Life is fragile.
Life is momentous.
Every day, every moment we have is a divine blessing.
A couple of months into the twinkling 30s, I get this feeling of being way more grounded and certain in my own ways, especially in terms of my own set of non-negotiables in life.
All this certainty is of course before giving in to the quarter-life social conditioning despite the longest and toughest resistance I could have mustered.
But then again, there is so much that I would not have learnt, that I would not have realized, that I couldn’t have figured out about how to fix about my behaviour and being in entirety, had I not blindly followed the community-approved ways and means for a brief phase of life. The bits and pieces I so absolutely and definitely treasure about myself would probably have been missing, or a delayed find.
The beauty is that this paradoxical set of experiences is not unique to me. This is what we all go through in some phase of our lives. I am truly blessed with people and places and circumstances that have made me the person I am today. And since I would not trade off my present self for any other, maybe I don’t get to complain either about everything leading up to this woman I am becoming in the thoughtful 30s. That would be unfair somehow in my books. So, here’s sharing my list of “30 Life-Lessons at 30”.
Treading into the 4th decade of life, these remain my four core non-negotiables:
- Health – the spine that upholds our entire being, that sustains us throughout all our life responsibilities and aspirations.
- Spirituality – the driving force of life, the soul of our otherwise banal existence.
- Purpose – the intention that offers our social existence substantial meaning.
- Value – the core actions that translate our purpose into our irreplaceable individuality, the value we get to add to the world.
- Your health, your medical situation, deserves attention and needs as much tending to as the doctors say it does. A medical situation is not a weakness. It is not a strength either. It is neither a limitation nor a motivation. It just is. The whole “so many people have it worse than me” or “I could have been worse off” narratives do not actually help you to deal with it. Yes, it may sound like a considerable enough thought momentarily. But it is more harmful than medicinal in the long run. It could make you so complacent to your condition that you would not be in the mind space to help yourself and that is, as harsh as it may sound, suicidal in the larger view of life. Look at your situation just as it is. Accept what is normal for you. Accept your individualistic medical, physiological, and emotional needs; and design a life that lets you live with it, peacefully and contentedly.
- The honesty and simplicity in our personal relationships affect our emotional and physical well-being way more than we can ever imagine. And every relationship, each and every bond we share with every person we come across in life, platonic or romantic, needs work, needs mutual intentions, expectations, and efforts. It is not about dividing up a 100% between the 2 persons involved. It is about each person putting in their 100% through each phase of the relationship.
- Staying committed to self-growth is to be felt, not necessarily showcased. The externally observable facts are often too subtle to even expect anyone else to notice. Only you would know. And that is enough. Self-growth is called SELF-growth for a reason. It is for yourself. Also, good enough is indeed good enough.
- “When you realize you don’t make enough sense by virtue of reasons and facts, start speaking gibberish louder” is the motto of many. The false assurance of fake accomplishments of sorts may serve as an ego boost. You can consciously step away. Anger is fine, so long as it finds some constructive purpose and most importantly, only as long as it is communicated with respect. Having said that, anger is strength, yes. But, calmness of mind is a superpower. Keeping your cool is protecting your health.
- You will not always be proud of what you do, how you behave, or the random thoughts that pass through your mind in a fleeting moment. Judge yourself. Tell yourself off. But then, forgive yourself too. Why do you deserve to forgive yourself? Because you are sitting there judging yourself for not living up to your own standards even when no one else even noticed what just happened! So, give yourself grace, and let that self-love transcend this post-event mindfulness to a pre-action meditation.
