You never really think about age when you are younger, not until you hit the magic number 30. Then you start counting if you achieved the milestones society has set for all of us. Are you at least in a middle management role at your job? Are you in a stable marriage? Do you have at least one child? Do you have savings, fixed deposits, stock options and right mutual funds? Have you booked or bought your first house? Do you own a car? And the list goes on. Let me share something with you, when I hit 30 I had none of the above. I still don't have most of the above in my late 30s.
It can get scary to measure yourself with all these parameters and realize you haven't even started on these, or worst you failed miserably at some. The glass that usually is half full starts looking pretty empty. You start hating scrolling on social media, liking photos of peers who may have achieved all the goals, and at times you think, how the hell did this person get all this? In school or college the person might have been shy and quiet and no one really thought they would amount to anything and now you admire how far they have come. Or the person might have been rude, mean, a bully who was clearly stupid, and yet now they are showing off that fancy car.
I don't want to pretend that I am above all of these petty emotions or pangs of jealousy. As a normal human being I too am afflicted occasionally with these emotions, I have however learnt not to linger or indulge in them for long. But these thoughts do cross my mind.
Even before the quarantine began, several factors had led me to limit my social interactions. I started working from home more often and focusing on more productive activities like reading and writing more. This year removed whatever little social interactions I had and slowly a weird feeling started creeping in. I started feeling old, like I had lived all that was to be lived and was ready to retire. It may have been the virtual fatigue, too much online presence, lack of interaction or all of the above, but my mind was refusing to agree with my age. Somewhere I started thinking what is the point of anything, not in a depressive way but in a way of total acceptance. By society’s standards I have not achieved any kind of stability and the mind started weaving this story that now I just need to maintain life and not really aspire much, because even if things change it will be too little too late. And then, the US elections happened, and I got to know that the president elect, Joe Biden is 78 years old. Isn't that amazing? This man is about to enter the pinnacle of his career at 78.Way to put a twist on things.
A few days prior i needed convincing from a friend who said, hey you are young and have a lot left in life, and I sort of went “Huh, maybe that is true”. No matter how idealistic we think we are, we inevitably compare our life path with others. It is hard wired due to primal survival instincts. If you possess these things at the appropriate age, you are safe and secure. So like everyone else, I too take a trip down that slope one a while.
Then I think, everything is made up around us, isn't’ it? Society itself has been created as generation after generation humans layered their notions of time and age to create this illusion of a race. Maybe a couple of hundred years ago the average lifespan was 50 years and due to harsh living conditions, it was imperative to marry and procreate and create a safety net sooner than later. It amazes me that society still holds that age barometer true, when people are living longer on an average.
We all are fascinated by child prodigies, and geniuses that get PHDs at 15 years of age. We all want kinds who are highly evolved and over achievers, so much so, that some idiotic company has created coding classes for kids? I mean, for God sake, why? Is the purpose of life just to hit these milestones and then die? Even though intellectually we all understand that life has a bigger meaning, we all fall into the trap invariably. I did my masters in Biotechnology and we were taught that when women over 30 have kids, they kids are more prone to genetic disorders. I totally bought into this and I was approaching 30 and had no stable relationship, it felt like time was slipping away. Like I was losing my chance at motherhood and it put tremendous pressure on me and made me sad. It took a lot of introspection, reading, talking to other women to realize this was fear fuelled by society. I am still not in a relationship, but I no longer fear losing out of something in life, motherhood is not a desperate need anymore. On that front I have found peace, and the perspective or the lenses of society needed to be removed. I am aware of many women struggling with this very dilemma and it is not fair.
I now believe it is not even about moving the milestones, it is not about 40 is the new 30. It is about removing the milestones all together. You can have them if you want but they should not be generic, they need to be highly personal. I hope society can evolve one day into a more fluid state, with no age limits and no set expectations only then will we be truly free.
I give myself permission today to throw out all milestones in my life. I promise myself I will try and keep them out. Success in career, relationships, marriage, children, fixed deposits, houses, cars, none of these will define my worth or make me question my existence. I am here for a reason and I may never know it, but observing life and putting down flags of achievement where it makes sense to me is what I should be doing.
To all of you listening, if you are having a bad day due to society’s milestones, if they are making you question your life, if you are looking back and thinking it was a waste of time, I understand what you feel. Trust me, let those feelings flow, wallow in it for sometime, do not try and shrug them off. Come back in a day or two and read this again, write down things you have done that you are proud of no matter the value or worth society adds to it. And if you feel you haven't achieved anything, it is absolutely alright. Work towards what makes you happy, what resonates with your soul. It may be as simple as learning to swim or as complex as writing a book or as ambitious as owning a mansion or as simple as making more time to spend with your dog. If you want something, work towards it but keep expectations fluid. Understand that life happens, people leave you, there is a health situation or a financial crisis that needs attention and then the goals take a back seat, so do not attach age or time to them. Now don't become lazy and a couch potato and say Pooja told me to do nothing, ha ha. Never leave your karma in life, never stop trying, the karma or activities can be anything, talking to a friend who needs someone to listen, keeping a bird bath out in the yard, or doing your duties as a parent or caregiver. It can be any role, but keep doing something, let life unravel as, when and how it wants to.
Trusting a higher self and not trying to find meaning in everything is the crux.
Nowadays my inspiration for living in the moment is my little bird, Coco, he is a 7 month old cockatiel and he is very naughty. He loves sitting on my shoulder and if he wants attention he nips or bites my ear. I loudly say no and put him on the counter or the table away from me. For the first 2-3 seconds he looks at me with anger, immediately after that he finds something to chew on and is as happy as ever, in about 10 secs he flies back to my shoulder. He never thinks too much, never takes anything personally and is super chill. Our human minds are a blessing as well as a curse. We can have complex philosophical thoughts, or calculations that land us on the moon, but most of the times we forget to live life.
Take a deep breath right now and slowly release it, remove all thoughts and just be. Breathe in and out slowly, silence that mind with a mild smile on your face. Continue this for a few minutes and know that everything is alright, everything is as it was supposed to be, you are perfect the way you are. Ground yourself and keep repeating these lines. What helps me are the rampage videos by Abraham Esther Hicks on Youtube, to help center me when I am overwhelmed. Take care, gorgeous souls, I send you a lot of love and hope you disengage with society’s notions of age and time and embrace life.