The last time I wrote here, I was on the other side of a birthday. And it just struck me that I’m now in the last leg of The Thirty Diaries. Appropriately, I’ve had an article published on Arre titled ‘My Tinder Bio: Not Here To Mother 20-Somethings‘. My overall mood, as in the article is breezy, slightly scarred but relieved and hopeful.
I’ve started a few work projects and am realigning how I find myself as a professional. My work ethic is always priority so systems, organisation, quality and timeliness are at the forefront. But I’m also considering my health and the moral/emotional implications of my every action. I’ve learnt that I cannot afford to neglect these.
I thought my 20s were dramatic, full of corporate fast-tracking, flashy/useless pedigreed boyfriends, cancer devastation in the family and dealing with the post-millenium (read: Recession-riddled) economy. Have my 30s been saner? Well.
There was the BIG FAILED ENGAGEMENT. This has undeniably coloured my experiences of this decade the most. One part of this is the realisation that relationship matters will always influence my well-being and identity more than other things. After all, my 20s were also driven as response and survival instincts to one heartbreak and one abusive ex. I did become a workaholic, something I recently learnt could be close to a condition called ‘high functioning depressive’. I learnt very early to substitute professional success for emotional stability and romantic happiness. But as with any other addiction with roots in emotional tangles, it created structural cracks in my being. A lot of the things I’ve experienced in my 30s have been these, including the heavy darkness I’ve struggled with through the better part of the decade.
The other side of it is the world’s reactions to me. The 20s were about my fighting back suffocating pressure to couple up and to succeed in tradition-approved ways. I naively thought the 30s would be easier since this pressure eased up as those folks seemingly gave up on me. But the broken engagement brought them crawling back with attacks. As recently as three months ago, people who I’d never met were influencing my work by declaring that I would wreak my married colleagues’ relationships. There’s the r onslaught of people’s expectations on what kind of a ‘Strong Woman’ I should be. It’s countless people outraged that my ex is dating someone, all culminating in the expectations that I should ‘rescue’ the new girl. It’s men I’ve rejected needling me about my failed engagement with statements like “Uske talent ki kadar karni chahiye“. It’s younger people putting me on a pedestal, then expecting me to rescue them from their life decisions and attacking me when I don’t play knight in feminist armour. No, the world is just as awful in my 30s, albeit in a different way.
In that sense, my script is still the same. I’m constantly at war with the world because of who I am. I have to be, because the only choice is to surrender to a life of silent harassment and abuse. There have been a lot of times in my 30s where I’ve felt like I couldn’t go on (which I never felt in my 20s). The ‘magical’ rescues in the form of career wins and passionate friendships have been fewer. Or maybe I’ve just felt the shadows deeper. This is, I’m learning, who I am. I feel fear deeply and my reactions to it may seem disproportionately strong. I am a crab. I retreat into my shell and in that sense, I’ve done that with my entire bruised and assaulted past.
I went to a condolence visit this week, in honour of a deceased family friend, the mother of one of my school classmates. I was quiet and awkward. My past does not give me a reason to feel comfortable or happy in it. I was overwhelmed by the people expressing great warmth and pleasure on seeing me. I also met people who had not been nice to me (notably this gentleman who shuffled awkwardly, then asked why I wasn’t married). I realised that people who harass other people about their romantic choices or their bodies are desperately unhappy about their own. I told him, “I don’t think I need a reason to NOT get married, I need a reason to be married.” He shrugged and then said, “Yeah, that’s right. Smart you are. Don’t make that mistake. No one is happy.”. Sigh, strange as it may sound, that did not vindicate me. I don’t want to hear about other people’s misery, least of all people who’ve added to mine.
Almost magically (so I guess magic is actually still a part of my life), my Arre article showed up online just that instant. It felt like the universe was telling me that all things were okay. The three year old grand-daughter of the lady who passed, came and sat on my lap and told me stories. Her mother hugged me and I learnt that she’s a Ph.D., making me very proud of the world I came from, even if it wasn’t always nice.
And this morning, this picture came up on my memories. Maybe life is about creating your place in the universe. Or maybe it’s about discovering it. I hope I can enter the 40s with wonder.