For the longest time now, I have pondered: Is life happening to me or I am happening to life? Is life like a train track that I must run on, puffing steam and chugging, to end up at my final destination? If I think so, then life is undeniably a journey unfolding for me. Or is life being left in the middle of the sea and being asked to swim ashore, in whichever way I choose? Because then life is an open-ended question that has no answer; only the weight of a thousand explanations pulling it in different directions.
I look back and try to comprehend my transformation. It seems that all these years, I have been tumbling down a long tunnel – and a fairly crooked one at that. At times, I have slipped as smoothly as sand through fingers; at times I’ve been as stuck as chocolate chips in a smoothie straw. I have never stopped though. It’s impossible to. Nobody can.
Intense. That’s one suitable word for growing up. Childhood was dreamy enough to turn me into a creature of another realm, feet ever so slightly lifted off the ground. It was another plane of existence – mind swirling with the stories I’d read, eyes sharp for the quirks in people, ears receptive to the unsaid in the words uttered, lips to form words of naive wisdom, feet to carry me places where I could then take off on my imaginary adventures and hands – well, to put food in my mouth. Kid’s got to eat after all!
There was passion, oh yes! There was ignorance to the point of blindness. There was sadness too but it was never permanent. There was life – and no layers to it. No hidden meanings. Things were what they seemed, and they seemed as they were. There were impulses but they were selfish. And in being so, they were selfless. Because nothing was second hand; couldn’t possibly have been. My opinions were my own. My needs weren’t linked to anyone else’s. They were there, as stark as the sky – changing but never going away.
Slowly and gradually, it all went away. I learnt there were people who were great, greater and greatest. They were bad, worse and gods forbid you ran into any of these – the worst. It was good because everyone said so, that was bad because nobody liked to talk about it. There were shimmering displays of distinctiveness that cleansed the mind of all past, borrowed evil but the uncertainty of what’s next sugar-coated with the optimism of the inevitable tomorrow made sure I moved on, never relishing myself far too long. The world had the advantage of being old, terribly old. Already dead too, at times. I was too young to understand and question it. I always will be too young.
That time, the cynic in me would have celebrated the fall of the world as it stands today. I would have burst forth as lava from a volcano’s mouth and burnt everything around. Only now, I feel as if I erupted long ago. In fact, I erupted every day there was someone around to blame. But now I find myself alone. I am peaceful. I have quieted and cooled; I can pick my way from here among the ashes. I don’t feel as embittered. I can love, and forgive. I have understood always, but now I can let myself be a part of it. I can empathize far more effectively because I’ve allowed myself moderation. Idealism is intact in my head but it just doesn’t feel like I’m fighting a losing battle anymore. The role of the observer and analyst doesn’t suit me as much now; there are things to be experienced and felt too. Feels like blending in and it feels good. The melancholy music of a Greek tragedy seems redundant as the background score – the need to march on relentlessly, quashing my weaknesses is gone. And what a wonderful time to realize this! I have been shot out of that narrow tunnel into an open field. The world lies at my feet and there is sunshine for miles around. I can see things clearly. And I can sense the time it’d take to reach them. It’s a giant catalog where I can pick the things I’d like; only they won’t land in my lap because I can pay for them, they’ll be mine because I can learn to work towards them. I don’t feel anxious to please because there is nobody stopping me from doing it. I don’t feel like doing so much I thought I would because there’s no resistance, nothing that wants me to push back and prove a point. Instead, I feel like doing things that seem meaningful, that’ll make my life richer because I think they will. I think they’ll make me a better person and honestly, that’s all I want to be now. I love the many, many layers and I don’t want to end up perfecting just one of them.
I have finally undone the braid of my existence. Life and World – they are two different things. The world is what happens to me, and life is when I happen to the world. It just waits for me, biding its time. It always has.