On the wrong side of 30
There are many downsides of ageing but none can touch the helpless nerve of being proven wrong again and again and again and again by the world. Too many mistakes, way too many learnings. End result? A deafening piece of silence. The whole process is so tiring that after a while, you realize that nothing is entirely true except a conclusion that you are an idiot. Fortunately, nobody asks us to wear a L-sign on our forehead to designate our internship at life. Besides, you look back and draw the patterns; you went to kindergarten (my favourite word of German origin) followed by a decade of school (how many school friends are you in touch with on a regular basis?) and then 5–6 more years of college (how many love-at-first-sights do you remember and how many of them are your passwords?) followed by job-hopping (you are still at it, aren’t you, you silly rabbit?). Why did you do that or are still doing this? Parents? Society? Peers? Well, they are all scapegoats for your convenience. We do a lot of things for others, not because we want to, but because we don’t know better. Once wisdom dawns on us, we know better but we still continue to do stuff we don’t essentially want to.
For instance, a part of you wants to be a fisherman but you don’t see yourself quitting your comfy job or jeopardizing your so-called career by making a rash move. How about this: If somebody were to inform you that you’re dying in exactly 6 years, would you still continue to go through your current mundane rut? Won’t you quit everything that you don’t really enjoy but are conditioned to by the nexus that you can’t do without? Most probably, the answer is yes. Most probably, the first thing you’ll do is google how to get yourself a boat. That’s reprioritization of priorities.
You understand almost everything that is happening around you, which directly or indirectly involves you. You are paying EMI for a house that you are least interested in owning. You drive a car that spends more time stuck in traffic than in movement. You waste more than you need and you don’t actually have a clue how much you need. You’ve embraced materialism tighter than Modi embraced Obama. You don’t want to be left alone in the race to own the latest iPhone. Your habits are slowly killing you but you’re alright with the arrangement. You don’t debate how much your lungs hate you for torturing it with cigarettes. As if the polluted air wasn’t enough of an ordeal already! But you do what you’ve got to do. None of the realizations mean anything as long as you live in the moment. The only problem here being that smoky Marlboro drag you took is too tiny a bet to hang on to when the bigger picture summons you to take the biggest leap of faith.
“No, thank you,” you say and move on to lamer pursuits of happiness.
Years pass by and then one morning, you wake up to find that you’re crossed 30. You console yourself by upping your accomplishments against the quagmire of your failures. You hate birthday cakes as much as the foolish custom of blowing candles and plastering your spittle on the frosting. But you don’t let anyone know. It’s OK. Everybody, which includes you as well as the ones rubbing cake on your beard, is on the same boat. None of us discuss our childhood dreams during office lunch. We’ve accepted a few of the core realities of the world we’ve created for ourselves. We know there are lot who’d even kill to be where we are, especially given the lack of basic amenities they deal with on a daily front. Nothing is fair and we know it. While we waste water, electricity and other modern subsidized gifts, they struggle to get through. And this imbalance fosters a numbing indifference in us instead of an outward altruism. That’s the deal we’ve signed with the devil.
During the rise of the Roman Empire, average life expectancy was 30. It was 34 in Ethiopia of the 1950s and 45 in Saudi Arabia of the 1960s. Syria is at 55 today and India, 65. That’s not to suggest that those who’ve crossed the rubicon of 30 have wasted half their life. Living gets either better or worse with time. The point is to stay alive; to live long enough to master the art of committing unique mistakes. Dying is not the answer; it’s a lousy escape route. The most important thing was, is and will always be the desire to stay alive. Nothing else comes close. Once you die, you are out of the picture. The planet shall keep spinning round and round without you. You’ll be missed for a bit by a few and that’s about it. Assholes will continue to rule the world. Starbucks will continue to misspell names. Tesla will continue to push human thresholds. Majority of our species will remain stupid and kind at heart too. But you won’t be able to witness any of it if you checked out sooner than required.
And that’s my learning from the first three decades of breathing without fail.