Saturday, June 11, 2011

Of leaving home and other healthy choices

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Sixteen is a good age I believe. To leave home. Not, most certainly, by force or necessity. But it is a lovely age to transition into the world. A lovely age that will allow resilience in ugly situations. Not too young and not at that age when teenagers are itching to run and forget their beginnings.

Ofcourse, I left home at exactly that age. While I lived with relatives for two years, my home, as I knew it, was going to undergo a transformation.

The biggest change happened internally, when I found not one person who could understand my weaknesses. Truly, why should they? I found myself floundering and completely unable to accept the anonymity. The family I stayed with were good to me. But, the sense of belonging had vanished. With it, my sense of self.

There was no one to sense my fright, my nervousness, my dislikes, or 'my' anything. It was a freezing splash into reality. In retrospect, I am glad that I was so young. While there were fixed ideas about many things, I was also angry enough to fight back. I remember moving from a sedate, organized environment into utter chaos. An environment where nothing could be taken for granted. Not the weather, not utilities and suddenly, not even myself.

pic credit - Sura Nualpradid;
I remember barely being able to comprehend what people said. Couldn't get used to the urgent efficiency of a big city. I'd always gone shopping with mom. Now, I didn't know where to go and wore the same torn shoes for months. It was when a bunch of students stared at my shoes in shock that I worked up the courage to ask for help; to buy shoes, yes.

It is not good to live a sheltered existence and yearn for adventure at the same time. I remember being unable to get on a train. Now, where I had moved, the trains are not carefully watched or guarded. They stop for barely a minute in which time, a gazillion people and their kids, baskets, bicycles and bags have to get in. I remember holding on to the railing tenaciously, determined to make it. The train began to move, slowly at first. I kept pace with it, running along the platform, imagining that I could do a jump. But suddenly it picked up speed , slicing a deep gash through my knee, leaving me sprawled on the platform, dazed and embarrassed.

I felt alone and apart there too. So I had to wonder. Had it been home? Was it the city? Was it the people I lived with? It couldn't be everyone else all the time. It had to be me.

Many positives became apparent only after a decade of being away from home. I realized that for one, my family was phenomenal. I just didn't know it. I realized that it took my parents a lot of strength to let go of a daughter. I had been utterly frustrated at home, when I made the momentous decision to leave. While I was in  the new place, I wondered, desperately, what I had been thinking. But now, it's obvious that it was truly not my family's responsibility to shoulder every kind of identity crisis that I weathered in my teens. The tantrums, the demands, the rudeness - families bear them all. But after a point, all conflicts point to only one solution. That is to go out and be a part of a world that teaches us about ourselves. Because in the end, that's what we are - individuals. Every family is as strong or as weak as each of it's members. If we're strong, 'sorted out' individuals, we have families that are the same. Not immune to flaws, just able to weather more with ease.

I had once declared being 'different' from my family. It became apparent later that they had influenced everything about me. It could be a formidable dislike of double-dipping utensils at meal times, always giving a small percentage of the monthly income to a charitable trust, a love of conversation over tea, or just the way we wave our hands when we talk. I adopted the only way that I had ever known. And inspite of exposure to other ways, accepting other roads of existence, my own way that came from strong, sometimes exasperating people, was part of my identity.

I left, trying to find myself. Wanting desperately to break free of the only environment that I had ever had. A loving, nurturing one. It was an excellent reference point for how things should be. It was an excellent source of contrast to many moments in my later life.

But, I had to leave first! Discussions with many others over the years stressed the same thought. It has very little to do with finances and a great deal to do with being effective in your own space, on your terms - space and terms defined by you; with lessons that you've gathered.

The thought for this post came up when Him and I talked about our respective forays into the world. Our experiences were very different. But both of us look upon our time at home as a blessing; an environment that may not have had the excitement of a theme park or every tailor made wish brought true, but one that had infinite love and security. They didn't want us messing around. What was so wrong about that anyway?

Watching Mini-Him (my son) brings issues into sharper focus. I hope, for all of the arguments and slamming doors that I foresee in his future, that as an adult, he still thinks of home with fondness and as a place that he wishes he had not left after all.

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