18 Going 25 Something- looking back and moving ahead

Dear 18 and mid-20s,
Its okay, you are Fabulous!

As an 18 year old, fresh out of high school and waiting to start college/university, I remember being excited to have finally grown up.
There was a little extra bounce in my steps and extra swing to my ponytail. There was an air of confidence and my eyes glimmered with hope. The clarity of thought was unparalleled and my shoulders a little extra squared to take on the world!

I was willing to go down to the minutest of details of everything that I was asked, expected and even wished to do; simply because, you know… everything I did then was supposed to turn and mould the rest of my life. Every decision supposed to solidify the path that I follow for the rest of my life, every relationship I nurtured was to last till the end of my days, every belief system that I adopted was supposed to define life for the rest of my living.

I knew that by the time I was in my mid-20s, I would be an independent being with a certain professional stability with nowhere else to go but rise higher and higher. I knew I was going to be this person who would be wise and generous, witty and intellectual, smart and funny, attractive and well-built.
I would have a Masters degree in Economics and a passport full of stamps, speak two foreign languages and have friends across the globe, play the guitar and read minimum three books a month, have a walk-in closet and people whom I could trust with my life, a labrador with a person to share its warmth with.

Today, it’s been eight years since I was first 18, and to my comfort I haven’t really done most things that I had planned out for myself.
I’m a Psychologist who writes to understand myself better and somedays to just get through the day. I read, but more on the rate of a book a month and sometimes it takes two months to complete it. I have an inconsistent workout pattern and an unparalleled love for food. I’ve not yet filled my passport with stamps but love looking through the Atlas every now and then, and I know i’m collecting experiences to share with my kids and their kids in the future.
I don’t play any musical instruments but have a diverse playlist that caters to my every mood. The only amount of foreign language I know is what Narcos has taught me. Somedays I wonder what is it that I’m doing? But one thing has become abundantly clear, that I’m not looking at breaking any glass ceilings, professionally.
I do drive a stick pretty well and have made friends from different walks, ages and beliefs. I do not have a dog, but do take every opportunity to play with one when I find it. I still love dunking my cookie in the milk and finding shapes in the clouds!

Not wanting to start my 27th year on a low note I asked for help on my personal Instagram account (because that’s where we are the most responsive, as a society).
I asked for people to help me see me through their eyes.
I mean, looking into myself wasn’t looking very promising and uplifting in comparison to the 18-something’s image of current me, because you know- self doubt and esteem issues.

Surprisingly, what started with the intention of licking my wounds turned out to have more of a therapeutic effect. There were responses that spoke of my physical appearances and other socially polite things that we all do at some point or the other. Then there were those that put a smile back on my face and made me realise that I might not have become all things that I’d dreamt of as an 18year old, but I surely on the right road no matter the destination.

It began with “It takes a very secure person to do something like this”; it made me realise how I’d been open to all kinds of responses and willing to go on. But this response just prepared me better.

Some said that I have grown up to become a sensible woman, understanding and simple. I realised that I do have quite a few virtual friends whom I’ve rarely or never had the chance to meet in person, and real ones whom I meet as often as I can.
There is family who are like friends and friends like family, and I couldn’t have wished for more. They find me annoying and incorrigible, but adore me none the less. I do have sour patches, but I know in my heart that I’ve done enough to sweeten them before I gave up; no regrets there.

It was repeatedly mention that I do travel quite often and that helped me make peace and hope for more in the future.

To think about it, the most rewarding feeling was the realisation that I am happy. Inspite of all the things that I’ve not achieved, received, earned and created in comparison to my dream for myself. I’ve been blessed with more than I could have asked for.
Not everything has panned out the way I believed it would, somethings never even materialised. After all, what did I know then when compared to now?

I’ve lost people who I thought would last forever and have company in the ones whom I never thought I could understand.
Plans have changed multiple times. Some of them have felt like a train wreck, like hitting a dead-end with no where else to go. Very rarely does anyone ask me for my grades from high school and college, even though at the time it meant like the world depended on them. But everytime I meet somebody now, they want to know what I do; as do I about everybody.
Things that seemed like the indicators of the quality of my future at one point, seem so frugal now!

I still look for approval and validation every now and then, but I’m also learning to segregate the feedback. I’m learning to find it within myself rather than the world; and to the ones who are seeking it elsewhere, trust me pleasing and appeasing the universe inside yourself makes you more beautiful and appealing to the world outside of yourself.
To the 18 year old me I’m a grown up now, but today I’m still growing. I’m yet to make mistakes and learn new things about myself. I’m still setting goals and targets for my older self and setting my heart out to wander and understand itself better. I’m not perfect, but I know that there is no single universally accepted definition to perfect, either.

