As part of a live taping for the Solo Club on Clubhouse, Peter McGraw speaks to Ketan Anjaria, a divorced dad and young empty nester. They have a wide-reaching conversation covering dating and race, mental health, and Ketan’s struggles spending time alone. Make sure you stick around to learn his “sixth love language.”
Listen to Episode #91 here:
The Remarkable Kid From Bombay
As part of a special episode for the Solo Club on Clubhouse, I speak to Ketan Anjaria, a divorced dad and young empty nester. I have known Ketan since my early days on the app. I like to say that he is good at everything. We have a wide-ranging conversation covering dating, race, mental health and his struggles spending time alone.
Evidently, Ketan isn’t good at everything. One of my favorite moments occurs when he introduces a sixth love language. I won’t give it away here but it’s a good one, especially if you are solo. If you want to find out more about Solo’s presence on Clubhouse, please go to SoloClubs.com. As always, you could use some ratings and reviews for the show. If you want to sign up for the biweekly newsletter, you can do that at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Ketan Anjaria. Kentan was born in Bombay and moved to the States when he was six years old. Ketan is a Creator. He makes music and lullabies often on Clubhouse. He is an avid chef and Founder of HireClub where his team helps people succeed in their careers, including my sister, who’s not on the team but is a customer. I paid for a little consulting for her and she was quite pleased. Welcome, Ketan.
Peter, thanks for having me.
My pleasure. We are doing this in a Solo Club room on Clubhouse. A social media app that features real-time conversations. Besides hosting the show, I have been building a community on this app and Solo, The Club for Singles has about 30,000 members. Please consider joining. You can find out all about the Solo-related clubs on SoloClubs.com.
You and I have been talking on Clubhouse for a while now. It has been great.
It has been good. You were one of the first people I met and have been incredibly welcoming and also, our big supporter of the Solo Clubs. Ketan, you seem to be good at everything. I’m not exaggerating. You have this company HireClub. You also have the HireClub on Clubhouse that hosts rooms. You are a regular contributor to Lullaby Club, which I think you should explain to people if they don’t know this. You drop into Solo Travel Rooms and give great advice. You stopped into Solo Rooms and give great advice, including how to punch up your dating profile. Is there anything you are not good at?
Apparently, finding a relationship. I have always been encouraged to try new things. Maybe when I was younger, being less afraid of failure and more afraid of being left out. I have always jumped in and tried things having that beginner’s luck. When you are an immigrant, you will have to force yourself to try new things. My childhood from a core time in my life, I moved from Bombay, India to Louisville, Kentucky. That is a humongous shift.
I have been to both places. There’s little in common.
This was in 1982, 1983. Louisville is a little hipster town now but it wasn’t like that back then.
No, it was a cow town back then.
Let’s be honest, it was racist. That’s what it was but my dad literally has the American dream. In Bombay, we lived in the projects. There’s a family the last name called the Kachhi Bhakia. That’s the area I’m from the scotch in India. The building we lived in was dedicated to folks who were Kachhi Bhakia. The rent was fixed at 21 rupees a month. It was 21 rupees a month when my grandmother moved out eventually, 50 years later. I was born in the projects. It was 4 or 5 levels. There were shared bathrooms across each level. There’s was three bathrooms across the entire level for each floor. We didn’t have running water.
Even as a kid, my mom and my grandma would go upstairs and go fill up the tanky as they call it the tank with water, bring it down, and that’s the water you use to heat up your hot water. My dad was one of the original programmers in Indiana. He used to work at punch farms. He worked for IBM and got a job in America. At that time, in the ’80s, America was the dream. It was the promised land that has so much opportunity. He came first by himself then brought my me and mom a year later. That’s my introduction to America.
What an introduction. I assume you weren’t going to Louisville as I did for the first time to the Kentucky Derby. You are seeing a whole different part of that world. It’s interesting for you to talk about being a risk-taker. The topic of immigration comes up on the Solo show surprisingly often and it does in two ways. The first way is, there has been a rise in single living. This is worldwide but it is quite notable in the United States. A lot of people lament this.
The reason they lamented as they say, “We need babies.” Babies are the engine for growth. Some countries have real problems with a graying population. Japan is notable, for example. My reaction to that is, “Hold on. Let’s slow down. There are alternative ways to create growth and deal with these problems. Most notably through immigration.”
One of the things that’s striking, I don’t think the average person recognizes this, is that immigrants start businesses at twice the rate as non-immigrants. These are the people who are creating growth there. The second thing is immigrants often contribute to the singles in a population because what happens is, it’s very rare to move as an entire family. It actually happens slowly as a drip kind of thing. Where someone comes alone, the big risk taker and then, they bring their family over. The part of the rise in single living in the United States, for example, is because it’s such an immigrant culture, on top of it all. I’m not surprised to know that.
As you might imagine, as a solo and as a believer in helping people live remarkable lives, I am pro-immigration from the tremendous stories that you can find, including yours. Before we get into the dating stuff and that idea of you are not good at relationships, which I’m going to openly question, let’s talk about some of the things that you do and some of the things that you truly are good at. Let’s talk about Lullaby Club. Tell people who don’t know what Lullaby Club is? What it is? How you’ve got involved and why do I like to sit in the room at the end of the day?
