Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Leaps of faith

Be warned: Long. Boring. Rambling. Personal opinion.

In the 30something household we were having a random conversation about how our personalities develop as we age. The crux of the discussion was an argument/ agreement about how with age we become more entrenched in our habits and more risk averse with our lives, loves and jobs. There are sterling examples of this amongst our friends and family and even in our own lives. And I love reminiscing.

When it came time to go to college we both traversed parts of the country, encouraged by our parents to follow our dreams, alongside others like ourselves, determined to find what our calling was. We lived in different cities to start with, did college even further apart and yet managed to work out and at our relationship with phone calls and long hand letters. And college, no matter how tough or easy it was we took on challenges to make new friends, learn new lessons and take risks like never before. For many it was the first time out of home, without the boundaries of parental guidance or the comforts of warm kitchens and soothing words, and the first of many life opportunities to draw our own boundaries and find the path for our feet to carry us along. College was tough for some, easy for others – multiple lessons, demands of continuous deadlines, hostel living (and food), friendships and cliques – they all required a modicum of planning and enthusiasm and it was a precarious balancing act to do well and have fun. I soon found that financial circumstances largely varied and I, like most, learnt to budget and live within my means with imagination and without complaint.

We leaped into jobs that required travel and long hours. We took buses and autos and ate chaat and momo’s at road side stalls with abandon. We stayed out late, went to parties, threw parties, cooked and drank, played cards and board games, watched movies and plays, travelled to unknown countries on work, lived without mobile phones or Facebook, took road trips and holidays, celebrated birthdays, hung out at people’s houses and campuses, spent our money before we were paid and generally were game for a lot. In an ever changing programme we were always ready for something new.

V sought the opportunity to move abroad, to a non- English speaking country, learnt the language and turned back into a non-vegetarian for lack of cooking skills. Then he plunged us head first into yet another country, into yet more studies, which for V meant a student loan and for me a tiny budget to manage on. We lived in a tiny studio apartment (where we had guests from India come and kip on the floor/ sofa), used school facilities, made new friends, reignited old friendships with people from India who lived here now and over time learnt to love ( or at least live with)the people, place and its dreaded weather.

We found jobs, made yet more friends at work and most importantly piled our stuff into a van and moved home to a place more convenient for work. We hosted lunches, teas and dinner parties, Diwali and New Year’s celebrations, houseguests and family for prolonged periods, embracing people new to London within our friends circles and mindspace. We travelled on holiday to far flung places and across the earth making more our friends and family than many did of us. We thoroughly enjoy life, making the most of weekends, catching up with people and pursuing our own interests.

But the larger questions in life have crept up on us and it would seem that in a small way being risk averse and habituated into the week/weekend routine is on our plates as well as many others. We were talking about how dreary and cold this winter has been and how we should up sticks and move to warmer climes. But then we started talking practicalities it turned out (in a nutshell – much wider, longer discussion) we can’t think beyond our house with its mortgage, bookshelf and recently constructed laundry cupboard. Or our somewhat safe jobs in this recession market and our wide (if often random) social life in London.

To make ourselves feel better we then moved over to the lets-accuse-other-people-of-their-risk-averseness game. This was much more fun. Like the couple we met at someone’s house recently where the man commuted 2 hours across London EACH WAY EACH DAY so that when his daughter is 5 (she is 2 years old now) can go to a ‘good school’ in their chosen area. Besides weekends he never sees his daughter awake. Or like the guy who got given a car by his in-laws so their daughter could ride around in comfort, but the furthest he would take it was the local supermarket or the petrol station. He won’t drive at night or if the roads are too crowded because ‘you never know how other drivers are, yaar’. Or like the couple that moved to the countryside for ‘fresh air’ and want to commune with the greenery but have NEVER been for a walk in it. Instead they come into central London each weekend or mope around at home marathon watching movies and complaining about the cold damp air.

