2018 relaunch afterthought: This post was written before “the events of 2012” (me becoming a domestic violence survivor) – almost exactly 6 months before that night that changed my life forever – and, looking back, I am so in awe (both in good and bad ways) of the person who wrote the below…
When I was in my 20’s, when single women in their 30’s would say things like “just wait, your 30’s are the best time of your life,” I am not going to lie but I always felt a pang of “awe” for them because it felt like a need-to-say-so-that-you-feel-better-about-your-life cliched type of thing because – let’s keep it real – that couldn’t possibly be true.
& now that I am past the always exciting “Hoorah!” of turning the big 3-0 and am in my “early 30’s,” I know that the expected thing to say in this post would be YES, your 30’s are the best time of your life, but I will not say that because I haven’t lived long enough to give an accurate assessment but more than that, I ideally believe that the best time of your life is not any particular decade or some time that you wax nostalgic about but the moment that we are in now, because shoot, we are just lucky to be here (something I remind myself of often because I know at least 20 under-30 somethings – either directly or indirectly – who aren’t here today).
Having said all that, what I actually believe is that the best time of your life is when you are most comfortable and confident in your own skin, voice and being which means you do not apologize for who and how you are (unless you do something that is really worthy of an apology) and not only understand what is really important to you in the grand scheme of life but have internalized that so that your actions and entire being line up with your values and what you ultimately want.
So when then was the best time of my life? Taking the answer of “now b/c I am alive” out of the picture, I have 2 best times. One lasted for a really long time… all the way from birth to 21 years old. It was a great stretch, and I used to think that what made it great was that it was tons of fun, I got along with almost everyone/was seemingly well-liked, & things generally seemed to go my way/in my favor. However, looking back I realize that those 21 years (let’s say 16 because my first memories of having a personality are at age 5) were not “the best of times” because of any of those things but that those things were simply the positive side effects of being completely free.
The kind of freedom I am talking about is one where you are not in your head about what “other people think”… that you are self-expressed and able to speak your mind freely… instead of mulling over the infinite outcomes to any situation, you take risks and leap (often stupidly) ahead… & that you know who you are, what you stand for, and are completely yourself with no apologies or excuses. People who knew me in high school/college can attest to the fact that I was bold (often to the point of absurd – see below for my unique outfit choice to a friend’s Sweet 16)…
I know some of you are thinking less “bold” and more “out of your mind” which is fair after seeing the above, but clothing aside some other actually bold things I did (at least IMO & especially in comparison to how I am now) were…. in high school, I ran against a senior for president of a new club that was forming and won and during my senior year, I asked 2 girlfriends to do an Indian dance (my first attempt at choreographing a group dance) with me for our Senior Variety Show; it would be the first cultural performance the school would have seen and my friends were all for it until the day before tryouts when they backed out. In spite of having to try out for the Student Council (read: the most popular folks of all my peers), I went in and tried out by myself and once selected, my 2 friends rejoined me.
In my first week of undergrad, I got up in front of my entire class and told them that I was running for class president, won & stayed president for 4 years and as a freshman who knew no Indians, I randomly went up to 4 girls at the India Club’s first meeting and asked them if they wanted to be in my dance. They did, it got one of the coveted spots of 2nd to last dance of our show & kicked off 4 years of the best dancing I have ever done. During my first stretch of the “best time of my life,” I also spoke up for underdogs and myself when I needed to; I think I mentioned this in another post but some people in undergrad disliked me because even though from sophomore year on I always choreographed dances with one of my best friends, I was the voice/coordinator of our groups.
As the voice, people hated on me because after dance-offs for song selections and try-outs to be in/placement in the show (yes, BU was pretty hardcore about their cultural shows), our group would get the song of our choice and picked to be the grand finale of the show. People felt that we were (more like I was b/c no one ever hated on her) “monopolizing the shows” but what they said or how they treated me did not make me say “ok, we will not compete for the song that we want and if we get selected for the grand finale, we’ll refuse so someone else can have a chance.” Dancing was my passion, nothing compared to the feeling I got when performing on stage, & I knew that whether it was the song of our choice or placement in the show, we were being selected fairly, so I was unapologetic and went on my merry way.
I know that many people who did not know me then and just read the above might be imagining a cocky person who was ruthless or did not care about people and although my saying this really doesn’t mean much, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I beyond cared about people, have always been a (in my & most people’s opinions) nice person and never was obnoxious or arrogant in my pursuits; I just did not let what other people think get to me which resulted in 16 years of complete self-expression. That was who I was and once I graduated from undergrad, that person slowly started to disappear (I am sure I could come up with some reasons why but I am not really sure) resulting in my mid-to-late 20’s not being anywhere close to the best of times.
During that stretch of time, I got completely consumed with what other people thought, lost confidence in my voice (I would’ve rather done anything other than express myself at the fear of what people thought/rocking the boat), & I couldn’t be further away from the girl who without a care in the world (read: inappropriately but blissfully) wore a leopard print dress to her best friend’s birthday or who got up in front of hundreds of people to speak her mind.
To say that my last 2 years have been an evolution or more like a pursuit of my “original self” would be an understatement. To give you some background about my experience in Chicago, I really did not know very many Indian folks until the summer of 2009 which was when I infiltrated (& seriously, that’s how it went down) the desi scene. I celebrated my 30th birthday in the biggest way possible – my family, friends from all over & a good portion of the local Indian community came out for it – and I felt good about where I was (socially at least). However, that was a really shallow good because although there was never any conscious thought around it, it revolved around who I knew, what I was being invited to, and how much people seemed to “like me.”
Then big things happened like… I started my blog and when it blew up for a couple of months in the middle of last year, everyone had an opinion about it (have you ever noticed that most people who have positive thoughts hardly ever share them but almost everyone who has negative ones/unsolicited feedback does?)… I let people’s opinions – either those I heard directly or that “friends” insisted on telling me for “my sake” – really get into my head (hence the excessive warnings about length & other disclaimers in all my posts)… I got laid off (anyone who has experienced that knows how much that rocks your world and forces you to introspect), moved back home to MD and eventually went on my own “Eat Pray Love” (more like Eat, Eat, Eat with a helping of Pray even though I’m not remotely religious but know/am obsessed with all of the stories) type of journey and spent 4 months of last year in the motherland… and as most of you know I moved back to Chicago in April of this year.
Although these past 6 months in Chicago have been spent getting my footing again and essentially re-infiltrating the “scene” (saying that word nauseates me because although people see me as Ms. Social Butterfly, that is the last thing I care to be) and I have had a blast, I am kicking off this new year of me having learned a lot about myself and welcoming back my once upon a time, out of my head and completely self-expressed without caring what anyone (other than myself) thinks self and looking forward to my second – however, this time with no end date – “best time.”
More on what I have learned in a future post and, until then, thanks always for reading.
Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again. ~ Menachem Mendel Schneerson
We turn not older with years, but newer every day. ~ Emily Dickinson
For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. ~ Fr. Alfred D’Souza
I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. ~ Diane Ackerman
To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions. ~ William James
Thanks for sharing your thoughts SM, I enjoyed reading it. Happy Birthday 🙂
Thanks Jignya for reading & for the sweet b-day wishes!