- [Disclaimer: When it comes to relationships, I firmly believe “to each their own”. I respect others’ opinions and ways of life, but only as long as they let their opinions decide their own life, and only their own life. I do not expect my views on relationships to be the accepted rule any more than I expect myself to live by conventional or trending norms.] Do not let the media, some fascination,(mis)perceptions of some other culture or anything of the sort decide whether you get sexually involved with someone. Live strictly by your own choices and desires, go only as far as you can handle at any given phase of your life, with the person concerned. The question is: Does this person want someone, or does this person want you? More importantly, do you want just someone, or do you want this person? Because there’s a massive difference between the two choices. Love cannot make you hurt yourself, or others. Love is meant to make you a more responsible person – more responsible for yourself, for your values and aspirations, and for the other people in your life. Love is meant to nurture you into a kinder person. If it makes you self-destructive, is it even love?
- We hardly ever get to choose how we learn what we learn. We only get to treasure the lessons. To let go is to respect the past happiness and the present peace, to accept being able to do better only when you know better.
- You can never pour from an empty cup, and you can not savour brimming-over coffee either. Self-care is finding the right balance. This is where we learn to draw the line – the line between selflessness and self-immolation, the line between being empathetic and being intrusive, the line between blind trust and wilful blindness, the line between caring for someone and incapacitating that someone’s individuality – this is where we learn to accept rejection and reject acceptance.
- “The better aware we are of what must not be done, the greater a space we create to safely explore plausible options for attaining effective answers to our questions.” [adopted from a book or video or podcast]
- People who can express every emotion through anger alone are deeply disturbed and have several unresolved issues in their lives. The underlying emotion of anger is, more often than not, fear (of not being understood enough, or worse, being misunderstood) and/or insecurity (of not being completely accepted, of being rejected for their true selves). They deserve understanding. They deserve assurance and empathy. They deserve support and healing. They deserve professional assistance. The long-standing myth of excessive care and concern (or an all-rainbows personal relationship) magically transforming a person is just that – a myth – a completely delusional, surreally optimistic perception. Understanding and empathizing with someone is a world different from validating and justifying the person.
- You see, we got to understand that whatever a person’s characteristics are, it serves to help them survive. We don’t know everything that a person has been through until we met them. And even if we do, we cannot possibly know how hard the person had tried every other possible way to deal with tough situations in the past. Whatever behaviour a person has adopted as their way of life is what has helped them through difficulties in the past – whatever way they react to situations and people now, is what helped them live through it all thus far in life. You may or may not agree with someone else’s thoughts, mindsets, and reactions. You don’t need to either. You are not even required to start adopting the same for yourself. All you need to do is understand where this person is coming from and simply let them be. If it doesn’t suit you, you are free to walk away.
- Not every battle is yours to fight. Disengage – from situations, from conversations, from people. Preserve the respect though.
- Nobody wants to be ridiculed. But everybody wants this one person in the group they can all humiliate and mock. And this one person will actually have the understanding and maturity to let go of all such trivialities. But in his/her absence, the pertinent discussion in the group might be how stupid and how low on self-respect this person is. If you are that one person in any gathering, give people the grace and distance yourself. Remember, only hurt people humiliate others. And if your are not that person, be the buffer, be the one to break the bullying culture. We can all meet other people only as deeply and as honestly as we have met our own selves.
- We can either know a person, or know what others say about that person. Knowing both takes efforts. No one is obligated to put in that effort for you. You don’t have a say in who finds peace in believing what about you, and you don’t need a say either. Just like you have a right to protect your peace, they deserve that too. Not everyone needs to know you and understand you in the same way or to the same extent. Anyone believing or even saying anything doesn’t make those spoken words or untold perceptions true. The truth remains unharmed, irrespective.
- Do not, most definitely, do not ever, ever, ever, dumb yourself down to be more acceptable to any person, or organisation – however the case may be for you. Nothing, absolutely nothing in life is worth giving up your genuine love for learning and intellectuality, if that’s the cost only to be considered less weird and less odd, only to fit in and be considered cool. You get to define and live by what’s cool for you. Even if it makes you a loner, you will thrive and grow in your solitude way more than you ever could in a space where your inherent likes and dislikes are not welcome, where your deep thoughts are not heard or respected or worse, mocked and ridiculed. Because what really happens is you will outgrow the space you so wanted to belong to at one point in time, but the brain drain that you once pretended will eventually turn into a reality and upgrading yourself again because that is how you genuinely aspire to be, that is who you always loved to be, would be one hell of an uphill task for the rest of your lifetime. Been there, done that. It’s never worth it. Define your own fun lifestyle and live the life you enjoy in your own way, without caring a tad bit about how acceptable it is to the coolest peers and contemporaries you think you know.