Lullaby Club is this magical club on Clubhouse that Axel Mansoor started on January 10th of 2021. Axel had joined the Clubhouse app back in October 2020. I heard him perform a few times. He’s a young ground man and super talented. I was on a date up in Healdsburg with someone I was dating at that time in January. The very first night that Lullaby Club was on, people were performing these amazing songs. What it is, is a room where they invite artists and perform usually quieter music where they are singing quietly and people whisper as a way of talking.
What’s interesting is, people are falling asleep during Lullaby Club. That very first night, I heard Lullaby Club. I was with the person I was dating then someone had played that Elvis Presley song, I Can’t Help Falling In Love. My date and I, at that time, were physically dancing listening to Lullaby Club. I remember the next night at Lullaby Club was on again and we were in the bath together and listened to the music.
I was like, “This is magical. It recreated this feeling of going to a live show.” You had a host. Axel was an incredible host. He would bring on credible artists and they would sing. They would take turns and there are a lot of humor to it, too. The Clubhouse PTR game, wear these blue sleepy caps. We talk about living in a magical world. I have always played music. I have been playing guitar since I was fourteen years old. I could never sync. I couldn’t figure it out.
By the way, I’m getting to see Ketan. He looks just like his photo. He’s like the man but in the background, he has a couple of guitars and a keyboard. Clearly, music is a big part of his life. I have a treat of seeing him.
That’s a huge part of my life. Thank you. I had asked Axel, “Could I perform? I don’t sing.” He’s like, “You can read stories.” I was like, “Yes, I can read stories.” Originally, I planned to find some like Shel Silverstein, who I love. I grew up on his records with his beautiful like whimsical poetry. I happened to start writing some stories about whimsical things. I decided to play guitar along with it. I was going to play guitar and then recite the stories.
One day, I was doing a sound-check and one of my friends actually, a woman I was involved with much later said, “Why don’t you try doing the music and story together?” It was like an epiphany and I started doing it. The next thing you know, I’m performing at Lullaby Club and people were loving it. I invented this whole set of characters called Lullabears. Everyone in the Lullaby Club gets a Lullabear name. Axel is a Sugar bear. Talia is a Sweetie bear. I’m Papa bear, obviously. There’s mama bear, cuddle bear and all these other bears.
I would be a tall bear. I hope.
We can do that. I think you should be a Whisker bear. It became this community of artists that were so supportive of each other. Every single night we performed. Think about like when The Beatles were performing in Germany. They played every single night three years straight before they’ve ever got big. That playing every single night, working with other musicians, getting that support and creates an amazing atmosphere. I have fifteen stories I have written about Lullabears. A lot of them are set to music. We have been doing improvisational things where a piano player will play and I will read a story. The message we get support.
Many members say, “I had a hard time sleeping. Listening to your voice and stories makes me feel great. I have had a lot of anxiety and listening to your voice is so soothing.” As an artist, someone who never found my place until now, it has honestly been really life-changing. I’m flying to New York for our first level by Club Meetup. A few of us are getting a house together. We are all going to be hanging out. It’s going to be incredible. The people I have met in Lullaby Club, I talked to them every single day. That has been a huge part of my life and I’m grateful for that community.
That’s outstanding. One of the things I want to ask you about is this idea of being solo. You and I have had conversations on Clubhouse and off. You strike me as it fair to say you are single by chance solo? Are you open to a partnership? You might even welcome one or would you say you are searching for one?
I was. 2020, I’m sure for many of us, was hard. I’m an extrovert. I love people and it was hard for me. I was searching for people. I have embarked on this new journey of mental health working and dealing with my anxiety, and depression. For the first time, I’m taking medication for it. I have taken a break from dating and focusing more on myself to heal myself and work through the issues that came up in 2020 with my therapist and practices. I will say for a long time, I was single by chance.
Now, you are in a single-by-choice moment-I would say. It’s a false dichotomy. We opened these rooms under the Solo Club and I call it Single By Choice or Single By Chance. The most common answer is a little bit of both. I haven’t figured out exactly the right way to parse it. As I like to say, this is a show. This is a club for people who are single for now or forever, depending on where it is. Recognizing is an important step. One of the themes is that your singleness provides an opportunity, time, energy to dedicate, starting businesses, traveling, working on your mental health, making music and leaning into things that lead to a remarkable life. You were married for a long time. Do you find your single moments lend themselves to a different type of growth than when you were partnered?
I’ve got married at 21. I had my daughter at a young age. It’s very different to get married at that age. It’s funny. My ex-wife and I met at a time we were both on personal growth discoveries, our journeys in college. She was writing a book. I was writing a book. We were working on ourselves. I think that went furious with each other but I’m sure there are many people can relate to.
As you are in a process of a relationship and having a child, often your own growth stalls falters or you forget about them. I will be honest, I forgot about it because I was so focused on being a dad. I coach my kid’s soccer team. I was a total dad. Had the dad pants to go with it. It was interesting now that I have been sober for a while. I have had a chance to do a lot of personal work, which obviously that work is ongoing.
I will say in 2020, I have worked on who I want to be and who I am. Being independent, being solo lends itself to that. What often happens in relationships is you focused on the relationship and the other person, and that independence isn’t there to be your own self. People talk about a love language. Space is the sixth love language. Unless you have healthy space in a relationship, you forget to work on yourself unless you have independence. In the modern world, a lot of people want that combination of both interdependence and independence.
