The elusive art of Power Chilling

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Power chill refers to hanging out with friends doing nothing — no agenda. No deadlines. Nothing to do. A generation back, it was very common for families to meet in the evening or over the weekends for tea, lunches and dinners. Meeting people every day was a core part of the daily routine for kids and adults alike. Today, everyone seems busy. Prior planning is required to meet people. Everyone has a deadline, an upcoming promotion or a long TODO list. Social validation that it is OK to chill is very hard to find these days. Can this pandemic teach us all the importance of social connections once again and teach us all how to power chill?

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My father is a seismologist. He has been spending twelve to fourteen hours a day doing research in his field for as far back as I can remember. This did not change even after he retired from his job. His research is not his work — it’s his spark. His way of life.

Despite being a workaholic, he still finds it very easy to disconnect from “work”. He is easily able to live in the moment. He is able to enjoy the TV show, the walk, the tea in rain, the chit chat with friends.

A generation back, it was very common for families to meet in the evening or over the weekends for tea, lunches and dinners. People used to share special dishes cooked at home. People met frequently to play games, cook together and chit chat. Kids used to get together every day in the evening to hangout or play cricket until it got dark.

Meeting people every day was a core part of the daily routine for kids and adults alike. Everyone did that. When I went to college, my friends and I coined a term for this — power chill. Power chill refers to hanging out with friends doing nothing — no agenda. No deadlines. Nothing to do.

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I work in the knowledge industry — My primary job is to think and solve problems. I spend long hours behind a computer. My mind keeps thinking about office problems and their solutions well beyond the time that I physically spend at office. Most people reading this blog post will quite likely relate to this. Desire to excel at work, peer pressure, desire to grow in the organisation ladder, desire to earn a bigger salary are all drivers that put constant pressure on us to work harder. The pressure of working all the time has made it difficult to find time to connect with people and chill. Unlike a generation back where living as a community was necessary, today, we are more and more, becoming a consumeristic society, which is discouraging sharing. At the same time, media and internet addiction are discouraging socialising.

Our actions are dictated by what we see. Today, everyone seems busy. Prior planning is required to meet people. Everyone has a deadline, an upcoming promotion or a long TODO list. Social validation that it is OK to chill is very hard to find these days.

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We were taught in school that humans are social animals— human connections are needed for our psychological wellbeing. We are not wired to be alone — We used to live in tribes. The need for connection goes way deeper than being recognised or admired for our skills or knowledge. We all need that tribe- the drive that will accept us and want us as the human being that we are, divested of transient aspects of our existence.

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Due to the pandemic, I have been taking a lot of precautions in recent times. I have not taken a flight, not been to a movie theatre, not been for shopping and have not stepped into the office. I have not met most of my friends either. In fact, for the first three months of the pandemic, I did not step out of our house at all. As the initial panic subsided, a sense of sadness and loneliness started taking over due to being disconnected from the world. By the end of the third month, the feeling was so overpowering that I knew that I had to do something to change the status quo.

The first change that I made was that I regularly started talking my friends on phone. It took some time to get into a rhythm and find a routine that allowed us to find a mutually convenient time, but soon, I found that rhythm with a small set of friends.

The second change was that we started meeting a couple of our friends in person. While I have known these friends for more than a decade, I got to know them way better in the last year than I did over the last decade. Having nothing else to do and driven by the need and desire to meet and connect, which is stronger during this time of crisis than ever before, we have been meeting multiple times every week.

Recently, one friend messaged me to invite me over for tea and samosa. I jumped into my car and drove forty five minutes one way for it. Then, I drove all the way back. The tea and samosas tasted heavenly — not because it was the best tea ever made or the best samosas, but because it fulfilled more than just the taste buds. Before this pandemic, I would have found hundred reasons not to go — traffic will be bad. We can just order samosas from Swiggy. Its way too last minute.

This pandemic, out of forced necessity, has taught me once again the important skill of power chilling. This pandemic will be behind us sooner or later. The rat race of life will continue. I wonder if this rediscovered skill will survive past the pandemic. I definitely wish it does.

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I work @Google leading teams on hard data problems. In personal life, I am an armchair philosopher. This blog shares my thoughts and experiences — Ashish Gupta

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I work @Google leading teams on hard data problems. In personal life, I am an armchair philosopher. This blog shares my thoughts and experiences — Ashish Gupta

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