On turning 40
When I turned forty the other day, I checked for feelings or changes that would have marked this milestone but I didn’t perceive any. I’m not surprised. In spite of the plethora of thoughts and jokes on turning forty–which I quoted many times as Facebook status updates, I have no earth-shaking insights to impart to anybody.
Whatever I learned, I learned from my experiences in the last 39 years–good and bad (especially the bad). And because each of us go through a unique set of experiences, my learning will most likely not be useful to anybody but me. I wish I can say something profound that will enrich your minds, readers of this blog. But I’m afraid I might disappoint on this endeavor. I think, the best I can do with what I will share is to tug at your heart-strings, arouse empathy, and strengthen your regard for other people’s imperfections.
Families are very important. No matter how embarrassing some of them are. It’s good to have people who have your back when you need them. Of course they will judge you and try to change you. They think they know what is right–even best, for you. And they will waste no time in letting you know that. But when they’re done judging you and being mad at you, they will also love you no matter what. There will also be times when you find families outside of your blood relations.
Friends are equally important. Not in terms of quantity but of quality. Unlike our biological family, being friends with someone takes a conscious and thought-out decision. Of course, no selection method is fool-proof; some of our friends will turn out to be mistakes. We will be mistakes to some of our other friends as well. But that’s fine. Choosing friends is like choosing clothes: some will work, others will not. But you’ll never know unless you try. I’d rather have a few true and cherished friends than a hundred of casual acquaintances. It’s okay not to pretend you like someone for the sake of being gracious. It’s okay not to please everybody.
Going into a relationship is like choosing friends. The risk is much bigger, though, as it requires more emotional investment. Do aim to please, but do remember that you are also entitled to be pleased in equal measure. Otherwise, what is the point? After all, physical intimacy is not the only currency of a relationship. Do not enter into a relationship unless you have a strong sense of self. Do not lose this sense even if the romantic temptation to do so seems too strong to resist. Because when it’s is over, you will have to revert to what you were before the relationship and if have nothing to go back to coping with this loss will be extremely difficult. It takes a lot of work but when a relationship works, the reward is immense. It’s also okay not to be in a relationship. Being single is not a reflection of your being lovable.
As I was writing these, I remembered talking about the same things with a friend a long time ago. I was in my twenties and dealing with some personal crisis the nature of which I vaguely remembered now. What I remember is my different stance on the recently discussed matters. I have changed my mind about many things as I grew older. For the better? I’m not really sure. But I have changed, definitely. It didn’t happen overnight, as I crossed the threshold between being 39 and 40, but as the years went by, as my life experiences piled up, as life itself happened to me.
And from now on, who knows how much more I will change as I continue to live?