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Dear daughter, there’s a difference between crush and love, but I shall let you know the consequences, and let you make your choice.
How do we choose, as mothers, what to tell our daughters? Do we let them in on our secrets and regrets? It pains us to imagine them repeating our mistakes.
We can’t stop them, but maybe we can tell them we are here for them, always.
My Dear Daughter,
These are my diary entries. I felt it is time that I share my story with you. I wish I could turn back time and start again. Regrettably, as the cliche goes, there are no U-turns in life. I know the woman in these pages intimately. Hear me for a minute, you should know her too.
Diary entry: 2010
On any regular day, I would choose pink ladies-slippers, jack-in-the-pulpit, or a white foamflower over roses or lilies. But I couldn’t choose to be wild, so wild.
By 18, it was well established in my circle, my family, and the extended family that I will be a bureaucrat. Having scored straight A’s all throughout school, I had the potential and the promise to be one. Then came college life, and the freedom akin to a fledgling flying on her own. That’s when it happened, at the most inopportune time, right when I was wrapping my head around Maslow’s theory and Sigmund Freud’s levels of consciousness. I did not understand the difference between crush and love; I was so not prepared for it but I surrendered to this feeling only to realize later that love was then the most glorious form of self-harm.
My father had been laid off from his job 15 years before his retirement, about the same time when I stepped into college. It broke him and his family life into pieces. He withdrew from everything. My father’s lost prestige and identity were at stake and I was to redeem it all. He trusted me, believed in me, and expected a lot from me.
Hormones surged right at the moment when academics demanded my attention. I met this fantastic person who was eight years older than me. Before I could realize, I was underneath the sheets… and I could never get out.
That relationship ended. Then on, one heartbreak led to another heartbreak until all I pretty much did was fall in and out of it. Either way, it was a fall, a fall into a ravine so dangerous that it was impossible to come out of it unscathed. The scores kept slumping. I kept falling behind in academics. With nothing much left at the end of four years, my parents married me off.
Who am I now? Nothing much of an achiever. My classmates have impressive Linkedin profiles and stunning Facebook posts. Yes, I am married, I have a teenager I love, and I often find myself ruminating about her life while the water from the tap flows as my hands scrub the dishes in wide circles.
A deep regret hangs from me, and makes me wonder, does life give second chances? Third? Fourth? As I look back, I realize it did give me chances, even a fifth one, but I was too deep in the mire to come out and avail them. Hormones played such havoc or maybe I did not exercise the right amount of control. I tossed aside my career, my dreams, my ambition, my potential, and promise just because I wasn’t able to tell my heart and my hormones: Shut up. Actions have consequences; I learned it late.
Diary entry: 2016
Rest comes to me in the most restless ways. It is uncharacteristic of my brain, my mind to understand peace (read, contentment). It stalks me like a hungry predator, at home, at work, at the salon, on a holiday. When life is dictated more by affordability than choice or desire there is hardly a difference between a weekday, a weekend, or a vacation.
The constant sense of ‘I can have this’ buzzes around me like a bee I cannot swat. The constant ‘look at them’ feels like burning coal on my heart. The vacations that my purse holds are middle class with middle-class hotels. I am largely haunted by exotic photographs of resorts and spas and bikinis and gowns that many familiar faces post on Facebook. I carry my inferiority like a badge of honor, rather dishonor. Although I hide well, pretend well, and play well. However, my mind knows the dirty tricks and it can’t rest. It can never go on holiday. Like a fungus, it eats into my being.
Part of the problem could be that I do not know how to let go, let go of anything. I cannot tell my thoughts and feelings to shut up. Part of that could be I take myself way too seriously. And, I want people around me to take me with the same seriousness. It could be because I do not think too highly of myself and I want to treat myself with more respect and love than I usually do, to feel good about who I am. The poor self-esteem is a byproduct of a failed career and a rotting dream. This could be because my hormones messed up my academics and time slipped through the wetness in between the thighs.
The difference between ‘what is’ and ‘what could have been ‘ is vast and with each forward stride, I slip, sputtering and gurgling into the slough. In this deep mire, there is no rest, there is only struggle to stay above and breathe, there is no holiday, no vacation, no respite, no relief. My friends say I am processing life in a lot of misguided ways. I can choose to construct it differently. Differently? Now? How? I often wonder, are we the sum of what we missed out or are we what we still can do?
My not so little one, are you shocked?
Well, more than shocking, I find this frightening. Just the way I felt when I discovered an i-Pill in your school bag this morning. When I confronted you, all that I got was, ‘It is for my friend who got reckless during Thanksgiving party.’ ‘But they love each other’ is what you added with much conviction.
I believe you. I believe you. I believe you. I do not believe your age though. I hope the i-Pill is not for you, I hope your friend never needs it, and if she does, you should be in a position to guide her well.
