It’s funny how birthday springs up every year in the flow of life being just what it is — a milestone for you to gaze upon and reflect on where you stand on your journey.

When one thinks of a journey, one’s thoughts immediately go either to how they have arrived where they stand right now or what their eventual destination shall be in the near future. Personally, I have found that thinking about future is a more stressful endeavor because one has to partake in many variables and the element of uncertainty puts many off, breaking trains of thought before they can pick up speed.

Nostalgia

Thinking about the past? That’s much easier.Be it embarrassing situations that you blush or facepalm at the moment they enter your consciousness to the events that make you smile. I won’t lie — I’m a very nostalgic person, I think about past as much as I think about the abstract (which is also quite a lot) and as it always has been the case, I’ve been thinking a lot about my past as my birthday draws near.

The most obvious observation that I make is — “the time has gone too fast” . I think this is true for anything but it’s an especially peculiar thing to say for one’s life. After all, my knowledge about “time” has been as long as my life. It would be odd for me to say that it has gone too fast.

However, I mean it in the sense that when we consciously perceive our age — in numbers — something which no other animal does (or is capable of) it’s only then do we become conscious of the time and how quickly it has sped past. Does our conscious perception of “age in numbers” make humans more nostalgic than others? In the absence of such numbers, we would really have no indicator of time and then where would we stand? Would we ceaselessly worry about what we have achieved and what we haven’t compared to our peers? Would we worry about time running out? I doubt any animal species worry as much about the “passage of time” as us humans do.

Fears

At 21, my fears haven’t really changed. I am still ceaselessly fearful that I’m wasting too much time doing nothing. When others — parents and peers — tell me I’ve achieved an appreciable amount for my age, I see it as shallow praise. It’s not that I don’t appreciate people praising me, but I find any words of encouragement that say “you’ve done enough” as unsatisfying.

I think part of the “competitive” attitude has been pushed into me by the environment I’ve grown up in. Born in the post-globalization era of India, I was among the millions others who had the entire world of opportunities to explore and an equally large volume of challenges to overcome.

The strange part is I don’t know if this “fear” of being left behind in this race I don’t even care about is a good or a bad thing. It is this “fear” which drives me to do things which I’d generally be too lazy to do. It makes me wake up till 3AM at night and finish stories or articles that I’m starting to pitch to editors. Create something that I can be proud of — now or someday when I’m old enough not to look down at my own creations. But, it is also this same “fear” that drives me mad — feeding my bipolar personality — swinging me from unbound joy into depression at a single chain of thought.

In about a year, I’ll probably have to make my life’s “biggest” decision. While my peers decide between GRE or a job after graduation, I have to decide exactly what I want to do. I have a fair idea — a couple of options — I think they are entirely viable but another fear permeates at this point.

I’m scared of being stuck doing something I won’t like. Interests and passions are fickle in nature and if entire mountains and course of rivers can change over years, then what is a mere human? It might seem like a naive fear but at the point where I stand — at this milestone of Twenty-One that fear seems valid in my eyes.

I can see people around me satisfied with dreams of a secure job which is more than what they ask for in this uncertain financial environment. I kinda wish I had dreams as simple as theirs. It’s not like money isn’t of importance to me. It’d be stupid to ignore money but it simply isn’t the No.1 priority in my eyes.

I envy those who excel at a specific skill and they can be confident about their future too. I consider myself to be a jack of all trades, master of none. If you know me even a little bit, you’ll know that such a saying would be quite apt for me.

Parents and Childhood Dreams

I think it isn’t surprising to see that the only people who remain excited about your birthday over the years are your parents. If you have a healthy relationship with your parents like I do (shame on you if you don’t, give them a call and tell them how much you love them!) then such excitement never fails to bring a smile on your face.

As I look at them, all those years of my childhood where they were with me in every moment — smiling over me, watching over me as I grew into what I am today. *I swear my eyes were wet as I was typing this*

I know many like giving credit to what they become to their ownselves. It’s a fair action but one cannot overlook the influence one’s parents have on you. I still recall those days when my Dad used to take all of us to an eatery on my birthday only because it was the only place in my vicinity that had a Street Fighter II Turbo arcade machine.

I still recall the day when my Mom took me to a library and bought its membership for me when I was eight. She isn’t as fluent with English and she didn’t want the same for me. She wanted me to read books and possibly write one someday. Even when I wrote short stories at nine — a kid writing about weird space adventures — both of them were the ones who showered me with words of praise and encouragement. I think if they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have pursued my literary passion and without that I wouldn’t be as proud of who I am today.

I still recall the dreams I used to have back when I was twelve. I couldn’t remember the dream I had last night, but I remember what I used to dream back then. How strange is that? It’s as if my mind is still stuck somewhere in a time vacuum of a place where I shall eternally be the twelve-year old dreaming about going on adventures and solving mysteries just like in Enid Blyton novels.

thinking

Existential Realization

It is then that I finally realize the question I had been pondering over lately. Over birthdays becoming less important for us and more for others– either because we’re jaded or because we’re special for others.

I think the latter makes me realize that among life’s many objectives — one of them happens to be “being special for others”. Be it being a friend you can always stick for, being a son that makes your parents proud or a lover who will always be there for you.

Till now, I had seen the “selfish” side of humans. I had believed that *everything* that we do in life is for validation. Money. Job. Anything that we put effort into is an effort to seek validation. It’s only people who are already famous who say “I don’t like fame”. Every human wants to be appreciated for what he does. Nobody wants to go to a remote countryside hut, make dozens of masterpieces and die only to be forgotten.

We are all on a quest to become “immortal”.  We all know that we cannot escape from time nor death, so the only option that is left with humans is to immortalize themselves somehow. Most of us either tend to achieve it by creating something that shall last beyond our grave — an artistic creation, a scientific discovery or even an architectural structure. We also achieve it by becoming part of the “cherished” memory of others. I think it is this “selfless” part that I have overlooked till this point. That perhaps, in their selfish attempt to immortalize themselves, humans do make a brief attempt to become special in someone else’s memory. Chances are they will live beyond us — generally our kids — and we shall continue living in their memory.

In a year filled with proud achievements, first break-up, ascending on the popularity charts (again!) and the death of my beloved grandfather, I think such a thought is an apt way to finish this rather personal and introspective blog with.

Regards.

Ansh

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