The Big 3-O is finally upon me. What is it about birthdays that makes me so happy? I love birthdays because so far I’ve been happy to be a year older. The mandatory turning-30 panic did grip me, and still does in moments that make me wonder how so much time could have possibly passed me by, so quickly. I don’t know if I feel 30. (Though I wonder if there is a 30-feeling) In a couple of days, I will be at the crossroads where a life of three-decades meets with wondering what I have to show for it. I’ll let you know then.
What is it about birthdays that makes me a tad contemplative? (PS, this is a really, really long post.)
When I was much younger and I thought about a time when-I-am-grown up, I didn’t think this far. Somehow ‘growing up’ ended at having a high-flying job, buying lots of stuff adults do, not being married and that’s pretty much all I had envisioned for myself. I don’t think I imagined being in my 30s, married, with little to call a job and even lesser stuff, and yet with lots of life on hand. So I’m not sure I can imagine what lies ahead. I’m not very good at drawing promising pictures about the future, but I am quite the champ at looking back. One would say it’s one of the skills I’ve mastered, heh. Looking back with a very pin-pointed gaze and knowing just what has changed for the better.
This list was doing the rounds on twitter many, many months ago. I had bookmarked it for ‘later’, and totally forgot. Predictably. But do you think it’s some sort of weird coincidence that I was cleaning my bookmarks out today, of all days. And I found this list, three days ahead of my 30th birthday? I think not. So let’s see, have I really let go of all that they say I should have? (Key: Yes +, No -, Yes-No +-)
1. The phone numbers of people you should never have the option to contact again if and when temptation strikes, social media connections with people you feel you have to constantly prove yourself to, and the general presence of those who you’ve simply outgrown.
+ Done. Done. And done to the point where the temptation is a distant memory. In some cases, I have been ruthless and while a few years ago I would think of that ruthlessness with a little discomfort and wonder if I did the right thing, of late, in some cases of distancing myself from those I have simply outgrown seems to just sit so right.
2. The timelines you crafted for yourself in the past. There’s no right time for anything, and what’s most painful is being attached to what’s “supposed-to-be” as opposed to whatever is.
+- I think it’s a yes and no on this one. I have become fluid with many things, and let go of the lofty goals I had trapped myself into, aka marking a career with the typical milestones expected of someone my age. But I am quite the slave to some self-crafted time-lines, because for things I want to achieve, I feel a goal and a time-line helps me stay motivated and not lose sight. I am easily distracted and constantly find myself with many fingers in too many different pies, so this helps remind myself of what’s on top of my list. Is this a bad thing?
3. Speaking ill of people for leisure. Making commodity of someone’s life over drinks or at a party is not only something you shouldn’t have done in high school, but should have left back there if you did.
+- Can’t say I am over bitching (or that I ever will be). Really, who is? If you claim you are, you’re probably lying. But I think as long as it’s not feisty, mean — and worst of all — idle bithcing, without context, one shouldn’t feel too bad about it. I was never too interested in idle gossip and I didn’t do enough of it, to be a thing I need to let go of.
4. Waiting for a relationship to save you, because doing so is a dangerously unstable foundation on which you’ll end up building the rest of your life.
+ I think I did this a little bit in the past, ie: before I got married, and then, it had a lot to do with each of those relationships being unhealthy (unstable) in one way or another. I’m over this now because when I think about it hard enough, I can imagine myself whole and complete, without the hugsband’s presence. In theory, my life won’t cease to exist if my marriage does. But it’s not a theory I want to test, so what does that say?
5. The old stuff on your résumé, like the service work you did in high school or the club you belonged to for a week your freshman year of college. Nobody cares about it professionally, and probably not personally either.
– OMG no. Mega fail. All the irrelevant shit nobody cares about and doesn’t even matter anymore, is still on my resume. And the resume is three pages long — that is so 2010 in the field I operate in. However, I haven’t felt the need to update my resume since 2010, because I haven’t been in an active job-hunting pool, and haven’t actively looked for a job. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever need to update my resume or if I will ever be on a traditional job hunt (in this field) ever again.
6. Remnants of former loves that you keep around because you’re still holding onto a part of them. You can say they’re sentimental things you’ll want to have in the future, but the reality is that if they only serve to remind you of something that’s missing in your life, you can do without them.