- Learning to leave the table the moment respect is no longer being served is not arrogance, it’s a sign of not attributing your sense of self-worth and self-respect to someone else’s behaviour. If ever for any person, the idea of you respecting that person is you disrespecting yourself, thank them for teaching you well, wish them the very best in life, and show yourself the door.
- Opinions do not define your reality. Being misunderstood, judged, gossiped about – nothing, absolutely nothing is a good enough reason to give up on your authenticity, your integrity. No one can respect you as an equal if you do not count yourself as one. Conditional companionship based on sex, slangs, alcohol, weed, or drugs is the shallowest possible measure of acceptance. Grow a spine and gather the guts and the sensibility to demand, and accept, intellectual and emotional equality (and respectful acceptance).
- Action and Inaction – both have consequences in life. It is for us to choose which set of consequences we want to continue living with.
- A lot of the times when the designated offenders share their thoughts, we would know that in sentiments, we aren’t much different to them. In so many situations about so many things in life, we also think the same way as these offenders. The only difference is that we don’t attack someone else or hurt someone. Not physically anyway. The rest is entirely up to us. Do we want to keep only that tiny thread of a difference between the civil society and the defined convict population, or do we want to upgrade our thoughts to a point where we become different in terms of our very mindset and humanitarian sentiments, and that becomes the defining factor between the civility and criminality?
- Talking of patriotism in terms of the country’s defence forces alone is delegating our own national call of duty to someone else, expecting somebody to be patriotic on our behalf. Patriotism is not a language or a culture. It is a sentiment. A sentiment of dedicating our work and services for the betterment of every single life – plants, animals and humans, residing within the territorial integrity of the country we claim to be a national of in our Insta-worthy passports. Since a country is not merely a court of law but a social structure of the highest order, rights cannot be claimed. Rights need to be earned, with integrity, diligence, sincerity and compassion.
- “It is your life and so you get to do whatever you want” is, in my books, not the wisest of advices one has to offer. Yes, it is your life. True. Very true. Yet, your life is not detached from everyone else’s. Your life choices do not affect you alone. Never. Every single decision we make affects so many people and the consequences lead up to so many days into the future that we cannot even imagine at the given moment in time. But it does. To do whatever we feel like doing, to walk over to the extreme of “following your heart” so to speak is sheer stupidity and super selfish. To not consider the effect your actions, your choices, your decisions have on others cannot be the right thing to do. [Disclaimer: Yes, it may be the right thing to do only in the event that our decision, our action breaks an unhealthy pattern in respectful, constructive ways without hurting our core value system in life, and without harming the emotional and physical wellbeing of your closest circle.] Otherwise, we got to understand that there’s always, always at least one other person who accepts and lives with the consequences of our choices and actions without having asked for it before, and without questioning it later. If that does not make us grateful for the people in our lives, I don’t know what will. If that does not make us consider our people before making important life choices, I don’t know what will. Your ways speak so much more of you than your destination.
- Liberty is great. But what is liberty without life? Opting for choices that offer liberty of thoughts and expressions just for the sake of it even if it means jeopardizing your or someone else’s life and well-being is never worth it. Questioning just for the sake of questioning is not being progressive. Being a liberal progressive individual involves accepting what makes sense, involves not letting ego rule the decision making process but humanity and sensibility take the forefront. Progress also mean knowing when to halt, when to step-back, when to reroute.
