Meeting Myself Today

My friend, Rebecca, who has been featured more-or-less consistently in my blog posts read the last one and asked me to look at my carefully constructed (and rather morose) picture of childhood vs. adulthood from a different angle - so that the setting, people, colors, mood - all remain constant, but my perception shifts, just slightly. 

The evening we picked for our involved discussion on this topic could not convince me that there can be equal romance in adulthood as in its younger counterpart. Maybe it is possible to have more independence in adulthood, but that is also arguable in my opinion. We decided to take our debate to Iberia Restaurant, our chosen haunt to talk endlessly about Life over delicious tapas.

How did I think my life would turn out at 28 when I was 8? I can't say that I remember with clarity, but I am certain that like many others in that awkward age group of 8-12 (who have crossed the safe years of looking cute all the time and have embarked on the interminable journey of their "invisible years"), I was in a hurry to be done with the whole business of being a child and coveted the glamor of  adulthood.

And now, here I am. At 28, I am wistful for the seasons of yesteryear. Rebecca argues that when we were children, we wished to grow up, so now, having entered the world as its adult citizen, we should enjoy it, relish the independence that comes with being an adult. When I imagined myself as a grown-up all those years ago, the salient things in my vision were very material. Clothes, makeup, jewelry, books - possessions, really, nothing more. Since I was not lacking satisfaction, or should I say, I was most satisfied with my life only as a child, I was not compelled to imagine a sense of contentment for my future self. And this sense of absolute fulfillment is the main thing that is taken away when you become an adult. Isn't that why we long to sleep like a baby?

There is also too much drama is one's adult years. Gossip, pseudo-friendships, family quarrels, work deadlines, general dissatisfaction with what you've got, taxes (!), and simply too many responsibilities, actually make one's adulthood far less romantic than one imagined it to be on relatively carefree days of one's childhood. Since most of my reveries of adulthood took place on lazy summer afternoons in makeshift hammocks on my family's farmhouse with the lulling noise of water pouring from a spout into an over-flowing tube-well, crows belting out their maniacal reprimands, saag cooking on a hearth in the ground, I find it ironic that in those moments of perfect serenity, I wished for this mixed-bag of untidy emotions that I am master of now. As night began to fall on those days, I would curl up on a charpoy, put aside my Enid Blyton books, and stare at the gathering dusk and the lightening bugs dancing around the cotton crops. I would think about growing up then, but with no concrete visions. I defined adulthood vaguely back then, I suppose: a state of being that comes when you graduate from the listless and unremarkable period of your life that's called childhood. I was so wrong. 

Yes, being an adult is great. I am doing what I love. And I am loving what is true to me. The dinners at Iberia Restaurant are fantastic - see pictures of food for proof and take my word that our conversations are more restorative than a day at the spa. I can take the liberty to shun pseudo-friends (though I do keep some around from time to time for variety and entertainment) and cherish real friends. And while indulging in tiresome adult activities like gossip is taxing, at times it is also rejuvenating. Wait, what? I am listing negative things about being an adult, you say? Yes, yes, no need to be so sanctimonious. You know you are guilty of all this, too. And don't get so impatient...I am coming to the positive aspects, too. I do love my life, I really do. I have the power to be myself, develop philosophies and values that I want to live by, and stay true to them. Being an adult isn't bad. It has its merits. But I can't shake off this feeling of "something lost" when I sit down to take measure of these days and years. I still have the freedom to imagine, to run wildly in the rain, to create wishing dust from sand and glitter, to claim ice-cream has healing powers, but time has swallowed up the belief I had in all that magic. 

 Now, at 28, when I stand at my kitchen window just before nightfall and see the rolling hills of my city, Spring having ignited the landscape with blossoms and foliage, I think of that 8-year-old girl that's still somewhere within me, but dormant now. I think of everything she wanted to be and all she wanted to do when she looked at her city in Spring. I picture the wonder in her eyes when Lahore seemed to yawn its way out of Winter and propel towards the festival of Spring with kites in the sun-lit sky and tiny bobbing lanterns all along the canal at night. I recall the poetry she tried so hard to write (I am eating a bun/under the sun/the sun shines brightly/I can't sit quietly). I marvel at her confidence, her faith in herself, her conviction that great things were waiting for her on the other side of childhood. I miss her.