– Cannot. Let. Go. I have letters, random knick-knacks like notes passed, birthday and Valentine’s cards, bottle caps, movie ticket stubs and all kinds of other poky stuff in a memory
box bag that I lugged around from my parnets’ home to VC’s, and then Bangalore to Goa and then from old house to new — each time looking at it, shaking my head and wondering if its actually just a waste of space. But I just cannot get myself to let go, because I am a hoarder, a sentimental one at that. The contents of the box are little reminders and looking at them doesn’t send me in a downward spiral of depression over what I don’t have or have lost. Most of it makes me chuckle, smile and think wistfully of the things I’ve done and the person I used to be. So I don’t think I want to let go of this one.
7. Feeling as though you are obligated to be the person someone else sees you as. It doesn’t matter if it’s your parents, your former self or someone you love, you can respect all of those authorities and still realize that you are not required to be anybody but who you choose to be in the present moment.
+- 50-50 on this one. For the most part I am learning to just be myself. The last 5-6 years have seen the steepest curve in terms of self-awareness, accepting and loving me for the person I have grown into. I slip back occasionally when faced with specific situations, like being with the in-laws, or with older people in my family I haven’t met in a long time. I slip into the mould of what is expected of me and struggle to let go and be myself. I’m working on this, slowly but surely.
8. The need to always have the last word and win every argument.
Not sure I can comment on this because it was a trait I think I lacked severely to begin with. In fact it might have done me some good to have a little himmat to fight a few arguments to the end and have the last word. Choosing my battles, letting go in arguments where I know I was right, but deferring to a louder, more vehement (sometimes fluffy) voice has been a skill I embraced because I hate confrontations.
9. Abusing your body with crash diets, dangerously excessive alcohol consumption, disregard for what nourishment means, etc. It doesn’t prove that you’re cool because you’re “reckless but in control”– it just shows that you aren’t being responsible or realistic about your body or health.
+ Yes, over it. That I grew up with a fairly sound body image and eating healthy and staying fit was a very common, ongoing dialogue in my home might have accelerated this. Crash diets were never even considered, and I love food too much to deprive myself of any of it. The accent has always been on eating right, moderation in most things and working out the excesses. I think I always leaned towards being responsible and realistic in this regard.
10. Financial dependency, because there’s a difference between receiving help when you genuinely need it and using someone under the guise of it.
+- Yes. And then no, in that I was independent from the age of 20 till two years ago when I gave up my job. Now I am partly dependent on the husband again.
11. Deciding who you are based on upward and downward comparisons to people, or worse – believing that you are the projection of what you assume other people think of you.
+ Yes. I got over this early in my 20s. Then it might have been a product of blind rebellion, but now I’m more settled with who I am and all my imperfections.
12. What success means. Not being able to pursue a passion in the same way you support yourself is not a mark of failure. But not being able to incorporate those passions into your life outside of work usually is.
+ Yes. Over this. After years of cribbing about not being passionate about my job and worrying that my job was keeping me from my passion — all the while not knowing what this elusive thing called passion was — I decided enough was enough. I took a chance with quitting my job and choosing a sabbatical. I was lucky that it has worked out so far. I am also very fortunate to be in a place in life where I could take that chance and let go of the notion that I was failing at what I thought I would to be succeeding at. Now the word success means all kinds of different things to me.
13. Excessive consumption, and spending as a means of validating self worth. You are not what you have nor are you what you can convince other people you are.
+ Totally over this. I no longer crave ‘stuffzz’ like I used to. I always hated aimless shopping and was never the kind that bought things to feel better. I wish I had a little streak of consumption, though. Occasionally, I come across stuff I feel I want, but that little impulse to follow through is nearly dead. So I’m not sure I’m in a good place with this one.
14. The idea that you’re “above” any kind of work. Entitlement regarding what kind of job you should have is a real thing. In my book, doing whatever it takes to provide for yourself is a success in that it’s a display of one’s resiliency and character.
+ Over this. I think working at the cafe was back-breaking enough to teach me that every field has its fair share of grueling work and somebody’s got to do it. If you’re not in such a job, consider yourself very, very fortunate.
15. Being too passive about things that very much matter to you and then getting upset when they go ignored by the people to whom you should have voiced your opinion.
