years for various reasons ranging from  I was simply getting busier with school and couldn’t keep up with all my classes, I just really sucked and it was a waste of time and money and the ultimate, me or some other kid was injured and it scared our moms into pulling us out of the class.

I don’t regret having lost touch with most of them. Obviously, the ones I was terrible at or didn’t engage with for too long I hardly miss, but I do have some form of sadness attached to the ones I was good at. It comes down to two but majorly one, really. When I was 9-10ish(I think) I had to choose between piano and dance because I no longer had time for both and I chose dance. After all, at the time it seemed obvious, I had invested more time in it, I was better at it, I was giving exams in it and it seemed the only choice but sometimes, just sometimes and in times of lockdown, I wonder what could have been, where I might be if I should have chosen the other way around, maybe I could have played the piano and been happier now. Ah well, can’t change the past, can we?

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So, let us now get into the second but actually major hobby which requires a bit of a storytime about me. I have been dancing since I was a baby, as my mom would tell you but have trained in some Indian classical form from the ripe age of 3. From when I was 5 to when i was 16, I trained in the classical dance form of  Odissi and have given enough exams to be a trained Odissi dancer, at least on paper.

Most of you are probably wondering what Odissi is at this point so let us take a brief intermission to tell you a little bit about it. Odissi is an Indian classical dance form belonging to the state of Odisha and is the oldest surviving dance form of India and perhaps, one of the oldest in the world. It originated in the temples of ancient India and is considered to be one of the most difficult Indian dance forms due to the grace and technique involved and the subtle balance between masculinity and femininity each dancer has to maintain in every piece. This is not just my opinion, but obviously, I am a bit biased towards believing it.

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Now, getting back to me and Odissi, I’ve learnt it for 10+ years, had 2 teachers, given many exams, participated in some competitions, even won some, given even more performances and have lived and breathed the classical dance life, at least before I moved across the country and was entering 11th grade and could no longer keep up with it. It has been 5 years since then. In those 5 years, Odissi has helped me in little ways like being my unique identifier, how choreographing a little piece that got me into the (western) dance society of my college ensured dance stayed in my life, with my general posture and whatnot, but honestly and a very difficult thing for me to admit is that I’ve mostly lost touch with the dance form.

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One of my very few good dancing photos from the pre-good smartphone camera era

There are some factors to why. I really had to study during the last 2 years of high school and simply didn’t have time to practice. All my music was on primitive memory devices like cassette tapes or at maximum, a CD because that’s what most places where we performed or participated allowed. Thus, I can no longer access it and have lost quite a lot in the move too. I was not on social media when I moved as I was a kid and have lost touch with my dance classmates. Most importantly, I did not choose to prioritise it. Then suddenly, a few months ago I had the jarring realisation that my dancing style had changed from doing western over the last 3 years and I could barely remember any Odissi.

I was sad about it, but also, life was busy. I forgot. I was ready to give it up as one of the things I grew out of but then, this lockdown happened. Now, I was forced to confront how much I had neglected something I loved so much growing up and how much I regretted it. I knew it was time to fix the situation and to once again, bring Odissi back in my life. I tried looking up the music online, it didn’t work very well because there are many different kinds of music and I didn’t find the exact one I learnt on, so there was no chance of triggering some musical memory of mine.

I decided on trying to re-learn what is the most basic and simplest dance piece in Odissi, the Mangalacharan. It is a traditional invocatory item, usually dedicated to one Hindu God and having a Trikhandi Pranam,i.e. three salutations: salutation to god, the teacher or guru and the audience. I saw many videos and saved them and will now be embarking on this journey of trying to re-teach myself something I had been so good at and hoping to trigger some old recesses of my memory where all these pieces went and have hopefully survived the attacks of adulthood. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you have any lost hobbies you regret? Have you thought about picking them up again? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

What do I write to you?

Let’s talk about what should we talk about today.

I write to you today about my utter dilemma about what to write about. Good heavens, I am sorry, that’s quite the beginning to the post; just throwing you in the deep end, no easing, no warning, nothing. Please allow me to explain as I walk you through my predicament.

Perhaps, after months of nothing, since I am suddenly showing up here now (I have been somewhat around on my Instagram, so do follow me there if you’d like to not be surprised by my sudden and erratic posting:@musingsofawhimsicalsoul) I should talk about what i was up to in these past few months. Since  I last posted in November, that would be exams in December, a very gruelling college schedule January onwards, a concussion(from a kick in the head, so quite the story), all the pre-internship things and my first ever job interview(with Google!) in February, turning 21 in Corbett National Park on a family vacation in March to finally today, April 1st, my last day of (now, online) classes, which gives me the time to write to you.

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Me with my surprise birthday balloons on March 10, it is so crazy how much things have changed in such little time??

Or maybe, I can’t post anything without addressing the current climate and situation that we all are dealing with. The COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on our lives, the lives we have already lost, the brave souls in essential services fighting to make our lives easier on the frontlines and just how much it infuriates me to see people not taking this seriously. Should I be cautioning you and spreading awareness about flattening the curve? Should I talk numbers and how anxious they make me as we look at the rising numbers every day from the midst of a 21-day lockdown? Should I talk about the fact that even as I say all this, I am feeling so incredibly guilty for how comfortable I am to be in my home with my family and living life with not much of a hindrance? Should I be asking you to think of the less fortunate, the ones who are affected the most? Should I ask you to donate, if you can, to food banks or to government funds, to aid small businesses, to think of the people in your employ or the ones you take rent from?

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The coronavirus curve we need to flatten, found on the CDC website.

Should I acknowledge my privilege in being able to sit down and write all this down for you? Or, should I talk about how scared I am of the uncertainty regarding our future, where the world we would be after this is over? I am scared of the economy I would be inheriting. How, as someone who is supposed to find a job in the upcoming year and has no idea what will happen with my internship the economic ruination this will bring terrifies me. Or perhaps, my hope that we all are kinder and value each other and just appreciate the little things much more?

Simply put, should I be talking about my fears for our present or the future? Or mundane things like how I am going to pass time now that my college is over? Perhaps, I should be distracting you from all this uncertainty and negativity, bring you my regular scheduled(Yes, I see the irony here.) content. Maybe you’ve had enough of all the negativity and just want to escape. So today, after 4 months of nothing, in the middle of a global pandemic, I ask you, What do I write to you?

THIS POST’S QUESTION: This is a unique post,the entire post itself is a question,so please,tell me,What content do you want to see from me? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!