I want to repeat your six-love language is space. In some ways, I can imagine people wrinkling their brows in response to this. In part because of the view that a relationship should complete you. This idea of a big spoon, little spoon. I don’t want to be a big spoon, especially if that person sleeps very hot. I want to be able to drive a semi-truck through the space between myself and someone else sleeping.
Obviously, I’m being hyperbolic but this idea of when you get coupled up, suddenly a lot of your focus is on self-improvement of the other. This idea that someone is going to come along and solve all my problems, I’m going to be complete. We are supposed to spend all our time, vacation, party, go on walks and work out together. It’s a lot of pressure.
You are working on the relationship and you forget to work on yourself. That’s the hard part because people grow, whether they want to or not, they grow. Growing together is hard as any pair of humans or any set of humans. The issue with growing together is if you forget to grow yourself, then it can misalign. It’s interesting you bring up the sleeping thing.
I tend to wake up early and I tell partners that, “Sometimes there might be nights where I will get up at 5:00 in the morning and I will go do my thing, I want you to know. I hope you are okay with that. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. I will come back and snuggle before we get ready for the day but I need that morning time.” Partners who have been open to it ended up being a lot better partners. As you said, how you sleep, how you take care of yourself. These are human needs. They have nothing to do with, “I don’t love someone or I don’t want to be with someone.”
It’s not about rejection. It’s about being your best self within a relationship. I have had this experience. I have a ritual in the morning. I’m not quite a 5:00 AM early riser but I would consider myself an early riser. I like to start the day with a cappuccino and some creative work. If I compromised on that to make a partner happy, we are in trouble because now I’m not going to be my best self. You risk resenting this.
I have a great story about that because when I was a young father, we didn’t have a lot of money. I was working as a Chef. I was making $10 to $15 an hour. I had a daughter. I ended up selling a lot of my musical instruments. I sold my classic amps and classic guitars because we needed the money. A few years later I was like, “I’m really bummed out. Why is that? The one thing that I have had in my entire life I gave away or sold to make time for this relationship or to invest.” Maybe that wasn’t the right choice then. Sometimes, you focus so much on we, that you can’t focus on me to grow together.
You should have kept your ukulele at the very least.
I have a new ukulele right behind me. I bought a new one.
I love that the ukulele has made a comeback from never even being a thing.
It’s a perfect travel instrument.
I want to get back to the dating stuff later. I want to hone in on something that I was planning on talking about this notion of mental health. I have to say this is the first time I have noticed that it was mental health awareness. It’s because of the pandemic, in particular, there are a lot more conversations around things like self-care. There are a lot more focus on things like dealing with anxiety and so on. I have an episode on how to choose a therapist.
No one ever teaches you how to find the right therapist. I know you are very involved in these worlds, both personally and beyond. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about it. As I say, you are good at life and yet you are telling me you have struggled with anxiety and depression. Let’s normalize that healthy people still have challenges.
One, growing up in the South Asian culture, our culture, in particular, does not talk about mental health issues. Anger, stress, anxiety, those were viewed as everyday normal things that you don’t even discuss. Let’s be honest, I grew up it’s not an ideal household. My mom was always very stressed or angry. They were immigrants in a new country. They had a lot of things they were dealing with.
When you look at what is a predictor to divorce, that’s a huge one, then divorce creates even more financial stress.
Exactly and the fact we were living in a very racist place. I have been thinking about a lot of the processing work I have been doing. I had stress at home when I was a child. I would leave the house and would have stress in school because I had kids calling me horrible names. You can imagine how bad they would be. Every kind of name you can imagine that’s racially oriented. South Asians are often Harry and I would get called like the missing link or a gorilla.
One of the reasons I’m talking to Axel, he has a song, Kids Can Be So Stupid. The reason I relate to this song so much and relate to him is a lot of immigrants deal with the fact that you get othered easily and quickly. When you are an immigrant, you get made to feel different. In fact, I’ve got made to feel so different that within six months of moving here, I tried to change my name.
What did you try to change it to?
Do you remember that show Knight Rider? I love that show. I tried to change my name to Michael Knight. One day, one of my friends came over after school. His name is Chris and was like, “Can Michael come out?” My mom was like, “Who the hell is Michael?” She gave me a flop and was like, “You are not Michael ever again. Be proud of your name.”
At least you didn’t try to name your name yourself KITT. The name of the car.
There needs to be a lot more discussion around mental health and racism because it has such profound effects at a young age. The last time there’s a show, a lot of the attachment theories that we come up through from our formative years when we are young and the bonds we form with the people that are around us. Racism and discrimination have a very powerful effect on how you view yourself. I grew up with all these issues.
I struggled with anxiety and depression a lot of my life but I never had help or understanding of how to support it. In fact, in most families is like, “Stop crying. Don’t talk about it. It’s not a big deal. Get over it.” In fact, I was like that, too. I had a friend who was very depressed when he was eighteen and I was the same age. I was behaving the same way because I didn’t have the tools. I didn’t have the knowledge to understand. Depression and anxiety are often chemical imbalances. They are not in your head.
They are brought out oftentimes by environmental stresses and problems. There’s an interaction between nature and nurture.
