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Life has been challenging. But it has also taught me important lessons that added substance to my life. It shaped me into the person I am today.
Growing up life was very challenging and difficult for my family and I. I believe it was more so for me because as a teen your worldview is very different. You are trying to adapt to the changes in your body and also trying to make sense of things around you. Plus, you see a lot of things and try to ape people because you want to have a sense of belonging. You want your friends to treat you well and your parents to understand you.
Life was difficult because I come from a lower middle class family. Back in the day, we lived in a rented one room house with a kitchen and bathroom. My dad did not have a stable job and so all the pressure was on my mom. She worked hard to educate me and my siblings and provide for our basic needs. My siblings and I never got to go on any school trips or have fancy bags simply because my parents couldn’t afford giving it to us. As a child, I wished hard for things to change for us.
I felt embarrassed to call any school friend home. So, whenever any friend said, “Let’s meet at Priscilla’s home this weekend!” I would always have an excuse ready. Growing up we never had birthday parties and went to one or two of them.
At that point of time, everything was very difficult for me. I didn’t want my friends to know about my house. Neither did I want them to ever come over and see it. I feared what they would think of me and my parents. This especially happens when you’re studying in a convent where all your peers belong to super affluent families,
Though my friend circle was middle class all of them were better off than we were. But there was a school friend who lived near my house. She knew about my family and told the other friends in my circle about it.
I remember, during my 10th and 12th board exams, there were times when I would study in the bathroom since we had relatives or neighbours over. And also because there was no other room for me to go to, but the bathroom. At times, I would pace around the bathroom, my book to my face or shut the toilet seat, sit on it, and prepare for the exam.
I questioned my parents several times, sometimes out of frustration, why we couldn’t move to a bigger house. Why were we living in such a small house?
To which they would reply, “This is what we can afford at this time. We need to educate you and your siblings. We have other responsibilities too. Moving to a bigger house would mean spending more money on rent. By living in a small house we are trying to save money to buy a house of our own.”
My mom always used this famous proverb, “Learn to cut the coat according to the cloth.” This taught me the importance and value of money. It took a while, but I understood that my parents were trying to give us the best they could.
We had seen with our own eyes, the people who didn’t have the means to own expensive things, yet bought them only so others thought they were doing well. These people would take hefty loans and later cry when paying the loan seemed like a daunting task. They tried to put on a very happy and luxurious exterior when back home they would have fights over how to pay the loan.
Quite early on in life, I learnt to respect and value money. To never buy something that I couldn’t afford only to show off to someone. I know people who have bought iPhones on loan, not because they needed it but to look cool within their friend circle. And I also know people whose ends don’t meet but they will wear branded and expensive clothes and accessories. Some of these people will borrow money from others but won’t think of returning it. They tend to forget that the person who lent them the money has earned it with their own sweat, toil and blood!
The hard days of my life taught me how important it is for us to set our priorities straight and not fall prey to society’s unrealistic trends and norms. It isn’t bad at all to dream big, pamper yourself or go on vacations, even luxury ones. But one needs to do all this when you have the proper means, not just to show off to people. Putting up such façades only harms us.
My parents always tell me, “Don’t do anything only to show people. Today, you may take a debt on yourself and buy something. But tomorrow when you’d be in a crisis, no one will come and ask you how you are managing or if you need any help.”
Every time I feel like splurging on an expensive thing, my parents’ words ring loud in my ears. Then, I ask myself if I really need that item. If it is worth the money? Whether or not it will last me for long. And that is how I decide to buy or drop that item.
In retrospect, yes, life has been challenging. But it has also taught me important lessons that added substance to my life. It shaped me into the person I am today.
I may not have known then, but I definitely know better now.
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Pexels
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