It all started when my 36 year old cousin casually said the following statement over lunch today.
“I am at the stage in life where I have begun to agree with the logical adults in the Disney movies… Like in the meme, you know… You realise you are old the day you begin agreeing with the adults in the kids’ movies instead of the rebellious kids!”
I had seen that famous meme too, and had laughed over it, assuming it was funny to put it that way. It was strange only because my cousin put it that way. Normally, our common upbringing values are not wildly different and we have always been taught since we were kids to look at every issue from our parents’ perspectives too. Rebellion was almost unheard of, and I was the one who came closest to what could be considered rebellion, but definitely is not, under normal standards.
I wasn’t aiming for the scandalous, I just broke a few curfews and refused to listen to a few age old rules regarding dressing up and making friends. (Yes, the rules very much exist. And I could be called the girl who ‘blazed the path’, if you will. Others younger to me have been able to easily do things I would have had to fight for. But that is a tale for another day.
So coming back to the original tale, the cousin was still regaling tales of his kid who is arguing on a daily basis with him about her dress and lunch preferences. He also joked about how his kid could easily get away with a lot from him while his wife was the ‘control freak’. The other cousins laughed over it and there was some good natured teasing from those who had married towards those who were yet to marry. The common jokes like ‘you’re going to get caught and lose your freedom’, ‘you better catch up on sleep now because you won’t have time later’ – the regular, mundane, groan worthy stereotypes.
But as time progressed, I could see that the married men and women were comfortable in their positions, their spouses even more a part of our family than they themselves were. The age debate raged on for almost three or four hours as people started calling out what they were too old / too young for. There was one guy who, at 32, felt he was too old to bungee jump and a girl who, at 21, felt she was too young to decide on her career path. While neither observation made sense or was considered normal, I could hear a gentle undertone of regret in every unfulfilled wish.
The young wanted to rush and grow up while the older people wanted to halt their aging and stay young. Yes, they were all comfortable and happy with the lives they led. It was not the dissatisfaction of the life they missed. The married people were happy in their marriages, and the single people were happy to remain single and the committed people were sure of taking things forward to the next step in the general happy mood. But despite all the guffaws and back patting, there was a subtle but palpable sense of regret in every joke, simple but hidden truths in their jokes and a wistful tone to their thoughts as they traveled down memory lane or looked forward to creating more memories.
I kept myself largely away from the center of the circle, under the pretext of cleaning, for the first time in living memory. Though I joined in the general jokes for some time, something pulled me back from entering full fledged into the conversations going on. I had never believed in the ideology that ‘you spend your whole life dying to do various things at various points in your life that you finally realise on your deathbed that you had forgotten what it meant to live.’
It was a sad truth I noticed actual evidence of today, amongst some of the most intelligent, content and educated minds of the family, each of us successful in some way, having carved a niche for ourselves wherever we were and currently at the happy phases of life. Maybe it could be dismissed as good natured teasing, or maybe there was a deeper meaning to all the unfulfilled wishes that had turned into regrets and spoiled long before their expiry dates.
Almost towards the end of the conversation, I quietly pointed out to the 32 year old that people twice his age had taken up bungee jumping as a recreational sport while he in turn reminded the 21 year old (who didn’t want to take any solid life decisions) that by the time he was her age, he had been sent for education abroad and had learned to manage his finances, cooking, cleaning and fending for himself in a country the rest of us had only seen in geography books or maps.
Life is a continuous journey and none of us are actually too old or too young for anything. Yes, there are certain age related controls imposed on us by the society but they shall remain just baseless restrictions that we have imposed on ourselves in order to justify us being settled in our comfort zones. Maybe agreeing with the adults in the kids movies might mean you have outgrown your childhood, but in what way does it prevent you from taking up your watercolors and painting that unfinished canvas or dancing on the spot when your favorite song comes?
Any adventure the mind can conceive is only stopped by an equally forceful restriction the mind conjures.
I am still reflecting on the day and the above statement.