But before that, hear me out. I will keep it short and simple. Most importantly, I will be honest.
Teenage is the best time of the whole life. The excitement and energy that you feel with each passing moment are incomparable. Live it to the fullest. But, live it RESPONSIBLY.
The environment around you is teeming with risk-taking behavior (drugs and substance abuse, speeding motorbikes, sexual encounters, and dangerous selfies), high energy level, thumping estrogen and progesterone, and experimentation of all kinds. I don’t think you can alienate yourself from the environment. But, you can make your own choices.
Your decisions should be yours, and not dictated by what your friends think. You see, friendship is a beautiful relationship and needs to be earned. Earning one friend in the true sense of the word is a lifetime achievement. I am glad you have good friends around. What you need to keep in mind is that they are but all of your age, and with your level of maturity and understanding of the world. That may not necessarily be in the best of your interest.
Try to talk to Daddy and me once before embarking upon an unknown terrain. I hope Daddy and I have been able to establish some trust and transparency with you. Your grandfather says, ‘Life will force you into many things. You cave in or you don’t define how strong you are as a person. Smoking, alcohol, and drugs (unless prescribed by a physician) are a bane to life. It’s easy to start and difficult to let go. Also, don’t forget, you are known by the company you keep. Keep a company which inspires you towards LIFE and does not take you away from it.’
Just understand that liking someone or having a crush is fine, and normal at your age, and you will feel that it is love. It’s happened to me too.
But a crush is an extremely fleeting and transitory feeling. Don’t trust these feelings too much; there’s a difference between crush and love. Try not to attach too much importance to them right now. Let them come and go. And when you feel this is something more than a crush, come to me. Committing to a serious relationship with someone is different.
Love, my not so little one, is the most misunderstood concept. I was raised in the era of love and romance. No country on this planet does Love the way India does with Bollywood. Bollywood is akin to religion here, and it affects the youth in unimaginable ways. What makes you think Tara Sutaria and Ananya Pandey in Student of the Year are reality? Aah! I they were. I wish. Even if the movie depicted reality, see where it places a promising young girl and a young boy.
There is much more to life than this, though you may feel otherwise. Michelle Obama once said, “There is no boy, at this age, cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting an education.” She added, “If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the President of the United States.”
Committing to a relationship and entering into sexual intimacy is a big step. It may start with ‘just a friend’, then lead to a friendly kiss, a sexual smooch, and then to sexual intercourse. It doesn’t stop at just a kiss. This entire cycle is concerning. What if you become pregnant? Do you think you are ready or will be ready in the near future for such responsibility?
You may chip in and say that one can use protection such as i-Pill. Yes, that exists but is your body (and more importantly, mind) ready for such misadventures? Also, does it save you from the harrowing distraction? This distraction can cost your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It comes at a price. To me, paying such a big price is not fair. I wonder if this distraction has a productive end result?
I personally feel that it is a dark tunnel that does not see the light of the day. Sorting out your career should be a priority. Once that is sorted, you are in a better position–’situation wise’ and ‘age-wise’– to make relationship decisions. To truly understand the difference between crush and love. To make a choice responsibly. Not everything needs to be experienced right away.
You have a long way to go, and time still to commit to someone and trust them. I will be rooting for that special someone in your life. Take your time. Do not rush. It will happen to you and happen in the most beautiful way. Wait for the right time. Make informed choices.
In the end, I shall not dictate what you should or should not do. There’s a difference between crush and love, and I shall only guide and make you aware of the consequences each choice brings. In the end, it will be your decision and I am sure you will make the right choices. And even if some choices do go wrong, I will not abandon you. Never!
Lastly, I want to let you know that what you are feeling or going through is entirely natural, and you may not really understand right now the difference between crush and love. I have gone through it myself and so has your dad. We truly understand. We made mistakes and learned valuable life lessons. Your dad was fortunate that his mistakes were not irreparable. It did not damage him in ways that shook the very foundation of life, thanks to your grandparents, who stood by him and held him when he stumbled. How I wish someone had explained to me the price I would pay.
My closest friend, my partner in crime, your aunt, who lives in the US forbade me to share my story with you, lest you become judgemental, scream at me, or call me names. You might even declare, ‘First practice, then preach.’ Or you might choose to follow my path because ‘your mother did it first.’ I am sure you have a tsunami rising in your head. My words, I am sure, are hitting you all over like a pinball.
The truth is, I wanted to be honest. What you do with my honesty is your choice. You DON’T have to live my life. You DON’T have to make my mistakes. You can choose not to suffer. You can choose to be better. You can choose to see the difference between crush and love. You can choose to respect yourself better. You can choose to go beyond the sky.
Let’s talk once you are home.
Image source: a still from the film Gippi
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