- Our rights are our responsibilities first. Claim your rights, take that decision, and yes, also accept the consequences of your decisions. You got to take a stand, and find the resilience to live through all possible incidences in line too.
- When we truly love someone, all we want is to see that person happy – with me, without me, with someone else – all of that become irrelevant. As long as we know that this person is happy and doing well in life, it’s okay. Just because you care for someone, just because you want to be there for someone and can envision a fulfilling life together, doesn’t mean that this other person will also want the same. Everyone has the right to choose what’s best for themselves. You have that right and so does this other person. And if his/her picture of the best in his/her life doesn’t include you, to let go is love. Until death do us part is romantic only when you are actually together and togetherness calls for the presence of both the persons involved in the relationship. When you are the only one invested in it and the other person isn’t there in the first place, you are already a life apart. If someone wants to leave, let them go in peace. You haven’t been ditched. You’ve been saved. Consent is never just about sex, and always a two-way street, irrespective of gender.
- It is up to us to tear down barriers. It is for us to question irrational unjustified unfair notions with our way of life. Easiest example: Today we women can think of acquiring degrees and holding down jobs because some woman some day gathered the guts to be the only one to obstinately sit in a classroom despite the backlash without giving a thought to who accepted her and who didn’t. And the same holds true for numerous other walks of life. Likewise, we need to stop expecting somebody to understand, somebody else to speak up for us. We need to stop expecting somebody else, anybody else to make way for us. We need to create our own space and claim it. That is the only way. We got to find the voice to declare out loud “I accept me and my life thus far”. The key to being okay with social rejection is self-acceptance. Even the fact that today I am able to mention this in a public space, I owe it to everyone, man, woman and the third gender who have walked this way before me who have fought all odds to get access to equal space and opportunity. I am only paying my respect to them by keeping up the strive for equality. And as always one alone can do only so much in this world. Remember: Equity and Kindness are a way of life, our daily behaviour; not an occasional event to be celebrated and forgotten about.
- Get over the whole silent treatment saga. Grow up and learn to talk. You need not strategically use silence in between attacks. A relationship is not a military operation, do not make it one. Difficult conversations are not the end of a relationship. Difficult conversations are opportunities to re-visualize the relationship. In fact, it is through the extreme possible disagreements that we actually understand each other even better. The anxiety of being left alone after a disagreement creeps in from childhood insecurities and the key is to remind ourselves that we have grown through that phase and now have a better emotional capacity to steer through unpleasant conversations and find an understanding midway.
- It’s okay to give children a voice. As long as that voice is their own, and not an adult using a child as a mouthpiece for furthering their own agenda.
- Part of adulting is calming the rebel of your adolescence. Part of adulting is also giving a better informed, more rational, more humanistic reasons to the rebel of your adolescence. There’s no point in being a rebel just for the kicks. When you cannot find a kind and fare answer to why you are doing what you are doing, you’d better not do it at all. Our parents do their best at any given situation; they have given us all that they didn’t have for themselves. Beyond that, is our own responsibility. That is one quintessential part of adulting too.
- No percentage of skin show, irrespective of gender, is inherently sexual. Sexual objectification of women probably begins with men objectifying themselves. From a very early age young boys are moulded into social constructs of masculinity and manhood. As long as no one is being coerced or insulted in any way, everyone, man, woman and transgender, has the right to choose what they wear, how they present themselves, professionally and otherwise. Above all that, sensuality is most definitely not a trade-off for one’s right to voluntary consent, or one’s authority over her/his own bodily privacy.
- Courage seldom comes from Privilege. Courage CREATES Privilege. Courage comes from Integrity. Think of it this way: When you are in a privileged position already, you have all it takes to do what needs to be done and in that situation, do you really need courage, or do you need intention? You need courage only when you lack privileges. You need courage when you have nothing but your own values and principles in your arsenal. And to act upon that fleeting microsecond of boldness under the circumstances, you need integrity. Privilege is the solace and simplicity that this honesty offers in our life.