“Well, what if I’m 50? I knew it was now or never. I packed my bags and left for Kerala.” Ratna* said with pride and enthusiasm.
This line sums up the story of my dance teacher in Nagpur. Being born in a family of artists, she started training in Indian classical dance at a tender age. But, as life went on, she did as was told. At 19, she got married leaving no room for dance in her life. Years passed and the void remained unfulfilled until the day it struck her that now is the time. Without a care of what the world will say, she left for Kerala to be retrained in the only thing that made her feel complete – Dance.
While on one side is Ratna with her impulsive behavior, on the other is someone with a thought out plan. Radhika*, my mentor at my workplace in Nagpur is a woman who instantly commands respect because of her vast knowledge and experience in the field of mental health. When asked if she ever thought of having lived differently, she replies with an assuring smile that she wouldn’t have it any other way. After completing her graduation, she worked as a lecturer, got married, continued working along with raising her children, got back to academics to finish Post-graduation and a PhD. For her PG, she attended a residential college where she had to live and adjust with students almost 30 years younger than her. It’s not easy and many would chicken out but for some, age is actually just a number.
Often we find ourselves on autopilot – waking up in the same home, putting on the same clothes, taking the same transportation to the same old job and doing the same work we always did. What if that’s not something we wanted? Do we always have the courage to change the course of our life? Should we blame the social construct that defines life stages? Don’t we forget that all stages are inter-related and their accumulation becomes life.
Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, devised eight psycho-social developmental stages which talk about major qualities we develop at each stage. For example, in the first year, the infant develops a sense of trust when interactions seem reliable, caring and affectionate, or mistrust, depending on the case. In the second year, a sense of personal physical control and independence is developed in the infant. Success leads to feeling of autonomy while failure results in shame and doubt. From the third year, the child begins to assert control and power over their environment by planning activities, accomplishing tasks and facing challenges. In this manner, he/she grows into a teenager and finally gains adulthood learning new virtues at every stage. This does not mean that the learning of first year is forgotten. Rather, it forms the basis of learning for all the years ahead. Why, then, do we tend to isolate this learning?
As we grow up, our desires keep changing and the courage to follow those desires also fluctuates, but in order to know what you want, you need to be clear on what you don’t want. This contrast is an inevitable part of the process. It is always easier to listen motivational talks of “It’s never too late” and get pumped up for a few hours or even a day but then what? How do we ensure that the we stay motivated? It’s the initial step that’s the most difficult and crucial. When we learn to ride a bicycle, it’s usually a horrifying experience. Striking a balance is difficult but with time, we are able to push ourselves, find our equilibrium, get rid of the fear and just ride. This simple analogy holds true in most situations. Reiterating or defending why we didn’t act on our dreams is futile. We need to start where we are, without gong back in the past. Looking for a solution-oriented or an optimistic approach helps, because saying, “I want this but it’s too late” contradicts itself.
There have been times when I regretted not doing certain things earlier in life. The thoughts came like a gushing wave, soaking me completely in remorse. It looked like walking all the way without taking the roundabout that should have been taken long ago. But somehow, it is only after walking so long that the importance of that roundabout is apparent.
At this moment, I have no underlying texts to any of my narratives. This feels like exactly where I want to be NOW, unsure of future though. However, I really hope that I’m as courageous as my dance teacher, my mentor and all those people who were never afraid to open a new chapter of a new book in their journey called life!
*Name changed to protect identity