When the pandemic hit, I had got this brand-new apartment. I was going to be this brand-new live workspace loft.
In where? What part of the country at this time?
This was in San Francisco. It was my dream apartment. I was going to have all my friends come over, have these huge parties as part of my company, everything was going to be great. One week of moving in, the pandemic hit. I’m very lucky. I had a place to stay. My income was okay. I’m blessed in that sense but I was completely isolated at a brand-new period of my life. I had moved in ten years. Someone who’s an extrovert, who loves people, the plan I had for 2020 wasn’t exactly what we thought.
I want to say this that there are a lot of loss that people are experiencing, especially now. As we are talking about this, a lot of people are vaccinated, things are starting to open up and you are forced to focus on the loss, the things that you gave up now that you can get them back.
It feels like you lost a part of your life in 2020. What ended up happening was I spent a lot of time alone. I did get a therapist but I started going through some traumatic periods. I would get stressed and anxious. I would think I was going broke even though I wasn’t. I even remember the first time I’ve got Clubhouse, I was trying to talk to people. It was clear that I haven’t talked to people in a while. I need to re-socialize. They show up in relationships. It started showing up as I was meeting people. You already have COVID stress of meeting people.
The year 2020 was hard. I had three panic attacks where I couldn’t think straight, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I locked up. I had never had that in my life before. Even though I was in therapy and trying to take care of myself, I was alone for the most part. I didn’t have my friends, my family and people close to me every single day.
I have never had a panic attack. Can you describe someone who’s never had one? What is the experience like?
I’m sure it’s different for other people but it’s almost like the time stopped and you feel stuck. Have you ever watched a GIF that’s repeating? It keeps on looping, like the stress that whatever I was feeling was repeating in my head constantly for that short amount of time where I’m like, “This person doesn’t love me.”
You start feeling panic attacks. You feel like something is going to hurt you but you often can’t give vocalization to what that is. A lot of times, panic attacks aren’t always tied to anything physical. They are tied to your mental state. This is a realization I had. When I was growing up as a child, in the abusive household I lived in and the racist environment I lived in. When people loved me, those people often also hurt me.
One of the amazing things that don’t get talked about, everybody wants to say relationships are good, family is good. There is an ambivalence there because sometimes the people who you love and love you the most are also the most hurtful. They will treat someone in a way they never treat a stranger. You are wrapped into this world, which you don’t know, whether you are going to get love or hate as a result of it. It can be debilitating.
It is. One of the realizations I had was the reason I had those panic attacks when I was getting close to someone. Both times was when a woman has said, “I love you.” In my head, wherever or how it was working was, “You love me that means you are going to hurt me.” That’s what caused me to freak out. It’s not that I couldn’t love. It’s not that I didn’t want to be loved. I wanted to be loved. It’s interesting to be in a place where love is scary where love is something that could hurt you. I have been doing a lot of work around this stuff with mental health.
After this year of therapy, during the pandemic, I talked to my doctor and said, “I need help.” I also noticed for myself I would get anxious even going into the store. I would pretend I had to get everything done within five minutes. I would be rushing out the door. I will have to catch myself and like, “Why am I rushing? Why am I panicking about getting groceries? Why am I putting this pressure on myself?” I realized, “I can’t live like this. I can’t be isolated and pushing myself with people who love me. I can’t be stressed out in non-stressful situations,” because anxiety is often not the truth. It’s your version of the truth.
It’s vigilance on steroids. You are on the lookout and, most of the time, we worry and most of the things that give rise to this anxiety never happened.
They have never happened. I have been so worried about running out of money. I have never been homeless, luckily. I talked to my doctor and I said, “Can we do something about this?” I started taking Zoloft for the first time in my life. I posted about it publicly. I posted it on my Instagram and my Facebook. Peter, you would not believe the outpouring of support, understanding and how many people reached out to me and said, “I deal with this, too.” Single people, married people, people with kids, without kids, with great jobs, struggling to find work, black, white, old, young, everyone. It was such a universal outpouring of, not only support, which I’m grateful for.
Stress and anxiety in 2020 are incredibly rampant. In fact, my therapist is part of better help. I have no association with them but I do like the service. It was like, “We can’t even hire enough therapists now.” That’s how horrible it is for anyone. The pandemic is almost like going through war. Everyone is anxious. There’s the physical anxiety about getting sick. There’s economic anxiety about what’s going on in the world.
There’s the social anxiety of losing all our social support systems like going out with friends, dates, spending time with loved ones, travel and all the things that we all love. I needed help and I’ve got the help that I wanted so far. Early in my journey was all about what I posted about it publicly. I talked about your point about de-stigmatizing it because it’s so humid. One of the things that my therapist said that was amazing and I loved was, “Anxiety came about in humans as a protection mechanism. It’s deep in your amygdala.”
It’s one of our ancestral pasts. It’s based upon fear of real things. It’s overactive in a world where less to fear.
When we were hunting animals or being hunted by animals, anxiety was useful and great. Often, the anxiety levels we have suffered in modern life feel like we are being hunted. It feels like you are in mortal danger but you are not. The thing is, our brain doesn’t know because our brain is processing signals however it says. For some people like me, there can be chemical imbalances that trigger that even further.
