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What I ask from life today is entirely different from what I wanted maybe five, ten or twenty years ago.
There came a time in my life; a time termed lock-down, which helped me take a deep, hard look at myself. At what I had become and how I had shaped up as a person. A time when I had all the leisure in the world to sit back, relax and reflect on my life and the happenings around me.
I could afford to be myself without any pretenses or pretexts. I could do things that I had wanted to but seemingly never had the time for. Those desires, those interests, those musings that had been pushed aside to make way for other things, the mundane of life, the other seemingly more critical issues.
Those never-ending critical social engagements, those crucial pieces of work, those errands had all of a sudden become non-existent. And for a change, I had nowhere to go, other than from one room to the other. The lock-down ensured that my life like everyone else’s had been made to take a pause, and I had been made to stop in my tracks.
Though the initial days seemed like a much-needed break, after a while when the mind and body were relaxed and had come to terms with the reality, the things that had been pushed into the far recesses of the mind started finding their way back.
Those passions, those interests, those forgotten memories. It was as though now that my mind was free from the clutter of everyday life, the floodgates had been opened up to make way for all the memories to flood back. Not only that, but the mind was also free to explore and discover. So if there was time to re-think, re-visit and re-discover, there was time for new learning as well.
One of the discoveries that I made was that though we have all always believed that it is necessary to step out of the house for us to survive, that’s not really true. Yes, going out is required for a change, to break the monotony but we don’t need to do that to live our lives. A lot of work for which we step out can be done sitting in the house, and we can exist happily within the four walls of the house. And what is more thanks to this boon called technology we can make our time and life as productive as we want it to be? We can join classes to learn a new skill or hone an existing one, choosing from the plethora of choices available, we can read books, newspapers, magazines, articles, watch shows, movies, even catch up with friends on a call, the list is endless.
So during the lock-down, if I had the time to pick up my interests in cooking, reading and gardening, I also had the time to continue with some like exercising and writing. And even after doing all that I still had a lot of time to go nostalgic, pick up old albums to reminiscence and remember.
One of the things that I did was like a soul-searching exercise. I spent a lot of time sitting in the balcony of my house to reflect and ponder over my life. This, as I realized turned out to be an extraordinarily enriching and enlightening experience. It was therapeutic in some ways, happy in others. It was like a self-evaluation, a self-assessment, a taking stock of what I had achieved, accomplished in all the years of my existence.
From a five-year-old who had relocated from London to Kapurthala to the present when I am on the wrong side of fifty living on the twenty-first floor of a high rise in Gurgaon. How have I changed, what have I become? Is this how my life was meant to be? Apart from physically, in what other ways have I changed, grown and evolved?
From the faint memories that I have of my childhood, I remember that I had always wanted to grow up very fast. I had wanted to become an independent, free-thinking individual who could do pretty much everything that she wanted to.
I was about eight when we moved to Delhi, which was to be my city for the remaining part of my life. This desire to grow up fast got a different kind of fuel in the new city. Growth meant physical growth for sure, but it also meant growth in terms of learning and discovering new things.
Of course, it had a lot to do with the way my siblings and I were raised. We were encouraged to develop and pursue hobbies, passions and choose them as per our desire and interest. So if I wanted to learn singing, I was encouraged, if I wanted to play badminton and then volleyball and then tennis I could. But one non-negotiable thing was academic excellence which got embedded in my psyche. It wasn’t something that could be compromised upon.
Another thing was discipline. From a young age, it was impressed upon us that if something had to be done at a particular time in a certain way, then it had to be done that way. There were to be no short cuts, no laxity whatsoever.
We were made to understand that life was also about being there for your loved ones, for giving up on a simple joy to bring a smile on your sibling’s face. So today when I look at my life, I realize that the value system which focused on hard work, discipline, love, empathy, honesty has held me in good stead. Being there for every one added an emotional and sentimental aspect to my personality, which has also remained with me.
Then the need to remain strong in times of adversity made me see through many a difficult time. Adversity was something that came into my life when I was pretty young, barely twenty. I lost my father to a sudden heart attack, and my life seemed to be going into an abyss. He was my God, my partner-in-crime, my go-to person. How could he leave me and go? But he did. And I had to learn to bounce back into life, re-visit my life goals and become more serious in life. I could no longer afford to be the happy-go-lucky young girl that I had been. I learnt to look at my mother as a support, and with her, beside me, I got to get to my goal of being an independent, young girl.