Making yet another time capsule for the next five years and allowing myself to be swallowed by the world. the world lead me. They say ‘Maturity is the price you pay for growing up’, I think I’m just keeping the child in me alive!

When you’re 20, you care what everyone thinks,When you’re 40, you stop caring what everyone thinks, When you’re 60, you realise no one was thinking about you in the first place.

-Winston Churchill

And this here feels like my theme song!

The Comedy Of Normalcy

“At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvellously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

“If you are always trying to be normal, you may never know how amazing you can be.”

-Maya Angelou

Each one of us is made of the most unique combination of cells, thoughts and personalities. I know I say it all the time, in different words but always the same meaning; and I am not scared of repeating myself because I truly believe so.
In light of this acknowledgement (or fact), it is only fair to say that we all have something that makes us stand out, in our own small and big ways, in this crowd of a 7.7 billion (and counting, literally!).
Lets proceed for once with the assumption, as the base, that you agree with my belief and believe in my thought too.

“I think every person has their own identity and beauty.
Everyone being different is what is really beautiful. If we were all the same, it would be boring.”

-Tila Tequila

With such uniqueness and distinctiveness, the world should be a ball of creativity, bursting with ideas; and yet there seems to be an increased need and pressure to be different and also difficulty in achieving the status of standing out from the rest.
Isn’t that intriguing? Isn’t that something worth being curious about?
There have been days I’ve had conversations at length, with myself or with the forces of this world and found myself increasingly lost rather than at peace.

E.E. Cummings once said that “To be nobody but yourself in a world doing its best to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human can ever fight and never stop fighting”.
Why do we have to struggle and battle for something that has been given to each one of us, so unconditionally?

Could it be that a select few, whom we know nothing of, have created a divide between crazy and acceptable?
We are usually so scared of accepting anything that isn’t what the majority follows that we label, shame and stereotype them. I’m not talking about the big taboos, I’m hinting at the smaller habits of everyday life, the hobbies one wishes to pursue, the things that one doesn’t like, the chores that the family divides, the way we address our kids or the things that we strongly say NO to without even a thought.

It’s funny how the normalcy that everyone wants to achieve is defined by someone we’ve never met and cannot quote. Its interesting how the world demands uniqueness and we are eager to judge the ones who are different and readily abandon them. And miraculously, we are coerced into being like everybody while still holding the volcanic potential of being somebody.
So, is normalcy what we achieve when we can’t achieve what we independently and personally want to achieve??
Isn’t it ironical?

Life’s no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe’s my own to fool with.”

-Murakami

Come on, I know we live in a society. And in order to survive we have to co-exist. And in order to co-exist we need harmony. And for harmony we need to co-ordinate or just be more alike.
But could it hurt so much to just replace our straight ‘No’ into a waited silence to hear them out??
After all, there is strength in diversity!

*The population estimate has been taken from World Population Clock

VALIDITY

Its necessary, but more from inside and almost never from the outside. Ironically we do the opposite.

In general, it is a criteria to measure the quality of any information. It is indicative of its logical and factual soundness.
Eg. “You make a valid point/argument.” or “There is no proof that validates your stories” (basically means that you think the person is lying).

In case of statistics and research, validity is understood as the extent to which the results or findings correspond to the actual reality.

To think of why this concept has made it to my choice of word for this week, it is because of something that I caught myself doing.
I willingly went ahead and undid my hour long effort because someone’s opinion of the outcome didn’t seem very positive towards it, even though I was convince that it was fairly good for the occasion.
I’m not saying that valuing and respecting someone’s opinion is wrong. But make sure its someone else’s opinion, not necessarily your reality!

Have you ever felt like you have used validation as a tool to measure your affection towards someone, or someone has used it for you? I know I have allowed people’s validation drive me from one task to the next.
It doesn’t confirm their love for me, but it sure makes me distant from who I am. And the worst part, when you pay attention to someone post validation, its never a long term result or unconditional love. It becomes a cycle- there is constant need to fit into the box or match a certain expectation.

The day I caught myself doing this and realised that their approval was not always bringing me happiness I decided to try and be more conscious of this and evaluate my actions.
After all, Life is too short to please everyone while making yourself uncomfortable and disconnected!