Often, in folks who come from these households, genetics, going through trauma at a young age or all of the above, one thing I want to ensure for everyone is everyone you know deals with stress and anxiety at some point in your life. It was interesting how many people would reach out to me and they are like, “After I’ve got divorced, I started taking medication. After I lost my job, I started taking medication. During the pandemic, I was having a hard time and I started taking medication.” Literally, people would call, Zoom or text me. People I have talked to in years were like, “Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel this, too.” This is such a human widespread problem that we should destigmatize. We should talk about it.
One of the things is I feel like the way they should talk about it is if I broke my leg and I said, “I broke my leg. I’m going to take some pills.” No one would bat an eye. You wouldn’t even bat an eye by posting that I broke my leg. It’s a physical injury. Often, anxiety and the medication you need are in the same realm. It’s an injury.
I want to say I have been fortunate enough. I deal with some anxiety that gets in the way of some sleep around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. I have been very lucky in life. I have a very close friend who was a roommate at one point in time, who had a very deep depression. He started taking medication for it. That part of the stigma and concern is, “I’m going to start taking these pills and I’m going to have to take them for the rest of my life.”
One of the things that he educated me on is that what often happens is you use this as part of a broader holistic approach to living more healthy, to getting therapy, to working through the challenge that is setting this thing off, and then at some point, the doc says, “You are good for now.” It’s this idea like, ‘You are broken forever but rather you are injured, let’s get you through this.”
An interesting thing has happened as I have talked about my journey with medication. Apparently, it takes like 2 to 3 weeks for Zoloft to kick in. The fact that I’m thinking and talking about medication has made me much more aware of my mental state and given me a focus around it that is actually very healthy. Instead of throwing it under the rug and not thinking about anxiety, stress or depression, it’s out in the open.
Now that I’m mindful of it, I have reacted. Someone was like, “That’s like the placebo effect because the pill isn’t working yet.” I’m like, “I love this placebo effect,” because people take time every day of their life. When I take my pill at night, it’s a moment for me. It becomes a point of almost meditation to be like, “I’m taking this for my health. I want to pay attention to how I’m feeling. I want to give space for the fact that I’m working on myself,” but please don’t take them during the day.
I have heard from most people, they take it at night and I start taking nights. It’s much better when I take it at night. I worry less about having to take it for a long time. More of the fact that like, “This is a good habit,” to think about that, whether you take medication or not. The space you make to think about stress and anxiety. Be mindful of your stress, anxiety and depression make a huge difference.
I want to reiterate something that you had mentioned is how important social support is. When you think about solo life, I always say this thing that I picked up from Bella DePaulo is that, “Married people have the one and single people have the ones.” The average solo is more connected in the world. They have greater friend networks and they are more involved in their community but when they don’t, that puts them at risk.
As we know because of the isolation around the pandemic increased the risk for solos. What you did was when you announced that you were having this challenge, that you shared it, what did it do is it garnered all of this social supports. If you had hidden that away, embarrassed by it, ashamed about it, you would have actually handicapped yourself even more because you are not able to share this with a broad array of people who can help you.
Many people are ashamed of mental health. It’s still such a huge stigma in the world. This is the first time I have never seen mental health awareness month in my life where we try to wave away mental health issues as something that doesn’t apply to us or something that can be gotten over with the way we think. For lots of people, it’s even temporal because of living situations where it’s a chemical imbalance.
If you had a broken arm and your doctor said, “Take a pill,” you wouldn’t back out on it and be like, “Sure. Sounds good,” if that’s the route that you want to take. For me, I realized now that my whole life, I didn’t take a pill because I felt that way. I didn’t want to feel like I had a crutch. I was like, “Do athletes feel like they have a crutch when they take Tylenol?” The reality is we are all athletes in 2021, dealing with the onslaught of anxiety and stress.
I just finished a series on solitude. Both of us offline have talked about solitude. You wrote me in an email, saying, “Solitude is the thing I struggle with most. In 2020, I did two road trips, 1,500 miles, each ton of hiking. I found a lot of solitude but I have a huge inability to be alone.” I was like, “That’s interesting to me.” Where does that come from? Did you go on those trips to address that issue or did you do it despite that?
There was pressure to be very effective during the pandemic. What was it a safe time to travel? You love to travel. I love to travel. I love your soul travel wolves. I didn’t know how to travel during the pandemic. I was realizing, “Road trips sound fine. It sounds safe.” They said they are safe. I rented the car. I drove up to Oregon Crater Lake, which is honestly beautiful. I have always been a big avid hiker.
I love the outdoors. It was my way of escaping from the craziness of the pandemic and being feeling like you are stuck in one place. The other thing was, I feel it’s hard sometimes to heal with everything happening. In the modern era, we always have input, whether we are walking down the street. We were talking about this in one of the earlier rooms. You are either on your phone, on a website or doing something.
I listen to a podcast. You are occupied even when you are just doing something as mundane as going for a walk.
For me, driving to somewhere beautiful was such a way to zone out and disconnect from the normal day-to-day stuff. Your mind starts wandering into bigger things. It doesn’t have to wonder to be a particular area but you let yourself go and start being like, “Let me think about this.” I have these stories to tell in my head. Honestly, it was wonderful or a heist, very similar. I would go on these hikes by myself. That’s the first trip I was entirely by myself.