It’s funny that of all the conversations with friends and family it’s these 3 incidents/ things that came to mind first when we tried to veer away from our own shortcomings. Of course then we felt bad semi-smirking at other people for their risk averseness. For all we know there are bigger and mightier influences - reasons that guide these people to behave as they do, to commute endlessly, not to drive ever and to live in the countryside but not enjoy it - that they don’t feel like sharing. Their life view may not be as simple as ours. Having children and other weighing down responsibilities may make their choices harder than ours. Or maybe they crave sameness and routine and its us that’s weird in wanting (no, in my case, craving) something new and unknown. But this is not about them. Or us in comparison to them. It's about us. And what we want from our lives. Pure and simple.

Overall I felt better because all our settled habits had to do with the bigger, mightier influences in life. Not that we made any strides in breaking free from those, but still. It wasn’t small risks that we seemed afraid to take, it’s all seemingly bigger picture steps. It was vaguely comforting to know though that with the smaller things it’s not often fear that stops us but sheer laziness or lack of the resources to back it up – and we soon get our act together and try consciously to overcome things. Like knowing we need to make changes to the house to make it more comfortable and add value before we sell and move to another part of town, for one reason or another. Or learning to drive and getting a car. Or learning a new language. Or something.

Our bigger picture however is still entrenched in the old tired habits and the inability to shake off what a big risk upping sticks and changing everything would mean. Some of it is inertia but mainly its fear. Of the unknown. And while sometimes there is nothing like a bit of stability, after 7 years in London I feel we are both ready for a change, of scene, of weather, of jobs (maybe even careers), of cities and even possibly life priorities. It’s not to say we should go live in a beach shack on some coastline (because really that would kill me, city girl, with boredom) – but to take chances, experience and learn about a new culture, meet new people and possibly feel the alive-ness that we lost with our youth. We are too young still to be mired in the stability of never moving, learning or doing anything new, of taking each other and our comfortable lives for granted, of never delving into the unknown because well, it’s unknown. I think we need to take a leap of faith. I pray that in the next few years we find the strength to take it.

11 comments:

  1. Leaps of faith indeed. Cheers to that.

    Your post kind of gives me clarity on something i've been contemplating for a while. I guess it all boils down to looking back in the past and taking a leap of faith.

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  2. Nice :) I wish I had your sense of free spirit. I think i would love experiencing a new culture, unfortunately my job does not allow me that luxury and I love what I do. I agree with age we seem to lose our youthful sense of abandon, maybe its part of moving onto a different stage in life or maybe its just ennui. I hope you find your mojo wherever it may be.

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  3. Its takes a lot of courage to decide that you want to move on, learn something new, shift to a new place and settle all over again. But I guess it takes even more courage to have the ability or the desire to recognise this fact. Cheers!!! Go for it...

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  4. Nothing like a bit of comparison to feel lucky with what you have. Honestly though, I love the central London life and as long as you are happy just enjoy it!

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  5. you struck many chords there

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  6. Go forth boldly, and don't overthink it :-)

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  7. Hi,

    I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘30 in 2005’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

    BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run www.rambhai.com where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

    This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)

    Cheers,
    Ray

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  8. Hey - decided to de-lurk as the post really spoke to me. I have been thinking the exact same thing - we need to change. Maybe new city, new careers, broaden our horizons. I don't like the rut or the 'comfort of routine' we are slipping into.

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  9. Sapna8:46 PM

    Really enjoyed this post - must ring true.....

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  10. If something exciting/interesting comes up, don't hold back!
    Although there is comfort and a gentle, soft magic in a stable life as well:)
    Confirmed fence sitter, aren't I?

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  11. I have heard many people talk about wanting to 'settle down'. I crave change every few years. I really don't want to settle down.

    It's scary to think of giving up that which is comfortable and taking on something that you have no idea of the outcome. It's always the practical stuff that stops me. And the fear of failure. What if I am being stupid and giving up a highly paid job to do something that might not bring in any income? Am I playing with my future and my children's future? That's pretty much the stage where I give up. It also becomes harder with time, life stage and responsibility. Yet I do know of people who have made big changes and I think it requires a special kind of mental make-up to be able to do that.

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