Marriage at an unconventional age [it was a wee bit unconventional in the early nineties] of twenty-six brought a newer sense of responsibility, relationships with an ample amount of struggle. So if adventures in the kitchen were one kind of a struggle, then coping with two spells of bed rest to await the birth of my boys was another one. As I look back now, each struggle, each experience was a great learning. And my life got enriched thanks to them. The experiences also taught me how to rise to every occasion and accept lemons along with everything else.
So if the happy moments brought a smile on my face, the unhappy ones gave me the grit, the determination, the resilience to move on.
When I look back, I realize that I have changed as a person, grown and evolved to be a form of myself which I absolutely love. Gone is the girl who couldn’t pick up the phone to order room service because there was someone else listening. Gone is the girl who did not have the confidence to ask a question in a room full of people.
Various reasons have contributed towards this. First and foremost has been my work, that of an educator. When you are required to handle a class of fifty, almost every day, you have to have regular one on one interactions with people then self-confidence, self-belief find their way towards you.
Confidence also comes from knowledge, from facts. You have to equip yourself with knowledge, and once you have done that you can face anyone anytime. I realize that most of the times we flounder when we don’t have facts and information and also when we let adverse situations get to us, unnerve us. Now I don’t let that happen to me.
The thirty-odd years of teaching, meeting a new batch every year has enabled me to stay fresh, youthful and positive adding to my self-esteem. Other than that, having played the role of a corporate wife to a super busy husband for a considerable number of years also contributed towards my ability to handle a variety of situations on my own. That feeling of accomplishment you get when you know that you can handle things independently has no match. So whether it is your work, your family, your entertaining , you can do it all. It is so liberating and incredibly wonderful for your self-esteem.
Somewhere life also made me become open and flexible and accepting of circumstances. Though never rigid in my outlook, whatever bit of rigidity was there in my mind has gone away with time. I learnt that one does not always have to have a copybook kind of existence. It is perfectly OK to break the rules and not be Ms Goody Two Shoes all the time. This clarity heralded the way for me to change my way of thinking and learn to recognize and then to accept that one can live life a little differently if one wants to. So today if I want to have not one but two careers then it is perfectly fine to do that. This opened up my mind to convert an interest into a career. From being an educator, I have expanded my horizon to become a writer, a blogger.
Though I decided to get serious about my writing, the journey towards that goal was fraught with its share of anxiety and nerves. How would it be to put myself out there for everyone to comment upon and judge? What if people did not like what I wrote? What if they made fun of me, ridiculed me ?? But then I worked on myself to rise above these fears and concerns and get ready to face it all. And till date, I haven’t regretted my decision. I am not your high profile writer/ author, but I feel that I can write a decent readable piece.
My life also taught me to feel free and happy about letting all my creativity come out. I learnt that one could be creative in different ways. Moreover, one should not let others decide for you. If you want to do it, just go ahead and do it. So If I can sing, then I can cook too, I can also write, I can even click a good picture. And believe me, there is no greater joy than what you experience when you can give expression to your creative side freely and unabashedly. It leaves you feeling fulfilled and satisfied.
I have also realized that as a young girl, I was always hesitant about trying out new things, and although I wanted to learn, I couldn’t do it because I hesitated to approach and ask. But over the years, I have overcome this flaw and so now as far as learning goes, the sky is the limit. If I want it, I will get it. Hesitation, which was an integral part of my character, has now completely disappeared.
I also realize that a virtue that I lacked in life was patience. Though in the eyes of the world I have always had loads of it, I know that I didn’t, especially in case of my relationships. I always wanted my love, my feelings to be reciprocated instantly. I am a giver by nature and can give a lot but then I also want it back. I do realize now that I cannot judge everyone by my standards and have to accept their pace and give them space to reciprocate in their own ways. Not everyone can be as open and communicative. They will take time to acknowledge and to reciprocate. It stills tears me apart to wait, but I am getting there.
As I have grown and evolved in life, I have changed in terms of the kind of people, kind of relationships I want in life. I seemed to have outgrown a number of them. My needs in life, my goals, my aspirations have all changed. What I ask from life today is entirely different from what I wanted maybe five, ten or twenty years ago. So I relate to a different set of people, different kinds of situations now.
So yes, I have changed but changed to my mind for the better. I have evolved to become a happier, improved version of myself.
I am clearly not the girl I used to be!
First published here.
Image source: Pexels
Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years,
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