Home is Where I Want to Be Next — Surabhi Rathi
NAME Surabhi Rathi
ROLE Strategist at Tether Inc
BIRTH CITY Nasik
CITIES LIVED IN New York, Mumbai, Bengaluru
Why did you decide to move to New York City?
My move to New York City was fueled by my desire to learn and grow. It wasn’t so much about choosing the city I wanted to move to, but it was about what I wanted to study next. And, the program I loved, happened to be in New York City. Before shortlisting the School of Visual Arts (SVA), I did thorough research of schools and universities offering post-graduate degrees. I even travelled to London and visited schools there. I was considering all my options. But nothing came close to the Masters in Branding program at SVA.
I was raised in a family of high-achievers. So, pursuing a Masters felt quite natural to me. My family has always put a lot of importance to education and learning in general. My mother continued her education in her 50s and my brother was the youngest student to have completed his Masters and Ph.D. from Oxford University. However, I didn’t want to pursue a Masters for the sake of it. Having worked in the branding industry for five years I knew what was needed to get to the next level. And the program at SVA felt like the perfect option — it would help me transition from design to strategy. And that’s how I came to New York City.
How was your experience moving to New York City?
New York City felt like home from the time I landed. I felt welcomed, I felt like I belonged here. I am not sure what it is about this city that makes you feel like that. Maybe it’s because you sense an immediate connection to people who seem like they’re going through the same struggles as you.
New York, in my opinion is brutal and beautiful. You love this place but it’s not an easy place to live. I’ll never forget the day when I stood in middle of the street near Madison Square Park and cried my heart out thinking, why does this have to be so hard?
That was my first week in the city and I was on an apartment hunt. I knew nobody except for my real-estate agent. I didn’t know if I could trust him but I did anyway. All I knew is that I wanted to live in Manhattan not too far from school and be able to afford it. Fast-forward two years and my agent is one of my most trusted friends in the city. The people I’ve met from school and the ones I have worked with are like family.
I’ve always considered work as a very integral part of my life. And no one stops working here. It’s quite crazy but I love it! I’m moving to the west coast very soon, leaving everything that I’ve created for myself here. But I know it’s the right next move. And New York will always hold a very special place in my heart.
What is home to you?
Home is where I want to be next.
I left “home” at the age of sixteen. I moved to Mumbai in India and that was home for five years. It was a glorious time and then I moved to Bengaluru in south India for work. I lived there for three years and loved everything about my time there. Soon after, it was time to move to NYC for a new chapter. And now I’m moving to the Pacific Northwest. All these moves are a result of the work I wanted to do and the people I wanted to surround myself with.
“Home” is an ever-evolving entity for me. It is what I want next, wherever that may be.
I’m terrified about leaving New York at the peak of my career. Every single day felt like a dream here. I never took it for granted. I’ve thought a lot about this move. I’m excited to explore a new city and work as hard as ever. And so, very soon, Seattle will be my new home.
If home for you is where you want to be next, how do you curate your sense of belonging?
My sense of belonging and sense of contentment comes through the work I do. I spend majority of my time doing what I love — my work. It really doesn’t feel like work when you’re passionate about it.
And so, having the opportunity to work with the people I admire and the type of work I want do is the most important thing I look for in everything I create. Knowing that I am going to learn and grow through the work that I seek is where I know I’ll belong now and in the future. And even though this sounds like work is all I care about, friends and the relationships I build along the way give me immense happiness. I moved to every new city knowing very few people and left the city making lifelong friends who are like family. I “belonged” there because of them.
Is there an object that you’ve always carried with yourself when you moved?
That’ll be my journal. I’ve always taken to my journal in my lowest and highest points in life. I’ve written when I wanted something badly. I’ve written when I was the happiest and felt grateful. I don’t journal everyday. I only write during my most important moments in life. For instance, I wrote when I graduated, when I got my first job after school, and when I met someone amazing and was stoked. I don’t read any of my writings. It’s not a big part of my life but I definitely find myself writing more when I’m grateful and truly happy.
I consciously stay away from getting attached to objects or souvenirs. This may sound strange, but I’ve never kept photo frames of my loved ones around the house. Those things can make me very emotional very quickly. They transplant me to a world that I’ve left and moved away from to follow my dreams.
I try not to surround my life with things that pull me down, emotionally. They are happy memories but nostalgia never helped anyone. I have so many beautiful memories with my family and friends and there will always be a special place for those in my life. But, I am here now, to create new ones. And I’ve gotta keep moving.
Do you have any memory of your childhood home?
One of my strongest childhood memories of home is the way my mom kept the house. She is extremely particular about cleanliness and order. She has a utilitarian and an aesthetic style of placing objects in the house. The way I keep my house is influenced by my mom’s style. As I’ve grown older, I can’t help but think how well she molded my brother and me. My brother’s house in London too reflects my parents’ minimal and functional design sensibility.
I recently read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I am not lying when I say this; I learned nothing new from the book that I didn’t already know. My mom has been doing everything that book states long before it came out. And it struck me that I am so much like my mom!
A big part of who I am and the way I think about life is influenced by my parents. I admire my father a lot. I continue to seek his advice while living away from home. I’ve sought his philosophy and approach to life in some of my lowest points in life. I take all my big life decisions only after speaking to my brother. And my mom is really my best friend. I am just like her in so many ways. I am here today, because of them. It has been 11 years since I left home and I still talk to my parents every single day. It’s like I never left home.