One, being in nature and having perspective obviously gives you a lot of views and gratitude. One of the realizations I have had is I always thought the opposite of anxiety was calmness. For me, I realized the opposite of anxiety is gratitude. I can take them into the calm but often that calmness goes away. If I remember and focus on my gratitude, I’m grateful for my friends, this nature in front of me, this beautiful weather, the ocean.
Those don’t go away. They stay with me. It’s almost like going to rock, weighing you down to anxiety is taking you into the sky. For me, these trips, these things were great ways to find that, listening to peace. At the same time though, I was by myself. Other people at this time when we are traveling with people. I have the worst FOMO all the time. If there’s a party happening somewhere and I’m not invited, it’s so hard for me.
That’s tough being on Clubhouse. I’m fortunately low FOMO.
The tough thing about being solo in times of growth is you want to share it with people, too. Luckily, I started sharing it by writing. I allow a lot of my social media about the writing I discovered during those times. It’s good to share it with people because we are not meant to be alone, necessarily. Being solo and being alone are two different things.
As part of this series on solitude have been revelations upon revelations for me. I am someone who likes my alone time but I’m also someone who likes people. I also even like to be alone within a group of people like sitting in a cafe and doing some creative work. What you are describing is that alone time can be restorative. All the great prophets spend time out in the desert alone.
There’s a moment, restorative regenerative time, a reflection, the opportunity to do creative work. When someone is not able to be alone, they are in some ways holding themselves back from some of those benefits. In the same way that someone who’s not good at people is holding themselves back at some of those benefits. There’s this sweet spot between enough time with others and enough time alone.
It’s often, whether you have a choice in it or not. I think about everyone in 2020. We all became hermits. You never hear about a happy hermit. You only hear about crappy hermits like the angry hermit. You never hear, “This hermit is happy living off the cave.” They are always angry because you lose your socialization, humanity. If you can find a way to be alone when you want to be, that’s very different from 2020. When often we have to be alone because we had to be.
It’s great to be able to recognize where the strengths and weaknesses lie, and to be able to experiment. When I was in graduate school I started going to the movies alone. I remember going in part because I was so damn exhausted at the end of a week. I wanted something that was going to be enjoyable that I could do on my schedule and I didn’t have to compromise but I also wanted to do something nice for myself. I was a poor grad student so I would go to the dollar theater. Sometimes, I splurge for the Friday night $2 theater because on Friday, Saturday nights, it was twice the price. I remember a little bit of anxiety. I know to shame. Maybe it’s too strong a word but it felt weird.
What I want to do for people is normalize going off and doing nice things for yourself, whether it be to enjoy a cocktail at a bar, a delicious meal, a hike or a movie alone is a normal thing to do and lots of people do it. It’s a good skill to have and a good compliment to going on a hike with a friend or have a cocktail with a date and so forth. That’s there.
We did a Solo Parent Room at one point in Clubhouse and you came in. You had. I thought of some wonderful insights. I didn’t even know that you were a divorced dad at the time. You’ve got married young, a young empty-nester. You were quite frank, vulnerable about how hard it was. How was it hard for you? What have you learned as the dad that is helping you now outside of being a parent?
When you become a young dad, your identity gets wrapped up.
Were you 21?
When my daughter was born, I was 21. I’ve got married at twenty. I was super young. Your identity in being a father, being a caretaker and breadwinner. You get so connected to this vision that you are this person. To divorce, that gets challenged. You go from having a family, in my case, a family of three but now to having two households. That’s a challenge. It’s a growth learning point.
Also, as I said, a financial one. It’s a huge one. Suddenly, your expenses go way up.
That is true. I lived in the Bay Area so even more. When your kid goes to college, there’s this realization that your kid doesn’t need you in the way they used to good or bad because as they are forming their own independence. They are living their own lives or doing their own things. Again, that is an identity of being the father figure. Now, that’s not there as much because they are living their own lives and changing.
It’s funny, my mom used to always say, “You will know when you are a parent.” She was right. The hurt that you have when your kid is independent and doing their own thing and there’s less of a need. I have heard parents talk about that starting when they are 10 or 12, don’t want to hug you anymore. It’s funny because, to me, I was in a band. I hung out with kids all the time. I thought I was the cool dad. Out of everyone I was like, “I’m going to be the cool dad.” You can’t be a cool dad. That’s impossible.
You are never going to be the cool dad to your kids. You are a cool dad to other kids but never yours.
When my daughter went off to school and started living on her own, I was like, “I have to forge a new identity for myself.” I’m living on my own and it made dating interesting because most people have opinions about dating someone with a kid. In my case, I was an empty nester. I was also a young empty-nester. People will be like, “What? Do you have a kid? Your kids doing their own thing?” Most people my age didn’t know how to deal with that.
They have very young kids, which is a different challenge entirely. When we were young, we think of our parents as this model. They don’t change, don’t grow. It’s like the first time you see a school teacher outside of school. You are like, “Mrs. Fielding, why do you buy groceries? Do you go to the bar? That’s weird.” You forget there’s more to your life than who you were for all that time. You have to rebuild and figure yourself out.
Bill Burr has a little joke about this like, “Why are these parents so uncool?” He’s like, “It’s because you go through a time warp. Why are they still wearing the same clothes as 25 years earlier? Why do they still listen to the same music?” He’s like, “They just wake up one day. They were in this vortex.”
