At the time I’ve begun writing this post, I am exactly ten days away from what is supposed to be a milestone in one’s life. My ‘coming-of-age’, my so-called transition into adulthood. Except I don’t think it’s birthday-related, it’s a very gradual thing. In some ways, I’ve been an adult (although who really knows what connotations the word ‘adult’ even holds anymore?) for a while, and in others, I shall remain a child till I die. Arguing semantics is pointless, so I shall move on.
Before I turned 18, I had all sorts of things in mind for myself, my life, and, generally speaking, where I saw myself, ‘x’ years from now.
At the risk of sounding like a prematurely middle-aged, disgruntled old man, I was a young girl then, full of hopes and dreams and all sorts of wishes that I wanted to fulfil, unfettered by anything that came my way. There’s a kind of mental freedom and peace that comes only with childhood and youth, the kind you can see in children’s shining eyes as they run out to play, or even just smile.
It’s a kind that,unfortunately, is extremely fragile.
Personally, I singularly admire people who have been able to keep their childlike innocence intact as they’ve grown older – it’s one way to keep yourself sane. ( A great-aunt of mine still enjoys playing on swing sets and eating ice-cream as sloppily as she feels like, or just laughing at anything even remotely funny, and she’s one of the happiest people I know.)
18-year-old me wrote to herself, three years ago, about how she hated being the fat cow everybody made fun of, about being a doormat and generally being laughed at, and I’m proud of the fact that two out of those three are problems I no longer face, because I chose to do something about them, however slowly I may have done it notwithstanding.
19-year old me wrote something, too. Except it wasn’t remotely sad, perhaps a little pensive, and ridden with regular old teenage-angst, but in a great way. As I reread what I wrote back then, I’m pretty jealous of Anu at 19, sipping her wine and enjoying her music in complete peace and quiet. I still like to spend my weekends that way, but while the ‘quiet’ is there, I’m not so sure about the peace. Perhaps the lunatic is in my head.
There were all sorts of ‘things’ I hadn’t done, stuff I generally treated like a to-do list. Now that I’m ‘done’, so to speak, with most of them, I wish there had been some way to let my 19-year-old self know that it was nice, sure, but not as earth-shattering as she thought it would be, that all those things come and go, and aren’t really a big deal. Or even a small one.
Something that makes me rather sad is how, through the years, I’ve been searching, blindly, for some form of mooring, something to hold on to, emotional security, perhaps. I’ve struggled with my self-esteem for years, my living circumstances don’t exactly help matters, and as it happens, I seem to have been searching for it in all the wrong places. Somewhere in my cynical, crabby old-maid mind, there’s still a little girl who wants to be happy and giggly sometimes, I think, but she can’t, because she’s forgotten how.
Moving back to me at 19, I remember that as being one of the best years of my (not exactly very long) life to date. I discovered more about myself than I had ever discovered in all those 18 years before it. (Not all of it was good stuff, but I enjoyed it.) That year, I got into fights, got out of them, made new friends and lost some, and learned a whole spectrum of lessons along the way.
That year, I devoted to me, and my own happiness; I ended up meeting some of the nicest, warmest, most genuine people I’ve ever met in my entire life, I experienced silly, teenage puppy love for the first time ever (and of course, as teenagers are wont to do, took it far too seriously at the time) , and felt something I hardly ever feel, even today – emotionally secure, and cared for.
There’s this incident I recall from back then, one that gets me sort of choked up, when I allow myself to feel sappy – I’d been down with the flu for a couple of days, and hadn’t been answering my cellphone, a few days before my birthday. My folks back home panicked because they’d been trying to call me, so they called this friend of mine, who also decided to panic, and ended up taking the next train to my apartment, waking me up, and taking me to lunch.
I nagged him to go see a chocolate store I’d wanted to visit for a long, long time – neither of us knew how to get there, but we ran into the pouring rain and caught a bus nevertheless – a bus that ended up being something out of a sketch on SNL – two grown adults retching at the back of the bus, a grown woman wailing at the top of her lungs, and a screaming man, in a bus that seemed to have been scented with Eau de Urinal.