+- Yes and no. I swing between being determined not to be passive, but there’s enough times where I’m too chicken to stand up for something even though it matters to me, and get upset when its ignored. Long way to go with this one.
16. Anxiety over the way your body fills out– or doesn’t– as you enter adulthood. Fat is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you have, and having too much or too little does not make you any less capable of the things that genuinely matter. The body is just a vessel.
+ Yes, I’m over the anxiety. I have felt the changes of what happens as you enter adulthood, the things people talked about and I laughed at because I really didn’t think it was possible. I was blessed with a superfast metabolism and have been working out since I was 16. But three years of completely letting go of eating right, not moving a muscle and generally letting my health go to the dogs has shown me what a sluggish metabolism can do.
Yes, fat is not a thing you are, it is a thing you have. But no, how much or how little you have kind of does make you less capable of doing things, if you’re in the habit of doing things that require you to be fit. Being unhealthy made me slothful, lethargic and slow, which got in the way of life. I was constantly tired, susceptible to illness and perpetually battling fatigue. This kept me from doing the things I wanted to in any given day, so I’m glad I’m over the anxiety, and was able to get moving back and reclaim my health.
17. The illusion of control. You can work hard, be devoted, care infinitely, and things could still crumble. Nothing hurts worse than spending your life desperately grasping at having a kind of control that is only viable by delusion.
+- Yes and no, I am a control freak at heart. While I manage to control the tangible things in my life with varying levels of success, I sometimes get crushed when I encounter the things that are beyond my control. It’s always a blow in the gut to realise some things are not meant to be, and won’t ever be in my control. A lessons I am slow at learning.
18. The desire to settle because you’d rather not be alone. You will pay for it eventually.
Don’t think this applies because I lucked out early in life.
19. Insulting people’s life choices out of your own resentment and bitterness. People who get married young, or work at jobs that pay well but aren’t fulfilling are easy targets, but are ultimately neither inherently sad nor wrong, though neither is doing the opposite. But the need to insult them is almost always a reflection of yourself (and p.s. I’m guilty of it).
+ Over this. Live and let live has been a serious guiding idiom in the last few years of my life. As I made choices that were constantly met with questioning looks and jibes of disapproval, I’ve realised that people do what works for them, and are entirely entitled to do so. I also have tried to cut back the judgement. Can’t say I have stopped entirely, because when something strikes me as odd or not sitting right, I have this compulsive need to analyze it. I might judge, but I reserve that judgement in most cases, unless my opinion is sought.
20. Acting on the idea that any other person is beneath you, especially for what they think, feel or believe. There’s a lot to be said about a person who can discuss an issue with someone who inherently disagrees, and a lot more to be said about a person who can’t.
+- Yes and no, again. I might judge people for what they think, feel, believe and do, but I voice that opinion or judgement a lot less than I used to. I also don’t give it as much thought anymore. The live and let live attitude has sunken deeper, in that things agitate me less, I spend less time feeling irritated by others choices and waste less time in judgement and discussion that is of no use to me.
Birthdays are time-markers. I remember specific years by the birthday I had each year. I remember what happened at every birthday the last 10 years, and when I think back it feels like the years, they just squished together and went by on fast-forward. When I think backwards to the most recent life developments, like quitting my job, or moving to Goa a few years before that, or getting married a few years before that, or the first few years of slog-work in various advertising agencies, or the years I dated, or college I feel like I just graduated not so long ago. The roll-back seems effortless, like it doesn’t warrant ten whole years of time! And yet, here I am inching on to the dusk of my 20s. Wrapping up a good score worth of years, about to break open the packaging, tearing off the covers to open up a brand new decade.
In another happy occurrence, I found these pictures while cleaning up recently, and it took be sliding down the tunnel of time. To a time not so long ago when life wasn’t about what I need to let go, acquire and balance out. Life then was literally about sitting around, a protective arm always holding you safe and close. Letting the world come to pause, as you did small things like pretend-play a teacher, traumatize your sibling and lick every last bit of ice cream in your bowl. And sometimes you could even choose to stop and smell the roses for no reason at all.
Birthdays are definite milestones, whichever way you look at it, and maybe the fact that the last decade was more packed with events than the previous two makes me feel like a lot happened. Way too much. But, I’m going to be 30 in a few days, you guys. I can’t wait!