That’s the funny thing. I listened to the same bands my daughter does. I still go out to shows, clubs and have a good time. I still love music. “I still do very young things.” I go to concert festivals or music festivals still. It’s funny because I don’t feel that I’m like my age at all by any means but at the same time, I have had that life experience that changes it.
That’s because you are on a growth path. We started this conversation with you talking about a focus on personal development and how you are taking a little bit of a break from searching for a partner to work through these things. The last thing I do want to talk to you a little bit more about before we open this up to more general questions is dating as a divorced dad.
Also, I want to talk to you about dating and race. This is something that I have been exposed to since I have launched this show. There’s more data and conversation around the appeal of particular races and the flip side that some races are seen as less appealing when it comes to things like dating apps and so on. I will tell you a quick personal story about racing. I was in Melbourne, Australia, for a long research trip and I was on the apps.
One of the things that were striking was almost every woman I went out with was non-Australian. They might have been from India or Indonesia and elsewhere. I think part of it was because I was open to dating across. I’ve got the sense that the Australians wanted to just date Australians. The white Australians wanted to date white Australians, then suddenly all these wonderful women were going out with me. I’m like, “I can’t believe this woman wants to go out with me.” There was an undercurrent of racial bias that was there.
This stuff starts from a young age. I was six years old and I told my mom I would never marry an Indian woman. At six years old, what do I know about marriage, let alone women? I was in society and live with Kentucky and Richmond, Virginia where racism was so prevailing, everything about being Indian was bad. Automatically, Indian women were bad. I even told my mom I’m going to marry a white woman when I was six years old.
Racism gets internalized so quickly because when you are a child, all you want to do is fit in. You want to get along with everybody and have a good time. You are not trying to fit in. You don’t have the ego or independence that you have evolved when you are older, where you can be your own person. You are still figuring it out. A lot of that stuff comes in quickly and the media reinforces it. When I was growing up, every Indian character was a bumbling nerd. You never saw a sexy Indian man.
Every Indian character had an accent. Let’s talk about accents. When most people think about accents, British, French, Spanish, they are considered sexy. When people talk about Indian, Chinese or Vietnamese, they are not considered sexy. Why is that? It’s colonialism and racism. In fact, the British in India during the Raj used to beat Indians that couldn’t carry the British accent. They literally beat the accent out of us. Racism and colonialism forces have not gone away. We know in America in 2021 still deals with these things.
Suddenly people feel licensed to let the racism out in a way.
It’s interesting because I have been talking about race and dating for a long time. No one would ever say like, “I’m not going to work with a black person.” No one would ever say that but they will completely say that about dating.
I have had this debate with people.
It doesn’t make any sense because it’s like, “I’m not attracted to them. Have you met every single black person there is or you have met every single Indian person?” That’s such a weird thing to say. You ask them, “Is that racism?” They are like, “No, it’s not racism. It’s just preferences.” To me, preferences is a code word for racism. Some preferences can be nice like, “I prefer people who enjoy music,” I prefer that over other foods. That’s a preference.
By the way, I do prefer that over cereal.
Me, too. America is still dealing with the effects of racism. We saw in 2020 how impactful it was. After my divorce, it was interesting living in the Bay Area. At that time, it was very easy for me to date. I would date all sorts of women. I never had a preference after that. I started dating Indian women for the first time in my life and I was 29. Race certainly didn’t matter to me anymore. I had evolved past what I internalized as a child. It’s interesting with the apps that came out in the last few years and where I live, at least in the Bay Area. I often like in your experience, only match with non-white women.
The other thing that happens that I don’t think people recognize is an algorithm that underlies who you see. When Ketan and Peter opened up the app-based upon who’s already swiping on us and how we have been swiping previously, we don’t have the same likelihood of the same people that we see. I had this experience. I started using Hinge and when it’s early is when you notice it because the algorithm overreacts. I had swiped right.
Actually, on Hinge, you comment whatever kind of thing. It was a few Asian women. Suddenly, that’s all I had to see. I was like, “Why is this suddenly becoming so one-dimensional?” It’s because the app is trying to do what it can do, which is to hone in on your preferences. The problem is those weren’t my preferences because I’m the same as you. I care more about other things than how tall, short, curvy or lean someone is.
It’s interesting because a lot of people don’t want to think that race or wealth plays into dating but it does. Those things also are connected but those things are also important. It’s the most people’s selections process. We don’t want to talk about it but it is important. OkCupid has released data on it. That thing for me was hard, I do want to be connected to my South Asian Indian culture.
I would love that but also, some of the women I have dated from that culture are very judgmental about me having a child or being divorced. The very people I want to connect with are often the ones that are like, “We have living mastery folks. You have a kid. You are divorced. We can’t even talk,” because our culture tends to be very conservative in some ways and this is also the opposite effect.
You are basically saying there’s an interaction of race and being divorced. It’s not that you are a divorced dad and Indian but being an Indian who’s a divorced dad has this special challenge.
I’m mostly matched with brown women but most brown women don’t want to date someone who has a kid. In fact, it’s funny I’m noticing now. Some people were saying, “I don’t want to date anyone who has history,” which doesn’t make sense.
Doesn’t have a history, what do you mean?
