An antidote to growing up and ‘adulting’

Life may have its share of holes, absences and losses, yet we are always growing around and between the gaps, and in multiple ways

Published - January 13, 2019 12:05 am IST

190112_Open page Growth

190112_Open page Growth

Have you ever wondered if sheep itch in their own wool? I think about this sometimes whenever I squirm in my own skin.

I was looking through memos and odd notes scribbled in my journal a few days before my twenty-fifth birthday. While I was at it, I was also listening to my favourite songs that were getting to my heart. I found a pressed chrysanthemum that a team-mate left on my table alongside a note after a tough day at work. It had turned brown at the edges and had stained the pages. There was a brown paper mat from a restaurant in Delhi with a Matryoshka-look-alike Burmese doll printed on it. I had saved it in three neat folds. There was a museum pamphlet from Phnom Penh and some scribbling in red ink by a person I had befriended there. While I was running my fingers along the rough edges of a Mumbai local train ticket, probably from a ride that we took together, I started thinking about work, a credit card application, and my shirt that needed some mending.

Also, a few more less urgent things bothered me, such as books I have been meaning to read, trips that I have been planning to make, and relationships that were springing into existence, or fading from memory. And suddenly I stopped feeling at home in my skin, or in the very room I was living in.

I just wanted home, but going back to ma’s would not have felt like home either. I remembered that until a few months ago before work started, there used to be the comfort of a few numbers in my phone, ears that listened every day, arms that had the warmth of the world.

I felt trapped in nostalgia, in that realisation that I will not be this young ever again while it was the first time I had ever been that old. I could not remember how I got from 15 to here. It lasted for five minutes and I snapped out of it.

Have you ever reflected on how some periods of growth are so baffling? We often fail to realise and recognise that growth is indeed happening. A few weeks ago I decided to visit my undergraduate school. Homecoming never gets old, does it? Four years have passed, but the place still feels the same. The sunlight streaming through the same colourful, tinted café panes, the cats in the café ruins that have bred and grown older, the familiar smell of freshly cut grass in the residence hall lawns, the same red-painted walls and green benches in the front lawns, the laughter in the gazebo, and hands warming around coffee cups. Not a lot had changed, and in that moment I became conscious of the ways I have grown and changed over the last few years. Growth has indeed happened.

I believe there is nothing like going back to a place that has remained impervious to time, only to find ways in which we ourselves have been altered.

But, in the absence of that realisation, we end up feeling hostile, angry or even sad. It barely occurs to us unless we stumble on a book, or a friend who explains it to us that we are in the course of growing, of becoming kind and better human beings. While life may be full of holes, absence and losses, we are always growing around and between the gaps.

So I am taking time out from the hubbub of life. I am taking time out to rediscover things that encourage me, people who move me.

I am giving in less to the convenience and comfort of having a routine. I walk up to a stranger in the Metro who is reading a forgotten Hindi comic and start a conversation. I buy carnations for friends I meet rarely as well as regularly. I write letters and cards often and let people know I remember them.

I hold doors for strangers and smile at them even when I do not feel like it and refrain from being angry when they do not thank me. I chase a runaway ball down the road and throw it back to children playing gully cricket. Almost always, these gestures are an effort and occasionally they go against my grain, but each time I make them I feel a little more happy.

I am beginning to take time to heal, to learn. Life still moves me and confuses me. Of the things I experience, I will fail to come to terms with some of them, while many others will inspire me. Of the people I love, some I may lose but some will choose to stay. As the year ends, I am measuring it by the number of times I have felt warm and fuzzy after finishing a book, the number of strangers and acquaintances who became my friends, the number of times I have done more than sitting around and complaining.

I hope with every passing year I find myself becoming a person who loves without hesitation and never shies away from feeling, a person who believes in the goodness of people, the softness of the world. I hope you do that too.

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