The thing I’ve missed most in the pandemic is all the things that getting out into the world gives you. The world is abrasive. People are insensitive. Communities are cruel & exclusionary. Politics are divisive. Culture is shallow. The economy is weak & driven by fear more than progress. And every aspect of these things pushes me to find new Me’s. Me’s that will survive, defeat, grow. I am always about the growth. Like the main character in any story, I want to leave this world having evolved. What would the point of everything have been if I stayed the same as I was, at the beginning?
Of course it is not easy. The pandemic has not been easy for anybody. And it has coincided with my midlife crisis. Which I am realising, means having to hold the world in the palm of your hands, be sure-footed even as things shift beneath your feet. The years have taught me to realise the painful backstories in people’s meanness, the tears behind the evil. Enforced isolation forced me to sit with these realisations and make peace with them. It got very tiring carrying angry entitlement (“I deserve better! Life is so unfair!”). And I was not growing. This year has been like life throwing me harder & harder challenges, as if to test my newfound insight. At least, I find it easier to move forward seeing it that way.
Another thing about midlife crisis is the loss of sense of self, as one’s old dreams wither or worse, are achieved. Where do I go next, is a very scary place to be. Even scarier than ‘where do I go first’ because at least then, there are always people to tell you (albeit wrongly) your options. Just like everything else in my life, I’m stumbling onto some answers entirely by chance. It hasn’t come about due to my plans but due to things that have come my way. I’m a wayfarer on an open road and who I am when I show up at death’s door, will depend on what the road looks like. Nobody knows; I don’t either.
As the past comes back to me, in these curiosities called coincidences, I find the lessons are also shifts in perspective from when I was here last. My learning is also unlearning of my first reactions & lessons. I cannot judge my most memorable teachers, now that I can better understand the challenges they must have faced. Can I in good conscience, repeat their mistakes with the people who trust me to show them the way to knowledge? No, I decide, no. This is how I am becoming me. By deciding when challenges show up.
I found myself watching ‘Partner Track’ right around the time I began slipping into self-doubt & possible regret over my life choices. Interesting isn’t it, how my content consumption throws me lessons just when I need them? When the student is ready, the teacher arrives, said that same teacher I last wrote about. That person continues to teach me and can I call him a bad teacher then? How many of the students & junior colleagues I’ve taught, trained, mentored, guided or managed over the years will remember my lessons? It doesn’t really matter if the lessons they’ve imbibed, have furthered them.
It makes me happy when I get a tweet from someone saying they used to read my blog when they were in college and it made a huge impression on them. Or an Instagram DM from a young woman in an unheard-of part of the country thanking me for showing her a woman could be this way too. Or a former colleague telling me they learnt that it was okay to say NO because I did that for my team at work. These are my rewards and they come when they come. Again, interestingly always when I’m getting too blase about the nature of what I do. I’m brought back to the fact that my favorite self is always authentic, earnest, sometimes scrappy but honest – and making it possible for others to be too. When the student is ready….
‘Partner Track’ has been hard to watch, akin to a slap on the face when I’m sleepy. How can I feel self-doubt when that is exactly what my life would have looked like, had I chosen differently? And I did choose, even if my choices were excruciating decision points under duress. I chose to walk away from exploitation. I chose to walk away from abuse. I chose to follow a path alone, because it seemed better than the safe toxicity of the familiar. And in doing so, I’ve become this ME. There’s no question of regret.
While I’m beginning to believe that it’s impossible for me to plan my perfect life, I cannot resist trying to start things, to change things, to make things happen. This is also ME. I reached out to someone I have admired for 20 years. I was boosted by my recent victories, so this isn’t even a true independent ‘choice’ I’ve made. This opportunity was lying right there, hanging around at the back of my mind all these years and now with the clarity I feel from getting something right, I cannot pretend I can’t, anymore. So I did.
I was well rewarded. The meeting paid for itself and all these years of uncertainty or feeling not good enough to say hello, you impacted my life. Where it goes from here, ah, this wayfarer on an open road doesn’t know.