Divorced or things like that. Divorced was a big one. Someone told me things like, “I want to start a family from scratch.” “What is this? A croissant? You already have a family.” People say weird things and I can get the biological need to have my own children. That is understandable. That’s a very human thing but how people define what they envisioned of their love and how it was going to grow in their relationships is not always a reality. I never planned on being divorced. I never planned on being a dad at twenty. It happened. That’s my life. I’m very happy with it. You don’t get what you plan.
People surprise you. We think these categories matter but when you think about the people you have connected with in life, it’s often not around a category, it’s around an emotion, feeling, comfort, smell, chemistry, shared viewpoint in the world that goes beyond categories.
The women I do align with come from a culture that is similar to mine. If they are Jewish, black, Latina, Asian, where they have a strong family component. They love food together. They are into having kids or being around kids. They are into we time, which is very similar. I don’t think White Anglo-Saxon Culture often has those same values. To me, I opened myself to who I wanted to date as I’ve got older.
It has been interesting that some people still are stuck on this thing and people won’t tell you. They will be like, “I didn’t like this guy for whatever reason. I don’t want to console it for a reason.” You are like, “Show me your last six exes.” It’s always the same men or women. You are like, “Maybe you are racist. Think about that.” No one wants to be confronted and addressed with that. I never thought Asian women were attracted to me. I had to internalize somehow. I don’t know where I internalized it but I did. Only in the last few years that I was like, “Asian women are attracted to me.” I had my own biases.
I had the opposite problem. I’m like, “No woman is attracted to me.” That causes problems also.
I have had that, too. That does but it’s interesting what these apps do. I’m a big fan of that book about modern romance and live happily ever after. The things that matter in partnerships are how open you are to change, how forgiving you are and how kind you are. That has nothing to do with race, wealth or location. The things that matter in partnerships are like, “Do you want the same goals?” Nothing to do with height or weight. What the apps and algorithms do often make us think that we are picking a partner on attributes that matter.
It’s about a checklist that is easy to measure. Kindness is hard to measure. You can’t put it into an algorithm.
While I’m dating and I had my child, I have been lucky I have met some amazing, wonderful women who, honestly, a lot of them I’m still friends with. Some of them I’m not. I have been very lucky that I have been able to find partners that are loving and caring. At the moment, I have to do some work to get over my anxiety and the things I’m dealing with so I can be a good partner. You will see this in dating profiles all the time, “I want someone who is X, Y and Z,” like you are shopping. At the moment, what I’m trying to be is like, “I want to be X, Y and Z. I want to be the person I want to be.” If that drives me to a person, great but the goal is I want to be a better version of myself.
One of the nice things about being solo is you can delete the apps.
I haven’t done that yet. I need to do that.
I’m not saying you need to but you can if you want when you are working on yourself within a relationship. First of all, you can’t delete the relationship if you want.
I deleted Tinder because I hate that one.
I can understand that. Guys like me don’t do well on Tinder.
I have had one date on Tinder in years.
I gave it up years ago.
I do great on Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel and others but Tinder is broken.
It’s not for our demographic. Again, I like to point out the opportunities of being solo. One of them is what you are describing, the ability to work on yourself. It is very challenging to work on yourself within a relationship because to tell your partner, “I need a break. I need a little more time for myself.” As you said, the sixth love language, “I need some space,” can be very threatening to a relationship.
A lot of relationships are about how much time we spend together and what does it mean when we are not and so on. Again, this is not a show or a club that is anti-marriage or anti-partnership. It’s about recognizing that we all, as adults, spend some amount of time, often not trivial for many people, the majority of their lives as single adults and recognize that is not a liminal space. That is a special time in the same way that being partnered.
It can be celebrated. It’s interesting. I sometimes post about my dating on Facebook and social media. Apparently, life with what we get a kick out of it. I always get asked, “What updates when you post that you are having a kid or getting married?” thousands of likes and comments.
There are rituals around it. There are names for it.
If you do something like a single person, people are like crickets. It’s like, “Just because I don’t have a partner, my life is not worth being celebrated. It’s not picture-worthy.” I want to make this a photo series of doing things as a single person that should be celebrated like a single-person photoshoot or something. We don’t have to be defined by relationships. We don’t have to be celebrated for the fact that we have a relationship. We can be celebrated because we are human, people love us, we are existing and having other things that matter to us. Writing music, traveling or whatever it is.
I welcome suggestions from the Solo Community. This is something that has come up before. What are those things? The things that you can point to that we know them well. Engagements, marriages, baby announcements, gender reveals, anniversaries, which fill up social media. How do you create a way to celebrate our moments as single people positively and productively and again, worthy of sharing? I don’t have an answer to that question but I’m glad that you brought that up. Ketan, thank you so much for doing this. It has been fun to have a one-on-one conversation.
It has been great. Thank you, Peter.
I appreciate you sharing this and appreciate your vulnerability. I’m a big believer and we need to normalize these things. We need to normalize getting help for our mental health challenges, whether it be in the form of a therapist, prescription, garnering social support or all three of those things. Thank you for sharing that.
Thank you, Peter.
- Solo Club – Clubhouse
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- Single By Choice or Single By Chance
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- Coffee Meets Bagel
About Ketan Anjaria
Ketan Anjaria is a creator. He is an avid chef and makes music (including lullabies). As the founder of Hire Club, he and his team helps people succeed in their careers.
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