A hop off the crazy bus and about 20 train stops later, we finally got there, only to find it was closed. We ended up laughing at our own predicament. ForEVER. (We still do.)
(That was also a great day in many other ways – I bought my 6-foot-tall, Official, Return of the Jedi poster that day, my first Abbey Road poster, and a huge one of Queen, all of which are still in my room. It was NOT easy bringing them back home.)
He’s the same friend whom I spent my 19th birthday with, at a Pizza Hut in the middle of town, and the same guy who made me dinner and whose shirts I slept in when I was moving house, and someone I knew for two years before we both moved abroad, to the same country – within 5 minutes of each other, in fact.
I’d been dreading my birthday that year, because it was going to be my first one away from home, away from town, my friends, everybody I knew- I wasn’t really sure how to deal with that, because while I’m used to being alone, and quite enjoy my peaceful solitude, I get lonely sometimes. Except, the morning of my birthday (which sadly is not a holiday anywhere but India and Australia), I walked into an Economics lecture to a box of fresh chocolate chip cookies, and a bottle of my favourite lotion (I still have the bottle, with a tiny little gob of lotion at the bottom still in it, because I’m a creepy, sentimental hoarder) from one of my favourite people there, one of the people that helped me get through all sorts of things, somebody who’s been through so very much herself. That was pretty much the only tangible ‘present’ I got that year, but the cliché is true – it’s the thought that counts, and that in itself was the real present. In my past. (tee hee.)
That was also the year I began getting fit again, after allowing myself to grow up a cow (now the workers have struck for fame?), and generally having had 8 pretty shitty years. I finally began being able to like myself (at least it was a start.), and met others who had been through or were going through similar stuff, searching for their own little bubble to stagnate in, their own port-of-call, as it were. I’ve watched a friend, somebody I love, find all the happiness she’d ever wanted, in the span of a year. When I met her, two years later, she was just as happy, if not happier, and I realised that even if I hadn’t found that elusive ‘happiness’ for myself, it made me feel good that somebody I cared for was happy. I have since gone on to feel a little bit happier every time somebody I care about finds whatever they’re looking for, wherever they’re looking for it.
One thing that’s remained constant, though, is the fact that everywhere I go (barring school, possibly the worst 14 years of my life with respect to social interaction), I’ve had people look out for me, just like that. That’s one of the things I want to celebrate this year. Even though I don’t get to talk to them as often as I’d like (for various reasons), they know I care about them, and I know they care about me. [ This, however, is something I need to perfect, because I still get skittish sometimes, something that I choose to blame on my Bipolar.] I just need to keep reminding myself that they’re there for me in spirit.
(Ground control to Major Tom!)
19-year-old-me was one smart cookie – she knew she had amazing people in her life, ones who were going to stay there, and was going to meet more awesome people anyway, which she has.
I just wish I had her self-esteem, because I shall grudgingly admit I haven’t much at this point in time, for various reasons, and I’m not as good at coping with stress (but maybe that came with growing older, even though it seems, logically, that it should be the other way around).
This birthday, I still find myself wishing for some of the things piny 18-year-old me wished for, perhaps, but more than anything else, I find myself wishing for the self-esteem and confidence I had two years ago, possibly because I was just, quite simply, happy. I hope to find some semblance of peace of mind this year, some mental stability, because I know that barring all that fluff and all those issues, I’m still that intellectual epicurean Beatlemaniac, that ‘creative, kooky, curly-haired weirdo’ I was yakking about in ’09- a person I’m very proud of being.
I’ve just got to find her again, buried under miles of cynical crabby woman.
It isn’t easy, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try – that’s my birthday present to myself. My birthday resolution, if you will. To begin caring for myself, stop waiting for my family to love me, and be my own damn family.
And while another year of discovering myself comes to an end, another one is just beginning, so I’m going to turn and face the strain, and get some real good living done in the process.
Yet again, thank you to everybody who’s in my life and reading this. Like every year, I’ve met amazing people, which is a relief. I love you guys.
Oh, and a Happy Birthday to a certain Mr. Van Halen out there.
I shall end this extensive rant with the words of someone far older, wiser, and sexier than I shall ever be –
Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.