No, the water did not taste sweeter, the air did not smell purer. The sky did not stretch higher, the cuckoo did not sound merrier. And surprisingly enough, they – the insecurities – did not even move a muscle, let alone vying to gallop away and disappear into thin air!
One thing changed surely, as the days turned a page. You turned 18!
Happy birthday to you, my dear 18 year old self!
College was just around the corner and I remember that you could hardly wait! Taste of knowledge and freedom was waiting for you at one of the premiere universities in Kolkata.
I do remember a bit more too. The snide remarks, from one of the renowned teachers in high school, and how you took them in your stride. While a few of the teachers always believed in you and hand-held you, he doubted your capability. Then there were relatives commenting on your chubby looks whenever you met them. And then there were more; more behaviours, that threatened you during your growing up years. Especially when your dearest Aunt (Pishi), your second mother, passed away when you were 12, and your safest haven, your mother, had to be away on her duties to mankind as a doctor. The innuendos piled up; they piled up on to your heap of insecurities.
But did I tell you girl, you did make me proud? I watched you steer clear of all that negativity and more; and work hard for a meaningful outcome as you turned 18. Yes, you did! However, what I did not find you doing, is sharing your hurt with anyone. No-one. Not even yourself. Bottled them all up, airtight.
Diligent in studies in college and popular among friends for your helping habits, little would you be conscious that, they – the same insecurities – will create an island of havoc in your mind. They would make you eager to be accepted by people around you. They would make you way too critical about yourself. They would restrict you from saying “no” to certain people and situations at some critical junctures in the recent future. They would choke you and refuse to let you listen to your gut; that would adversely impact you for quite a few years. They would inhibit you from rising and showing off your talents like singing. You would always sing for friends. But would hardly ever push yourself beyond the fence. As if it was a crime to be good at something and show it off. They would stop you from moving out of your comfort zone for some critical years.
All of that … but only till the time that you would turn around and say “hi” to yourself, all over again. By that time, you would have lost your confirmed opportunity to get into IIT KGP, or appear for an interview at IIT Kanpur, and settled down at your alma mater for Masters. Nevertheless, there would be no-one stopping you anymore from rising like a phoenix and evolving into your gorgeously stronger self!
If only I could tell you at 18, that, in all your vulnerability, you really could have dared to bare that corner of your heart, where resided the hurt, the fear, the worries, the self-doubt. It would have been OK; YOU would then be ok, right at 18.
You would eventually learn it all darling, but only the hard way,
that you make yourself free of inhibition, and the universe will hug you back then and there;
that you exhibit your innate blend of strength, integrity, vulnerability and empathy, and those very traits would reward you back from unexpected quarters at the blink of an eyelid;
that you ooze out confidence, and the confident would seek you out;
that you sprinkle around optimism, and the optimist would search you down;
that you manifest courage, and the brave would spot you out;
It is only a matter of being conscious; conscious of your existence and your true essence.
Because that is the only way to be!